Yesterday we said that choosing good over evil, and peace over sin, are part of honoring God properly. “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps 34:14) This verse gives both negative and positive commands. Both are significant ways to demonstrate one’s fear of God. Our fear of the Lord affects not only what we say but also what we do or don’t do. If we fear the Lord, we will avoid evil. This action involves a choice to choose righteousness over evil, which brings us to the next passage in this psalm:
“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are toward their cry for help. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to eliminate the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:15-18)
David assures us that God watches over those who are “righteous,” here meaning those who sincerely honor God in their lives (Ps 34:9). He listens to our prayers and nothing is hidden from Him. He sees all our circumstances and provides what we need in each of them (Matt 6:33–34). We can pray with confidence because He is listening to us. “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are toward their cry for help.” (Ps 34:15) This verse implies that God attends and hears those who love Him—in contrast to the next verse, which depicts God judging and rejecting those who do not (Ps 34:16).
Just as the Lord watches the righteous, He also watches the wicked (Heb 4:13), but for a different purpose. God observes the righteous to deliver them (John 3:16-17), but He watches the wicked in preparation for judgment (John 3:36). David claims God will destroy them so thoroughly that even memories of them will be erased. In a similar statement, Solomon warned the name of those who defy God’s law would “rot:” either by being forgotten or becoming repugnant (Prov 10:7). “The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to eliminate the memory of them from the earth.” (Ps 34:15) This verse describes God’s rejection of the wicked, in contrast to the prior statement of God’s love for the righteous. Although the Lord always offers redemption if the wicked abandons his wicked ways, otherwise God’s wrath stays on them (Is 55:7).
Contrary to the belief that faith in Jesus exempts believers from trouble, the Bible affirms that believers will encounter hardship. Persecution, harsh trials, and pressing temptation befall believers who endeavor to serve the Lord (John 16:1-4). “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears and rescues them from all their troubles.” (Ps 34:17) While God promises to provide for our “needs” (Matt 6:31-34), He alone knows what those “needs” really are (Rom 8:28-30). Nothing is too hard for God, who sees our circumstances and hears our prayers. What is hard, however, is for us to recognize that His will does not always mean miraculous rescue or immediate relief (John 17:15). What we “need” to accomplish His will may not be what we want, or what we expect.
God understands our feelings and helps us bear the burden of sorrow. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:18) We are assured that Jesus, our Great High Priest, sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15). That includes both the meaning of human suffering and the struggle against sin. He was tempted like any other man but remained sinless. Knowing that He understands and cares, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need” (Heb 4:16).
It has been quipped that “prayer is the place burdens change shoulders”. Our Lord’s shoulders can bear our burdens when we are brokenhearted and our spirits are crushed. “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is comfortable, and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28–30)