The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor

When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Fear the LORD, you his holy ones,
for nought is lacking to those who fear him.
The great grow poor and hungry;
but those who seek the LORD want for no good thing.

Come, children, hear me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Which of you desires life,
and takes delight in prosperous days?
(Psalm 34:7-8, 10-11, 12-13)

Scripture Study

34:7–10. Using a military metaphor and recalling the angel of the Lord who saved his forebears (cf. Gen 32:3; Ex 14:19–20), the psalmist proclaims that God continues to aid man (v. 7), and invites his listeners to taste God’s goodness for themselves by having recourse to him. The “young lions” (v.10): that is what the Hebrew says; the Greek translates it as “rich”; their fate is similarly described in the praise of God sung by the Blessed Virgin in the house of St Elizabeth: “the rich he has sent empty away” (Lk 1:53), a confirmation that God withdraws his grace from those who are self-sufficient, whereas he bestows it on the humble, and did so in an entirely exceptional way in the case of Mary.

34:11–14. To reinforce his invitation, the psalmist projects himself as a teacher of wisdom who instructs people on how to be good (v. 11; cf. Prov 1:8; 2:1; etc.). This is the only instance of this mode of writing in a psalm of praise. The teaching outlined in vv. 12–14 is adopted word for word in the first letter of St Peter when he exhorts Christians not to return evil for evil, but always to speak well of others (cf. 1 Pet 3:8–12). That is how those act who “seek peace” (v. 14) and whom our Lord calls “blessed” (Mt 5:9).

Scripture Reflection

The psalm holds the two dimensions together as essentials of biblical faith. Neither can be surrendered, because God is holy and loving. It is true that avoidance of evil and love of good makes for life. It is true that the LORD delivers the righteous who call on him in all of their troubles. Merit and need, reward and salvation are structures of the relation between God and human beings. Faith lives in terms of both without ever reaching an easy equivalence and leaves the working out of it all to God.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.