“What offering should I bring when I enter into the presence of God and bow before God in worship? Should I bring burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams or endless rivers of olive oil? Should I give my firstborn child for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” God has made it clear to you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
In the year King Uzziah died, I had a vision of the Lord sitting on a throne, exalted and high; and the hem of his garment filled the temple.
Above all this the Seraphs were in attendance: each one had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their bodies, and with two they flew. And they called out to one another, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; all of the earth is filled with his glory.”
The door posts shook at voices of those who called, and the temple filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, and yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!
Then one of the Seraphs flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched it against my mouth and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips, your iniquity has been removed and your sin forgiven.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “ I am here, send me.”
And the Lord declared, “Go and tell this people: ‘Listen diligently, but do not understand; look and see, but do not perceive.’ Dull the hearts and minds of this people, stop up their ears, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and discern with their hearts, and return and be made whole.”
Then I asked, “How long, O Lord?” And he replied, “Until the cities are desolate and without inhabitants, and the houses are empty of people, and the earth lays in utter waste. Until the Lord has driven every person away, and the land itself lies forsaken.
Psalm 34:1-8 – My Paraphrase
1 I will bless the Eternal at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will glory in the Eternal; the humble will hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the Eternal with me, and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Eternal, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look unto him and be radiant; and your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor one cried, and the Eternal heard and saved him from every trouble.
7 The angel of the Eternal pitches his tent around those who fear him and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the Eternal is good: blessed are those who seek refuge in him.
To praise God at all times and to trust that God will deliver. It sounds really good, but it can be incredibly hard to practice in life. First of all, most of us hardly do enough praising, especially in our more contentious and complaining moods. Second, many of us prefer to save ourselves, or to at least have a healthy amount of the responsibility for the saving.
The Psalm does, however, have one of my favorite verses in it: “Taste and see that the Lord (or the Eternal) is good.” I often say this when distributing the elements for communion, and when someone complains that the hunks of bread that I give out are too big, I tell them what my old professor of United Methodist History used to tell us at Drew. Ken Rowe would look at us and ask, “How can you taste and see if the Lord is good by eating a crumb of bread or drinking a thimble full of grape juice.”
One final note: Psalm 34 is an acrostic Psalm. In Hebrew, the first verse begins with a word starting with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph), the second verse begins with the second letter (beth), and so forth through the alphabet (though there are no verses for waw and two verses for pe).
The Thoughts of Others
“If half the breath thus vainly spent” in finding fault with our fellow-Christians were spent in prayer and praise, how much happier, how much richer, we should be spiritually! “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” – C. H. Spurgeon
Using the Tongue Well – a sermon by Dr. Marshall C. St. John at Wayside Presbyterian Church, Signal Mountain, Tennessee.