LEARNING FROM A GREAT TEACHER
T. Pierce Brown
In Psalm 34:11-22 the psalmist begins by saying, “Come, ye children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Solomon tells in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If we think of the fear of the Lord as sensitivity to God’s wants, a respect for His will, it will help us to grasp why it is the beginning of wisdom. Sensitivity to music is the beginning of musical ability. Sensitivity in art is the beginning of artistic accomplishments. So, with a sensitive heart, let us listen to David as he tries to teach us about things that make life full, blessed and happy.
First, he speaks about desire in verse 12, “What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?” The right kind of desire is important in school, in games, in studies, in anything if we are to excel. The desire for life that is life indeed is the kind that will enable us to see good and have good. 1 Peter 3:10 says, “For he that would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they may speak no guile; and let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it.”
Second, he speaks about evil. Verses 13 and 14 say, “Keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil.” There are many ways of sinning with the tongue. Exaggeration, which may be just a fancy name for lying and misrepresentation, is one that many of us who are otherwise good people are prone to do. I heard of a deacon who was in such a habit of exaggeration that the elders called him in and rebuked him. He replied, “I know I am guilty of it, and I have repented thousands of times and shed gallons of tears about it.” One may sin by being insincere, which is simply lying if one expresses the insincerity. One may sin by using the tongue in a malicious way, even if he is telling the truth. One may sin with the tongue by profanity.
So David warns us about an evil tongue. The primary way to keep the tongue from sinning is to get the heart right, for “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” If one chooses the right kind of companions, it will help. David goes beyond simply keeping the tongue from evil. He says, “Depart from evil and do good.” It would be well for us to notice the many places in the Bible where there is both a positive and negative to the inspired teaching. I have done enough negative preaching to know that it is not nearly as effective in many areas as positive preaching, but it is necessary in order to achieve the balance which Christ and the Apostles had. There is simply no way to teach people some things that are wrong without pointing out that they are wrong, and should not be done. That is negative preaching. It is not good enough just to point out the many good things we should do.
He speaks about peace in verse 14. “Seek peace and pursue it.” There are at least three kinds of peace we should seek and pursue. First, peace with God. There are many that are fighting against God. We need to surrender to his will. We should seek peace with our fellowman. Hebrews12:14says, “Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord.” Then we need to find peace within ourselves.
He speaks about prayer in v. 15. “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and his ears are open unto their prayers. The countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil.” Notice the two broad classifications that are of special interest to God. He knows and understands the significance of other classifications such as old, young, rich, poor, learned, ignorant, black, white, but they make little difference compared to these two. They are “the righteous” and “them that do evil.” The Lord sees the need, promises to protect, comfort and aid the righteous. James says, “The effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much” (James5:16). If this were the only advantage of being righteous, it would be worth the effort. Again notice the negative and positive. The Lord not only listens to the righteous, his face is against the evil doers.
He speaks about nearness in verse 18. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saveth them such as be of a contrite spirit.” There is little question that “broken heart” and “contrite spirit” do not refer to some love affair, but of a spirit broken and humbled with the sense of sin. When we are delinquent in some duty, remiss in any responsibility, guilty of going beyond or stopping short of what God wants, we should have a broken heart. When we have abused the mercy of God, or indulged in any evil passion in thought or deed, we should have a contrite spirit. Of course, Jesus touched the idea in Matthew 5 when He spoke of the blessedness of the poor in spirit, and they that mourn.
Is your heart broken when you are aware that you have sinned, or do you simply shrug your shoulders and think, “I’m not that bad?” Is it not remarkable that about the only thing in the world that is worth more when it is broken is the heart? Years ago when I drove by the steel mills inGary,Indiana, I would think of them as the way God works on a man’s heart. First, there was the practically useless iron ore, dirty and hard. Second, it would be crushed, broken and thrown into the furnace of fire, to burn out the dross. Third, the ore would be melted and softened until it could be fashioned into whatever shape one desired.
Next, he speaks about affliction in verse 19. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Jesus said in John16:33, “In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” It is worth noting that God does not promise us that He will keep us out of the furnace of fire. He does promise that He will deliver us from it and we will be better vessels, purified for the Master’s use. The purpose of this is “that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our mortal flesh” (1 Corinthians4:11).
Then he talks about perseverance and protection in verse 22. “None that trust in him shall be desolate (condemned).” It is sad that the wonderful promises of the security of the believer have been so perverted by denominations and neglected by Christians. The denominations often teach that once you have trusted in God, you are always safe. Many Christians seem to believe that once you have trusted in God you are never safe. When Jesus said in John14:27,28 “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” He was making a wonderful and precious promise. The promise was to those who are hearing and following Jesus. When a person is doing that, there is no power on earth or in hell that can cause him to be lost. That is security!
That does not remotely imply, nor does any other verse teach, that one can not stop hearing the voice of Jesus and following him. Trust in Jesus involves not only an intellectual belief in facts about Jesus, but also a trusting in Him to the extent that you commit yourself into his hands. When you have done that you are walking in the light as He is in the light, and the blood of Jesus keeps cleansing you from every sin and you are saved and secure.