When in the Cave
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 14, Aug 2019
Scripture Reading: Psalms 34: 1-11
I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
The background of this Psalms
The occasion for this psalm goes back to an incident that is recorded in the life of David. You will recall that King Saul was after David. This young man was fleeing for his life and hiding from one cave to another. He was in that region of wilderness down toward the Dead Sea, and not many people can survive in that area. People that visited Israel today will tell you that they wouldn’t want to drive through that place alone. David was able to survive in that wilderness, but he did grow weary: and his faith got very weak. He thought he was going to be destroyed, so he went west to the land of the Philistines. The king of the Philistines, Abimelech received David at that time, but some of his men distrusted David. Abimelech was probably a title given to the rulers among the Philistines; like Pharaoh of Egypt, Caesar of Rome, the Czar of Russia. The ruler’s proper name was Achish who encountered David. And the servants of Achish said unto him: ‘Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?’ And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. David realized that he was in real danger there in enemy territory, so he acted like an insane man. The king was disgusted at having an insane man in his presence, and he sent him away. So David’s life was spared at this time. When David escaped and return to the wilderness of Israel to hide, he came to the cave of Adullam. This is where Psalms 34 comes in.
The interesting thing about this background; which will be the concentration of my sermon, was the many desperate men who came to him at the cave of Adullam. They consisted of 400 men. This Psalms seems to have been written from that Cave and sung in the presence of those men. I feel many times that when I come across these 400 men, it has reference to this church. I feel that these 400 men are similar to our church membership. As there are instructions from David to these 400 men, there are also instructions for us if we want to receive the full blessings of God upon our lives. This blessing concerns Evangel Tabernacle as a whole as well as to individuals. Of course, God is the one who build up this church. The bible says ‘unless the LORD build the house we labor in vain.’ So, I recognize the people in this church is given by YHWH. What was David trying to teach the 400 men in this Psalms?
1. Bless the LORD
Psalms 34:1-3 says, ‘I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.’
The name YHWH is mentioned practically in every verses of this Psalms. And there are 22 verses in this Psalms. In the KJV the name YHWH is translated as LORD is all capital letter. YHWH is the name of our God. YHWH is the covenant keeping God. We have a relationship with YHWH and it is one of covenant loyalty. Because of this, His praise should be continually be in our mouth as it was in the mouth of David. YHWH is too great and wonderful in character and deed that he needs to be praised. We must learn to praise YHWH and exalt His name. The humble in verse 2 has reference to the 400 men. Notice how the praise is characterized.
a. At all times – this is an important reminder that YHWH is to be praised in good or difficult times. He does not change. His mercy is always present. Only our perspective changes. Faith must continue to affirm His presence and praise. I mean David was a fugitive. He feared for his life so much that he had to pretend he was mad to avert death. He was also surrounded with unpromising people around him. Yet he praises God at all times.
b. Continually in my mouth – praise should not depend on personal circumstances but should be a normal activity of the recipients of grace.
c. Praise should arise from all people: that is, the humble (again the reference is to the 400 men); the afflicted, the poor and the weak. David was trying to impart unto these 400 men this truth on the need to praise God. When we are humble with nothing, praise God. When we are afflicted, poor and weak, praise God. Well they learned from David and I hope this church also learn from David. One day out of these 400, there came forth David’s 30 mighty men. When you practice this habit, you will succeed in life. It is amazing that these 400 men became the core leadership of David’s kingdom. And that is what YHWH is trying to do for this church.
d. Together – praise is both individual and corporate; that is, together, as worship should be. We bring our individual needs to Him as well as our ‘corporate gathered needs’. Unity and fellowship among faithful followers exhibit praise to God and witness to others.
So, Evangel Tabernacle members, I challenged you to praise the LORD. Psalms 34:2 says, ‘My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.’ The Hebrew verb ‘boast’ means ‘to boast’, to ‘exult’ or ‘to be praised.’ David even danced before the LORD when he was a King. He boasted of the LORD before all his people. In this church, some of you even are ashamed to lift up your hand before your God in this sanctuary. How proud are you concerning YHWH that you will even do foolish things for Him? I want to speak to this congregation. YHWH commands us to express our heart’s gratefulness. Pastor Lily was giving me the definition between gratefulness and thankfulness that intrigued me. Gratefulness is discovered when we remove the hurry from our lives and listens to God’s voice in a situation. A situation may seem imperfect, but being grateful anyway is evidence of our trust in Him. Gratefulness differs from thankfulness. Both are essential. Thankfulness is the cordial response to a favor done. It is the affirmation we give when things go our way. It is the reply to a gift or a promotion: it’s the hooray after a blessing. Gratefulness, however is different. It can only be developed intentionally. It begins with a spirit. It’s an attitude, a disposition that we carry and practice whether or not things go our way. Gratefulness means being content before any gifts are given – or even if they’re not given. It’s breathing a silent ‘thank you’ regardless of our circumstances. Gratefulness is a hallelujah even when there is no guarantee of a blessing. It is the confidence to accept whatever God brings. I was very convicted when Pastor Lily was telling me the difference between gratefulness and thankfulness. And God showed and asked me, ‘Were you ever grateful that I give you this land and this church. Although the building is not what it was planned to be, was I every grateful? Are you grateful to me for the people I gave you even when they are unpromising people?’ Then I ponder on how many churches that were forced to move out of Iloilo City to Pavia or the outskirt of this city, yet YHWH in his goodness has given us this land. And it is not a small land. It is a big land. It is not hidden in some subdivision road, the inner lane but on the main highway of Iloilo City. Was I grateful for the kind of people that comes to this church? I am ashamed that I am not grateful. I asked YHWH to forgive me. I do not want to fall into that lapse of ingratitude. Many of us are like that. We are simply not grateful people. Maybe the blessing did not come or the prayer has not been answered simply because we are ungrateful. Think about it.
How about thankfulness? Having lived in this country for 33 years, one of the characteristics of the people in this country which I noticed is that they are not thankful people. When they received a blessing, it is as if we owed it to them. That is not thankfulness. I think we have to get rid of this attitude if we ever want to receive another blessing from God. Over a century ago, Northwestern University located on Lake Michigan near Chicago, had a voluntary lifesaving crew among its students. One of these teams became famous for rescuing shipwrecked sailors. One September 8, 1860, just off the shore of Lake Michigan and near the college campus, the Lady Elgin, a crowded passenger steamer, went down. Answering the emergency distress call, a lifesaving team at Northwestern University immediately formed themselves into rescue team and launched out into the waters. Among the students that perilous day was Edward Spencer, a young man who was preparing for the ministry. Seeing a woman clinging to some wreckage far out in the waters, Spencer three off his coat and swam out through the heavy waves, successfully rescuing her and pulling her back to the shore. Sixteen more times that day young Spencer braved the fierce waves, saving a host of lives. Exhausted and spent this heroic young man collapsed from fatigue. Spencer never completely recovered from the exposure of that near tragic day. With broken health he lived quietly the rest of his life in relative seclusion, disabled, unable to enter the work of the ministry. R. A. Torrey, pastor of Moody Memorial church in Chicago was telling about this incident at a meeting in Los Angeles when a man in the audience called out that Edward Spencer was present! Torrey invited Spencer to the platform. An old man with white hair he slowly climbed the steps to the pulpit as the applause rang out. Torrey asked him if anything in particular stood out in his memory. ‘Only this, Sir,’ Spencer replied. ‘Of the seventeen people I saved, not one of them thanked me.’ Not one of them thank me. I ask the people in our church, of all the untold times that YHWH intervened in your life, protected you, forgive you of sins that you are ashamed of, intervened in your family affairs, children, chart your career, healed you of your sickness, is YHWH going to say to this church, ‘Not one of them thanked me.’ I want to say that it is a sin; a terrible sin if we are that kind of people. When pressure had been very real in your lives in a perilous and threatening situation, and mounting greater and greater, driving you to the point of despair YHWH came in and delivered you out of that desperate situation, and you are not going to thank God?
I want to challenge this church as a whole. Remember David was in a cave. David had to pretend he was crazy before his enemies. David lived like a fugitive. His home was a cave. But out of that situation he praise God and taught these 400 men a very important principle of life. Psalms 34:3 says, ‘O magnify the LORD.’ This verb ‘magnify’ is a command to express to God our heart’s gratefulness with our praise. Before we succumb to the frailties of life or the difficulties of current situations, we should remind ourselves of who God is, what He has done and what He is doing.
I thank God that I came from the Pentecostal roots. I was taught the power of Praise and Miracles happens when the people of God learn to praise the LORD. Jonathan and Melissa Helser of Bethel Music wrote the song ‘raise a hallelujah’ as a power declaration over their friend’s son. Their friend is Joel whose son’s name is Jaxon. Jaxon’s kidney got infected by E. coli Virus and he was rushed to hospital in a helicopter. At the hospital Jaxon had to have blood transfusion and go on dialysis. Joel reached out to the Bethel community for prayer and support. Then the news came to Jonathan and Melissa Helser. A few days before Christmas, they received a message from Joel that his son, Jaxon was in critical condition and he didn’t think his son would make it. As soon as Jonathan received the text, he felt like a giant of unbelief stood in front of him. Jonathan thought Jaxon was going to die that night and they are not going to see a miracle. But something indescribable happened to Jonathan while he was praying for a miracle for his friend’s son. A song suddenly came out of his mouth and he started to sing a powerful declaration against the giant Jaxon was facing.
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah; heaven comes to fight for me
Then the miracle happened. There was a reversal of event. Miraculously Jaxon responded to the medical treatment and he was able to go home and his body is in full health. Praise is a power declaration. Praise is not just a powerful weapon for the people of God. Praise should be a lifestyle weapon. It was a powerful weapon for David and he taught it to his 400 men. I feel that for Etab praise must also be a lifestyle weapon in our journey of life. If you know the bible well, praise has been used as a power declaration for miracles; King Jehoshaphat sent a choir of people praising God and the enemies were defeated supernaturally. Not only the enemies were defeated Israel became rich with the wealth of their enemies. At midnight Paul and Silas sang praise in the prison cell unto God and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. In the Book of Revelation , when the twenty-four elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia, then a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants. Then the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone and the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse. This is calling to this church to praise YHWH.
2. Living under the watchful eye of God
Psalms 34:6-7 says ‘This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them’
Psalms 34:17-20 says, ‘The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.’
This few verses has reference to the 400 men. This teaching from David was wonderful for the men at Adullam cave to hear. What is the conditions of these 400 men? 1 Samuel 22:1-2 says, ‘David therefore departed then, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him.’ Notice the description of David’s 400 men. I want you to picture the concentration of this church’s membership.
a. His brothers (other relatives)
b. All his father’s household. People from one household, family came together to David.
c. Everyone who was in distress
d. Everyone who was in debt
e. Everyone who was in discontent (literally those in bitterness of soul)
The bible says that they just started to gather to David. David is a representation of Jesus. They just begin to know God. I said that this is such an accurate description of people that comes into our church. Maybe you are not in this condition now; but once you were there. Jesus is calling out a people for His name. He is calling those who are in distress, whose who are in debt, and those who are discontented. They are people persecuted and oppressed by the devil. They are forced to flee because their lives are in danger. In one of the SOZO we heard from a young lady that she was forced to flee and run to Iloilo because her family was in danger. That is where they come to our church. If you have felt the whiplash of injustice in the world, if you have felt its unfairness, if you are oppressed and have no place turn, if you are trying to find a way out of your trouble, if you are thinking even of suicide, YHWH is looking for you. You have use for him. They were in debt. Debt is a cancer that destroys under any circumstances. In that day when a person go into debt, he could lose his property and she could be sold in prostitution or become a prostitute; a kind of slavery. They were in discontent. The discontent are those bitter of soul. The circumstances and experiences of life had soured them. In the past few years I have noticed a restlessness sweeping our land. Masses of people march in the street and protest about this, that, and the other thing. There is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and discontentment. I think the best description is Hong Kong. Millions literally lives in cages. The young people are so angry with the government because no matter how hard they work they can never buy a house. They have no future in Hong Kong. And they felt the government was responsible. There are so discontented that they have started full-scale protests attended by millions since June and it has continued until today. It is similar to the Edsa Revolution and China is threatening to bring in People’s Liberation Army to Hong Kong. My friend, life will make you bitter unless you see the hand of God.
They, being in debt, distressed, and discontent were likely those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. But these were objects of God’s favor and salvation, not His scorn if only they would come to him. Isn’t this true concerning everyone of us in this church. Those whose spirit are oppressed, and even broken, with the greatness of their calamities, their hearts and spirits are truly and deeply humbled under the hand of God. What was the condition of all these 400 men? They are broken in spirit. They are like a bird with a broken wing, an animal with a broken leg, a woman with a broken heart, a man with a broken purpose in life; all these seem to drop out of the main current of life into shadow. They go apart to suffer and droop. The busy rush of life goes on without them. They are left behind. But then YHWH draws nigh to them. YHWH has regards for them. Broken hearts think God is far away, when he is really most near to them; indeed, he is with them, and in them, but they know it not. How about a contrite spirit? It is a beaten-out spirit. The word hammer is implied here, in breaking in pieces the ore from the metal. The breaking of a person’s bones is an idiom for the judgment of God. Therefore, no bones broken is an idiom of no judgement necessary. For the next 13 years, these 400 men literally lived under the watchful eyes of YHWH. YHWH intervened in their lives. God delivered them from all their fears. Although they were traumatized, YHWH flooded their heart with peace. Their countenance became radiance with joy. Pastor Lily was telling me that our church people are very different from many members in other churches. They have the glow of God. They have the born-again countenance and I kind of agree with her. But this is the result of the hand of YHWH. There is a special manifestation of the LORD among us. We live under the watchful eye of YHWH
3. Teaching the People of God
Psalms 34:7-9 says, ‘The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.’
Psalms 34:15 says, ‘The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.’
David is trying to teach the 400 men very important lessons in life. Three things are mentioned here.
a. We have to be righteous
b. We have to fear the LORD
c. We have to taste and see that the LORD is good
David reminded his men at Adullam cave that God’s attentive care is upon the righteous. Brothers and Sisters, we have to be righteous. We have to live the righteous life. We have to live right. We have to act in morally upright way. We have to be just and genuine. This is another truth that we as a church and as individuals have to learn well. When we are righteous, the hand of God is not tied and he can deliver us out of all troubles. It does not mean that I will have a trouble-free life. But YHWH will be with me and deliver me from all troubles. We have to fear God. You notice that fear is repeated thrice for emphasis. Actually fear is mentioned 5 times in the first 11 verses of this Psalms. The angel of the LORD is mentioned only 3 times in the whole of the 150 Psalms. The Angel of the LORD is the Angel of YHWH. The angels are agents of protection but also agents of judgment. People of this world keep telling us that the Bible is an ancient prescientific book and it is superstitious about the unseen, unexplained. Of course the bible is a mystery. And there is a lot of mysterious activities . But If one holds true to the Bible being the unique revelation of the one true God, then he must accept the view of the bible which includes the interconnection between the visible and invisible world. Exactly how, when, where, who is connected to this interconnection is uncertain. But the righteous and those who fear God are connected to this world. There is angelic intervention and activities. We have the privilege of the Angel of YHWH who intervenes for us and delivers us. Then we have to taste and see that the LORD is good. This is only possible when we have a relationship with God. There are somethings, especially in the depths of the religious life, which can only be understood by being experienced, and which then are incapable of being adequately embodied in words (properly explained in words). The enjoyment must come before the illumination; or rather the enjoyment is the illumination. The young lion do lack and suffer hunger. The lions are the mightiest of animals and the most ferocious hunter. Yet even their young do hunger because the parents couldn’t find the food for them. But they that are righteous, fear the LORD shall not hunger and lack any good thing. Sister Tess was sharing in our Cell group about an incident in the Iloilo-Guimaras Boat tragedy. A father and a young boy, around the age of 6 who survived were interviewed by the social media. The father was recounting that when the boat capsized, he and his son were inside the capsized boat unable to get out. He had to protect his son keeping him afloat. All his energy was spent and he thought that he was going to die. Then he turned to look at the face of the son; it was one of calmness and serenity. The calmness on the face of his son gave him the extra energy and boost to want to survive. The next moment he heard the coastguard were hammering the keel of the boat. Finally they made an opening and the father was able to lift the son up to the coast guard. But he was so drained that he fainted but was rescued in the end. The social media were curious why the boy was so calm and filled with serenity. When interviewed the boy’s reply was this: ‘Well my father is with me?’ Taste and see that the LORD is good. When you have a relationship with God, you will not fear anything because God your father is with you.