Lectionary Reflection for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Psalms 1-50 (BTCB) by Ellen Charry, commenting on Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22):

The opening salvo (34:1–2) is two clipped declarations of what the speaker is doing now: blessing and praising the Lord continually, with words and in silence. He immediately turns to invite his audience to join his doxology and share his joy by magnifying and praising God together (34:3). Psalm 34:4 explains this praise and adoration of God in terms of the speaker’s own experience and uses it as an offering of encouragement. He sought the Lord, and the Lord relieved his terror.

Again, the speaker stares intently at his hearers. If they will also look to God (by living a wholesome life), their faces will not flush with shame. Perhaps he is implying that they will not be ashamed when trouble strikes because no one will say that their trouble is justly deserved. While it is clear that the speaker’s enemy is terror, he does not explain what causes it. However, he turns to his auditors and assures them that their confidence in God (literally “radiant faces”) will protect them from the comparable emotional distress of shame. A face radiant with confidence in God will not flush, for the person has nothing to hide and so nothing to fear, shame being the object of fear.

Another interpretation might be that no manner of humiliation can touch the radiance of those whose moral strength comes from their confidence in God. The speaker is building up his hearers’ confidence in their ability to withstand trouble by assuring them that they already have the strength they need, for they share the humble, reverent life that God favors. Psalm 34:7–9 offers protection for these pious ones.

The scene changes, or rather emerges. Until now there has been no scenery, no images to locate the narrative spatially. With 34:7 the reader finds herself encamped. It might be in a military theater, or, as 34:10 suggests, the jungle; it does not matter. The place is danger-filled. The pious who have heeded the singer’s advice are protected by an angel (their humility?) and saved, whereupon a peal of rejoicing goes up in one of the most famous lines in the Psalter. The poet applauds his audience: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy is the one who takes refuge in him”.

©2015 by Ellen T. Charry. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.