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Psalm 34

Jorine Johnson

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.

The title of this psalm demonstrates the particular situation in which David finds himself in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. According to the Baker Illustrated Commentary, Abimelech is Achish, the Philistine king of Gath (Burge, p, 510). David is fleeing his homeland, his family, friends, and everything he has as he is escaping Saul. So David goes to the land of his enemies to seek safety and refuge. But he is discovered again, so he pretends to be insane so that he is not caught and handed back to Saul. And so David escapes with his life and flees onward. David’s response to the situation leads him to write Psalm 34.

In verses 1-3, David expresses the praise toward God: praise that is continuos and never-ending, boasting or giving credit to the Lord, and magnifying and glorifying the name of God. The reason for David’s praise is evident in verse 4: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” David’s trust and confidence in the Lord is astounding when understanding all that David goes through, but he continues to praise God. The same God who delivers David, is the one who hears all of David’s pleas and prayers, the one who surrounds David with heavenly protection, who saves the righteous, the Lord’s nearness to the brokenhearted, preserves his saints to the end, and is the perfect refuge and safety. Gath may offer some temporary refuge, but the Lord’s refuge is infinitely greater.

And that is why David continues to praise God because he has tasted and seen that the Lord is good, he’s personally encountered the goodness of God, and that is why he says that he lacks nothing. This is incredible because there are many things that David lacks like his family, his homeland, his friends, and the comfort of being safe. 

In 1 Sa 21:11, the servants of the king of Gath report of David’s esteemed position as a warrior and as an enemy of Saul. David could have certainly kept the reputation and possibly been entered into Achish’s service where he could have regained all that he lost such as wealth, position, honor, and a new family. David may have been able to rise to an esteemed position and taken Saul’s kingdom by force and become king which God had already promised. But David doesn’t. He humbles himself, acting insane, waiting for the promises of God to fulfill, and continues to praise God in his present sufferings and afflictions. 

David could have easily been bitter toward God for being on the run and leaving everything he knows behind, but he takes pleasure that God’s purpose for his life is greater, that God’s hand of favor is upon David, and he has not lost the goodness of God which is most important. It is easy to complain and be bitter against God of the things we don’t have, but if we have the attitude of David to praise God because we have something of eternal value: the goodness and pleasure of God who continues to work and advocate for us. 

This is an incredible favor we have as children of God: we experience the goodness of God and that is because of Jesus Christ. We experience the taste, savor, and see the grace and mercy of God in our lives. We should have instead experienced the agony of God’s wrath and justice on the cross, punished for our rebellion, but instead the truly righteous one of God, Jesus, foreshadowed by David in this psalm, suffers on the cross, taking our shame, our afflictions, and our sins. But instead, we taste the goodness of God. And that is the refuge we have in Christ Jesus.

And that is why when we take communion, it is with joy and gratitude. As we eat and taste and see the elements of broken bread and the cup of wine, it reminds of the sweet grace of God at the expense of the broken body of Christ and the shed blood at the cross. 

Truly, our response is the same of David: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
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