SPOKEN PRAYER: Out loud, pray for God to speak to you through your reading. Praise God for giving us His word. Ask the Spirit to help you read with faith, and to live out what you hear from God through the passage.
The Brokenhearted and the Crushed
by Dave Mann
Psalm 34 can be a confusing enigma if a single verse is lifted from the wider context. On the one hand, there is verse 9: those who seek the LORD lack no good thing." Really? We all know godly people who have suffered greatly. On the other hand, there is verse 19: "many are the afflictions of the righteous." (NASB) Wow! Do I want that? In order to understand this Psalm, we need to read it in its full context.
First, who was the author? King David. What was his life like? Lots of ups and downs. Victorious over Goliath; crowned as king; blessed with dominion and wealth. But also unjustly persecuted for many years by King Saul; betrayed by his own son Absalom; at war with many nations, etc. David’s life was NOT one of ease and comfort, filled will affluence and unchallenged joy.
Note also, that Peter’s first letter alludes to and actually quotes Psalm 34. See 1 Peter 2:3 (Ps 34:8) and 1 Peter 3:8-12. The theme of Peter’s epistle is that of suffering — being afflicted for doing good and for following Christ.
Neither King David nor the apostle Peter would want to leave us with the thought that those who follow the Lord are guaranteed a hassle-free life. Rather, both authors take for granted that life is difficult, and those who have the Lord in the midst of their difficulties know that they are not alone, but rather have the courage and joy (yes, joy) in the midst of their suffering to continue on.
Verses 11-18 imply that there is a time of waiting while we suffer and yet we are in the presence of God. While we wait, we pray, and we do good. We do not believe that the experience of pain gives us a license to be self-centered and to lash out at others.
Verse 18 is a favorite of many, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Note that it does not say “the unbroken” or “the uncrushed.” All of us are brokenhearted or crushed from time to time in life. When we are in such times, we are in good company. Christ himself suffered, and we are his followers. We share in his sufferings, so shall we share in his resurrection.
Lord Jesus, may this psalm be my guide, my model, my encouragement. Amen