A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Psalm 34
The Psalms are a sanctuary where God dwells, where we can go to in times of trouble, times of celebration, times of uncertainty, and times where we need to experience the nearness of God. They teach how to express emotions that are grounded in faith. They don’t teach us to suppress our emotions but simply discipline them.
Psalm 34 is a psalm of David that recalls one of the most difficult seasons of his life.
It refers to the time in 1 Samuel 21:10-15 when David was fleeing from Saul who was his greatest enemy. So desperate to get away from Saul he fled to the land of Gath to seek asylum from the Philistine king, Abimelech. The Philistines had a serious history with Israel and David. Gath had been the home of Goliath, the Philistine warrior and champion whom David had killed years before. On his way to Gath David stopped in Nob where the priest Ahimelech lived. David needed a weapon to protect himself so he asked Ahimelech “do you have a sword or spear,” and Ahimelech told him that the only weapon he had was Goliath’s old sword which David took with him.
He arrived in Gath and went to King Achish (Abimelech) whose servants reminded him of the song they used to sing about David: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” In other words, this is the David who killed Goliath. David immediately realized his mistake in seeking asylum so he pretended to be insane doing crazy things, spittle running down his beard, and dancing around like a crazy man.
His ruse worked and the king responds, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence?” 1 Samuel 21:14-15.
So, David escaped Gath and hid in the cave of Adullam. This is the story behind this psalm. David running for his life, and unwisely thinking he could go to Gath with Goliath’s sword to find asylum there. Gath proved to be a deathtrap, but David escaped certain death and found himself alone in the cave Adullam with no idea what his future held.
Psalm 34 is David’s response to these events, and it is a response that sees beyond his trials to the God who is always present in his trials.
Psalm 34 is not about “David’s” experience but about God’s faithfulness to his children. It is a testimony of God’s goodness to David, and the key passage in this psalm is 34:8 – “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
David describes God’s goodness in four sections:
1. A Hymn of Praise
[Read Psalm 34:1-3]
It’s very likely that David wrote this psalm while alone in the cave of Adullam. Even in the midst of all the trouble swirling around him his perspective is one of looking up not in.
In verse 1, David speaks of blessing the Lord “at all times,” and praising God “continually. Surrounded by enemies, living in constant danger, and finding himself alone David remains undeterred in his commitment to praise God at every moment.
Pastor and scholar, James Boice, comments, “He may have been hiding in a dismal cave, but his psalm tells us that in his heart he was hiding in the Lord.”
Even in the midst of unimaginable trials, David writes, “Let the humble hear and be glad.” The humble don’t accuse of God of wrongdoing by thinking they know better; they trust his providence even when it’s dark.
Verse 3 shows us the believer’s ultimate task of every believer in every situation: “Oh, magnify the Lord, let us exalt his name together.”
2. A Testimony of Grace
[Read Psalm 34:4-10]
In 34:6 David describes himself as a “poor” man. Apart from knowing Christ, who isn’t poor? He describes himself this way because at this time in his life he had nothing. With enemies all around he finds himself alone in a dismal cave.
This is a psalm for anyone who finds himself/herself at their lowest point in life like David, and also like David they have an enduring testimony of God’s grace because he is always near in Christ. His nearness brings light to our darkness, his presence calms our fears, his forgiving grace removes our shame, his deliverance will come to pass, and all who look to him – who (fear) revere him can be confident that he is protecting them.
This vivid testimony of God’s grace in David’s life is also ours in Christ.
- I sought the Lord and he answered me – four times in this Psalm David takes comfort in God’s eagerness to hear his prayers and answer them – 34:4, 6, 15, 17, and yet even as he is aware that the Lord hears his prayers he knows it does not mean it will always change his difficult trials.
- But he delivers us from all our fears. 34:4
- He will make his face to shine upon us – 34:5 (Numbers 6:24-26).
- He will save the poor man out of all his troubles 34:6
- He will send his angels to protect us – 34:7
- All these things are a taste of God’s goodness towards his children, and this is exactly how David describes his relationship with the Lord.
- Taste the goodness of the Lord, find refuge in him – 34:8
- 34:9-10 – Even the strongest suffer apart from the Lord, but his saints will never lack if as seek him.
He knows the Lord and knows that he is good. We have tasted the goodness of the Lord through the gospel as the writer in Hebrews 2:9 tells us; he tasted death for us, and in our place, he gave his life.
David’s circumstances did not change nor did the danger he was in, but God did deliver him from the hand of Saul and Achish, and his grim circumstances did change. God preserved him, not withholding any good from him. A testimony of grace.
3. A Sermon for Life
[Read Psalm 34:11-14]
David’s sermon reads like a chapter in Proverbs. Short bursts of eternal truths to help direct our hearts towards the Lord. The theme of Proverbs 1-9 is all about the fear of the Lord. Not terror because of God’s wrath and judgment, for that has been removed by Christ, but a holy reverence, a holy view of God’s holiness that we are to imitate. Here in Psalm 34 David doesn’t just describe an emotion or attitude of fear but the actions a believer is to take:
- 34:11 – Listen to the Lord for he is speaking to us through his word.
- 34:12 – The good you desire goes hand in hand with the good you do.
- 34:13 – How you speak matters because it reveals what is in your heart
- 34:14 – Turn away from evil, do good, seek peace and pursue peace. Prefer peace, promote peace by seeking after God, and by seeking the good of others.
4. A Summary of Promises
[Read Psalm 34:15-22]
In a cave, on the run, and unsure of what tomorrow may bring, David summarizes his relationship with God. Regardless of his circumstances he recounts the promises and providences that the Lord has brought into his life.
In verse 15 we see that God is always watching and listening. Charles Spurgeon writes, “His children are so dear to them he can never take his eyes off of them. He watches each of them as carefully and intently as if there were only that one creature in the universe.”
In verse 16 we are reminded that God is not indifferent to sinners. Verse 17 shows that God is near when we cry for help. And on he goes, meditating on the faithfulness of God.
David sees the faithfulness of God in his life through deliverance, and we see the gospel of Christ in our deliverance, but those who reject Jesus will be condemned while those who trust him and take refuge in him will not be condemned. For us the ultimate fulfillment of these promises is the gospel. David experienced the goodness of God in his deliverance, but the ultimate deliverance is from eternal punishment due to us for our sins, and for that deliverance we must look to Jesus Christ.
David wonderfully declares that God’s servants will be redeemed. How does the Lord redeem his servants? Through the death and resurrection of his son, the incarnate Christ. Why will we not be condemned? Because Jesus has taken that condemnation in our place.
This psalm is David’s hymn of praise for God delivering him, but deliverance is one thing, and freedom from a trouble-free life is another. Psalm 34 is an old-fashioned road map that show us how to navigate our way as exiles in a hostile world to Bunyan’s celestial city.
A Song of Response