Psalm 34:1-8 - Being saved from fears

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1 I will bless Yahweh at all times; *

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in Yahweh; *

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh; *

let us exalt his Name together.

4 I sought Yahweh, and he answered me *

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant, *

and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and Yahweh heard me *

and saved me from all my troubles.

7 The angel of Yahweh encompasses those who fear him, *

and he will deliver them.

8 Taste and see that Yahweh is good; *

happy are they who trust in him!


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This is the accompanying Psalm to the First Kings reading selection that tells of Elijah falling asleep under a broom tree [when “sleep” equates to “death”]. If Track 2 is chosen for Year B, then this pair will be read along with the Ephesians reading, where Paul wrote, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” All will join with the Gospel reading from John, where Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”


Today’s verses from Psalm 34 will present eight of the twenty-two that compose this song of praise. Next Sunday a second set of verses from Psalm 34 will be read. A Sunday later a third set will present every verse in this Psalm, with some parts read again on three other occasions; so, this is a Psalm that gets much attention.


One will note that I have taken the NRSV translations [others do the same] that call Yahweh by the generic name “Lord.” Please, feel free to call upon some generic Lord all you want. David specifically named Yahweh and the Jews who ‘assist’ Christians with translations that say “O Lord” have as close a relationship with some “Lord” as do the Christians who happily dance along behind people who barely believe in God, much less ever dare to say His name. David wrote a song of praise to the specific God named Yahweh; and, I have placed that name back into the translation.


Missing from the Episcopal Church’s presentation of verse 1 is the words that the NRSV has spliced out and turned into the ‘header’ of this son. Their translation states: “[A Psalm] Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.” According to my research into Abimelech, the popular opinion is the name is actually Ahimelech, who was the only priest with a name similar that David encountered. He was the high priest of Nob [a place near the border of Judah and Benjamin, close to Jerusalem], where the Tabernacle was kept during Saul’s reign.


When David was fleeing Saul, along with his devoted soldiers, David entered the Tabernacle in Nob and convinced Ahimelech that he was on a mission ordered by Saul, David convinced the high priest to give David five loaves of showbread [which routinely was only to be consumed by priests, but Ahimelech saw hunger and need the reason to give those loave away to David, to feed his troops]. This story would make the ‘title’ be less about David faking madness and transform it into saying, “David went beyond normal protocols by presenting the face of poor judgment to Ahimelech, who saw that face of David as a demon that he cast out of David, sending him away healed [with five loaves of showbread].”


In what David wrote in verse one [as the ‘introduction’], the Hebrew word “lip̄·nê” is rooted in “paneh” or “face.” Whenever “paneh” or “panim” is used in Hebrew Scripture, it needs to be read as the “face” one wears to the world, which is either the “face” of Yahweh [a righteous soul-body] or the “face” of a lesser god [like self]. When one sees how David showed his “face” to Ahimelech, he was fearful, due to Saul pursuing him, wanting to kill him.


While the Spirit of Yahweh had been poured out upon David’s soul, David was seeking some form of asylum within the lands of the Israelites; and, he entered the Tabernacle unjustly. David would have to find refuge in Gath, under Philistine protection; but fear of killing Saul drove him to the Tabernacle, which could be considered a form of madness. Either way, Ahimelech played a role for Yahweh, where the face of fear was removed from David, so David could continue to evade Saul, without worry about Saul being killed by David. This fortunate encounter should be seen as Yahweh’s blessing of David guiding him, beyond the loyalty of David’s body of flesh; and, that becomes the motivation for this song of praise.


Verse one [according to the translation read aloud] is then a statement that no other faces will be worn by David again. He will give Yahweh the praise of his body and voice by only wearing the face of God to lead others.


Verse two sings that the face David will wear will come from the marriage of his soul to Yahweh. Verse two sings the word “nap̄·šî,” which is rooted in “nephesh,” meaning “a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion.” The NRSV translation seems to have translated this as “glory,” when in reality David said his “soul” would be “humbled” by having married Yahweh. This will lead to a sense of joy and gladness that comes from his soul, no longer afraid of anything.


The aspect of verse three that leads the NRSV to translate “Name” as a capitalized word [meaning the name of Yahweh], becomes affirmation of this spiritual marriage. The word written is “šə·mōw,” rooted in “shem,” which means “name.” David was singing that his soul would wear the face of Yahweh as His wife, completely in willing submission to the Will of Yahweh. A wife routinely takes on the “name” of her husband; and, David’s body of flesh was feminine to the masculinity of the Spirit. Here, one must see the absurdity of one taking on the “Name” of one’s Husband, and being to idiotic to call that Husband by His Name [instead wallowing around the bush, saying “Lord”].


Verse four is then where the ‘heading’ can be found to make sense, as it was the ‘madness’ or “judgment” that was led by “fear” that was driven out of David by Ahimelech. The translation by the NRSV that says, “I sought Yahweh, and he answered me and delivered me out of all my terror,” takes “mə·ḡū·rō·w·ṯay” and states it as “my terror.” The root word, “megurah” or “magur” means both “storehouse” and “fear.” As such, David’s body acted like a silo that filled up with fear, as that was the crop being harvested by Saul’s madness over the land. David sought the help of a high priest to be “delivered,” where “hiṣ·ṣî·lā·nî” [rooted in “natsal”] meant having the storehouse “stripped clear” or emptied. Thus, David’s fears were “cast out.”


Verse five is then the only verse in this sequence that does not directly name Yahweh. Instead, David speaks in the plural, as “their faces,” which “were not ashamed.” This speaks of Ahimelech and the other tabernacle priests at Nob, who were not shaken by the fears David brought into their presence. The face of Yahweh was worn by them all, as the “radiance” of Yahweh glowed as “their faces.”


Verse six is David’s confession that he was lacking the wealth of faith, as he proclaimed he was “a poor man [“‘ā·nî”] who cried out” from “troubles.” Yahweh heard his pleas, so He led David to the tabernacle in Nob.


In verse seven, David wrote that “the angel of Yahweh encamps all around those who fear Him.” This is the angel that is one with one’s soul, making that soul be elevated to an elohim. David had that angel within his being; but his fears had crippled that presence. Therefore, David was divinely led to enter a presence where the “radiance of Yahweh” could ease the fears and Ahimelech could cast out his demons.


Verse eight then speaks of Ahimelech “tasting” the fear that overwhelmed David, with David likewise “tasting the good” that was in Nob. Yahweh was with Ahimelech and also with David, so the fear was cast out of David and that place.


As a reading selection that accompanies the story of Elijah asking Yahweh to take his life, he too was afraid of Ahab, who had promised Elijah’s death, after he heard Elijah had killed four hundred fifty priests of Ba’al. While David found the angel of Yahweh in Ahimelech, Yahweh sent an angel of transition to Elijah, which made it impossible for Ahab to kill that which was already self-sacrificed to Yahweh. Elijah experienced the same casting out of fear while under the broom tree. Thus, the lesson here is to recognize fear cannot lead one to righteousness. One must be purged of fear, so the only fear that remains is the fear of Yahweh and losing eternity with His presence.