Summary: The outworking of the good life.
THE LORD’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE RIGHTEOUS
Jesus adopts the general principle, “the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Mark 4:24). This is because, despite all appearances to the contrary, we are still living in a moral universe.
David warned us not to be envious at the wicked (Psalm 37:1). Yet Asaph bemoaned the apparent inequalities of life (Psalm 73:3-14). Where was God in all this? The resolution of Asaph’s complaint came about when he “went into the sanctuary of God, and considered their end” (Psalm 73:17).
Sometimes we cannot account for the LORD seeming to turn His face away from us, and to remove His favour - but we know that He is working in all things for the good of His people (Romans 8:28).
Psalm 34:15-22 is part of the outworking of the good life of Psalm 34:12 (cf. 1 Peter 3:10-12). The dichotomy between the “righteous” and the “wicked” relates to choices that have already been made within the visible community of God’s people (Joshua 24:14-15). David could afford the luxury of calling his followers “humble” (Psalm 34:2), “saints” (Psalm 34:9), “children” (Psalm 34:11), and “righteous” (Psalm 34:15).
There are several anthropomorphisms of covenant relationship in this section.
Psalm 34:15. The “eyes” of the LORD are upon the righteous.
Psalm 34:16. The “face” of the LORD is against those that do evil, and cuts off their remembrance.
This speaks of exclusion from the community (excommunication), exile and - ultimately - death.
When we are in the midst of trials and tribulations we often imagine that the LORD has given up on us. We cannot ‘feel’ the presence of God, nor can we make sense of our afflictions, so we presume that He has deserted us: but He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). It is only in retrospect that we discover that He has been there all along.
There are also several verbs of deliverance in this section.
Psalm 34:17. The LORD “rescues” the righteous out of all their troubles.
Psalm 34:18. He “saves” such as be of a contrite spirit.
In our very sense of brokenness and dereliction, He is ‘nigh’ - nearer than ever before - carrying us over the difficult bits of the sandy terrain. His saving work continues even in the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4) - and of doubt.
Psalm 34:19. The Bible never denies that the righteous do suffer. Yet the LORD “rescues” them out of all their afflictions.
The resolution of the dichotomy between the righteous and the wicked is that each will reap just what they sow (Galatians 6:7-8).
Psalm 34:21. Evil itself shall slay those who persist in their wicked ways. Those who hate the righteous shall be desolate.
There is “no condemnation” to those who are in Christ Jesus - redeemed by the blood of the Lamb - “walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).