I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me:
let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:1-3)
The psalmist calls us to join him in praising the Lord, and so often we can respond with a cynical laugh or a world-weary sigh. “Really? After the week I’ve just had?” Yet he calls us to praise him nevertheless, saying that even the afflicted have reasons to rejoice. Why?
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame. (v4-5)
Shame makes us hide away, afraid of being seen for what we are. Our sins are a dark stain we can’t remove. But those who look to him, by contrast, are radiant and shining.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them. (v6-7)
This is how the afflicted, the sinful, the weighed down can rejoice: the Lord hears them and saves them. The Sent One of the Lord delivers his people, saying to those that would condemn them, “No more! No further! My people are safe in my embrace.”
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.(v8-10)
You frail and weary people, taste and see! Knowing the Lord brings hope to the darkest times. Christ the Rock is your refuge, even from the righteous wrath of God. Ultimately, he gives you himself. And so those who seek the Lord lack no good thing—because they have him.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Christians are those who know the Lord’s name: his identity and character as the God who reveals himself, the God who saves a wretched people, the God we know in and through Jesus. We know him personally and place our trust in him, because he has proven himself trustworthy.
How has he proven himself? The Psalmist could point to the Exodus, and to countless individual stories, to show the trustworthiness of God. He could point to promises made and promises kept. He could speak of the Lord’s covenant with his people. He could confidently assert that God had never forsaken his people in the past, and so they could trust him in the future.
Trust him to do what? Ultimately by God the Son taking on our nature in the person of Jesus, whose name literally means “God our Saviour”. The Lord’s name – his identity as the God who saves – is made known personally. Knowing Jesus and all that he’s done for us, we have perfect grounds for trusting in God. We have confidence he will never leave or forsake us, even in the midst of darkness, because Jesus went through the dark night of death and rose to resurrection life. Like a needle pulling a thread through dark cloth, Jesus takes us through death to new life in him.
Who does he do this for? All those who seek him, who look to him, who find their refuge in him. The Christian life is not about seeking an abstract salvation, or simply a ticket out of hell. The Christian life is about seeking, running after, throwing ourselves on Jesus, our Refuge, our Champion, our Brother and our King. Our ultimate sin is to have rejected the life that is ours in Jesus. Christians are those who run after him, like the Beloved of the Song of Songs searching for her Lover, turning to Jesus for life and salvation.
As another year begins, won’t you join me in running after Jesus? He promises us that those who seek will find.