14 March 2022
Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
14 March 2022 (Psalms 34)
Before today begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.
During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I am reflecting in these ways:
1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;
2, reading the psalm or psalms;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
The opening words of Psalm 34, sometimes numbered as Psalm 33, is known in Latin as Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore. The opening words are: ‘I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.’
Psalm 34 is ascribed to King David in its subtitle, ‘Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away, who drove him away, and he departed.’ This psalm is set in the time when David was living with the Philistines, but the account of this event in I Samuel 21 refers to the king as Achish, not Abimelech.
The psalm is an acrostic poem in the Hebrew Alphabet, with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet beginning a verse in sequential order. The one exception is waw (ו), which begins the second clause of verse six. Verse 22, the concluding statement, begins with pey (פ), outside the acrostic scheme. This psalm is an acrostic of confidence, as is Psalm 25, with which it has many similarities.
This is one of a series of songs of thanksgiving. It is the first Psalm to describe angels as guardians of the righteous, and many of its sayings are familiar even to people who are not regular churchgoers, such as ‘the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him’ (verse 7) and ‘taste and see that the Lord is gracious’ (verse 8).
Psalm 34 could be structured in this way:
1, Verses 2-4: Hymn introduction;
2, Verse 5: Basic praising, preaching the fate of the Psalmist;
3, Verses 6-11: teaching, which is evident from his fate;
4, Verses 12-22: didactic poem 1;
5, Verses 13-15: Question, answer;
6, Verses 16-22: Collection of wise sayings.
When we bless the Lord, the humble hear and are glad (verses 1-2). God answers those who seek his help, and he delivers them from their fears (verse 4). They shall be protected by the angels and delivered (verse 7).
We are invited to ‘taste and see that the Lord is gracious’ (verse 8). As his ‘holy ones,’ we shall fear the Lord and lack nothing (verses 9-10), for God meets all our needs.
In verse 11, the Psalmist says: ‘Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.’ ‘Children’ is a customary term for students in Wisdom literature, so the psalmist is now the teacher.
Some verses in Psalm 34 are cited in the New Testament:
Verse 8: quoted in I Peter 2: 3;
Verses 12-16: cited in I Peter 3: 10-12;
Verse 18: paraphrased in Matthew 5: 3;
Verse 20: alluded to in John 19: 36.
Psalm 34 (NRSVA):
Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
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 broken-hearted,
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.
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary this morning (14 March 2022, Commonwealth Day) invites us to pray:
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ across the Commonwealth, a political association of 54 free and equal states across the world.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org