SWEET PRAYERS – PSALM 34
Lesson 7 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer
by Eric Elder
You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 34, read by Lana Elder, with music by Christoph Graupner, played by Eric Elder
I love chocolate chip cookies. I especially love them when they’re fresh out of the oven, warm and chewy, with the chocolate melting into strands when you pull them apart.
But I know I wouldn’t like them as much if a few of the ingredients were missing. If there were no butter, they’d just be a clumpy mass of dough. If there were no baking soda, they’d flatten out on the tray. If there were no salt or vanilla or sugar, they’d be almost tasteless. It takes all of the ingredients, mixed together, to make that delicious, mouth-watering moment when they come out of the oven.
Life does have some very “tasty” moments, but to bring them about, it requires mixing all the right ingredients together. And to be honest, some of those ingredients don’t taste so great on their own. I wouldn’t want to eat a stick of butter. I wouldn’t want to eat a cup of of flour. I wouldn’t want to eat a spoonful of salt or vanilla, or even a cup of sugar, as sweet as it is, without the other ingredients mixed in.
But sometimes that’s what life gives us; the ingredients come to us one by one, then we get frustrated and wonder what in the world is going on. “This isn’t what I asked for! This isn’t what I prayed about! This isn’t the way things were supposed to go!” The beautiful thing about God is this: He mixes all of it together for good. Notice the word “together” in Romans 8:28:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV).
God takes all things and works them together for good. He’s a Master Chef, and that means He can make something good out of anything that life throws our way, even those things that we might think are initially bitter or totally useless on their own.
In Psalm 34, David experiences one of those mouth-watering moments, when everything is mixed together just right. His cookies have just come out of the oven, and he can’t help himself from bursting into song, at one point singing:
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8).
But what makes this moment so sweet, so mouth-wateringly delicious, are ALL the ingredients that went into it. David sings God’s praises because he realizes that only God could turn everything he had gone through into something good.
The heading of Psalm 34 tells us what had just happened:
“Psalm 34. Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.”
David had been on the run from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. Then David found himself in the presence of another king–an enemy–who might have also tried to kill him.
Thinking quickly, David pretended to be insane:
“So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.”
King Achish [his proper name, also called Abimelek as in Psalm 34, which is his title] said to his servants:
“Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:13-15, NIV).
And it worked! Abimelek sent him away. Then David burst into song. Victory never tasted so sweet–which is why he probably sang, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”
Individually, some of the ingredients that went into David’s song were pretty bitter. Facing death from one enemy only to find himself facing death from another. But God worked it all together for good, giving him a way of escape (and eventually making David king over all the kings in that land). David got a taste of the sweetness of God that day–and he savored every bite.
There are times in our lives when things come together just right, even for a moment, and we could burst into song as well. My encouragement to you today is this: go ahead and burst into song! Pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for working all things together for good.
Savor every bite. Sing a song of praise. Pour out your heart to Him in thanksgiving. You may not be totally out of the fire yet, as David still had obstacles in his way until he finally became king himself. But take time out along the way to give God praise for what He’s brought you through so far–for what He’s already worked out for good in your life.
I had one of those mouth-watering moments myself yesterday, where I had some time to sit and think before I picked up my kids from an activity. I decided to go to a nearby park, sit on the grass, and write in my journal.
As I sat on the grass, I read through this Psalm again. I began to thank God for all the things that He had worked out recently in my life: I had been driving a car that kept breaking down, but now I had another car that I had found at a reasonable price; I had been working on a new book that has been challenging for various reasons, but now I had already finished three-fourths of it so far; I had been going through a long winter here in Illinois, but now I was enjoying the spring breeze and the scent of blossoms in the trees; and I had been hungry for a little something right before I came to the park, and I had found a vending machine in the park which had a small packet of M&M candies in it–Dark Chocolate Mint M&M’s at that, a rare treat–and I was savoring them slowly, one or two at a time while I prayed.
That didn’t mean that everything in my life was going the way I wanted it to. It wasn’t. And it didn’t mean that I didn’t still have obstacles ahead that I would have to overcome. But in those moments, I was able to taste and see that the Lord was good. Yesterday, His goodness happened to taste like Dark Chocolate Mint M&M’s.
What are you going through today that God might be mixing together for your good? Maybe you’re still having to eat all of the ingredients one at a time, and they don’t taste so good. But maybe there are other parts of your life that have already been mixed together for good, and which could taste sweet if you took the time to stop and think about them for a few minutes. It wasn’t so sweet when I blew a tire on the freeway a few months ago on a cold winter morning, but somehow that experience made yesterday’s spring breeze feel even better as I rolled the windows down on my replacement car. What had been bitter a few months ago turned into something extra sweet on what might have been an otherwise “ordinary” day yesterday.
If you need help thinking through the things God may have done for you lately, take a closer look at David’s psalm of thanksgiving, Psalm 34. Take a look at some of the things in the second half of the sentences below that God saved David from that made the victories so sweet when they did come. Maybe you’ll find a few things about which you can burst out into song today, too.
I sought the Lord , and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (v. 4)
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (v. 5)
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. (v. 6)
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (v. 7)
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry… (v. 15)
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (v. 18)
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all… (v. 19)
Will you pray with me?
Thank You, God, for mixing ALL things together for good. Thank You for the victories You’ve given us, and for the ingredients we need to make those victories so sweet. I pray that You would help us to have Your perspective on our lives, not only the sweet times, but the bitter, so that we can enjoy them even more when they all come together. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. Here’s a link again to today’s psalm:
Psalm 34, read by Lana Elder, with Christoph Graupner’s “Intrada,” played by Eric Elder
And here’s our reading plan for the book of Psalms this year, if you want to read through all of the psalms with us as we go through this series:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms