The Lord Hears Us

April 25, 2021 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Psalms

Topic: English Passage: Psalm 34:1-22

One of the challenges in preparing a sermon, at least if you do it the “traditional” way, is trying to not only figure out the main point an author was trying to make, but then to reduce that message either to one sentence or to a group of smaller statements. Reducing the main point like that isn’t some mandatory requirement to teach the Bible, but generally, it allows us to more easily encapsulate the message and then track with the author.

But even after a teacher or a preacher does that, there comes another difficulty, and that is that we can be tempted to think that just because we know the main point, or the subpoints, of a passage, we’ve done our job. And that’s not the case at all.

When your wife or your mom says to you, “I’ll be back in an hour. Please wash the dishes and sweep the house.” How do you honor her request?

You don’t honor her by diagramming her sentence and then making charts for the most efficient way to wash dishes and sweep floors, right? How do you honor her request? You do it! You put what she said into practice.

And that’s exactly what is supposed to happen with the word of God. James 1 says: be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

We want to understand the word. We want to know what it means by what it says, but that’s can’t be enough. We are responding to the eternal God. We are listening to the word of our Lord and Savior.

I say that today because I am going to start by giving you what I believe is a faithful summary statement of the message of Psalm 34. And I want you to recognize that when I share the fruit of my work with you, your job and my job is not simply to remember it or to write it down. Our job is to align our thoughts and feelings around the message, and to put it into practice.

Here’s my summary of Psalm 34: We fear and praise the Lord because He hears and provides for us. We fear and praise the Lord because He hears and provides for us.

I’m not particularly interested in whether or not you write that down or even memorize it. By tomorrow morning, most of us, myself included, may not even remember it. But the truths of that statement are what you and I need to be cultivating in our lives. I phrased it the way I did because it sounds neat. We fear. He hears. We praise. He provides. If you like it better broken up into those four statements, that’s fine.

But again, I’m telling you this upfront so that it can guide our time looking at this psalm. But more important than diagramming a psalm is responding the way the author wanted us to respond.

Psalm 34, as you can see by the heading, was written by David, and it was prompted by a specific event in his life. It says there “when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”

If you would like to study that story on your own, you can read about it in 1 Samuel, chapter 21. The king’s name there is Achish, but according to Genesis 20, it seems like Abimelech was a kind of title used for their kings. In Hebrew, Abimelech means, “My father is king,” so that makes sense as a title for a king.

The gist of the story is that David was in a dangerous situation. He was running for his life from Saul, and he was forced into a foreign land where he would also be hunted. So, in fear for his life, David pretended to be insane. He marked up the walls, and He let drool fall from his mouth. Basically, he was acting like a toddler. And in the mercy of God, it worked. They let him go.

But Psalm 34 is a reminder that David didn’t credit himself for his survival. He didn’t ultimately rely on his own plans to make it through there. He was trusting in God. Psalm 34 is a psalm praising God for hearing his prayers and providing protection and sustenance.

Look with me at verses 1-3. This is the praise portion, and it includes a call for all of God’s people to praise Him as well.

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!

When was the last time you felt some sense of relief? There was some real or possible danger or loss, and you were either spared or restored. When was the last time you felt a sense of relief?

In that moment, when the kids finally fell asleep, or when you made it home safe, or when the doctor told you the good news, or when that money came your way, did you respond in praise?

This is the distinction between the people of God and the people of this world. Our job is not to take normal feelings, like happiness and relief, and just tack on a Christian label like “blessed.” I feel “blessed” today. That’s not necessarily a wrong statement to make, but it’s also not distinctly Christian. In fact, it’s a statement about you without answering the question: Who is the One who blesses you?

David is unambiguous. He will bless the Lord, Yahweh, the God of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth. He will praise Him continually. That’s the heart of a humble man. He boasts in the Lord, not in his own wisdom or righteousness.

And He calls us to magnify the Lord. That simply means to make it big. We can’t make God, or His name, any bigger. But what can grow is people’s awareness of who He is. We magnify the Lord when we sing about Him and when we tell others about Him, whether that’s our kids at home or the person at the grocery store. We are here to praise God.

And when that kid or that stranger says to you, “Why should I praise God? Why do you praise this God? What has He ever done for you? Can’t you see how awful this world is?” How do you respond? You can respond just like David. God is worthy of our praise because He protects us. He delivers us. He hears us when we call on Him. Look at verses 4-7.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 6This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 7The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

When you’re stressed out, when life gets difficult, you rely on the wisdom and the resources and the friends God has given you. But don’t substitute those blessings for God Himself. Always, we should go to Him in prayer. We should seek Him, like verse 4 says. He is our true hope, our true confidence. He saves us from all our fears.

That word “fear” in verse 4 is a strong word. It’s not the normal word for “fear.” It’s only used 3 times in the Old Testament, and it could be translated terror or dread.

What do you truly fear? What shakes your core? Sometimes when people talk about fears, they talk about phobias like spiders and snakes and clowns and roller coasters. But David is talking about something much more serious. He was in fear for his life. We have those kinds of fears.

How am I going to pay for this next kid that’s coming? How am I going to pay for my doctor’s bill? What happens if my spouse dies? What happens if my child dies? What happens if I get terminal cancer? What’s going to happen to me when I die and God judges my life?

For the world, those situations are terrifying. They have no way out. But for the people of God, if we truly rest in the fact that God hears us and provides for us, we won’t respond with dread or terror or panic. Yes, there will be tragedies, and we will have sorrow. But we will face them with faith and with confidence because God hears us and He provides for us.

David isn’t saying that bad things, fearful things, won’t happen. He’s saying that God will deliver him from those fears and those troubles. That’s the end of verse 4 and verse 6. The poor, afflicted man cries out to the Lord, therefore his troubles will not last forever. So, he says in verse 5, those who trust in the Lord are radiant. Literally, it means their faces shine. They are beaming with confidence rather than shame.

Do you have that confidence? Do you rest in the truth that the Lord provides for His people when they call on Him? Do you trust that He is really working all things for your ultimate good, as Romans 8 says it? Do you live with the hope that the pains of this life are only temporary?

The greatest terror anyone can face is to be condemned by God. He will judge you, and unless you meet His perfect standard, you will be judged forever in hell. So, how do you fix that? You’ve only got two options. You can rely on the things of this world or you can rely on Christ.

You can try to pretend there is no problem between you and God, you can assume you’ve got the power to fix this, or you can cast yourself on the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. The only true deliverance is in Jesus Christ, who died to pay the penalty of sin and was raised in victory.

And for every other fear or difficulty you face in this life, you’ve got the same choice. Are you going to rely on yourself? Or rely on Jesus Christ?

You can say you’re relying on Christ, but when you’re  stuck in debilitating fear or sinful anger, that shows that you’re not actually relying on Christ. You’re relying on other things.

Look again at verse 7—The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Ordinarily, we think of angels and God’s helpers, but this phrase “the angel of Yahweh” is distinct in the Old Testament. The word “angel” simply means messenger, and sometimes it’s used for what we would call an angelic being, but sometimes it’s used for a messenger that is God Himself. God makes Himself known to His people.

And I believe that’s how it’s being used here in verse 7. It’s used the same way in Genesis 16 and in Judges 6. This is an angel, or a messenger that we should fear, that we should reverence. And He will rescue us.

The people of the Old Testament wouldn’t have had the theology filled out, but this would be a visible, human-looking appearance of God. This is God put on display in human flesh. That is the function of the second Person of the Trinity, which we now know as Jesus.

Jesus surrounds those who fear Him, those who trust Him, and He will deliver them.

So, in continuing the call to praise, David transitions to some very specific instructions for his readers. He opened with a call to praise, and now it’s a call to fear the Lord, to trust in Him, rather than in yourself or the things of this world. Look at verses 8-14.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. 11Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? 13Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 14Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Verse 7 talks about those who fear the Lord. And then verses 8-14 show us how to do that. Fearing the Lord is not something different than tasting and seeing His goodness. It’s how you enter into a relationship with Him. To fear the Lord is to trust Him, to walk in obedience to Him, to live with Him as your refuge.

Verse 8 is not talking about God as if He’s on some kind of buffet line with all the other gods. “Taste Yahweh. Taste Jesus Christ. He’s good!” This is a call to surrender to Him in order to experience His blessing and His provision. Jesus said something similar in John 6.

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.

Jesus wasn’t talking about the Lord’s Supper. He was using the act of eating and drinking as a metaphor for receiving Him into your life, accepting Him for who He is, entrusting your life to Him, and depending on Him for life. And that’s the same message David is saying about the Lord. Stop looking anywhere else, and look to the Lord hears you and will provide.

Verse 10 talks about the young lions. That’s not a reference to cubs. That’s talking about a lion in the prime of his life. This is a beast of power and strength. For the Israelites, this was the most powerful hunter in the land. He knows how to take care of himself. But even young lions have to go without food sometimes. But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. God cares for his people. He provides for us.

Don’t look to the lions of this world to take care of you. Look to the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Fear Him and trust in Him.

Fearing the Lord is the only true way to true blessing. Verse 12 gives a rhetorical question. Who is there in this world who enjoys life the most? Who among us enjoys God’s true blessings? It’s those who fear Christ.

If you fear Christ, that’s gonna be shown in your life. Verses 13 and 14 show us how. Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. That’s talking about holy speech, righteous speech.

Verse 14 says: Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. That’s talking about righteous conduct and righteous relationship. That’s a simple summary of what it looks like to fear the Lord. Righteous speech, righteous conduct, and righteous relationships. Live in peace with others. Walk in accordance with God’s ways, and God will bless you.

The flip side of that is that if you choose to walk in unrighteousness, you place yourself in grave danger. That’s a message we’ve seen in the book of Proverbs as well. It’s a general principle. It’s a principle we try to instill in our children. Walk in God’s ways, fight for righteousness, and you will enjoy the blessing of God on your life. Many of you have examples of that in your own life, and there are definitely some negative examples highlighting the dangers of straying from the truth. We’ve seen evidence of that in the news these past couple weeks as well. Young teens losing their life in a way that could have been avoided had they not made foolish or sinful choices.

Righteous or unrighteous, none of us is going to be spared the troubles of this life. But you put yourself in far more danger, temporally and eternally, if you refuse to walk in accordance with the laws of God. Turn away from evil. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and He’ll make sure you’ve got everything you need.

The closing verses of this psalm help highlight for us the difference between those who fear and praise the Lord, and those who do not. Those who rebel against the Lord end in shame and misery. But those who trust in the Lord experience the joy of His blessing. And so, we fear Him. We trust in Him. We call out to Him. We praise Him because He hears us and provides for us. Let’s read verses 15-22.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 19Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. 20He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. 21Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

There’s something about our American self-made individualism that looks down on the brokenhearted and the crushed in spirit. But verse 18 says God is near to them.

God is not looking for self-righteous, self-sufficient people. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

Jesus came to minister to those who are poor in spirit, those who recognize they are bankrupt before the Lord and unable to provide for themselves. Those are the people God hears. Those are the people God ministers to.

We may not say it out loud, but sometimes our hearts are saying, “God, I’m going to take care of this. I got it. Any if you want to give me any kind of help, I’d appreciate it. But if You don’t, that’s fine. I can handle this!” That’s not a heart of dependence. That’s a heart of arrogance.

This world is filled with afflictions. You have problems in your marriage, problems with your kids, problems with your finances and your health, problems in your spiritual walk and in your ministries. Let’s just decide to stop pretending like they don’t exist. And let’s join in David’s praise from verse 19.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

Verse 20 goes on to say that for the righteous man, the Lord keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

For David, that would have been a poetic way of expression God’s protection, though it wasn’t a promise that you’d never break a bone.

But when we come to the New Testament, we find that there is a literal fulfilment of these words in Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John quotes this verse, pointing out that when the soldiers came to break the legs of the men hanging on their crosses, Jesus was already dead. Breaking someone’s legs was a way to speed up their death because they wouldn’t be able to push themselves up to breathe. Jesus’ legs, though, weren’t broken, and that specifically brought this passage to John’s mind.

Some have also pointed out the connection between Jesus not having His bones broken and the command of God in Exodus 12 saying that no bones should be broken for the Passover Lamb. And that’s an important connection because Jesus Christ became our Passover Lamb.

So, looking here at Psalm 34, what we can say is that Jesus, like in other psalms, is the perfect manifestation of these truths. God hears and God provides for those who fear and praise Him. That’s what happened with Christ in His affliction, and that’s the pattern we follow.

No matter how great the tragedy and the pain, like Jesus, we can face it with hope, knowing that God is with us. There is a joy set before us, so we can endure the trial, knowing there is glory on the other side of it.

Each of us have examples of the way God has provided for us. He has delivered us and protected us in so many ways. But we know that the greatest deliverance we could ever be given is to be saved from our sin, to be saved from the wrath of God, and to be saved out of this wicked world. And that all has happened because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us and was resurrected in glory. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

With that, let me reread the final verse of this psalm, and then I’d like to go back to the beginning. Verses 22—The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

The Lord hears us when we call out to Him in humility and dependence. The Lord will save us and provide for us. And so, because of that we fear Him and we praise Him. Let’s close with verses 1-3 one more time.

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!

More in Psalms

November 28, 2021

Our Great God

November 21, 2021

Give Thanks to the Lord

May 16, 2021

A Triumphant Faith