It was one of my first experiences of answered prayer as a result of praying the psalms — too dramatic to ever be forgotten. The Lord saw my distress, parted the heavens, and came down to rescue me. I was a twenty-three year old mother of two baby boys, and Steve was working round the clock in his internship. I was terrified to be alone at night, and yet I was — every other night. We lived in a rental right on the Puget Sound and our bedrooms were on the first floor. I didn’t know whether “they” would come by land or by sea, but I felt quite sure one night de-ranged men would break in and murder us all.
I was foolish and childish, suffering from too many scary television shows. Yet God had mercy on me, this new child of His. He saw my distress and cared.
A godly woman in my Bible study said, “Dee, memorize the 34th psalm and pray it when you cannot sleep.”
So I did. One night I sat on the steps outside the nursery, sleepless again. I began to pray Psalm 34. But then I lamented, “But Lord, what if it is Your will that we die at the hands of crazy men?”
The Lord spoke to me — not audibly — but I knew it was Him. He got my attention my firmly calling me by my name — at least the name I have been called since I was a little girl and my sisters could not pronounce my given name, “Meredith.”
I knew it was God. He knew my name. He was talking to me.
I couldn’t breathe. The voice again — not my own — not audible — but clear.
You are going to die one day, but not that way.
A peace came over me — and then, a curiosity!
How am I going to die?
Silence. He had told me all I needed to know. I was free. The angels of the Lord were encamped around me. To this day, I am not afraid at night. Our merciful God knew how much I would be alone in my life, even knowing one day I would be widowed young. But I have not been fearful since that night. God delivered me from my fears because He is good! Answered prayer, if we can remember it, is an assurance to us of the reality of God and that changes us.
This psalm was written on an occasion when David was overwhelmed with fear that he would be killed by Abimelech. So he behaved like he was crazy before Abimelech in hopes Abimelech would drive him out — and he did. Another example of God’s mercy toward his flawed children. He is good!
I also have seen, and this psalm confirms it, that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” My dear friend Linda Strom visited me in my home last week for a few precious days, and I marveled again at how God took a child from the worst imaginable circumstances and turned her into a GREAT HEART. He has given her such an exciting life of transforming prisons in America, Africa, and Australia. He has done this because He is good!
When Linda was a little girl, her mother and she watched from the window to see how drunk her dad was when he came home. If it looked bad, to escape being beaten, they would run and hide in the woods in the back until he was asleep. God saw Linda, cared, and had a plan for her life. Her praying grandmother somehow knew and told Linda one day she was going to be a missionary to Africa. He gave Linda this hope of a meaningful life because He is good!
God did deliver Linda, made her His own, and gave her a heart for the broken-hearted. He has taken her into the prisons, where so many women, like her, grew up in abusive and dangerous homes. One such woman was Karla Faye Tucker, who was on drugs from the time she was a little girl. One night, crazed on cocaine, she committed a brutal murder. Yet the Lord had mercy and brought Karla to himself. He did it because He is good!
Linda became Karla’s mentor, though she will tell you that Karla mentored her. Here is Linda worshipping in prison with the women and if you click below, you can hear Linda telling of why Karla so impacted her.
Karla tasted the Lord’s goodness. She refused to lie in court even though it could and did mean her execution. Why? Because God was in her, and was so real to her, that that kept “her tongue from evil and her lips from speaking deceit.” She wasn’t afraid of death. If she wasn’t delivered from being executed, Karla was trusting God, for she had asked Him to do whatever would be most effective in spreading the gospel. Even as she waited execution, Karla was writing down instructions for “faith dorms” that would disciple women who came to Christ in prison. Linda has spent the years since Karla’s execution making those dorms a reality. And how — I will tell you — the women in those dorms are being changed by the power of God. God did it because He is good.
When you watch this video, (even if you have watched it before) I want you to hear how the reality of God in Karla’s life kept her from lying and led to a blessing — not the blessing of a longer earthly life, but a legacy that few will match. And He brought Karla into His arms. He did it because He is good.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Share a fear from which God has delivered you.
Monday – Wednesday: Bible Study
3. Describe David’s mood in Psalm 34:1-4 and explain why you think he felt that way.
5. Read Psalm 34:6-10 and stop if a verse or word picture quickens you. Stay there and contemplate it. When you are ready, share.
The next section is one Pater quotes, and the one on which the John Piper sermon is based. It is very important to see the order here — first, God delivers us and comes to live in our hearts. We see His reality. We taste and see that He is good. His life and His goodness and His Spirit within changes us and that transformation is a blessing and leads to greater blessing.
The “religious” (instead of gospel-centered) way to interpret this passage would be to say “If I stop lying, then God will bless me.”
Instead, seeing the goodness and the reality of God in your life will keep you from sin, as it did Karla. And then, yes, He does heap blessing upon blessing. He blesses us with new life, and each time we respond to His life in us, the light grows stronger. Karla was RADIANT, and my friend Linda is RADIANT, for those who look to him are RADIANT and their faces shall never be covered with shame.
6. Read Psalm 34:11-14
A. What is the first step leading to a “good life?” (verse 11)
B. What manifestations will be in the life of someone who has truly tasted the goodness of the Lord? (verses 13-14)
7. Read Psalm 34:15-19 and contrast whom the Lord is against and whom the Lord is near. (Be careful not to come up with a “religious” answer.)
8. How do you see Christ in Psalm 34:19-21?
9. How is Psalm 34 summarized in verse 22?
10. On the basis of what you have learned, pray this psalm.
To prepare your heart for Piper’s sermon, read 1 Peter 3:9-12.
11. Then listen or read Piper’s sermon and share your notes and thoughts: LINK
12. What is your take-a-way and why?