OAKRIDGE BIBLE CHAPEL

A Psalm for Godly Habits (Psalm 34:1–22)

The psalms are songs about life, sacred songs, but commentaries on life. The ups and downs, the good and the bad, the joys and sorrows. They afford so much wisdom about life as it was meant to be lived. They tug at our hearts, they challenge our ways, and they teach us good and godly things. Many of them were written by David, the king of Israel, as is Psalm 34. In it, he speaks of several godly habits. A habit is a repetitive behaviour, one that by its repetition requires less intention and planning. It thereby streamlines our day.

For instance, I have a breakfast habit, the same breakfast every day. So I don’t have to get up in the morning and ponder the question, What shall I eat this morning? Without much mental stressing, I make the toast, put peanut butter, honey, and banana slices on it and then eat it along with a cup of coffee to wash it down. If you want the recipe I will gladly share it with you! So, breakfast is done!  Now on to issues which may require more deliberate planning.

Habits can be good and habits can be bad. Perhaps at the outset of this year, you made a few resolutions, to get rid of some bad habits and to institute some good ones. How are you doing?    

The Christian life goes better when I have several good and godly habits, and repetitive behaviours that form the structure of my day. This is what David learned and this is what he shares in this Psalm. 

SERMON MANUSCRIPT 

The psalms are songs about life, sacred songs, but commentaries on life. The ups and downs, the good and the bad, the joys and sorrows. They afford so much wisdom about life as it was meant to be lived. They tug at our hearts, they challenge our ways, and they teach us good and godly things. Many of them were written by David, the king of Israel, as is Psalm 34. In it, he speaks of several godly habits. A habit is a repetitive behaviour, one that by its repetition requires less intention and planning. It thereby streamlines our day.

For instance, I have a breakfast habit, the same breakfast every day. So I don’t have to get up in the morning and ponder the question, What shall I eat this morning? Without much mental stressing, I make the toast, put peanut butter, honey, and banana slices on it and then eat it along with a cup of coffee to wash it down. If you want the recipe I will gladly share it with you! So, breakfast is done!  Now on to issues which may require more deliberate planning.

Habits can be good and habits can be bad. Perhaps at the outset of this year, you made a few resolutions, to get rid of some bad habits and to institute some good ones. How are you doing?    

The Christian life goes better when I have several good and godly habits, and repetitive behaviours that form the structure of my day. This is what David learned and this is what he shares in this Psalm. 

The Psalm begins with an epigraph, a short explanation of when it was written. It says: “When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.” This happened early in David’s career before he became king, and it wasn’t an honourable time for David. He was being chased by King Saul who wanted to kill him and so he ran for his life. On the way he realized he was hungry so he stopped at a place called Nob where he met Ahimelech the priest. He proceeded to lie over and over to Ahimelech until the priest gave him the consecrated bread to eat which only the priests were permitted to eat. Then he went to the Philistine city of Gath where he sought asylum from King Achish(also called Abimelech). The king’s advisors were unhappy that David their enemy was there and David feared their intentions, so he pretended to be insane. He scribbled on the doors of the gate and he let his saliva run down into his beard. So, they concluded he was insane and they chased him away and he left. Once again, it was a time in David’s life when he used lies and deceit to protect himself. In Psalm 34 he exposes his sin when he says in verses 12 and 13.

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.  

HABIT #1: PRAISING CONSTANTLY

So. let’s look at some of these godly habits. The first one is found in the opening verses.  

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  34:1

Habit number 1. Learn to praise the Lord constantly. The idea is this: If you love somebody, you will think about them, you will talk about them, you will praise them.  

Today is the Superbowl. I usually don’t make mention of such mundane things except for this. One of the players, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers whose name is Brock Purdy, is an outspoken Christian. I didn’t know this until two weeks ago when I heard him praise the Lord. After his great playing won the game, they interviewed him on national television. As soon as they gave him the mic he said,  “First, I want to thank Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Lord for helping me today. “ To which I replied,  “Amen, brother.” I googled Brock and found out he does this witnessing all the time. Now I want him to win today just so he can honour the Lord in public again.   

 Matt. 12:34 says, Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.   

So this is a habit of the heart as well as the mouth. It is about honouring God in my mind on a constant basis. When I do this, I am constantly remembering the most important person in the universe, and it is not me or anyone else for that matter. It is God. I am training my mind on what is of prime importance and I am celebrating it. Some of us are guilty of not believing that God is most important and so we don’t speak of him, let alone worship him. The society around us has decided this very thing. We do not mention God in politics, in schools in any public forum. What we are doing is forgetting the most important person. How foolish is this! The Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God”. But even Christians who say they consider God most important do not think well of God or speak of God in their daily lives. Maybe on Sunday, maybe at church, maybe in select company only, but not on a constant basis. We have never developed this habit. The word says, Rejoice in the Lord always, And again I say rejoice. Phil.4:4  

Rejoice means praise, worship, celebrate. It is an activity, not just a feeling. When we do not practise this habit, then some other topic will fill our minds and our mouths and we will focus on that as if it is the most important thing, be it our health, our work, our hobbies, our plans for the day, what we will have for breakfast. Whatever. And when we do that, we displace the Lord from being at the forefront of our hearts. Then this world becomes the focus, we become the focus. Others become the focus. And our devotion is lost.

In the church where I first met my wife there was a man by the name of Mr. Petkie. Everyone knew Mr. Petkie because he took the truth of Psalm 34 seriously. When there was something in the service that stirred his heart to praise he said so, From the back of the room came his booming voice, Praise the Lord! How long has it been since you confessed with your mouth this word of praise? Now I know about Canadians. We are very polite and we don’t want to offend or cause any trouble. So we remain silent. But when we remain silent and do not practise this praise of God, then we are tempted in mind and heart to minimize God, to make him peripheral to our lives.   

But Verse 2 and 3 say, My soul will boast in the Lord, let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.   

So right now I am going to give us all a chance to say what ought to be said, to praise the Lord. Can we say it all together? PRAISE THE LORD 

Thank you. God heard that and he was pleased. Others heard and they were encouraged. But your own ears heard your confession of faith as well. There is a feedback to your own mind and heart. And that builds your faith in what you said. This is a good and godly habit.  David knew this and practised it for many days of his life. He sang praises to God. He spoke well of God and he was blessed.

HABIT #2: CALLING FOR HELP

Godly habit #2 is found in verse 4. Learn to call on the Lord for his help. “I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” What did he do when he was in fear and trouble? He prayed for the Lord to help him.    

When I was a teenager I worked at a Christian campground in Muskoka. I got a ride back to Windsor with two elderly folks who were going that way. They seemed quite old and frail. Come to think of it just the way I look now. We came down the 400 to 401. As we worked our way through Toronto a sign for Oshawa came up and his wife cried out, “Honey, we are going the wrong way!” The man was visibly shaken and trembling, and I thought we were going to be in an accident. But he managed to pull off at the next exit and brought the vehicle to a stop. Let’s pray, he said and so this couple clasped hands and thanked the Lord for safety, they prayed for peace and calm, and asked for a good journey home. I never forgot their witness, When I am afraid, I will trust in you,  says David in Psalm 56:3

Fear is not a sin, but when we don’t call on the Lord for his help and peace, we have a bad habit of not trusting the Lord, and that is where the sin can be.    

Are you struggling with fear today? Call on the Lord, commit the trouble to him and ask for his peace in your heart. He will give you the courage to go on.   

The next verses in our Psalm repeat this habit over and over in various troubles of life. Verse 5 says, Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.    

Shame can be very disabling. Some failure happens in your life and you are embarrassed and ashamed. Some people never recover. What to do? Look to him! Call on the Lord and he will bring you through. You can trade the shame on your face for radiance if you look to Jesus.  

Verse 6 gives another occasion to call on the Lord. “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him and delivered him from all his troubles.

Poverty is a difficult trial to face. Perhaps he is referring to spiritual poverty, perhaps to financial poverty, it doesn’t matter—the Lord can save us out of both if we call on him.   

There is an interesting reference to the angel of the Lord in verse 7. God sent a special angel to Israel to help them all through their wilderness journey. Most bible scholars agree that he was no ordinary angel, but rather the preincarnate Christ. Jesus says, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt.  28:20

Do you have a  need in your life for protection? Verse 8 says, Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

We need to pray for our missions team in Paraguay for protection. The devil is not happy when Christians seek to do a work for him. Lord, give them a strong refuge.   

What about something as basic as food? Verse 9 and 10 says this, Fear the Lord, you saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.   

Finally, look down in verse 17 and 18. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them, he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  

How do you handle your disappointments and heartaches? Call on the Lord for his divine comfort. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all referred to as comforters. So you have three comforters all wanting to comfort you in your sadness.    

You see, calling on the Lord needs to become a habit. God wants to become  your first resource for any and all troubles of life. All it takes is a simple prayer, “Lord, comfort me. Lord, calm me down. Lord, please provide.”   

HABIT #3: LEARNING TO FEAR

Habit # 3 is this. Learn to fear the Lord. Look at verse 9. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.   

This idea of fearing the Lord is often misunderstood and gets a lot of bad press as a result. So we need to define it well. Fear is a God-given emotion. Its job is to alert us to danger. Without this fear working for us, we quickly get into trouble and can easily lose our lives.  So it is a protective emotion that needs to be regarded because life has dangers to be avoided. Parents of small children know this. Children lack the sense to protect themselves and so they have to be taught to obey certain rules.    

When my son was old enough to crawl, he started to move around the living room. We had an open fireplace and when the fire was burning the protective grate got hot. When Chris would reach out his hand to touch it I would tell him no and sometimes gently slap his hand, causing him to cry. One day he got close and looked back at me as if to say, I know what you want me to do,  but right now I don’t want to obey. Then he touched the grate and wailed because it was hot. Lesson learned the hard way.   

These days we don’t have an open fire at home but there still is a dangerous power that needs to be treated with utmost respect. The power is electricity. Electricity has the power to bless, to warm our homes, to provide light and  do all sorts of good things for us. But we have to be careful. I have learned not to go poking around the electrical box with a screwdriver. I have learned not to try to rescue a stuck piece of toast in the toaster with a fork without turning off the electricity. I have a fear of electricity. This is not an overwhelming fear which causes me to hide in terror every time I see the toaster. It is a gentle fear which instructs me to behave myself in relation to electricity. It is called respect. Respect is a fear word. Overwhelming fear enslaves, but gentle fear saves. 

Parents need to teach their children to fear them enough to listen to their directions and thereby avoid getting into trouble. They are teaching them respect. Parents who don’t do this are setting their children up for trouble and perhaps death.   

Now if you thought it reasonable to respect electricity because the mishandling of it could men death, how much more should we fear God who is far more powerful than electricity. 

That is why David says in verse 11 David says, Come, my children and listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  

Respect, or reverence, which is a strong form of respect, is owed to God because he is the most powerful one in the universe. He controls all things. He made us and he governs every inch of life and he is in control of our destiny.   

Jesus said, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.     Matt. 10:  28

This is why it says in Prov.  9:10, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  

Without this fear of the Lord, we are foolish indeed. We will carelessly disobey God’s laws and receive disastrous consequences. I can hear the rebellious among us say, “What kind of a monster God is this that he would intimidate those less powerful than him?  Do you call that love? Well, the answer is this. He is God and we are not, He is holy and he will never change who he is. He will only allow holy people to be with him. So he is teaching us holiness. Thankfully, God is love and his love has provided a way for us to be saved and be with God. Jesus, the holy Son of God came to this world to die on the cross to pay for our sins so that we would not have to experience the wrath of God for or sins. If we trust in him we will be forgiven. He takes our sins and he gives us his righteousness.    

Once saved, God’s children now learn how to properly fear Him, how to obey him. We are learning to be citizens of heaven where our future lies. That is why we learn the habit of fearing the Lord. And it gives wonderful results. It says in verse 12-14 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep you tongues fro evil and your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good.  Seek peace and pursue it.    

These words are quoted by Peter in his first epistle. I Peter 3:10-12 Old Testament, New Testament.  Same recipe! This is the best way to live and it is also the blessed way to live, because he adds,

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears attentive to their cry. So learn the habit of the fear of the Lord. Choose to obey and you will be blessed.

HABIT #4: TRUSTING PROMISES

The last habit is indeed a good one. Learn to trust the promises of God. There are promises all through this Psalm, but the last is the best.  

A righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, nor one of them will be broken.  Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.  The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.   

No one will be condemned. What does that mean? Well, remember what Jesus said about fearing God because he is able to destroy soul and body in hell? That is the condemnation—destruction in hell. Separation from God forever. It is the final penalty for sin. Here is the promise. For the believer in Jesus, that final judgment by God is taken off the table, and removed completely.

Therefore,  there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Ro.8:1

Yes, brother and sister, I need to fear God in my life, but this is something that I must not fear, that I will be condemned. Why? Because he has promised not to condemn me. He has promised to save me forever. Let me illustrate.  

 In verse 20 it says, He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.    

Does this man Christians will never have broken bones? No. Josiah preached Psalm 51 last week and in verse 8 David  says, Let the bones you have crushed rejoice. In other wordsGod may crush and break the bones of his children when necessary to instruct and discipline them. So, what does this mean,  He protects all his bones, not one of them is broken?

The answer is found in John’s gospel concerning the death of Jesus.  The Roman soldiers broke the bones of those hanged on crosses to hasten their deaths. But when the soldier came to Jesus he said he was dead already, so instead he took his sword and pierced him through, just to confirm his death. John says this fulfilled two prophecies. One in Zechariah where it says that the Jews in a coming day will look on the one they pierced. The other is this verse in Psalm 34 where it says that not one of his bones will be broken.   

This is not only fulfilled prophecy but a big promise to you and me. You see Jesus regards his church as his bride. As Adam said concerning his bride Eve, She is now bone of my bones. Get the picture. The body of Jesus symbolizes the church, that’s you and me. So what is he telling us when he says none of my bones will be broken? It means you will never be separated from the body of Christ. His physical body remains intact, and his spiritual body also. No separation from Christ, no condemnation. He keeps all his bones.  

And he won’t lose you either, dear child of God. So, believe the promise and be thankful. We are secure in Christ. When you are fearful and doubting, remember the promise. No bone broken. Body intact. I am part of that body. No condemnation, no separation. And the peace of God will enter your soul once more.   

There you have it. Habits. Good habits . Godly habits. Learn them and practice them and you will be blessed. Amen.

 



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Jim Rennie is an elder at Oakridge Bible Chapel and an occasional speaker. He is a medical doctor with Christian counselling practice. Shortly after graduation from medical school he and his wife, Kathy, spent 14 years in Zambia as medical missionaries.

Jim Rennie

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