What a book is ours, filled with divine promises that only God would make (because no other being would be so magnanimous) and only God could keep (because no other being could be so mighty)! Psalm Thirty-Four wonderfully illustrates this point, extolling the Lord through the setting forth of His many provisions and promises. We have space here to examine only the seventh of the twenty-two verses in this Psalm: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”
The personal God. I will not quibble with those who view the term “the angel of the Lord” as essentially synonymous with the term “the Lord of hosts” and referring to a host of angelic help because Scripture teaches that angelic hosts stand at God’s beck and call to minister to His saints. But the psalm in its entirety is so focused on the Lord alone (“I will bless the Lord” [v. 1]; “magnify the Lord with me” [v. 3]; “I sought the Lord, and he heard me” [v. 4]; “this poor man cried, and the Lord heard” [v. 6]; “taste and see that the Lord is good” [v. 8]; etc.) that to insert angels (even as wonderful as they are) here sounds a jarring note with the rest of the psalm. Rather, it seems that the Lord would have us understand just how personal is His relationship with His saints. Emissaries are wonderful in their place. But in this psalm, God sends no ambassador to the aid of His people; rather He comes Himself in the Person of the pre-incarnate Christ, the Angel of the Lord. Believers have a God who takes a direct and personal interest in their well-being.
The present God. The angel of the Lord is depicted as “camping round about them that fear him.” God is not a God who is far off. Where His people are, there He is. We never need, as Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal, to cry long and loud or to cut ourselves with knives in order to get God’s attention. We need not wait for a response to our heavenly 9-1-1 call, for the Angel of the Lord encamps round about us. That last clause paints an interesting—or puzzling—picture and goes a long way toward explaining why some commentators insist that the psalm refers to a host of angels. After all, we can understand an individual camping near, beside, or above us, for example. But that one being might encamp around us defies reason—unless that one Being is the omnipresent God, who can through the Holy Spirit both indwell each and all New Testament saints and completely surround each one with the Presence of His watch care and protection. Everywhere we turn in His will, we may expect to find His Presence going before us, following after us, and securing us on the left and right, the top and bottom.
The powerful God. This God is no mere tagalong companion or disinterested spectator. He is not with us simply to observe but to intervene on our behalf: to deliver us. Does external trouble threaten to overwhelm us? The Angel of the Lord encamps about us to deliver us. Are we inundated by our own fears or unbelief? The Lord encamps about us to deliver us. There is no question in this psalm about either the Lord’s purpose or His ability. His power is such that He can accomplish anything that our circumstances require. David is matter-of-fact in his faith-based confidence: the Lord stands by to deliver.
What a promise is ours. We have a God who knows us and whom we know personally, who never leaves nor forsakes us, and who, as a Friend, sticks closer than a brother, delivering us whenever such deliverance will serve His divine purpose and most bless us. No wonder David exclaims, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (v. 8).
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