The Radiant Life
The last Psalm of this second series of five is the 34th and again we find that it links with the one that went before. This previous Psalm has been calling people to worship, to praise Him and the last two verses say, “For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.” And immediately the soul speaks in the next Psalm, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Notice, this 34th Psalm which presents Jehovah as the Deliverer was written by David. We do not know who wrote Psalm 33 but are told distinctly who wrote Psalm 34, “A Psalm of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.” Do you remember that incident in David’s life? He was afraid he was going to be slain by King Saul and fled to the court of the Philistines and waited on the king of the Philistines. Just think, David who had overcome Goliath, the Philistine giant, became so discouraged that he lost his confidence and instead of trusting God he fled to the enemies of his people and wanted to go with the Philistine king to battle and would have gone out with them against his own peole. How terribly David had fallen. There is no telling how far a saint of God will fall if he gets his eyes off the Lord, if unbelief triumphs instead of faith. Of course it will be only a temporary thing. The Philistines themselves said to Achish, King of Gath, “What are you doing with this fellow? This is the man who slew Goliath.” But Achish said, “Oh, Saul has turned against him and he is going to be my keeper now and he is going to fight for us.” But they said, “We do not want this fellow around. If we go to battle he will turn against us.” They knew that his heart was really with his own people and they said, no, he cannot go. And David was afraid and we read, “He feigned himself mad in their hands and scrabbled on the doors of the gate” (1 Samuel 21:13). What a picture! David, the man after God’s own heart, God’s anointed, feigning himself to be crazy because he was now afraid of the Philistines. Those orientals [sic] would never touch a lunatic and so he pretended to be insane. What a disgusting picture. But no more disgusting than for you or me to go off with the world and act like the world, we who have been called out from it to glorify the Lord Jesus. God came in grace and delivered him from all that and when he got back among his own people again he wrote this Psalm. David was delivered because Achish would not have him. He was feeling better now; he was back in the right place; he was delivered from the association of the Philistines.
Verses 1 to 4 are an ascription of praise. “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” If he had only done that in the beginning he would not have failed so dreadfully in the palace of the king of the Philistines but he had to have that bitter experience to bring him to an end of himself and to thrust him upon God. How often that happens to children of God.
In verses 5 to 10 you have a wonderful story of his own personal experience of the delivering power of God. That fifth verse has a marvelous lesson, “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.” “They looked unto him.” Unto whom? Unto the Lord. And what happened? “They were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.” Literally it means, “they became radiant.” “They looked unto him, and became radiant: and their faces were not ashamed.” Remember what the apostle tells us in the last verse of the third chapter of 2 Corinthians, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Do you want to become a radiant Christian? Do you want to be a Christlike believer? Then do not be self-occupied, do not be looking in all the time trying to see how you are getting along. If you are occupied with your bad self only, you will get discouraged; if occupied with your fancied goodness, you will get puffed up but if you look away to Him, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), what happens? “They looked unto him, and became radiant.” They not only received light themselves but gave out light. Moses went into the presence of God and when he came from the mount he was radiant and the people could not stand it. What made him radiant? He had been gazing on the face of God. If you want to be a radiant believer, fix your eyes upon Christ. “We all, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). There is not a great deal of radiancy about some of us. We are so grumpy, we are so dull. The Scots have a good word for that, it is “dour,” just glum, and it only tells the story that we are not looking unto Jesus. As we gaze upon His face we become like Him and the loveliness of Christ shines out in our lives. “They looked unto him, and became radiant: and their faces were not ashamed.” David says, “I know for I remember when I was not radiant but—this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” Can you say that?
And now David learned that he did not need to go to the Philistines for protection. God had a protector for him. “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” And he is so delighted at what he has found that he wants everybody else to share it with him and exclaims, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the Lord, ye his saints.” When he speaks of fearing the Lord he does not mean to be afraid of Him but he means that reverent godly fear that should characterize us. “For there is no want to them that fear him.” If you are going about with head drooping all the time it tells the story that you are not living in His presence, for “There is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do not lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” There are many things that you and I think we want that are not good for us but if we seek Him, if the Lord withholds something that we wanted very much, we can be sure it would not be a good thing for us.
It is a great thing to learn to depend on Him. That verse we quote so often does not promise that He will do everything we ask, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” And then what? And you will get everything you ask for? No, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” If you have told Him about it you can leave it with Him and be at perfect peace, and say, “I know that He will do the right thing.” “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing,” and if He withholds that for which you are asking it is because He knows that it would not be for your good and so does not give it to you.
The last group of verses, from 11 to 16, give us the path of life for the believer. These words are quoted in the New Testament in 1 Peter 3:10 and on, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” What had David been doing in the court of Achish? He had been speaking guile and he got nothing but misery out of it and now he is saying, if you want happiness and peace, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” When Peter quotes this passage he stops right there but the Psalm continues, “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” Why does Peter not quote that? Because this is not the day when God is cutting off the wicked, this is the day of grace. While the face of the Lord is against them that do evil He is still dealing with them in mercy, giving them a chance to be saved. The day of judgment has not yet come.
Verses 17 and 18 give us the experience of the trusting soul, “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart: and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” What a lot of sad hearts there are in the world and how the Lord loves to heal those hearts. “He healeth the broken hearted.” Dr. Joseph Parker, one time pastor in London, addressing a group of young theological students on preaching said, “Young gentlemen, always preach to broken hearts and you will never lack an audience.” There are so many of them. The world is full of people with broken hearts and shattered hopes but what a wonderful thing that “the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart.”
The last few verses, 19 to 21, show the believer under the divine government, and the wonderful thing is that the Lord Jesus enters into this Himself. He was the broken hearted one when He was on the cross. In the Old Testament we read, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them” (Isaiah 63:9). “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.” Do you remember when they came to break the legs of those men upon the crosses, they broke the legs of the one thief then the other to hasten their death but when they came to Jesus they saw He was dead already so “they brake not his legs…that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 19:33 and 36). They did not know anything about the Scripture but it was there in the Word, “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.”
Oh that these Old Testament experiences might stir our hearts to lead us to get closer to our blessed Lord and thus farther away from the evil world that we too might become radiant as we are occupied with Him.