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There’s a theme throughout Psalm 34 of the poor crying out the Lord and his answer to their cry. Verse 6 names this, then verse 10 spells it out with a comparison to lions. Lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Two verses prior, the psalmist declares “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him…those who fear him lack nothing.” There is a ton to unpack here. Our journey through the Psalms has already shown us that while sometimes God delivers immediately after a prayer, often the negative circumstance continues and God instead provides a different type of shelter and refuge from within the storm or war that rages on.
The context of this psalm is poverty, which we can all relate to. While many readers today may not lack physical food, we all have impoverished areas of our lives. In fact, these impoverished areas are often what lead us to calling on God in prayer in the first place. Loneliness, fear, worry, weakness, illness, etc., even our own impulses and addictions. These are marked areas where we are impoverished, in need, and crying out to God for help. In the context of physical poverty from food, the psalm says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” It’s very important that we pause here. It doesn’t say that food is good, it says that the Lord is good. The natural response to the prayer of a hungry person would be food, yet God tells us there is something we need even more than food. SomeONE we need more than food. And in fact, this Someone will fill us up in a way food never could. This reminds of me of John 6:26-70, which is a fascinating discourse between Jesus and a large group of “followers” who were just fed miraculously. You may remember this feeding as “the feeding of the 5000” in all four gospel accounts, yet only John follows it up with the conversation that followed the miracle. The followers wanted to see another miracle, and Jesus tells them they missed the point of the miracle altogether. The point of the miracle was not so that their bellies could be filled. It was not so that they could get another miracle of Jesus. That if they followed Jesus, he would just zap out miracles like a vending machine their entire lives. He tells them he is the Bread of Life. They need to feed off of him, not his miracles. Does this sound familiar? It’s the exact image we are getting in Psalm 34:6-10. In our poverty, we can take refuge in the Lord (verse 8). We won’t lack anything if we have the Lord. We know for a fact that many followers of the Lord have lacked things like food and physical safety, including the very writers of these psalms themselves. So to lack nothing means that when God is our shelter, we truly have everything. It means we have what sin and Satan can never take away from us. And this is no small thing indeed! It means we have the summation of all good things wrapped up in one good, loving, intimate relationship. The Most High, holy God of the universe wants to dwell with us! He wants to shower his grace and mercy and love on us and call us his children.
Verse 18 tells us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. It’s important that we recognize how rare this claim is among world religions, both historical and contemporary. Our God cares for the broken. He cares for the oppressed. He cares for the abused. He cares for the impoverished. He cares! This is such a gift to each of us whom he cares for, and sets us on a path to embody his love to a crushed and brokenhearted world.
Psalm 34 depicts an idyllic and even utopian life for the one who calls out to God and seeks him for refuge. Verse 22 is so helpful in showing us that this ideal and utopia is found in the refuge of God himself. That the war is still raging. If the war wasn’t still raging, there would be no need for a refuge! In God’s presence, we have all that we need, even when our circumstances are still in a war zone. And we can know and rest in the ultimate victory of our God over sin, death, and Satan. We know that God wins over all of the brokenness we face every day.
Invitation to reflection:
Prayer for the day: Lord be my refuge and strength. Give me the eyes and ears and mind to run to you when I am hungry and thirsty. Help me to run to you and feed off of you for all of my needs. Fill my deepest loneliness. Speak your love to me. Remind me that I am your beloved child. Remind me that you hold me! Thank you for your ultimate victory of sin, death, and Satan. Remind me of that victory right now. Help me to find peace and rest and comfort in that victory. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for rescuing me. Be my refuge, strength, and shelter.
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