Last year when we studied the book of Job, I mentioned how I feel towards the “Health and Wealth Gospel” and its proponents. I would think that Job’s story alone would knock out this heretical teaching, but apparently it’s too appealing for some folks to avoid. The idea, simply put, is that the Lord desires every believer to be perfectly healthy and wonderfully prosperous in this life; indeed he’s promised it to every redeemed child of God. So naturally the logical result is that if you’re a believer and are experiencing problems, then something must be wrong with your faith. Words fail me (at least in a G-rated blog) in describing my reaction to this nonsense, especially since it’s damaged so many people and brought disrepute on the name of Christ in the world.
But is it complete nonsense? Is there any truth to it at all? As we can see when looking at the Fall of our first parents, Satan doesn’t usually use pure lies in order to trap people. He prefers to take some truth and pervert it, so that it sounds credible. So like all heresies, the “Health and Wealth Gospel” has a kernel of truth in it.
Today’s passage, on the face of it, actually seems to bolster their case. The main point of the passage seems to be that if you’re faithful to the Lord and call upon him in the time of trouble, he’ll rescue you out of it. Just to take a few obvious examples: “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles,” “Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing,” “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” And it is true that he desires to give good things to his children, just like any loving Father. But he has a higher purpose than my comfort level.
In contrast to their interpretation, we have to look at the cases of Job, David, most of the prophets, and all the apostles who all suffered for their faith. All of them had an intimacy with the Lord that I'd love to have.
In fact, did you notice vs. 20, which promised that the righteous man would not even have a bone broken? Did that sound familiar at all? It might, since it’s mentioned in the N. T. The apostle John actually quotes it in regard to Jesus on the cross. The standard procedure by Roman soldiers, when they crucified someone, was to finally put them out of their misery by breaking a leg bone of the criminal, thus denying them the ability to pull themselves up and prevent suffocation. Jesus was already dead by the time the soldiers were ready, so they didn’t do it.
The point I’m making is this: If Psalm 34 is really promising a trouble-free life to believers, then it sure would be odd, since vs. 20 was used by the Holy Spirit to apply to Jesus on the cross. The Passion would seem to be the ultimate refutation of the misinterpretation of the Psalm: Jesus--the only 100% righteous Man who ever lived--unjustly persecuted and tortured and murdered.
So how do we apply this Psalm to ourselves? Yes, God will protect us from any real harm. We’re his children, and he’ll provide everything we need. The problem is that God’s definition of what I need and my definition of what I need can be slightly different. I think I need a trouble-free life, but he knows that what I need is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. And yes, he will deliver us from all our troubles. Sometimes he does it in this life, and sometimes he waits until the next one to make things right. In the meantime, I can “Taste and see that the Lord is good” and know that he "is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Aren’t you glad?
Father God, I’m so glad that you listen when I call out to you. I might not understand what you’re doing, but I don’t have to. When I call out to you, you will deliver me, one way or the other.