Yesterday, we read Psalm 34 and saw how David praised the God who delivers. Specifically:
- God delivers those who are weak, yet put their trust in him
- God delivers those who fear him
- God delivers more than just individuals
And we spent some time praising God for how he has delivered us. But it doesn’t stop there.
Praise for the God who delivers becomes testimony about the God who delivers
This brings us to another aspect of David’s psalm. So far we’ve focused on this psalm as a psalm of thanksgiving, praising the God who delivers. Now although this is true, there is also a case to be made that this is what is called by scholars a “wisdom psalm.” That is, a psalm that seeks to instruct its hearers in wisdom.
For a start, the psalm is in fact an acrostic poem: each verse starts with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet; 22 letters in their alphabet gives us 22 verses. Acrostic poems are characteristic of wisdom writing.
Secondly, as we saw before, the psalm speaks three times about “the fear of the LORD” – which Proverbs tells us is “the beginning of wisdom.” In v11 David says “come, my children, listen to me” – the classic way wisdom writers address their hearers. These and a number of other cues tell us that this is also a wisdom psalm. A psalm of instructive thanks, or a psalm of thankful instruction – either way, praise for the God who delivers in this psalm spills over into testimony about the God who delivers. It has a teaching function, too.
For David, his experience of being rescued by God compelled him to want to tell others about it. He wanted to teach others as to how they could find favour with this God who delivers. God’s action in his life spontaneously spills over into testimony about God to others.
This was God’s plan for Israel, too. God’s action in the life of his people was meant to be instructional for the nations around. We get a hint of this in Joshua ch 2, when the prostitute Rahab “defected” to Israel, and to Israel’s God:Josh 2:10-11 “We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
Later in the OT God reminds his people that they were to be:Isa 49:6b a light for the nations, that you may bring my salvation [my deliverance] to the ends of the earth.
Although Israel by and large failed to do this, ultimately Jesus would be that light. What’s more, Jesus has commissioned us to continue that role. Like David, our experience of the God who delivers is to spill over into testimony about the God who delivers.
Advertisers know that the most powerful means of persuasion is personal testimony. A whole bunch of “leading experts who recommend” is not worth as much as one person whom you know and trust telling you that they’ve tried it for themselves, and it works. That’s why some businesses provide incentives for signing up your friends and family to their product or service. That’s why marketers pay so much money to get celebrity endorsements – because they’re famous, it feels like we know them and trust them. I mean, Ricky Ponting – how could someone with that many test runs not be telling me the truth about vitamin supplements? Although we’re starting to get a little cynical – which is why we now have those supposedly “unscripted” commercials with celebrities chatting about the product over coffee. Advertisers are doing their best to “fake” personal testimony from someone you know and trust, because they know it’s the most persuasive.
We don’t need to fake it. We’re not part of an impersonal, mass-marketing campaign on TV, we’re here, in person, going about our daily lives. We have family and friends who know us and – one would hope – trust us. And each of us has experienced first-hand the God who delivers. Each of us has a powerful testimony about God – if only, like David, we’d let our experience of God spill over to others.
Praise for the God who delivers must become testimony about the God who delivers.