Seeking God or Wanting Goodies? – Psalm 34
I can’t read Psalm 34:10 anymore without hearing a catchy little tune from Seeds Family Worship. Our family loves their albums; each song is simply a verse of Scripture set to music. (This particular song is memorable for its startling beginning that features children roaring like lions.)
“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing” (NIV).
Up until recently, I’ve coasted through this verse with a smug satisfaction about my sound theology. After all, I know that this verse does not say, “Those who seek the LORD lack nothing that they want.” No, “lack no good thing” means “lack nothing that is truly good for them.” God knows better than we do; in His sovereign, wise love, He gives us what we really need, not what we think we want.
All true. But then I think more carefully about that little word “good,” and I remember Jesus’ questioning of the rich young ruler: “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). When my attention is fixed on the “good things” God will give to those who seek Him, I’ve missed the point.
When I looked up the original Hebrew of Psalm 34:10, I was stunned to find this: There is actually no Hebrew word for “thing.” For whatever reason, “thing” has been added by the English translations, across the board. The verse could also be rendered, “Those who seek the LORD lack no good.”
In other words: what God will ultimately give to those who seek Him is Himself. As David prayed in Psalm 16:2, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” There is no “good thing” better than God—and when you seek Him, you do not lack Him. “Seek and you will find,” His Word promises again and again.
“Those who seek the LORD lack no good” in Psalm 34 comes on the heels of “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (v. 8) because the psalmist does not want us to miss the connection: When you seek the Lord, when you fear Him and take refuge in Him, you will be given, in more abundance than your heart can contain, the one Good above all else: God Himself.
Seeking gifts over Giver comes naturally to us. My six-year-old illustrated this human tendency perfectly upon coming home from a weekend at Grammy and Pops’s house. His doting grandparents love to spoil him, and one of the first things my son said about his trip was, “I want to show you all my stuff!”
He loves his grandparents dearly, of course. But like all of us, he’s easily distracted by the goodies they generously give him. The same thing happened recently with Grandma on the other side, who is reliably prepared with delicious treats to occupy little passengers on car trips. Both my sons were less concerned with “who gets to sit by Grandma” and more absorbed with “what’s in Grandma’s purse?”
The more I pondered Psalm 34, the more my theological self-satisfaction faded as I saw how I’m just like my kids. My veneer of trusting God to give me what’s good for me, rather than expecting Him to give me what I think is good, was still a focus on goodies. Why am I so quick to look past my good God to the gifts I hope to receive?
A friend of mine has repeatedly challenged me with a lesson she is struggling to learn: Fix your eyes on His face, not on His hands, she urges me. Focus on knowing Him, on fellowship with Him, rather than on the blessings you expect Him to give you. I feel keenly my need to shift my gaze in this way.
Fresh off the celebration of the cross and the resurrection, I also wonder if maybe this helpful instruction could be expanded. Look at His hands, after all: See the holes made by nails. And rejoice at what those empty, nail-pierced hands purchased: Eternal fellowship with the living God, the greatest good the world will ever know.
Amy Kannel often suffers from spiritual amnesia, easily forgetting who Jesus is and what He has done for her—so she writes to remember His faithfulness and help others see Him as the Main Thing. She makes her home in the Nashville area and will be forever grateful to the South for introducing her to tomato pie. When she’s not writing, you might find Amy making said pie and other kitchen messes, singing to her three-year-old son, reading with her six-year-old son, or ballroom dancing in the living room with Mr. Wonderful. And if you’d told her ten years ago that she would even think of mentioning cooking in a bio, she would have declared you certifiably insane…which just goes to show that she serves a God who’s in the business of changing people. You can find more of Amy’s writing at Choosing Hallelujah.