They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. – Psalms 34:5
1 I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.
2 I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.
3 Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.
4 I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
6 In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles.
7 For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American author and poet. Her most enduring work was “Solitude.”
The inspiration for the poem came as she was traveling by train in Wisconsin. There was a young woman dressed in black sitting across the aisle from her crying. Miss Wheeler sat next to her and sought to comfort her. At the journey’s end, her emotions were mixed. She shared in the woman’s sorrow, and yet at the same time, her own face was radiant. She wrote the opening lines of “Solitude”:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
Life is about choices. Our life course is set by how we respond to the vicissitudes and trials we face.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox also wrote, The Set of the Sails
One ship drives east, and another west
With the self-same winds that blow;
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
That decides the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As they voyage along through life;
‘Tis the will of the soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.
It is easy to get tripped up by the ups and downs of life. Strife and struggle are inevitable. Our response to them determines our attitudes and emotions. In face of the difficulties we face, David invites us to break out radiant praise. He shows the way to calmness, confidence, courage, and conquest of our deepest feelings and fears.
REFLECT & PRAY
Experiencing the Father’s presence produces an excited joy that cannot be contained. David bursts out with exclamations of praise.
Father may I learn and perfect the art of praising and thanking You each day. Remove the dark shadows of shame and fear that haunt me and replace them with radiant joy.
Psalms 34 is not so much a prayer, but rather an exclamation of joy over the Father’s response to prayer. David has experienced the sheer joy of the presence of the Father. It is palpable. David is radiant. His heart is thrilled and overflowing with joy. Radiant is a word found in Isaiah 60:5, where it describes a parent’s face lighting up at the sight of their children, who had given up for lost (Kidner).
Imagine what it would be like to be with David as he expresses his thoughts verbally. They would be filled with excitement and enthusiasm. He has experienced the inward touch of the divine. He is taking great delight lapping it up he cannot get enough. On the surface, his exclamation seems rather tame, prosaic, colorless, but it is anything but that.
Psalms 34:2 My soul will make its boast in the LORD.
The word Hebrew translated boast is halal. Halal is most often translated as praise, exalt, or boast. But this word is overflowing with excitement, revelry, delight, fun, and festive joy. The English word hallelujah is derived from the Hebrew word halal.
But there is more. It has the sense of madness or making a fool of yourself in a good sense (1 Corinthians 4:10). In the 21st century, it would be equivalent to the thrill of cheering for your home team when they score a touchdown or a goal in an athletic event. His soul is literally jumping up and down. He is basking in the Father (Terrien).
His joy is contagious and he cannot keep it to himself. It is bursting out of him and it must be shared. David invites us to participate with him. Each of us can enter into the presence of the Father and the joy He provides.
How does David become so buoyant? How does he do it? It all begins with praise and thankfulness for who the Father is, what the Father does, and most importantly what the Father has done for us. He shouts of the Father’s greatness and exults in Him.
Putting it in other terms, David magnifies and blesses the Father. How can a mere mortal bless God?
“The idea behind ‘bless’ is to speak a good word about someone: when God blesses someone, he speaks a good word over that person for his well-being; when a human blesses God, he speaks a good word about God’s kindness and generosity” (ESV notes).
Paul succinctly restates the same concept in one verse. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Even if it’s not your practice, pick a day this week and praise God throughout the day. Praise Him when you wake up, praise Him when you eat, praise Him when you leave the house and when you return” (Stanley).