Week 22, August 16-22, 2020, Psalm 34
Study guide by Pastor Rob
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Preparing to Pray
The goal of the spiritual life is to open the center of our being to Christ, so that all facets of our lives may come together in Jesus. Praying the Scriptures is one means of working with God toward this goal as we pray a particular text or through various themes of scripture.
Find a time when you are able to spend extended time in prayer. This discipline is not intended to be rushed. You want to find the time to enter a time of conversation with the Lord. Choose a place where you can pray and not be interrupted. You might set the time and place for prayer by lighting a candle or holding a cross or other object in your hand. You could pull up another chair as an invitation to welcome Jesus, and even place a sign “I Am” at the table or in the seat as a symbol of God’s presence. You may find it helpful to center you mind and heart by breathing slowly and deeply. Slowly inhale and exhale, several times. Then, open in prayer, using the prayer below or another of your choosing. You may wish to repeat the prayer several times until you experience your spirit opening to the Lord’s Spirit. Return to this centering or to the prayer if you become distracted.
Prayer: Gracious and Loving God, I humble myself in your presence. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; [your] greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3). Speak, Lord, for I, your servant, am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
After praying the short prayer, you may continue by spending one, two or more minutes sitting with Jesus. When two friends come together, they don’t usually jump into a deep conversation. Let the first moments that you sit with Jesus be gentle and slow and warm as you are guided into a deeper conversation with Jesus. You realize Jesus is attentive to you. His love calls out to your heart. His love is deeply personal, and he is not only eager to sit with you now, but he wants to have a deep conversation with you as you listen to one another and share deeply. Repeat any or all of the steps above until you know you are ready to hear the Lord.
Reading The Text
Read the passage slowly and deliberating, so as not to miss a drop of what Jesus has for you. Plan to read the text in different ways to catch all that Jesus has for you today. Read the text as differing speeds. Read it aloud if you are able. Read it straight-through. Then, read the text pausing at words that catch your attention or at the end of phrases and verses. Do not rush, because Jesus has something important to say to you, and you have something important to say to Jesus!
Psalm 34 New Revised Standard Version
1 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. 9 O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want.
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. 11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12 Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all.
20 He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken. 21 Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Re-read the passage at least once more but in a different way than you read it previously!
Psalm 34 in the NRSV is subtitled: “Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so he drove him out and he went away.” The event is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-22. You can read about this episode in David’s life at (https://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/1-samuel/passage/?q=1-samuel+21:10-22). As a fugitive from Saul, David went to the Philistine city of Gath but found no refuge and only narrowly escaped. Following that, David went to the cave at Adullam where many desperate men joined him. It is possible that this joyful psalm was written on the way to the cave or at the cave and sung in the presence of those that had gathered with David.
Psalm 34 is joyful and it is an acrostic with the beginning of each verse a different letter of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. The purpose of the acrostic format likely was a means of encouraging learning and memorization. Would you consider memorizing at least a few verses?
How about verses 1 and 2: “1 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.”
You could work with the questions below on different days as you continue to reflect on this reading during the week. Write the questions in a journal and record your thoughts. Writing is invaluable for focus and for future insight into your progress in Praying the Scriptures.
- Does knowing more about the context of the Psalm 34 described above help you connect with it? Why?
- Memorize verses 1 and 2 this week. “1 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.” Write it down several times to help you memorize it.
- Let’s examine verses 1 and 2 more closely. What if our praise and thanksgiving were not only in our hearts but “in my mouth” too and in our souls? How would this refine everything we do? How would last week have been different? How can this week be different? Examine and pray about this question. Journal what you hear.
- Verse 2 is “My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.” David could have boasted in himself, when he got out of the jam of 1 Samuel 21. Was David not clever pretending madness? But David knew that God was working things for good. David’s deliverance was not because of his cleverness. What or who was responsible? Examine through prayer what blessings you contribute by your strength, mental capacity, and cleverness and what you contributed to God. Would David agree with you? Why or why not? Pray a prayer of response after examining this question.
- Verse 4 is “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” David’s simple testimony in verse 4 is still powerful thousands of years later. David sought the Lord, looked to the Lord in loving trust. God then heard God’s servant with the implication that God heard him with love, sympathy, and action. God responded and delivered David from all his fears. What fears do you need to bring to the Lord, today? Write them down, then read verse 6 before crying out to the Lord for God’s answer and deliverance from your fear(s).
- Re-read verses 17-22 and make a list of the lessons that David wants his hearers to know. Find one or prominent places in your house, office, vvehicle, etc. to post your list so you will see it several times a day.
As you end your reflection, pray the prayer below or one of your own, then end by slowly praying the Lord’s Prayer.