Suffering, Hope, and Encouragement

In Psalm 34, David writes, “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.

Many of you have probably heard the words of this Psalm as they are mentioned in the New Testament surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, where a gospel writer connects this Psalm as a prophecy of Jesus’ death — that none of Jesus’ bones would be broken. As true as it is that Jesus’ bones were not broken during his crucifixion, does not necessarily mean that is all that David had in mind when he wrote this Psalm. In fact, I think David didn’t even have a clue that his words here would be used in connection to something like the death of a Savior figure. Actually, these words had deep meaning for his own life, in his own time.

Think about it. David has been fleeing for his life — as Saul pursued him — leaving him brokenhearted and his spirit broke. Because of these realities, it is no wonder that David would be looking for deliverance. And, it is no wonder that he — a person striving to be obedient to God in the ways he was taught — would describe his situation the way he does — as a righteous person having many troubles.

David is striving to do things in the righteous ways that he was taught. Many of us strive to do the same. Yet, we all know that doing the righteous thing is not always the easy path. In fact, it can often be one of the hardest paths to take.

But, even though the righteous path is a difficult path, we see that David anticipates deliverance from God. He anticipates deliverance to the point that non of a righteous person’s bones will be broken.

Now,  this statement has more to say about life and death than it does about an injury (say, a broken finger or leg). To say that no bones will be broken is a statement of health. It is a statement about being alive.

It is not until Jesus comes on the scene that the words of this Psalm take on a whole deeper meaning than they did in David’s time. Just like David, Jesus’ spirit was broke and he was brokenhearted. We see this while Jesus prays in the garden, before his crucifixion. But, also like David, we see that Jesus anticipates deliverance from God. For, we see his predictions to his followers that he will be given over to death, but raised on the third day.

Also, with Jesus, the phrase the righteous person’s bones will not be broken, literally comes to fruition — but in more than one way. It literally happens at Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. But, in an even greater way, Jesus — the righteous of the righteous — is resurrected. Jesus is given a new body — no broken bones. In a very real sense, Jesus — the righteous — is given health and is made alive by trusting in the deliverance of his heavenly Father.

On one hand, we can read David’s words in Psalm 34 and draw encouragement that we are not the only one to suffer for taking the righteous path, while waiting for God’s deliverance. But, on the other hand, we have an even greater encouragement to draw from Jesus. In Jesus, we can draw encouragement that he (God in flesh) understands suffering in the pursuit of righteousness, while waiting for his heavenly Father to deliver him. We also see an even greater degree of deliverance pictured in Jesus by seeing the resurrected life that he is given by his heavenly Father.

I hope you too are encouraged as you read the words of Psalm 34 and the hope they have given to David’s life, Jesus’ life, and the many lives of generations of followers of Jesus who have preceded us.