Just got off the phone with my daughter who’s driving home from Los Angeles. Asked her where she was. She didn’t know. Knew she was on I-5. Knew she was heading north. But where exactly she was? Not really sure. GPS confirms she’s on the right path and heading in the right direction, but it’s too dark out to make out landmarks. Visibility is limited, so driving “by sight” is restricted to whatever the car lights illuminate. So she needs to, in a sense, drive by faith until dawn breaks and she starts to again see clearly her surroundings. Kind of like the songwriter.
David was on the right path–the path to fulfilling God’s call on his life. Samuel had revealed he was destined for the throne of Israel and his anointing was, in a way, the “on ramp” (1Sam. 16:1-13). But David really had no idea what lay ahead. Right road, limited visibility.
He ended up serving in the house of Saul (1Sam. 16:14-23) . . . closer. Taking down Goliath gave him visibility and some measure of credibility (1Sam. 17) . . . closer. The natural heir to the throne, Jonathan, had ceded his rightful position to David (1Sam. 18:3-4) . . . closer. David marries Saul’s daughter (1Sam. 18:17) . . . closer still. But still driving mostly in the dark.
And then, an apparent detour. Saul becomes jealous of the young upstart. Ends up enraged at Jonathan’s allegiance to the son of Jesse. And eventually decides the palace isn’t big enough for both himself and this kid shepherd who would be king. And so the kid must go . . . permanently. And while Saul’s attempts to take his life fail, David must flee.
Cue the occasion of the songwriter’s song. After fleeing from Saul, David ends up in enemy territory before a Philistine king. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire! Being “much afraid,” David “changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard” (1Sam. 21:13). Kind of humiliating. Kind of desperate. But the trick works. The king didn’t need a madman in his courts and so he sent David packing and David ends up in the cave of Adullam. And it was in remembrance of this part of his journey to the throne that David wrote Psalm 34.
And I’m chewing on one line in the song in particular.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
(Psalm 34:18 ESV)
On the right road but not quite sure where. Unexpected detours. Unanticipated dangers. Uncertainty increasing. Fears growing. Pressure mounting. And in all this, limited visibility. Where is God?
He is near the brokenhearted. He is next to the crushed in spirit.
Not just some pie in the sky wishful thinking. But the testimony of the Sovereign Himself.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
(Isaiah 57:15 ESV)
When we’re not quite sure why the journey is getting so difficult, when uncertainty sets in, when fears assail, when the anxiety seems beyond bearing, and the heart is broken and the spirit is crushed . . . and all this, with limited visibility, . . .
This we can know for sure: the LORD is near.
The One who is high and lifted up and inhabits eternity, descends and draws alongside those who are low and pressed down and facing uncertain reality.
And so we keep on keepin’ on. Though we may be driving in the dark, we know we are on the right road and we are certain that the LORD is near.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
(Psalm 34:8 ESV)
By His grace. For His glory.