Psalm 34 is a wisdom psalm that includes a hymn of thanksgiving. This hymn celebrates the Lord’s care for and protection of godly sufferers. It also includes an invitation to wisdom and an exposition of wisdom concerning the Lord’s care for the needy and the suffering of the wicked. Like psalm 25, this psalm is also an acrostic with one verse for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. When we look at the title for this psalm we see that it is connected to David’s time with the Philistines in Gath. The story is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1. The king of the Philistines has two different names. We see Achish in 1 Samuel. Abimilech is most likely a throne name. The experience David had in the city of Gath must have been particularity disturbing. It is quite possible David could have died in this city, but he escaped by pretending to be insane. Afterwards David, who was now safe, wrote this psalm of wisdom and praise in honor of the Lord. The determination of David to praise God is similar to the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Exalt His name together is David’s call for the congregation to join him in praise.
David shared four instructions for his own followers and for us to help keep us out of situations we should not be in so we can live a life that is pleasing to God, and brings him glory. The first of these things is Bless the Lord. This is verses 1-3. David here exhorts the helpless to join him in praise. We see David who was more than ecstatic to be out of Philistine territory…where he shouldn’t have been in the first place…and back in the wilderness with his men. Look at the verbs he has used here, bless, boast, magnify, exalt. And David used the name LORD sixteen times in this psalm of 22 verses. David gave thanks to the Lord by magnifying Him. He gave thanks by exalting His name. David gave thanks by boasting in what the Lord had done in his life. You know, if you have been reading along with us perhaps you have noticed that many of the people we have seen so far in scripture have told others about what the Lord has done in their lives. Maybe we would catch peoples attention if we did the same! David didn’t boast about anything he had done, only what the Lord had done. Many of the Lord’s people David encountered were poor, eeking out a living. But because they believed in the Lord they had everything they needed. For you and I, knowing who we are and whose we are should make us want to lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
The second thing is Seek the Lord. This is verses 4-8. The Lord saves, keeps, and satisfies. David sought the Lord and He saved David from his fears. There is almost a sense of awe and amazement in David’s voice here. We do that as well. We cry out to the Lord and when He answers we are surprised! David here is sharing his experience with answered prayer. It as though David has exclaimed…He heard me!!! Often those who go to the Lord in prayer find themselves transformed. When we seek the Lord in faith, He looks to us and shines upon us. But, if we walk in unbelief, our faces will show shame. The psalmist tells us that those who look to the Lord are radiant. They were transformed like David was, and almost like Moses on Mount Sinai. Once the Lord saves or rescues us, He sends His angels to watch over us and protect us. But the Angel of the Lord is Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity. He made Pre incarnate visits to His people in the Old Testament. David issues an invitation…taste and see that the Lord is good. Taste here doesn’t suggest nibbling or sipping. This is feeding on the Word of the Lord and experiencing all He has for us. Taste and see could be named the center of Biblical mission. The task of Israel was to live in such a way that the surrounding nations would see their abundance and wonder how they could be a part of that. Seeing Israel’s blessings would show them the Lord. Israel knew that in the midst of a host of different pagan gods, they worshiped the One TrueLiving God. Tasting and seeing means knowing the Lord better and enjoying him more. Being delivered from the Philistines at Gath was a huge blessing for David but being protected by the Lord was even better. Even greater still was drawing near to the Lord and enjoying His presence, not just His gifts. David found the Word of the Lord sweet.
The third thing is to Fear the Lord. This is verses 9-16. Fear here is a call to wonder, awe, worship, and reverence. To fear God is to respond to Him out of piety and reverence. Some say that those who fear the Lord need not fear anything else because this is the fear that drives out all fear. Verse 9 is like Matthew 6:33. God has promised to give us what is good for us and to cause all things to work together for good. If we do not receive what we think we need, it probably means it isn’t good for us and we don’t need it at this time. It looks like there was a time when David gathered all the children and youth around him so he could teach them the secret of real living. He took on the role of a wisdom teacher. Peter quoted these verses in 1 Peter 3:10-12. He schooled them that if any of them wanted to live long and prosperous lives they needed to focus on the Lord and not things that are evil. The same goes for us today. In New Testament language those who desire life are looking for the abundant life we find in Jesus Christ. And, like it or not, this has nothing to do with wealth, fame, knowledge, and power. This is about the condition of our hearts.
James cautioned us that if we can control our tongues, we can control the body. Proverbs 21:23 reminds us that whoever guards their mouth and tongue will keep their soul from trouble. Paul cautions us In Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth in love. David knows well the dangers of speaking out of turn and he too reminds people to keep our tongues from speaking evil and our lips from telling lies. He warns them to turn away from evil and do good instead. That means we are to walk away from the things that cause us or tempt us to sin. We are called to be peacemakers and not troublemakers. The three components of wisdom are fearing the Lord, doing good, and rejecting evil. We cannot do this by ourselves. We need the Lord’s help. We live by faith, trusting the Lord to guide us, care for us, and guide us on the right paths.
There is nothing to fear because God’s eyes are on us. This symbolized His care and protection. His ears are listening for our prayers and His face is turned towards those who love Him. The Lord turns away from those who do evil. We see this in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 12. Peter was in prison awaiting execution, the church was praying fervently and king Herod seemed to be having his way. God heard their prayers, saw Peter’s struggles and He delivered Peter. But, He destroyed Herod.
Fourth is Trust the Lord. This is verses 17-22. Like in many other places in scripture, David does not suggest a life of faith guarantees a life of smooth sailing. Being obedient does not provide any kind of an exemption from trouble and struggles. The only promise He made is that He will walk with us through whatever mess we find ourselves in. He will make us a blessing to others, and He will work in and through us to help others. The godly might suffer, but the Lord will reward them in the end. And, the wicked might prosper for a time but ultimately they will perish. The Lord will take care of our physical safety until our work is finished. David writes that the Lord will guard all our bones. This is the Lord’s preservation of the righteous and not a bone is broken. John 19:33-36 shows that the words of this verse were fulfilled in detail in the death of Jesus. Despite the terrible suffering Jesus endured, none of His bones were broken. When the Roman soldiers came to break Jesus legs to hasten His death, they found that He was already dead. God redeemed David just as He had redeemed Israel from Egypt. He is able to redeem us from our troubles too.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W