Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Psalm 34

A Poor Man’s Legacy
Psalm 34

 “The heading claims that the psalm was written at the time when David was in the land of the Philistines, was staying at the court of the king, and was under suspicion for his pro-Israelite attitude” (Leupold, p. 278).  

“David was fleeing from his great enemy, King Saul, and his circumstances seemed to be so desperate that he left his own land and went to the coastal area of the Philistines to seek asylum with Achish, the king of Gath. David must have felt extremely desperate, because Gath had been the home of Goliath, the Philistine champion whom he had killed years before. Just before going to Gath he had received Goliath’s sword from Ahimelech, one of the priests of Nob. We can suppose that the very sight of the sword must have been an offense to the Philistines.   Moreover, David seems to have been in danger, because the story says that he was so much afraid of Achish that he pretended to be a madman in his presence, making meaningless marks on the gates of the city and letting salvia run down his beard… Most commentators believe that this was a sad episode in David’s life, since he obviously had failed to trust God to protect him from Saul and was relying on his own cunning instead… David nevertheless did cry out for help and was delivered… In 1 Samuel we are told that he escaped from Gath and fled to the cave of Adullam, where the psalm may have been written” (Boice, p. 293).

This psalm is quoted twice in the New Testament. Verses 12-16 are quoted by Peter as a promise of God’s blessing for those who live a godly life (1 Peter 3:10-12). And verse 20 is quoted by John as having been fulfilled at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:36).

An Invitation To Praise God

34:1 The statement “at all times”, in this context means, even in the most desperate and perilous of times. Compare with 1 Thess. 5:18, and Romans 8:28,37. “David’s fortunes were now at the lowest ebb. He had fled from the court of Saul on finding that Saul was determined to put him to death. He had hoped to find a safe refuge with Achish, but had been disappointed. He was on the point of becoming a fugitive and an outlaw, a dweller in dens and caves of the earth (1 Samuel 22:1). He had as yet no body of followers” (P.P. Comm., pp. 254-255). Yet, even in such a situation, David was determined to praise God for His goodness. David was prepared to praise God even when he was in fear of his life. “He may have acted like a fool, but he was not so foolish as to neglect praise of Him who was His only true wisdom. He may have been hiding in a dismal cave, but his psalm tells us that in his heart he was hiding in the Lord” (Boice, p. 294)

34:2 David realizes Who had delivered him. He calls attention to what God has done rather than boastfully pointing to his own works and accomplishments. Personally, David had made a very poor showing in Gath, yet David rejoices in what God has done for him. Here is pure joy in God’s deliverance, however poor our own showing. David had fallen on his face, but still rejoiced that God had delivered him. Do we get so caught up in our failures that we can’t see where God has helped us? “The person who has experienced God’s mercy naturally looks to others to praise God with him. Corporate worship is one of the natural instincts of the new life of Christ in God’s people” (Boice, p. 294). The humble or the meek hear David’s praise, and they naturally rejoice. Because the humble have experienced many of life’s frustrations, they have been brought low in their own esteem by life’s adversities. They rejoice when great and talented men like David have learned to place their confidence in God, rather than in their own abilities.

34:3 The godly must share their praise with others. To “magnify” the Lord is to proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:10; Psalm 48). “David’s invitation for us to worship is no call to bland, sterile formalism but rather to verbal, public, personal praise” (Williams, p. 255)

David’s Experience

“If the sequence in verses 2 and 3 was in essence, ‘I have reason to praise Him; join me’, here it is, ‘This was my experience; it can be yours’” (Kidner, p. 139).

34:4 To seek the Lord is not merely to trust in Him, but to fly to Him, and make our requests of Him in our troubles (1 Peter 5:7). David knows what fear is like. “The ‘fears’ pertain to the horrid experiences in life as well as the dread of the unknown” (Gaebelein, p. 283). David does not credit his ingenuity displayed before the king of Gath as the means of his deliverance. How often do we allow fear to keep us from doing something? (Revelation 21:8) In this psalm we can find the courage to do the right thing, in spite of our fears.

34:5 Like David, those who trust in God, and seek Him, radiate confidence and joy. Faith in God changes our personal attitude, even in difficult situations. Instead of being ashamed or intimidated, the faithful are confident (Romans 8:37). Placing our trust in God isn’t some form of mental gymnastics or a vain exercise (Psalm 22:5; Romans 5:5; 9:33; 1 John 2:28). 

34:6 “This poor man”: “Remembering how desperate his plight, and how weak he himself was, he designates himself, ‘Here is a poor man who cried’” (Leupold, p. 280). “So this is a psalm for poor men — and poor women too. It is a psalm for all who are alone or destitute — for you, if you have nothing at all or are not even sure that you will live long. It is for people who find themselves at the absolute low point in life, which is where David was. Or find themselves between a rock, which in this case was King Saul, and a hard place, which was King Achish. It is for you when everything seems against you” (Boice, pp. 294-295).  

34:7 What comforting words!  The “angel of the Lord” is the medium which God often used in the Old Testament to speak to the patriarchs and accompany the Hebrews to Canaan (Genesis 18; 24:7; Exodus 3:21; 14:19). Angels were often used to deliver or protect the righteous (1 Kings 19:5ff; Daniel 6:22; Acts 5:19-20; Acts 12). During trials we may feel all alone and vulnerable, but read 2 Kings chapter 6:14-18. 

34:8 This passage is quoted in 1 Peter 2:3. This verses encourages others to try God out. “I found Him to be good,” says David. “He delivered me from all my fears and enemies, and provided for me too. I want you to experience His provision as I have”. God exhorts us to put Him to the test of experience. If we will only place our trust in Him, we will find by experience that He is faithful, His laws are good and His lifestyle is refreshing (Matthew 11:28-30). There is really no other way of knowing how good God is“In essence the writer challenges the skeptic to put to the test what he affirms about God by fearing and serving Jehovah. The one who will ‘taste’ (experience the righteous life that the author commends) will inevitably ‘see’ (fully realize and appreciate) the gracious nature of Jehovah” (Southwest Lectures, pp. 203-204)

34:10 “Those who are naturally strong and self-sufficient like ‘young lions’ do not have the guarantee of safety that is characteristic of those who seek the Lord” (Leupold, p. 281). “In God’s creation even the strongest suffer want for a time, and have no remedy; His human creatures need never be in want” (P.P. Comm., p. 255). “It is not an empty promise of affluence but an assurance of His responsible care” (Kidner, p. 140). Compare with Deuteronomy 6:24; 8:3. 

Learn From My Experience

34:11 “The teacher addresses also the younger members of the community” (Gaebelein, p. 284). The first lesson in the school of wisdom/godliness is respect for God (Proverbs 1:7). “The summons to be as children includes accepting the authority of the teacher, submitting to his teaching, and being open and ready to learn. Only one who has been taught by the Lord can teach others. Since David knows the fear of the Lord, he can teach the fear of the Lord from what God has shown him through his own experiences” (Williams, p. 258)

34:12 “Who is the man”: “After the invitation to instruction, David projects a call for the person who is ready to receive it… This description is also motivational. It is as if David asks, ‘Do you want to live long and well?’ Most of us do, of course. ‘Then hear this’” (Williams, p. 258). “The lessons of this part of the psalm are chiefly that the true good is to be in accord with God. It is the answer to the hardest times (19) and to the most ultimate questions (21)” (Kidner, p. 140). David desires that others would come to know and enjoy the service of God which produces a long and happy life (Ephesians 6:1-3; Psalm 128:1-2).

34:13 The “good life” is conditional. The “good” that you will enjoy goes hand in hand with the “good” that you will do. “Since God is true we are to walk in the truth. Fearing Him, we are to be subject to His truth. Or, to put it another way, out of our awe and reverence for God we are to be so secure that we fear no man — and thus we will tell the truth… When we come to love God’s truth, we will hate the devil’s lies” (Williams, p. 259)

34:14 We must also depart, forsake, and shun evil, and then actively pursue what is truly good and peaceful. “It is an emphasis which answers the suspicion (first aroused in Eden) that outside the will of God, rather than within it, lies enrichment. David in his early days lived by the principles of these verses and urged them, as here, on others (1 Samuel 24:7; 26:9,23), at least in his attitude toward Saul; and 1 Peter 3:10-12 quotes our verses 12-16 in a similar setting, which is one of provocation and persecution” (Kidner, p. 141). “The double statement (‘seek’ and ‘follow after’) indicates that all such virtues must be cultivated, not halfheartedly, but with a certain assiduousness (dedication)” (Leupold, p. 282)

How God Will Respond?

“Scripture always goes beyond the half-truth that goodness is its own reward” (Kidner, p. 141). God takes the prayers of the righteous very seriously. This verse presents a very balanced view of life, “pointing to the deliverance God provides for those who fear him but not overlooking the fact that, in spite of God’s favor, the righteous nevertheless do frequently suffer in this life. David himself had troubles; the psalm is a hymn of praise to God for delivering him out of them. So becoming a Christian does not mean a trouble-free existence… The fear of the Lord is indeed the foundation of life, the key to joy in life, and long and happy days. But it is not a guarantee that life will be always easy. It may mend the broken heart, but it does not prevent the heart from being broken; it may restore the spiritually crushed, but it does not crush the forces that may create oppression. Deliverance is one thing. Exemption from trouble is another” (Boice, p. 298)

34:16 While God is wanting all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), and gives sinners many opportunities to repent, God does oppose those who persist in sin (Romans 2:1-5). Those who do evil, live under the wrath of God (John 3:36; Romans 1:18). “If we refuse to live this way He will turn from us… If He does not remember us, we will be forgotten, driven away like the chaff (Psalm 1:4)” (Williams, p. 261). Rather than offering a receptive ear to the wicked, God will actually turn His back on them (Jeremiah 18:17), for they have chosen to be His enemies (James 4:4). “The plight of the wicked is put in an equally personal form, in terms of the unwelcoming face of God. We can be left utterly and absolutely outside — repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored” (Kidner, p. 141)

34:18 Of particular value to God is the heart of someone who has been crushed and humbled to the point of sincere repentance before God (Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:4; Isaiah 57:15; 66:2). God loves and is near to those who completely place their trust in Him, who realize that they cannot live this life without God. This is the same idea that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). 

34:20 The expression, “He keeps all his bones”, seems to mean that God can protect the entire man. God promises to protect the whole person. “Verse 20 needs to be taken with 18, which admits that a godly man’s suffering may be extreme; yet God never takes it lightly (18a), and never loses control (20)” (Kidner, p. 141).

34:21 “Evil shall slay the wicked”: “His own misconduct shall bring destruction upon the wicked man” (P.P. Comm. p. 257). No man or woman can participate in evil and not end up becoming a slave and servant of the evil they are practicing (John 8:34; 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Peter 2:19). God will condemn those who hate His people.

34:22 The word “condemned” infers that God will condemn those who don’t place their trust in Him (2 Thess. 1:7-9). “All would do well to reflect upon both the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22; Numbers 14:18)” (Southwest Lectures, p. 207)

Mark Dunagan  |
Beaverton Church of Christ  |  503-644-9017