Kept safe through death: A meditation on Psalm 34

“Write what you know” is an ancient maxim. For the last eleven months I’ve known anxiety, fear, emergency plane rides, surgery, more surgery, emergency surgery, more emergency surgery, infection, infections that occurred while on antibiotics from the previous infection, non-healing surgical wounds, more surgery, and, not least in my litany of self-pity, twice daily dressing changes for wounds that will not go away.

In all of this God has been at work, encouraging me to “Run with perseverance the race set before me” (Hebrews 12:1). If I can glorify him before so great a cloud of witnesses (mostly unseen), then I feel privileged to be given that assignment. But there has been a longing for it to come to an end, as well. Never before have I so fully understood the passion behind the twin prayers “Let this cup pass from me” and “Thy will be done.”

Since being hospitalized most of the month of October, and continuing on, I have been reading and re-reading the Psalms. There is one psalm that I picked to memorize, Psalm 34.

It was kind of a no-brainer. Psalm 34:3 is the verse Tim and I chose to have engraved inside our wedding rings, over 40 years ago. “Glorify the Lord with me, let us exalt his name together” sounds like a nice verse for two people getting married and going into ministry together.

Memorization is a great way to meditate on a piece of scripture. You taste the words, you see the connections, you ask “why that, why here?” about a word, a phrase, that you might have otherwise have read right over and not given much thought to. So as I have been trying to memorize Psalm 34 there are a few things I’ve noticed.

First, the sufferings of the psalmist are meant to be an encouragement to other afflicted people. When he sought God during periods of anxiety and fear (v. 4-10) God relieved him, saved him out of all his troubles, protected him, to the point he can say “he lacked nothing.” This theme is continued in vv 17-20, where it sounds as if the psalmist is giving us a blanket promise that God will always deliver us from our troubles, comfort us when we are crushed and brokenhearted, and protect us from harm.

But wait. Verse 20, where the psalmist says “he (God) will protect all his bones, not one of them will be broken” is a messianic prophecy. It is quoted in John’s gospel account of the crucifixion of Jesus, when the soldiers refrained from breaking Jesus’ legs to hasten his death, because he was already dead. John says in 19:36 “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’”

My reaction at noticing this was at first bewilderment. Well, yes, none of his bones got broken, but he did get crucified! That kind of doesn’t count as being protected from anything bad in my book. But when it comes to my understanding vs. scripture, I know there is always something lacking in my understanding. Jesus’ bones weren’t broken, but he died a painful, hideous death. God didn’t save him from that. But God’s protection of Jesus extended past the grave. He was raised from the dead.

Follow the thread, Kathy, follow the thought. While God may not protect you from every bad thing that might, has, or could happen to you, ultimately, through resurrection, you are safe. I will walk through death and come out on the other side fully healed, restored, saved and protected. God does not protect us from things that harm us, he protects us as we go through them, to the other side of the resurrection, where our real hopes and happiness lie. Now there’s a thought I can cling to.

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Aaron Bjerke
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Choreographers chosen for CFW’s Artists-in-Residence