Psalm 34

Psalm 34 makes some incredible claims of the Lord’s protection, but how do we square them with reality?

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Intro: Psalm 34 teaches us the way we ought to praise the Lord after he delivers us from trials and how naturally, we are lead to tell others to do the same.  It reminds us that the Lord provides for those who believe in him.

Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Main Point: The 6 stanza psalm is one that is written with great excitement, and enthusiasm. David, fresh from his deliverance by the Lord,  begins to tell the world of his commitment to praise the Lord for his kindness (vs 1-3). He then tells us of his particular predicament and the way the Lord was faithful to him (1-7). Next David does what should come natural to us when we are rescued – he ask others to see the goodness and kindness of his rescuer. David asks us to do more than to simply see the goodness of the Lord he wants us to experience His goodness. This is why he asks us to “taste” and see that the Lord is good. That is why he offers to teach the little children. It is not enough to merely take notice, we must experience the Lord (8-14).  David finishes out the psalm by reminding us of the promises of the Lord for those who trust in Him (15-22).

David’s message to us: Praise the Lord because He hears our prayers and will deliver us in our times of trouble. Experience the Lord; don’t just observe from afar. The Lord is good to those who fear Him, so praise Him.

Interesting Points: While this Psalm in English can simply look as if it was written with excitement, it was also written with a great deal of thought. This psalm is an acrostic, and each line starts with a successive letter of the hebrew alphabet. That takes a good bit of planning to do.

The prescript on this psalm ties it to an interesting story that can be found here. David had fled to a Philistine king out of fear of what Saul was going to do to him. It seems, according to that narrative, that some of Abimelech’s advisors were telling him to deal harshly with David. So David acted like he was insane (foaming at the mouth included)  in order for the King to leave him alone and send him out of his presence. The plan, as crazy (no pun intended) as it sounds, actually worked.  This psalm was written out of that experience and exhilaration of his deliverance. Let’s face it, you have to be pretty desperate for your best plan to include foaming at the mouth.

I love that David properly sees his position before the Lord, when he states “this poor man cried.” Now David certainly was not a great position when he wrote this psalm. He was probably in a cave somewhere hiding for his life. While it is important for us to remember that David wasn’t a king yet, it is even better for us all to remember our poor position before the Lord. There is nothing that we have that we have created or made for ourselves. There isn’t anything that we have that the Lord did not bless us with. Our works do not and cannot gain us favor with God. We are all poor men and must come humbly before the Lord.

I love the line “those who look upon (the Lord) will have radiant faces.” I immediately think of Moses when he came down off  the mountain after speaking with the Lord. I also think of Jesus words that we are to be the light of the world. My wife reminded me this morning of how the moon reflects the light of the sun. We similarly reflect the glory and light of the Lord wherever we go.  Of all the great believers that I know, I can truly say there is a brightness that shines from their faces. It shines all the brighter when they speak of their Lord.

There is so much imagery here that I could write for pages and pages.   Although I won’t, I do want to deal with a couple of issues that were hard for me to come to grips with as I was preparing to write this psalm.

In verses 15-22 David makes some pretty amazing statements about the Lord’s protection for those who love him. If they are true, they are radical and a great comfort for us today. But I think for many of us these verses can be difficult because we see so much that seems to contradict them. I won’t go in depth here because I think if you have been around long enough you know someone who has placed their faith in the Lord and has suffered great tragedy. This is what has caused me a delay in writing this blog entry. How do we make this Scripture and reality fit together?

That is a little bit of larger task than I have room and time for right now. So I will leave you with a couple of thoughts.

First, Jesus taught us that “Man shall not live by bread alone but upon every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Even though we may go hungry, we are still fed and our souls are nourished. (Thank you Amy for another insight this morning.)

Second, even this psalm itself acknowledges the difficulty of this life when David writes in  verse 19, “Many are the affliction of the righteous.” This psalm isn’t proclaiming an easy life for the believer.

Also, the Lord is near to us when the disaster strikes. We see this in verse 18 where David teaches us that, “the Lord is near the brokenhearted.”  So again here we see that the Lord doesn’t promises a trouble free life, but he does promise to be there to comfort us through our troubles. He is close to us in our distress. Jesus, our Lord, has promised to never leave or forsake us.  In actuality, it is almost like we are closer to him when we go through these times of trouble.

Often the Lord uses these trials for our benefit. See James 1, and Romans 5.

Last, but certainly not all that could be said here, is the Lord’s promise to not condemn us and to redeem our lives (v. 22) will be fulfilled when the Lord returns and this world comes to an end. Whether or not David was looking forward to the afterlife when he wrote this is a debate for another day. But as Christians we can certainly look to these Scriptures and say with confidence that though we may die, we shall live forever with him.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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