Surrounded by Christ

Surrounded by Christ

Surrounded by Christ. 

“The Angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. He is a guard who surrounds and defends all who worship Him with reverence and awe. The Angel of the Lord sets up a circle of protection around us and will faithfully remain as He rescues and delivers us.”  (Psalm 34:7).

The setting for Psalm 34 is dramatic and unexpected. Even a brief look at David’s life would reveal a heart that was familiar with holy foolishness. He was foolish for taking on a fully armed giant with nothing but a sling shot and a few stones (1 Samuel 17). He was foolish for exulting in the presence of Yahweh to the degree that he danced with overwhelming joy before all the people while wearing only a loincloth on his bare skin (2 Samuel 6). And David was cleverly foolish when he pretended to be out of his mind before the Philistines in Gath (1 Samuel 21). In this scenario, David had to figure out a way to escape this city that was deep in enemy territory. So, since it was customary to leave the mentally unstable protected and unharmed, David pretended to be insane. He started scratching his feet on the doors of the main gate, and he walked around town drooling into his beard, spittle covering his face. The leaders of Gath soon dismissed David and sent him on his way unscathed. David’s shrewd act served him well. His crazy antics saved his life. And this is the backstory for Psalm 34. Since the early days of David’s anointing by Samuel, he lived out his calling, he “had the Spirit of Yahweh on him in power.” (1 Samuel 16:13). And that Spirit sometimes manifested in surprising ways.

So David escaped the dreaded Philistines, but he was still being pursued by King Saul. This had to be one of the lowest moments in David’s life. Being on the run, he had to find a place to hide out. So he escaped to the cave of Adullam, a gigantic cavern in the Judean wilderness, twelve miles from Jerusalem. This cave became the secret headquarters for David and his warriors, probably a total of at least 600 men, eventually. This cave system has been discovered and can be entered even now. Inside the opening is a winding passage that leads to a huge room of about 5,000 square feet. There are many more passages that branch out of that room which lead to other big rooms. It is said that this entire cave system of Adullam could house at least a thousand men. And in this hidden cavern is a scene of young David’s early glory, where he showed his true colors as a forefather of Jesus. “David therefore departed from Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented or embittered gathered to him. So David became captain over them. And there were at least 400 men with him there.” (1 Samuel 22:1-2).  David could well have written Psalm 34 while hiding in his stronghold in the caves. What kind of man, while in an outlaw’s hideout, would attract the needy like nails to a magnet? Must have been a man after God’s own heart. Farther down David’s family tree was another ringleader of outcasts, a captain of the needy, the Son of David, the Messiah.

In Psalm 34, David was inspired to write down his thoughts on God’s character while in the midst of trouble. He wanted to express how God stands by His believers, and is worthy to be trusted. David highlights how He protects and guards the believers with His presence when they are down and out. In the middle of this profound call to trust in Yahweh’s love, David notes the presence of the Angel of the Lord.

“The Angel of Yahweh is the visible Lord God in the Old Testament, as Jesus Christ was in the New Testament. Thus His deity is clearly portrayed in the Hebrew Bible.” (Amplified Bible notes)The mysterious Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) appears many times from out of nowhere and in unexpected settings. This unique Angel appears as a divine visitor to Abraham (Gen. 18), a welcome comfort to Hagar (Gen. 16), and a wrestling opponent to Jacob (Gen. 32), . This same heavenly Messenger saved Isaac from being sacrificed (Gen. 22), and spoke in a burning bush to Moses (Ex. 3). He protected the people of Israel from the Egyptian army (Ex. 14), blocked Balaam’s path (Numbers 22), reassured Joshua (Josh. 5), commissioned Gideon (Judges 6), and provided food for Elijah (1 Kings 19). This Angel of the LORD was God in the form of man, the preincarnate Christ, the appearance of Jesus according to Early Church theologians and many modern scholars as well. Since God is a Spirit, and one cannot see God face-to-face and survive the experience, He sent Jesus as His unique representative to speak His mind and accomplish His will on earth during the life and times of the Old Testament. Scholars believe that when God is seen in physical form in the OT, Jesus has made an appearance. “There is a fascinating forecast of the coming Messiah, breaking through the dimness with amazing consistency, at intervals from Genesis to Malachi.” (Cambridge Bible).

And so David, as inspired as ever, talks about Jesus in this Psalm, the preincarnate Christ who provides a circle of protection around those who worship Yahweh with reverence and awe. David points to Jesus, who will encamp around those who fear Him, surrounding and defending those who live a life of devotion to Yahweh. The Angel of the LORD is offered as a rescuer, a spiritual guard who encircles the believer in times of trouble. The character of Jesus is on display in Ps. 34:7, purposefully and personally caring for the followers of God. It appears that the Spirit of Jesus has long arms, surrounding and protecting our souls from any harm. The spirit of each believer is safeguarded within the presence of Christ, and nothing can overwhelm His love. Once we are in His encampment, our very soul is destined to live in Him all through eternity. This verse refers directly to Jesus Christ, our spiritual security system when we are broken-hearted, in distress, or under attack. The long arms of Jesus encircle each of us during our times of trial. He is our Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is our soulguard, not necessarily our bodyguard, and He is worthy of our worship and trust.