When Renee recounts the birth of her firstborn son to friends, she describes it as the most painful, wonderful, beautiful experience she has ever had. “It was euphoric!” Renee exclaims. “The hours of pain and exhaustion gave way to the greatest joy.” We shall see how the movement from sorrowful lament to unbridled thanksgiving is like birth as we turn now in our month’s study from Lament Psalms to Thanksgiving Psalms.
Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving for God’s salvation. To those who fear the Lord, thanksgiving follows lament (v. 7). Psalm 34 opens with a call to worship the LORD. The psalmist declares his dedication to praise God without ceasing and invites the congregation to join him (vv. 1–3). The essence of his praise is boasting in what the Lord has done. When the psalmist cried out to the Lord, God answered and delivered him. Verses 4 through 7 illuminate why the psalmist worships the Lord. The remainder of Psalm 34 expands the psalmist’s invitation in verse 3. Notice thecommands: “taste and see,” “fear,” and “come” (vv. 8–11). The psalmist is saying in effect, “Come experience what I have experienced!”
The fear of the Lord is repeated four times (vv. 7–11). To those who fear the Lord, three promises are made: protection, deliverance, and provision. The fear of the Lord manifests itself in words and deeds that glorify God (vv. 13–14). Fear of the Lord is not terror in the face of threat. It is a recognition of God’s holiness and majesty and humanity’s sinfulness and frailty. As one Bible scholar puts it, “Fear grows from the respect and honor of which God is worthy.”
The contrast between the righteous and the wicked reappears (vv. 15–22). The righteous are the brokenhearted and those crushed in spirit. The Lord hears their cries and rescues them from “all” their troubles. The Lord is against the wicked; they will be found guilty; evil will slay the wicked. They will be defeated by their own doing.
Psalm 34 dispels the myth that the righteous will have an easy life. In the midst of troubles the righteous may face, the Lord is near and ready to save. If you are facing trials today, take refuge in the Lord. Cry out to Him, and trust that He hears you. Find courage in the hope of His nearness and deliverance. The prayer of St. Patrick, the missionary to Ireland, might minister to you: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ in me.”