Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thursday of Trinity 2

Deliverance from Every Trouble

Psalm 34 (ESV) I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

There is no shortage of atheists who declare prayer to be worthless. You can even find some who cite “empirical” studies to that effect, and even accuse Christians of twisting the results in their own favor.

In fact, I am no fan of trying to prove the efficacy of prayer. What a silly endeavor, considering that God’s own Son prayed for the cup of suffering to be removed from Him, but the answer was, “No!”.

I regularly point out that there is no power in prayer; there is only power in God. Prayer is our response to the fact that He is “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” and that He has commanded us to pray and has promised to hear and answer—according to His good and gracious will, of course.

Therein lies the rub. Old Adam doesn’t want God’s will to be done, but his own will: “My will be done on earth, even if it isn’t done in heaven.”

Psalm 34:19 has always been a tough one for my sinful flesh to swallow: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”

Ha! How many afflictions I face on a daily basis, yet deliverance is not forthcoming (or even possible, apart from my loved one rising from the dead and returning to my presence)?

There are two ways to solve my problem with Psalm 34, both related. One: we are afflicted in this life, but in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,” we will experience deliverance from our all our afflictions.

Secondly, and integrally related: Psalm 34:19 in Hebrew describes “the righteous” in the singular, which is a reference to “the Righteous One” (Acts 7:52), Jesus Christ Himself.

This is the only right way to read the Psalms: with Jesus as the primary referent, and with the rest of us as inheritors of His Words of prayer, praise, lament, and thanksgiving.

That’s what’s going on in Psalm 34:20, the next verse: “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken”? That’s Jesus, too:

“Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced.’” (John 19:31-37)

In fulfillment of God’s Word, not a bone in Jesus’ body was broken, but He “was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Psalm 34 concludes: “Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”

Again “the righteous” is not generic, but He is “the Righteous One.” Those who hate Him will be condemned. But the LORD Jesus Christ has redeemed the life of His servants, for He is the one “who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.”

And none who take refuge in Jesus will be condemned!

Prayer: Almighty God, heavenly Father, give us grace to trust You during this time of illness and distress. In mercy put an end to the epidemic that afflicts us. Grant relief to those who suffer, and comfort all that mourn. Sustain all medical personnel in their labors, and cause Your people ever to serve You in righteousness and holiness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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