Guest Speaker – Praying Psalms of Deliverance (Psalm 34)

Guest Speaker – Praying Psalms of Deliverance (Psalm 34)

This summer we are going through a series of teachings about praying the scripture. And today we are going to talk about praying for God’s deliverance using psalms, specifically using psalm 34 as an example.

Talking about God’s deliverance, we often think of praying for God to end our trials or protect us from life dangers, which is good and necessary in our prayers. The question is, is there anything more than ending our trials when we pray. If there is, how so?

So, today, I am going to talk about three things regarding God’s deliverance, using psalm 34:

– First, what is God’s deliverance in psalm 34? 

– then how can we learn from the psalm to pray for God’s deliverance?

– finally, how can we trust God’s deliverance as we pray?

Scripture Reading: 

First let me read psalm 34 – ‘The Lord delivers the righteous’:

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

2 I will boast in the Lord;
the humble will hear and be glad.

3 Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me;
let us exalt his name together. //

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and rescued me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.

6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him from all his troubles.

7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and rescues them.  //

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!

9 You who are his holy ones, fear the Lord,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 Young lions lack food and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing. //

11 Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12 Who is someone who desires life,
loving a long life to enjoy what is good?

13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from deceitful speech.

14 Turn away from evil and do what is good;
seek peace and pursue it. //

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry for help.

16 The face of the Lord is set
against those who do what is evil,
to remove all memory of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
he saves those crushed in spirit.  //

19 One who is righteous has many adversities,
but the Lord rescues him from them all.

20 He protects all his bones;
not one of them is broken.

21 Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants,
and all who take refuge in him will not be punished.

Context of Psalm 34: 

Psalm 34 was written by David. The heading below the psalm title says “Concerning David, when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech, who drove him out, and he departed”.

The context of psalm 34 is recorded in 1 Samuel chapter 21.

If you grew up in any church, most likely you have heard the famous story that David killed the giant – Goliath. David at that time was just a shepherd boy and probably a teenager and he killed Goliath and became the champion of Israel. That is in 1 Samuel chapter 17.

 As the story continues in 1 Samuel, David became more and more popular and successful. He got Jonathan’s brotherly love. Jonathan was king Saul’s son, so he got brotherly love from the prince – a royal friendship. Then He got Michal’s romantic love. Michal was the daughter of king Saul so he got the princess’s romantic love. Now we can see here, David, a shepherd boy, got a great start in his life.

Imagine yourself as a teenager boy and your life started to take off – you got a successful career – a high rank in the army, romance, royal friendship, favor in the boss’s eyes and beyond – pretty much all the earthly good things you can imagine.

Then things went terribly wrong for David. King Saul got jealous of David and wanted to kill him. What did David do? He had to run for his life. He lost all those good things he got and had to run away to a desert and to a Philistine land full of enemies.

He ran into Abimelech – a Philistine king. And David had to pretend to be insane and act like a mad man to get his own life spared. So, Abimelech thought he was truly insane and drove him out. This is the context where this psalm – Psalm 34 was written by David.

  1. What is God’s deliverance?

Now, what is God’s deliverance in the psalm then?  

1.1. God’s deliverance to end our trials:

When we pray that God delivers us, oftentimes we are asking God to end our trials, for instance to heal our sickness, to improve our finances, or to get us out of stress or trouble etc. 

When I was doing graduate school at ISU, I was under tremendous stress and thought that I was not going to make it and may have to quit. So, I prayed to God for deliverance and one night, I simply kneeled down on the floor at my apartment and cried to God for help. I was so stressed and so desperate. God was gracious to me and in the end, he did deliver me and end my trial.

We all want God to end our trial when we are in trouble. Don’t we? God is our great helper.

And this happened to David in psalm 34 as well. Psalm 34:v4 says

“4. I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears.”

Verse 7 says: “7. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and rescues them.”

God delivered David by rescuing him from all his fears and troubles. And the presence of God Himself protected David from his life danger – from his enemy – the Philistine king Abimelech.

But did God deliver David more than just ending his trial?

1.2. God’s eternal deliverance for our ultimate good.

The answer is yes and there is another way God delivers us – you may call it God’s ultimate or eternal deliverance. 

To know that, let us continue to v. 8-10:

V10 says “10. Young lions lack food and go hungry, but those who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.”

Ironically at this moment, David was running away for his life. He just lost all those good things he got. And he had no food at all.

In 1 Samuel chapter 21, David ran into God’s temple and asked a priest for bread that was offered to God. David said to the priest “Now what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread or whatever can be found”. (1 Samuel 21:3). So, he had no food and was desperate. 

If that is the reality, why did David pray something so contradictory to his real-life situation? Is it because David was doing some sort of positive thinking, which is very popular nowadays? You know, things will get better, so you just need to be positive or just not think too much. Y ou know, life gives you a lemon, so I am going to make lemonade.

This type of positive thinking or self-encouragement does sound good on the surface, but it has no basis and can be futile. We hope things will get better but how do you know it will get better? Based on what it will get better, based on luck or some sort of wishful thinking? There is no solid ground for us to stand.

No, David was not doing positive thinking. Especially if you continue reading 1 Samuel, things were not getting any better for David at all; instead, it just started to get worse. King Saul started to hunt David down like chasing a dog for the next four years.

Then why did David pray like this, and what was on his mind?

We may need to jump ahead here to see it at the end of psalm 34, v21-v22:

 “21. Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished.”

“22. The Lord redeems the life of his servants, and all who take refuge in him will not be punished”

We can see, here David saw a different deliverance from God that almost overrides his current life situation. That is God’s ultimate and eternal deliverance for us – the redemption of our life to spare us from His wrath against evil.

The evil deserves punishment and the righteous has redemption. We know now that we are under the new covenant with God as we studied the book of Hebrews, and we are counted as righteous only through faith in Jesus.

So, God delivers us by redeeming our life for eternity through Christ – that is our ultimate deliverance.

1.3. God’s deliverance to strengthen us in our trials.

There are also a third way God delivers us – which is so powerful and it is exactly what we need in our trials right now. 

From the context of Psalm 34, we know that David’s life situation did not change much or get any better. And we also know that God’s ultimate deliverance for us and His promise does not change either because it is always there. 

But something changed – that is, David changed. He was so fearful but now he is so joyful and hopeful and so confident. As we can see in v1-3, David boasted and joyfully praised the Lord; in v8-10, he said he lacked nothing good. And David had a strong sense of God’s presence all over the entire psalm.

So, the trial did not end for David, and God did not change. But David was delivered from his fear and had been strengthened to have joy and hope, and to have confidence and contentment. In that sense, God delivered David by strengthening David with His power and Spirit.

Now we know that God delivers us in various ways by

  1. Ending our trials, or
  2. Strengthening us in our trials, and
  3. Ultimately delivering us by redeeming our life through Christ.

Application I: Our first application today is to use Psalms as our prayer guide like learning a new language:

a.     Read one Psalm per day and pray verse by verse.

  •  Use the words/vocabulary that captures your mind to pray on the spot.

b.     Pray to God to end your trial or strengthen you in trial, and remember God’s eternal deliverance through Christ.

Let me give you an example, for instance, when you read verse 4, you can use the key words such as “God’s rescue” or “fear” or any phrase that captures your mind to pray on the spot.

You might pray like this: “Oh Lord, I pray that you help me overcome my FEAR today as I am going to have a difficult conversation with a friend, or I worry about my future or relationship or my health problem. Please deliver me and protect me today.”

 Or using verse 7, you can pray like this using the phrase ‘the Angel of the Lord’: “Lord, I am going to have a 10-hour road trip with my family this weekend. May your ANGEL watch over us and protect my family so we can enjoy a safe and fun trip together.”

Praying using a psalm verse by verse is NOT to interpret the Bible verse by verse. As long as you understand a Psalm verse, you can let it be your prayer guide. If you are not quite sure about one verse, you can skip it. Or when you read a verse, and there is nothing coming to your mind, you can go to the next one as well. The goal here is to use it as vocabulary to guide you to pray. You may come back to study the Psalms later after your prayer but the goal is to keep the conversation between you and God going; so you may find you have a lot to pray for.

Each time when you pray, even using the same Psalm, you may find out you are praying something different and that is totally fine. Because your life situation or concern is different every time you pray.

Since today we are talking about praying for God’s deliverance, you can pray for God’s deliverance to end your trial and strengthen you in your trial, and remember God’s eternal deliverance for you through Christ.

  • How to seek God’s deliverance in prayer?

The next question here is how to seek God’s deliverance in our prayer then? What are the ways mentioned in psalm 34.

2.1. “I seek the Lord”: praying without ceasing

If we go back to verse 4 – 5, Verse 4 says: “4. I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears.”

The phrase “I sought the Lord” refers to earnest prayer, like intensely seeking for answer and asking for help without ceasing. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

So earnestly praying and seeking God’s answer without ceasing is a good example for us to learn. This is straightforward, yet it is very important and fundamental.

2.2. “Those Look to Him”: focusing on God 

Verse 5 says: “5. Those who look to him are radiant with joy and their faces will never be ashamed.”

The phrase “Those who look to him” means that you look to him, focus on him, and gaze on him. 

Psalm 27:4 says ““I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, GAZING on the beauty of the Lord and seeking him in his temple.”

What did David say? Did he say that, “Oh, I have many important things in my life and God, happens to be one of them”? No, he said, God is the one thing and only thing I want to gaze on all the days of my life, and the rest of things simply overflow from this single resource – that is God. If we translate it into our modern language, it is not saying, “Oh, religion is one of the many nice things I have in my life.” No, it is saying, “Being a Christian is my entire life.” There is no other way to be delivered and redeemed for our eternal life except through Jesus Christ.

2.3. “The Righteous Cry out”: Cry for Help

In Psalm 34, there is a unique way God shows us to seek His deliverance in our prayers. In v6, v15 and v17.  V6 says “This poor man CRIED”. V15 says “his ears are open to their CRY for help.” V17 “The righteous CRY out”

If you really feel you want to cry when you read the Psalms to pray for your heavy trials, then do cry! v18 says: “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” He is near you and He knows you by name.

Pastor Brad is going to teach how to lament using Psalms next week, so it will be very beneficial for us to learn how to lament in trials.  

Psalm 34 here simply tells us to cry to God for help and for deliverance in our prayer.

  • How can we trust God’s deliverance in prayer?

After we know what God’s deliverance is and how to seek God’s deliverance, the difficult thing here or the thing we struggle the most probably is how we can trust God’s deliverance in our prayers.

Again, let us look at David and see how he trusted God and God’s deliverance. How can he be so joyful and so confident after losing all the earthly good things he had?

David was a Jew, an Israelite; and as a Jew and an Israelite, he knew the story of how God delivered Israel from Egypt, and he knew God’s name and God’s covenants with his ancestors – with Abraham, Jacob and Moses. Those covenants we now call the Old Covenant. Also, David probably knew God from his own personal experience when he was a shepherd boy and was attending his sheep.

But how about us? What do we know as Christians in the 21st century? Well, we know something better than David did at that time as we learned from the book of Hebrews.

If we look at psalm 34 v20: “He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken”. We now know what David was talking about. David himself was a prophet although he looked towards this thing from a far distance and may not fully understand what it was yet to come. 

But you and I know this was fulfilled by Jesus on the cross – not one of Jesus’s bones was broken. David knew in part as he prophesied in part. But we know it fully by God’s grace. God reveals these things to us in the New Testament and through the New Covenant and through His Holy Spirit.

David prophesied about the suffering of the Messiah, and he saw the light from a far distance and in a vague picture. But we see the light in detail in the books of gospel and how it exactly happened in history.

So how can we trust God’s deliverance for us as Christians? That is to remember Jesus.

3.1. Trust God’s ultimate deliverance – Remember Jesus on the cross

First, how to trust God’s eternal deliverance and our eternal redemption? That is to remember Jesus on the cross.

Psalm 34: verse 6 says “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles.” Verse 17 says “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.”

“This poor man cried….” and “the righteous cried…” 

You may start to think, who else also cried in the Bible. And there were many, from Genesis to Revelation: Joseph cried, David, all the Prophets, the Apostles cried, and many more. All of sudden, you will find the entire Bible is full of cries. 

Yet one person had the most painful cry in his life and in our human history – Jesus Christ cried on the cross. What did Jesus cry? Jesus cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was quoting Psalm 22 (v1).

The poor man and the righteous cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. What about Jesus? Jesus cried, and the Lord heard him and turned His face away. Why? Because Jesus was forsaken so that you and I will never be forsaken. We are the poor, and yet we are the righteous because of Jesus.

What was Jesus doing on the cross? He was delivering us. Both God the Father and God the Son know there is no other way to truly deliver us once for all except God himself on the Cross.

Imagine this, if there is no eternal deliverance from God for us, no matter how many times God delivers us from our trials now, in the end, we will be all lost forever, and there will be as if there is no deliverance at all. Ultimately, Jesus came to the world, not just to do miracles to deliver people from the trials, which he did, and it was good. His primary goal was to come and deliver us from our ultimate enemy – sin, so we can be with Him forever and enjoy His goodness forever and ever. 

Message to atheist friends:

I once was an atheist and thought I was delivering myself pretty well – you work hard to get what you need and enjoy what you deserve, and you feel pretty good about yourself. So, if you are an atheist who is checking out Christianity recently, I want to speak to you, my friend.

You may be doing a very good job right now at delivering yourself. But, with full respect, I am afraid that there is no eternal deliverance for you, and in the end, there is no deliverance at all. All your labor will be in vain. All the things you worked for yourself and all your loved ones, and all the things you cherished will be nothing left in the end. 

Mark 8:36-37 says “For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul? What can anyone give in exchange for his soul?” That is the question for you. A serious question for you today.

If you are an atheist and you are struggling with your life now and feel down and feel there is no hope and no deliverance for you, I want to let you know that you are at the right place to meet God. And I do have good news for you today just as God did for me and for all of us. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3). 

So, I encourage you to read one of the four Gospel books in the Bible this summer, with a Christian friend or someone who brought you to church and learn to pray with the help of your Christian friends. You need to become poor in spirit and then become righteous through Christ. The poor here means the humble – the one who acknowledges that he needs God.

So to trust God’s eternal deliverance for us through Christ is to remember Jesus on the cross.

3.2. Trust God’s good will to end our trial or not – Remember Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane

Then how shall we trust God to end our trials, or what kind of expectation shall we have when we pray to end our trials?

That is to remember Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane – the night before Jesus was betrayed. David did not know that, but we do by God’s grace.

Jesus prayed three times earnestly the night before he was betrayed in Mark 14:36 “Jesus said ‘Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will but what you will’ ”. 

When God says no or not yet to our prayers, we can be tempted to doubt. Is God really good to me? Does He truly know things better than I do?

Remember Jesus’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. God did not take the cup away from Jesus so you and I can be in God’s kingdom. In that sense, are we glad that God’s will was done? Are we glad that Jesus prayed that the Lord’s will be done? 

So by that, you and I can know God’s will is not always our will. Instead, His will is always better than my will. He has a plan and a better plan. So may the Lord’s will be done on earth as in heaven as we pray.

3.3. Trust God to strengthen us in our trial – Remember Jesus sitting at the right hand of the throne.

How can we trust God will strengthen us in our trials so we can carry it to completion?

David had to look to God in order to have joy and confidence so do we. So let us cast our eyes toward the things God promised and yet to come. That is to remember Jesus now sitting at the right hand of the throne of God.

Because of Jesus, now we know what to expect in our life: 

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

We also know who is coming back:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.” (John 14:18)

And we know with confidence what we can have when we pray

“You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” (John 15:16).

So brothers and sisters, ask for God to strengthen you and to bear fruit, and it will be given to you!

Application II:

Lastly, our second application today is to pray to trust God’s deliverance:

a.     Journal down your salvation story in your prayer time. Remember God’s ultimate deliverance for you through Jesus Christ

b.     pray that God graciously ends your trial according to His will.

c.   share your story – the battle you have won to strengthen your friends in trials.

Psalm 34: v8 says “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!” 

If you have been through your trials, and if you have won your battle by grace and you have tasted God’s goodness, do not waste your struggle. Share your story with someone you love and care about with gentleness and graciousness. Let your scar point them to Jesus’s scar. Let God’s deliverance for you point them to God’s ultimate deliverance. 

We need each other, and let us encourage each other.