Scriptures

Psalm 34

Introduction

This is a psalm which speaks about the time when David deliberately pretended to be insane in front of Abimelek so that he could save his life. After this David went and hid in a cave in Adullam and was joined by many others. The background to this event is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1.

We can’t’ tell from our English Bibles, but in Hebrew, we find that each verse begins with another letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Psalms 9-10 / Psalm 25 / Psalm 34 / Psalm 37 / Psalm 111 / Psalm 112 / Psalm 119 / Psalm 145. This psalm is the same, except for the letter waw.

Commentators give many different reasons for some psalms being written in Hebrew alphabetical order, but I personally think it was written this way to make the learning of the psalm easy and easy to memorise.

Heading

‘Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

This psalm tells us it’s a psalm of David written when he pretends to be insane before Abimelek, 1 Samuel 21:10-15. Abimelek was probably a title given to rulers among the Philistines, 1 Samuel 21:10.

‘I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth, my soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.’ Psalm 34:1-3

When I read the opening verse, my first reaction was, that’s one of those lines that people throw at you when you’re going through a tough time. They’re all smiley and telling you how much they appreciate what you’re going through.

Here’s a Scripture to help you along, as they pat you on the back and disappear into the horizon. Leaving you struggling with your situation.

My next reaction was one of, it’s OK for King David, he’s got it made, he can afford to say something like that. He’s the king, he’s running the show, what’s he got to worry about?

Because a couple of Psalms back, in Psalm 32, he’s confessed his sin to God and God’s forgiven him and he gets to keep Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11-12.

David commits adultery with Bathsheba, gets her pregnant, arranges for her husband to be killed in battle and then marries Bathsheba. He’s got everything! Forgiveness, a beautiful wife and incredible wealth. No wonder he can say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth’.

But that’s where ignorance comes in, ignorance of Scripture, and misusing it. You see, the Psalms aren’t in chronological order, yes, Psalm 32 was written when David was King and probably not long after he confessed his sin to God.

But this psalm is about a time when David wasn’t king, in fact, he was a fugitive, a fugitive from King Saul. David has been hit with a double whammy here.

Thinking he would be safe from Saul, he went to Gath, only to find out that he was in as much danger there as he was with Saul. And so, surviving on his wits, he pretends to be crazy and ends up hiding in a cave and it’s from those circumstances that he pens this Psalm, 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1.

He knew it was God who had helped him escape from Saul and Abimelek, a title given to rulers among the Philistines Achish, 1 Samuel 21:10. Because of this, he just praises God continually and encourages others to do the same. A fact that he acknowledges next.

‘I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears’. Psalm 34:4

The same God who helped David escape from evil and destruction then is doing the same for us today. Firstly, He’s providing us with an escape route from sin and legalism, Romans 7:23-25 / Galatians 5:1. Secondly, when we’re tempted to sin and return to our old ways, God is there to help, provided we let Him, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Like David, when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances or tempted to do the wrong thing, we can either do it and sin or we can take up God’s offer of letting Him provide a way out for us.

With David, it was pretending to be mad, I’m not saying we need to do that, but I will say it’s definitely madness to give in to temptation and sin.

‘Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.’ Psalm 34:5-8

This is a man in dire straits, begging and pleading for God to help him. Have there been times like that in your life? Where things are so bad that we just cry out to the Lord and the last thing we want to hear are cheap meaningless clichés from people who don’t understand our circumstances. Especially when we’re wanting answers as to why?

That’s the time we cry out to the Lord, because maybe we’ve tried other things or thought we could manage on our own, when in fact, it’s the Lord we need in our lives. We need to turn it over to Him because He loves us, or as they say in the A.A., ‘we need to let go and let God’.

There’s a big difference between people quoting Scripture at us inappropriately and reading our Bibles and listening to what God has to say to us. God has given us many promises in the Bible, and we need to worship Him by believing these promises He has given us. People might desert us in our hour of pain, God but won’t, and neither will Jesus.

Even though Adam and Eve disappointed God in the beginning, but He still looked after them, Genesis 3:21, and He’s looking after us today, Philippians 4:6 / 1 Peter 5:7. We can do that by regularly praying to God.

If we don’t believe that God answers prayers and helps us with our worries, we need to talk to some people in our congregations. People who regularly pray to God and people who regularly receive answers to their prayers. It might not have been the answer they were looking for, but it was an answered prayer.

David said he was going to bless the Lord at all times and Paul told the Thessalonians to pray at all times, 1 Thessalonians 5:17. The two go hand in hand, read your Bible and take God upon His promises.

‘Fear the LORD, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.’ Psalm 34:9-17

This part of the psalm is an expansion of what David wrote in Psalm 34:3. David tells us that when we turn to God, He will take care of us, Psalm 34:10.

God is going to provide for us, and this is a promise repeated by Jesus in the New Testament, Matthew 6:25-30. God is going to take care of us, He will see to our needs, but remember it doesn’t say that God will meet our greed’s!

In Psalm 34:11, David is telling us what it means to fear the Lord. This is the theme that continues through Psalm 24:12-14. The ideal life, the one God wants us to pursue, has three characteristics to it.

Psalm 34:13 tells us to watch our tongue! Mind our language. The same warning is repeated in the New Testament in James 3:2-10. David says that we make mistakes, everyone does! But that’s no excuse for deliberately swearing or telling smutty jokes and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve heard both in and around this building.

We’re set apart from the world, I hear enough innuendo on the street, I don’t want to hear it at church, and I know many of you feel the same way. Skip the learned phrases and say something meaningful when people are hurting.

That’s the first thing, let’s move on to the second. Psalm 34:14 tells us to do two things and if you want a list of evil things to turn away from, take a moment to read Romans 1:18-31, and Galatians 5:19-26.

The other is about doing good, it’s so easy to do good to those who are our friends or people we like. The Bible commands us not to make any difference, Matthew 5:43-44 / Luke 6:31-33 / Galatians 6:10. The message is, that we do good to everyone, not just those we like.

The third point is, Psalm 34:14, we’re to live in peace with others. This is another command that is found in the New Testament, Romans 14:19 / Hebrews 12:14. This is something that David put into practice, 1 Samuel 25:14-16. We can also find these essential rules for Godly living in 1 Peter 3:10-12 / Colossians 3:8-17.

In conclusion, Psalm 34:18-22, echo the first two verses.

‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.’ Psalm 34:18-22

God looks after us in our hour of need, He will rescue us, He will protect us, and evil people will be judged for their actions, Romans 8:1 / Romans 8:33-37 / 2 Peter 2:4-10. Trust God whilst staying at peace with others and remember to watch the tongue, 2 Kings 2:23-24.

Conclusion

In this psalm, David spoke about blessing and praising God with our mouths. Throughout the Scriptures, we are warned about how we use our tongues, and so we have a choice.

We can use our tongues negatively, we can blame God when we’re tempted to do wrong, James 1:13-14. We can use our tongues like the hypocrites, James 1:26 / Titus 1:16. We use our tongue to express discrimination between rich and poor fellow believers, James 2:1-4.

We can use our tongues to speak unsympathetically to those in need, James 2:15-16. We can use our tongues to boast and use words of flattery, James 3:5 / James 3:14.

We can use our tongues to grumble against each other, James 4:12 / James 5:9. We can use our tongues for swearing and or blaspheming, James 5:12. Our tongues can be used to destroy, Proverbs 12:18 / Proverbs 16:27 / Matthew 12:34-35 / James 3:5-8.

We can also use our tongues positively, we can use our tongues to direct people, Proverbs 18:21 / James 3:4-5. We can use our tongues to delight, Proverbs 13:2 / Proverbs 18:4 / Proverbs 18:20-21 / James 3:19-20. We can use our tongues to praise God, Psalms 148 / Psalm 149 / Psalm 150 / James 3:9.

We can use our tongues to pray to God for wisdom, James 1:5-6, and when we need help in our time of need, James 5:13-16, healing, James 5:14-15, for what we call big requests, James 5:17-18.

We can use our tongue when praying for those who are falling away, James 5:19-20, and for singing praises to Him, Psalm 51:14 / James 5:13.

Go To Psalm 35

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

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