When was one of your most scary times in life? I’ve written before about the financial distress I found myself in during the recession of 2009-2010. The early days of the pandemic were not much better. Before the government assistance in the late spring of 2020, we were dipping into our personal savings to continue to keep our business afloat. We only had a few weeks, at most, before we came to a breaking point. My concern was how to pay our bills; I definitely wasn’t thinking about peace, prosperity or promises.
Psalms 34 was written by King David during one of the most harrowing points of his life. He was on the run from King Saul (for a crime he didn’t commit). David ran to the enemies of Israel, hoping to find refuge, but he only encountered more trouble. There he was forced to act insane in order to escape their own torture and punishment (read that story in 1 Samuel 21).
Down not out
It was after this experience that David wrote Psalms 34. In many of David’s poems and songs, he writes about being stuck in a muddy pit or swept by the rising flood – not in Psalm 34. Though David was still in a situation that should have caused him distress, David sings a different song.
In Psalm 34, David croons about the goodness and faithfulness of God. Then, even in the middle of struggle and pain, David shares how to find prosperity. Imagine that! David in what was just the beginning of one of the lowest lows in his life, is thinking about prosperity.
This is what David says:
“Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord. Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” Psalms 34:11-14 NLT
Here are 3 things you can take away from this short passage of scripture:
1. All good things begin with the fear of the Lord.
Some form of the phrase ‘fear of the Lord’ is used nearly 300 times throughout scripture. It is important. We learn by reading through scripture that the fear of the Lord leads to wisdom, prosperity, understanding, long life and ultimately salvation.
The term, ‘fear of the Lord’ doesn’t necessarily mean to be afraid of God. It typically is understood to have a deep reverence and trust in the person of God. It means putting God above everyone and everything else in our lives. When we live with this understanding of God, good things enter into our lives.
However, good things entering into our lives doesn’t mean a constant or immediate flow of physical blessing.
2. Prosperity is about the long run.
David and other writers of the Bible use speak about the ‘prosperous life’ throughout scripture. They communicate about it similarly to what is written in this Psalm. When you read those promises, it’s important to understand two things about them.
First, prosperity comes in the long run. Reward for trusting God doesn’t always come immediately. Choosing to follow Jesus in my finances today doesn’t mean my debt will be wiped out tomorrow. Prosperity a long-term promise. This is tied to the principle of sowing and reaping. When I plant seeds in a garden, it take weeks and months to see fruit. If I plant seeds for a fruit tree, fruit comes not in weeks or months but years. Prosperity is a long run promise.
Second, as noted above, prosperity from fearing God is a principle not a rule. More times than not, when I am faithful to God, I will find success. But sometimes, especially in the short-run, I will see setback or even persecution for my trust in Jesus. I have to understand, I may die never seeing the prosperity ‘due’ to me. Ultimately, I don’t fear God for benefit, but because he is God.
With that in mind, here is the principle to apply to our lives.
3. Speaking truth, turning from evil and searching for peace leads to prosperity.
These three concepts seem simple enough – speak truth, turn from evil, search for peace. But think about them critically – in light of how our culture views truth, evil and peace.
We live in a time of ‘personal truth’. Live your truth. What is true for me, isn’t true for you. That sounds great until my truth conflicts with your truth. Living my/your truth has lead large segments of society (and the church) to reject scientific evidence about disease and nature. Living ‘your truth’ allows people to devalue human life in order to protect tradition or individual rights.
If we skew truth, it becomes difficult to define what is good and what is evil. I make my definition and you create your own definition. And our definitions are fluid from one day to the next (leading to cancel culture, outrage culture, etc).
Which, of course, makes it very difficult to search for peace. How can I know what to make common ground? What is submitting to something I truly don’t believe in?
Begin with the fear of God. When you fear God, you value his word, the Bible. This becomes your standard of truth, good and evil, and peace. These are the seeds we plant that lead to a long and prosperous life.
Search for Peace
Let me close by challenging you to take this last sentence from King David to heart. “Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” We live in a world thriving on drama. We cancel, we rage, we scream, we hate.
You don’t have to reject truth or embrace evil to search for and maintain peace. Prosperity is difficult to have and keep when you are angry or distressed.
May you speak truth, reject evil and search for peace. May you find a long and prosperous life.