David Brymer sings, “You bring restoration; you bring restoration; you bring restoration to my soul. You’ve taken my pain; called me by a new name. You’ve taken my shame and in its place, you give me joy.” This is the story of redemption personalized in song. Giving praise to God is one of finest ways to acknowledge him. God involved himself in human suffering, internalized our pain and shame through sacrifice, and restored us to himself. One of the best responses to such love is joy.
Restored by One on High
The heading of Psalm 34 reads, “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away” (English Standard Version). The backdrop to this event in the life of King David is found in 1 Samuel 21. David was running from King Saul (literally). He passed through Nob and picked up food and Goliath’s sword. Then he feigned insanity before Achish, king of Gath, so as not to give himself away to the Philistines. (One of the most humorous verses in the Bible is 1 Samuel 21:15 where Achish asks if his house needs another madman.) In the last half of the psalm (vv. 11-22) David called Israel to learn four things from the Lord: his fear (v. 11), his watch care (v. 15), his tenderness (v. 18), and his redemption (v. 22).
But in the first half of the psalm David gave vent to his despair. He admitted his affliction (v. 2), his fear (v. 4), and his troubles (v. 6). He even referred to himself as a poor (humble or wretched) man (v. 6). Running from King Saul must have gotten old. He could have been overcome with depression and could have thrown himself a pity party. Instead, David chose a posture of rejoicing. David extolled (blessed) the Lord. He praised the Lord and he gave glory (“hallal,” a word commonly used in the Psalms meaning “praises”) to the Lord. David sought the Lord and called on the Lord. David seemed confident that God would answer him, deliver him, hear him, save him, and make sure that he lacked nothing.
But it was not all just personal. The “I’s” of David were editorial. The personal dimension of the psalm gave way to the communal aspect of the psalm. The new King of Israel and his people were to exalt the name of the Lord together. He called Israel to join him in this rejoicing. David called Israel to glorify (grow; magnify) the Lord. He promised Israel that if they would look to him they would be radiant (shining) and not experience shame. He promised Israel that the Lord’s angels would surround those who fear him. The big invitation is found in verse eight, “Taste (perceive) and see that the Lord is good.” If Israel would take refuge in the Lord and fear him, they would lack nothing. The shepherd of Israel, who had wrestled with lions (Psalm 34:10; 1 Samuel 17:34), knew that even they grew weak and hungry. But the one who would restore them from on high would ensure that they would lack no good thing.
Restored by One Close By
Hebrews 2:17, 18
Theologians say that God is transcendent, but he is also imminent. Our God literally had skin in the game. Restoring his people from afar would not do. The only way he could save would be to come near and join the suffering. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. The veterans whose graves we decorate were not aloof in their fight for freedom. They didn’t make their sacrifice from a long distance. Neither did Jesus.
The letter to the Hebrews is a word of exhortation (13:22) about Jesus and the better things he brought. Jesus was the final revelation (1:1-4) and was better than the angels (vv. 5-14). But he made himself lower than the angels so that he could taste death for everyone (2:9). The only way he could destroy death was to die (2:14). And to die he had to be made like them, fully human in every way. Jesus remains the merciful and faithful high priest. Jesus understands the full weight of temptation because he never gave in to it. But that also means that he can deal gently with humanity because he became human. We can never say, “God, you do not know what this life is like,” because he does. We were restored by one close by. Jesus made atonement (propitiated) for the sins of the people. That is no small thing. That salvific act restored us to God. What can be said to that? Rejoice!
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
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