The Bible

 

Psalms 34

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1 I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.

6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.

10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.

11 Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?

13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

16 The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

  

    Study the Inner Meaning

Commentary

 

Exploring the Meaning of Psalms 34

     

By Rev. Julian Duckworth

Psalm 34 is a psalm full of the praises of God and calls for our need for humility. The title says it is ‘A psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed’. This psalm and its sentiments would fit very well with feelings of devotion and gratitude to God for being given safety.

The language throughout this psalm is very beautiful, and is written in a consistent style. Every verse in the psalm is a ‘couplet’ in which one thing gets said and is then repeated in a different way. This style of writing actually has a spiritual meaning, because one part relates to what is good and the other part to what is true. This duality is present in many places throughout the Word. (Sacred Scripture 80)

The Psalm begins with the idea of never-ending praise. Spiritually, expressions in the Word of time and duration are about our enduring acknowledgement of the Lord, and the way in which this continually leads us and shapes our thoughts and actions, even when we are not consciously thinking about Him. (Read more about this in Arcana Caelestia 4814.2, and in Arcana Caelestia 5253.)

After this comes the idea of the greatness of God and of our own consequent humility. We boast, magnify and exalt the Lord, and the humble hear and are glad. The word for ‘boast’ has the meaning ‘to praise’ which can mean praise of myself or of another, in this case, the Lord. Spiritually, the link between praise and humility lies in the universal truth that, as we praise God, we lose self-centredness. We become truly aware of our dependence on the Lord. (See Divine Providence 42.)

The next few verses carry the idea of our need to seek the Lord and keep turning to him - an action on our part which brings the Lord to us to deliver and save us. The truth is that the Lord is always present with us and does not leave or move from us. But from where we stand, we can and will lose our sense of Him. We need to focus, to become aware of him and bring ourselves back into dependence on him. (Divine Providence 91)

This section ends with a reference to the ‘angel of the Lord’ and deliverance. Spiritually, the ‘angel’ of the Lord stands for the truth we receive from the Lord since an angel is a ‘messenger’. (Arcana Caelestia 8495)

This is followed by the invitation to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. Spiritually, to ‘taste’ means to receive truth from the Lord and then to experience its effect and benefit to us. This is the reason why the two words ‘taste’ and ‘see’ are used in this verse. (Arcana Caelestia 4792)

This couplet ends by affirming the happiness – more accurately ‘blessedness’ – of one who trusts in the Lord. (Divine Providence 39)

The next part emphasises that those who live by the Lord shall lack for nothing. It is interesting that this is put in the negative, ‘not lack’ rather than in the positive, ‘be given everything’. This gives a stronger emphasis. Spiritually, it reinforces our experience of how our work to live by the Lord's Word brings a completeness to our personal life, while natural life is inevitably caught up with lacking what we want. (Arcana Caelestia 8939.2)

Verses 11 to 14 are an invitation and a description to choose, live and practise the life of ‘the fear of the Lord’. By ‘fear’ is meant reverence and holiness in a personal and spiritual way, and the examples which are used in this section describe the qualities that such a care for the Lord brings us. This is followed by a reassurance that the Lord’s presence and awareness is always there in our intention to follow and serve him. (Heaven and Hell 218)

The last part of this psalm, in verses 17 to 22, provides strong encouragements of the Lord’s deliverance and redeeming work for those who put their complete faith and trust in Him. ‘He guards all his bones, not one of them is broken.’ Spiritually, bones stand for the truths which support and hold our personal life, and here, with the meaning that our spiritual wholeness shall be kept together and be in integrity. (Arcana Caelestia 6138)


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