Psalm 34

This truly is an amazing psalm. At the time he wrote it David was on the run from Saul and this was written during the events recorded in I Samuel 21:10-22:1. Basically David had sought safety in Gath (a Philistine city) but found no refuge there and ends up acting insane in order to escape. He ends up living in a cave but he was not alone. I Samuel 22 begins by letting us know that “…everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him…”

This psalm, like Psalm 119, is written as an acrostic poem. It is interesting to note that while we know it was penned during the events recorded elsewhere, David does not go into detail about the actual incident. There is some debate as to whether he out right sinned by looking for refuge in the city of God’s enemies or whether it was just a mistake but he focuses completely on the fact that no matter what had brought him to this low point God had heard his cry and rescued him.

What an incredible response to the calamity he was facing. He did not panic but rather chose to offer praise. Instead of worry he worshipped. Physically speaking he might have been hiding out in a cave with no food and no weapons and a sorry sad bunch of people but it is clear that his heart was directed to finding solace in God.

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth

David sets the tone by sharing three things in the very first line of this poem.

what he would do ~ praise

who he would praise ~ God

when he would praise ~ all the time

It was not enough to just feel grateful and relieved that God had rescued him, he had to give voice to it. He was keeping both his thoughts and his mind focused upon God and His goodness. What a beautiful reminder that God promises to keep those in perfect peace who first keep their mind fixed on Him!

My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear it and be glad.

David could have told a rousing tale of how he had pretended to be crazy in order to escape Gath but he knew the only thing truly worth boasting of was God Himself, his character, His mighty works, and His faithfulness in keeping His promises.

He knew that the benefit of his praise would strengthen and encourage that rag tag group of followers he had acquired. It would only serve to confirm that their trust was in the right place as they faced their own difficult circumstances. And not only does he make his declaration of God’s faithfulness but he invites those same people to join him in praising God.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!

No matter that he would resolve to always bless the name of the Lord David recognized that his praise alone was not enough to tell of God’s goodness. Join me! he said. Let us all speak of His greatness. A natural outcome of genuine worship and praise is the desire to share in it with others. We cannot discount the impact corporate worship makes on us.

I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from my fears.

David’s testimony is simple and true. He had no where else to turn but to God and God not only heard him, but he answered him. The hand of the Lord is mighty indeed!

Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed

Our faith and confidence in God will clear our countenance and lift our head that may be hanging low in shame or feelings of despair.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles

A cry is a short and bitter sound. It is the language of pain and I can almost see David pounding his chest as he made this statement, This poor man…me! I cried out to God and he heard me. How can we not take heart and be of good courage when we know that God hears us?

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them

Christ surrounds us to defend and console. I am reminded every time I read this of the great and gloriously long hymn, I Bind Unto Myself Today also known as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, 
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Don’t just take my word for it. Search it out for yourself and see that it is true. We can only know in part by hearing but truer deeper understanding comes from experience. We do not have to be afraid of the hard times, the difficult times. We can face our suffering knowing that it’s bitterness is blunted by the sweetness of our God’s faithfulness. It is there in those hard dark trials that we come to know the essence, the very taste of God.

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Fear ~ that holy reverence for God. Sometimes I think we get too comfortable and while we are able to approach His throne with the confidence of a child before their father we also know that the fear of God, a right understanding of Him, is the beginning of wisdom. I saw a thing this week that said the sun can burn your eyeballs and be 92 million miles away and yet we think we can just stroll casually before God, the maker of the sun.

Spurgeon says of this verse that “many whims and wishes may remain unfilled but real wants the Lord will supply…no really good thing shall be denied to those whose first and main end in life is to seek the Lord.”

Come, O children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?

Though he was a mighty warrior and an anointed king, David was also willing to teach. He understood that man needs and wants to know how to live and how to die. There is good to be seen and enjoyed here in this life and it is found by living a particular way.

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Throughout scripture we are admonished to reckon with the power of the tongue and to keep careful watch over it. Spurgeon would say that, “lying and wicked talk stuffs our pillow with thorns, and makes life a constant whirl of fear and shame.”

Notice also that it is not enough to just keep our lips from speaking lies and to turn away from evil. Do good we are told…don’t just ignore sin but be active in pursuing the opposite. Seek peace and hunt it down. Work for it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ear towards their cry.

God is attentive and ever watchful of His people. In Psalm 121 we are told that He does not sleep or slumber. We are never neglected by the One who made us. There is this picture here not of God just sitting in heaven going about His god business and our cry comes to Him out of nowhere but rather He is listening for us. Back in January my youngest had a seizure and it was a terrifying experience for all of us. For weeks afterward I would be in my room and would focus all of my hearing on listening for any sound coming from her room. The language of this verse reminds me of that, and all of the other times as a mother, when I have focused my hearing toward my kids. He is looking and listening to us with love and tenderness.

The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Contrasting that beautiful attentiveness toward His people is this verse. Not just a passive ignoring of the wicked but a setting against them ~ He actively opposes them. In Deuteronomy 28 we are told many times that there are blessings that come with obedience and curses that come along with disobedience. In Proverbs 10 we are told that the name of the wicked will rot.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Never has there been a greater comfort for me than to know that God hears me in my distress. I don’t really understand how prayer works but I know that it does. “Our affliction may be numerous and complicated, but prayer can set us free from them all, for the Lord will show Himself strong on our behalf.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Obviously in this context we may find comfort in knowing that even if or when we feel utterly alone in the midst of our trial or suffering He is close to us. We are not ever alone because He will not abandon us. But the words also bring to mind another verse for me, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

A repentant heart is one that is broken over its sin. The contrite heart literally means “the beaten out spirit” and is referencing the work of a hammer breaking into pieces precious metal being separated from the ore.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

The christian life is the way of the cross. We are called to suffering and actually we are told the way to find true life is through death. We must expect hardship and trouble but our great comfort and encouragement is found in the second part of this verse. But the Lord will deliver. As Christ was so shall His people be. We are delivered, resurrected and set free. David goes further with the prophetic reference to Christ in the very next verse.

He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Obviously, Christ suffered severe physical injury and just as obvious for us is that we have suffered physical harm, some of us have even broken bones so how does this work? Spurgeon believed that in a sense for us it is the idea of great injuries of the soul which will have no lasting eternal impact. There is not one part of the spiritual body of Christ that shall be broken or maimed just as His physical frame of body was preserved. We shall enter eternity without spot or blemish.

Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

David was not just confident that the righteous would be rescued he knew that ultimately the wicked would not escape justice and would face judgement. The idea is more fully expressed in Psalm 94 when the psalmist, which may or may not have been David, points out that their own wickedness will come back upon them. What a picture of this do we see in the story of Esther between Mordechai and Haman!

The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Despite our sin, whether intentional or not, willful or ignorant, is a life that has been bought with a price. One that was far to high for us to ever hope to pay and one that was costly beyond all measure. We have been redeemed and not only that, but the sin that demanded so high a price is fully and completely done away with. There is no longer any condemnation for those who He has rescued and now find their place in Him.

We are never forsaken, never abandoned or given up to ruin.

God, our God, keeps us. He hears us and He answers us.

Later in his life it is believed that David would once again take up the acrostic poem style of writing and pen Psalm 37 and I wonder if the sorrow and affliction of his circumstances when he wrote this psalm came to his mind?

“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”

Thanks be to God!

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