• 20 November 2023

Chapter 9 – The Undistracted Parent

This psalm was written when David was desperate. It helped me when I was desperate.

The key thing in starting to know God is a sense of our need forGod. This need is itself planted by God in our hearts, often, though not always, through suffering and pain. When we realise our own desperate situation then we turn and look to God. If we think everything is fine then why bother?

I find this extremely useful because when you are seriously ill the ultimate ‘fallback’ is God. I don’t understand why God allowed my illness to happen but, nonetheless, I must and I will trust in the Father that he knows best.

Where must we start when we suffer? Though it can be very, very hard, we must never forget to say, ‘Thank you’, and tell others about God. The psalm makes this plain, ‘I will extol the LORD at all times’ (Ps. 34:1). At all times, but most of all in times of great suffering and trial. Christians must also tell others how God has helped them. It is our responsibility, however difficult we find it, to tell others how great God is!

Notice the words that David uses, ‘I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears’ (Ps. 34:4); ‘This poor man called, and the LORD heard him’ (Ps. 34:6); ‘The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry’ (Ps. 34:15).

God is like a parent straining to hear a crying baby. He is highly attentive to our prayers. Both His eyes and His ears are attuned to us. God is not like us. We fall asleep and forget things. I am easily distracted and once even lost a friend’s young son on a busy beach! But the Lord God Almighty is not like us. Ceaselessly, unwaveringly, every second of our life, His eyes are on us and His ears are listening to our cries. What must we do when we are in trouble? We must cry to Him for help in prayer and hear His voice through His Word.

James Montgomery Boice says of Psalm 34:

David’s circumstances did not change. He was still a fugitive, still in danger, still alone. But God had preserved his life … prayer does not mean God will change every difficult thing, but he will preserve you as long as he has work for you to do and will transform the most difficult circumstances by his presence.*

I know this is true because he has done that for me.

This true and certain hope will deliver us from our fears. I am not ashamed to say I was and still am afraid, like just David. But God is with us if we trust in Him. ‘The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them’ (Ps. 34:7).

Many Christians (though I don’t think we can be absolute about this) argue that appearances of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament were manifestations of the Son of God before His incarnation. Whatever the case, it is clear that the angel of the Lord promises to stay with us, actually to camp with us and around us and be with us every day of our life. This promise is renewed directly by the Lord in the New Testament when he says, ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Mt. 28:20).

The verse reminds us of the story of Elisha in Dothan. His terrified servant, full of fear and surrounded by enemies, has his eyes opened and sees the hills around him full of the armies of the Lord. Elisha comforts him by saying, ‘Don’t be afraid … Those who are with us are more than those who are with them’ (2 Kgs 6:16). May our eyes too be opened to the way in which the angel of the Lord daily encamps around us on all sides.

* James Montgomery Boice, Psalms: Volume 1 (Baker Books, 2005), p. 292.

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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