Psalm 34:1-10
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
April 23, 2023

Let the humble hear and be glad! – Psalm 34:2b

Last year, a year in which the world lurched from one crisis to another, the Collins English Dictionary announced its 2022 new word of the year to be ”permacrisis”, defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events”.  Given repeated health dangers, climate concerns, war in Ukraine, political upheaval and the threat of economic disaster, the new word fits these days.  Is it any wonder then that, under these circumstances, anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health concerns?

When David wrote today’s psalm, he was in the middle of a permacrisis.  The most powerful political figure in his nation, King Saul, was bent on killing him.  When he fled to the land of Gath, the king there came to fear David and to consider killing the young upstart himself. But, when David pretended to be a simple-minded madman, the king sent him away as a mere annoyance.  David then snuck back into Israel, but had to hide in a cave with other marginalized Israelites.

In that context of trouble and trial, a God-infatuated, humble David wrote today’s glowing song of praise to the God he loved.

In the Psalm’s first ten verses, David stated seven things he does and seven things he wished we’d do with him.  David said he 1) blesses the Lord at all times, 2) praises the Lord continually, 3) boasts in the Lord, 4) magnifies the Lord, 5) exalts the Lord’s name, 6) seeks the Lord, and 7) cries to the Lord for help.  Then he asks us to join him that together we might 1) hear the Lord and be glad, 2) magnify the Lord, 3) exalt the Lord, 4) look to the Lord and be radiant, 5) taste and see that the Lord is good, 6) fear the Lord and 7) seek the Lord.  David, you see, believed that God wants to make everyone’s heart glad and everyone’s life happy, and that the way to let God do that is to hear from God, again and again, who He is and what He does.  And who will listen like that?  Only the humble who know they still need to learn and grow!

Let the humble hear and be glad!

To be humble does not mean to think less of oneself, but less about oneself.  It means to be caught up in the wonderful and to look beyond oneself, even to God, to make it through the challenges of life.  It is to stop bending everything back on to ourselves and to fix our gaze outward and upward for hope.

It’s significant that the first line of this Psalm expresses David’s resolve to focus on God with praise:  “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth”.  David’s determination to prioritize praising God meant he intended to honor God, at every twist and turn and every up and down of his life, both when God did what he wanted and when God did not.

David never looked at life through rose-tinted glasses.  In more than half his Psalms, he talked about fierce enemies around him.  He never thought to deny the reality of adversity and pain, but just brought them to God that God might inject His supernatural help into the situation.  When David saw what then happened, he saw he need fear no evil because God would bring blessings into, and even from, any calamity.  David’s job was just to stand steadfast in honoring God first and foremost.

David’s faithfulness kept David focused on God; and David’s focus on God kept him confident in God, this God who “delivered me from all my fears” and always would.

I think David would’ve felt a kinship with a woman who was anxiously waiting for takeoff aboard a plane bound for Chicago.  Just as it started rolling down the runway, she leaned forward in her seat and looked out the window to her left.  She saw a bright, beautiful sunset painting the sky with glorious color.  Then she turned and looked out the window to her right.  There she saw nothing but a dark sky filled with threatening dirty storm clouds.  Over the roar of engines, she heard God whisper in her head: “This is your life.  It will have happy, beautiful times; and some fearsome, frightening times.  But you can have peace and joy all the time because you can count on me to take you somewhere great.  Because you put yourself on this plane, the direction in which you look doesn’t determine where you will end up; whatever you do, you’re still going to Chicago.  Likewise, because you put yourself in my hands, you can rest your gaze on the bright side or on the foreboding side; but, whatever you do, you’re still going where I promised to take you.  So you might as well look on the bright side and enjoy the journey as well as the destination!”

Let the humble hear and be glad!

God wants to increase our joy and peace despite our having to endure the inevitable difficulties of life.  How do we let Him do that?  By focusing our attention on His goodness and mercy, locking our minds on His promises and trustworthiness, and remembering that for every ounce of effort we put in God puts in a billion tons of His own!  When we set our eyes on God, we relax and rejoice.  When we attune our ears to God, we grow happy and serene of heart!

Let the humble hear and be glad!

Two years ago, Scott Swain wrote that a balance scale is a better metaphor for our heart than a cup.  He said that if we think of our heart as a cup, we may think we have to empty it of all fear and sorrow for it to know peace and joy.  But, Swain noted, fear and sorrow belong in our heart as appropriate responses to the actual or potential loss of real blessings.  It is, for example, right to be anxious over the bad choices of a loved one and to fear the bad impact they’ll have on others.

It is more helpful, Swain says, to think of the heart as a balance scale of the kind Lady Justice is depicted holding up in courts of law.  In that context, the scale represents how evidence and arguments are weighed against each other to gain the truth.  In the context of our heart, the scale represents how biblical revelation and human experience are weighed against each to gain true perspective.  For example, our heart may grow heavy with grief over someone’s passing and with concern over how it will hurt others; but God’s promises and proven track record serve as counterweights to keep our heart from tipping over and falling into dark despair.  Though sorrow and fear may remain in our heart, God’s truth and presence can tilt it upward and make it lighter with hope.

Let the humble hear and be glad!

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