Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 30, 2020
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where, simply put, you were stuck? There seemed no means of escaping your current woes, and there seemed nothing for you but continuance and exacerbation of those woes for the foreseeable future. If you can recall such a situation in your life, then recall also how you became unstuck. Doubtless your great God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—had all to do with your deliverance, even if at the time you thought you alone extricated yourself from your situation.
We continue this week in Psalm 34—an individual thanksgiving by David to the Lord for deliverance from the hand of two wicked kings: Saul and Achish. Last week, the Lord urged us, through David, to magnify the Lord always. Today we look upon our God, Who delivers and saves His people. Let us hear once again the reading and proclamation of God’s glorious Word of life to our needy souls.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Notice that David, led by the Spirit of God, begins in today’s English stanza with these words, “I sought the LORD….” He sought the Lord, his God, both generally in worship and prayer and particularly in his distress. Distress is a good time to seek God, but, alas, for all too many people—including at least a few professing Christians—God is to be sought only when we undergo stress and distress. Yet we see from the larger Biblical record that David resorted to God often—and not just when troubled. May the Holy Spirit make this the pattern of our lives also.
When David sought the Lord, God noted him and his situation, and He did not ignore Him. God heard His servant of choice—and, moreover, He answered him. It appears that God’s answer to David took the form of divine action. That is, God acted—and that decisively. He delivered His servant from fears and saved him out of all troubles. David, calling himself a poor man, testifies to God’s lavish deliverance of his soul from danger and death.
Because our God is such a deliverer, those who look to Him for deliverance are radiant. We think of a bride radiant at the imminent prospect of marrying her beloved groom, and we extrapolate that image of beaming, shining face onto the blood-bought Christian rescued from temporal and eternal danger. We shine from the reflected glory of God upon our delivered faces. Indeed, the faces of those who look to Him shall never be ashamed (Romans 10:11, Isaiah 28:16, cf. 1 Peter 2:6).
Our faces shine without shame before Almighty God because the angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him—and delivers them. Let’s look a bit at this angel of the Lord. Perhaps this refers to a single member of the angelic host, or it could refer to a plural number while stating the singular number. This also could refer to the pre-incarnate Christ (i.e., a Christophany)—and this is my preferred view. Likely we see the pre-incarnate Christ appearing to Gideon (in Judges vi.11 ff.) and to Samson (in Judges 13:2 ff.), among others. Just know, for our purpose, that though Jesus is seated locally in Heaven, He is very near to us, especially in our distresses, by His Spirit.
In fact, the Lord encamps around those who fear Him. That is, He dwells with us and protects us—both with offensive and defensive weaponry. He encamps with those who fear the Lord—those who worship Him and walk in His ways. Such is the beginning of wisdom, but fools—the unwise, morally deficient ones ever in view in Proverbs, despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 9:10). Not only does God encamp about those who fear Him, but He also delivers them. He takes away, snatches away, rescues, and recovers the ones fearing Him from that which binds and troubles them, such as fears, enemies (both tangible and intangible), troubles, death, sin, and guilt.
What gracious work of deliverance God accomplishes on our behalf, and what joy our delivered souls know as a result.
In the summer of 1998, Myrrh Records released the last studio album of Rich Mullins (1955-1997), entitled The Jesus Record. “My Deliverer,” the first track from that album, reached number one on the Christian contemporary chart. “My Deliverer” points, rightly, to Jesus Christ as our ultimate Deliverer—our Savior. The Lord delivers us from the penalty of sin by His death and resurrection, from the power of sin by the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who ever lives to glorify Christ, and from the very presence of sin either when Christ returns or God calls us Home.
In Christ, therefore, fear is banished. Jesus tells us, on the night of His betrayal, “Peace I leave with you: My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give unto you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). We also read in Scripture, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a). In Christ, enemies are limited in scope and power. David, led by the Spirit, in another places, writes, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1-2). In Christ, troubles serve to grow us in the Lord. Hear Paul on this, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). Similarly, James writes by the Spirit, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Finally for today, in Christ death is but the portal to eternal bliss with our triune God—for absence from the body, for the Christian, is presence with the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:8). Recall also, according to Martin Luther (1483-1546), the Gospel in miniature, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Also note Jesus’ thrilling promise later in John’s Gospel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death” (John 8:51). Again, what a Deliverer we have—both in His power and in the scope of His authority. Therefore, rejoice and rest in your Deliverer, Jesus Christ.
 Last week, in the ascription to Psalm 34, we read of David’s deliverance from Abimelech, but we noted his deliverance from Achish, king of Gath in Philistia, in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. There is no contradiction; it appears Achish was the king’s personal name, while Abimelech (Hebrew my father, the king) is a titular name. The case is not unlike the Caesars of the Roman Empire. For example, Julius Caesar (ca. 100-44 B. C.) had personal name Julius and titular named Caesar.
 The foregoing rises from a word study of the Hebrew natzal, which is the verb rendered deliver in verse 7. See Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1906. Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004).
 I first obtained this formula of Jesus saving us from the penalty, power, and presence of sin from Michael Green, Evangelism through the Local Church: A Comprehensive Guide to All Aspects of Evangelism (Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1992), 33.