Praise from the Cave

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.

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.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. (Psalm 34:15–22 NIV)

I borrowed the title of this devotional from theologian David Guzik because it so aptly describes not only the context of Psalm 34 but also the point I am hoping to make in this writing. This Lenten theme of peace, specifically the peace of Christ, must be hard fought for at times. I’m not sure many people automatically live in a state of shalom (think: wholeness, contentment, joyful wonder) just because they said yes to following Christ. Peace and joy cannot be manufactured. Rather, they are an outcome of a life walked in proximity with Jesus and augmented with spiritual practices or disciplines.

The context of this Psalm is that David has been on the run, fearing for his life. He is being hunted by Saul and is desperately trying to find safety. He finally finds refuge in a cave at Adullam. He is not alone. There are many other fugitives in the cave with him. David is feeling pretty desperate.

To me, the crazy part is that David’s response to his situation is to sing and praise God. And he invites the other men to do the same. I’m not sure singing praise songs would be my reaction if I were in a life and death situation. And why is that, I wonder?

The truth is, in God’s Kingdom praise and thanksgiving are a powerful weapon against the enemy.

Praise from the cave. . . I envision a dark, dingy, damp, uncomfortable place. Perhaps crowded with other people. Imagine the smell! Was there food and water? The conditions seem bleak. Then, out of the darkness comes singing. David’s lyrics describe how his God watches over and cares for the righteous and he hears their cry. He makes known that God guards them and redeems them. Given his situation, David’s deep trust in God is remarkable.

This season of Lent is an invitation to restoration, wholeness, and abundance. But it requires some time in the cave. It calls for a willingness on our part to enter into the darkness by giving up and emptying ourselves of the things that block us from experiencing and living in the peace of Christ. The purpose of Lent is to create a hunger for God.

Now I realize some of us may not need Lent to catapult us into the dark valley. We are already there. Life circumstances have already taken us down, and peace is nowhere to be found. For those of us in this place, the invitation is verse 18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

And to all of us, no matter where we find ourselves today, consider this: What if we were to start praising God in the midst of darkness? What if we began to sing from our place of deep sorrow or weakness? Perhaps it begins through a strangulated voice with gritted teeth, and maybe we don’t even believe the words we are singing.

But I wonder if that small step of faith toward our Saviour will wield a death blow to the enemy and usher in God’s Kingdom of peace that passes all understanding.
Deb Judas is part of the NAB Missional Initiatives Team, director of Formation with Forge Canada, and a member of the pastoral team at The Neighbourhood Church in Surrey, British Columbia.