Psalm 34: a thankgiving poem
Psalm 34 Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left. (1) I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. (2) I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. (3) Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. (4) I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (5) Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (6) This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. (7) The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (8) Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (9) Fear the LORD, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. (10) The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. (11) Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. (12) Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, (13) keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. (14) Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (15) The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; (16) but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. (17) The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. (18) The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (19) The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; (20) he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (21) Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. (22) The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
This is a psalm of Thanksgiving. Good timing as I write this.
Are you thankful this week? I am trying to count my blessings, as I’m sure you are as well. These are tough times. Yet there have always been tough times, and God has always been faithful to see His children through them. In fact, there is evidence that David penned this Psalm of Thanksgiving from a cave.
But first . . .
I want to share a couple of things here that I’ve learned while researching this week, and these things blow my mind. Every time I open and study His Word, He teaches me something new.
Let’s talk about headings, or inscriptions as Bible scholars call them.
Psalm 34 Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left. NIV
First of all, if you’ve read the Old Testament, you know there is more than one Philistine king named Abimelek (or Abimelech), read Moses’s account of Genesis 20 & 26. The actual name of the king in this story of David (1 Samuel 21-22) is Achish. Abimelek is a term applied to a number of Philistine kings during Old Testament days, like Pharoah or Caesar- meaning something like, my father king or father king or royal father.
Secondly, a question. Are these titles the inspired Word of God as the body of the psalm is? Were they original to the psalm or written in later on? It’s probably not a surprise that the answer is debated. Also, there are two different psalm headings to consider- authorship/historical/life event (like above NIV) or a title that summarizes main idea (below in ESV).
Psalm 34 Taste and See that the LORD is Good. Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away. ESV
These differences can help to better understand the Word. Here’s an interesting article from the Bible scholar and pastor, Dr. Bill Barrick, for more information.
But he says this in summary,
The psalm inscriptions are ancient, authoritative, and accurate. The evidence supports their inspiration. We must preserve them, correctly apportion them to their respective psalms, read them privately and publicly, and expound them as we do when they occur in the Old Testament outside the Psalter.Dr. Bill Barrick, Bible scholar, http://www.dr.barrick.org
There are times in the Bible where the inscriptions are referred to elsewhere in the text. Here is just one of those times,
Then Jesus presented them with a question. "Why is it," he asked, "that the Messiah is said to be the son of David? For David himself wrote in the book of Psalms: 'The LORD said to my Lord, sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.' Luke 20:41-43 NLT
Jesus is speaking of Psalm 110 which has this inscription:
Psalm 110 Of David. A psalm.
David signed Psalm 110, Jesus said he did in fact write it. Inspired.
Now let’s head back to the Thanksgiving Praise from a cave: Psalm 34.
As recorded in 1 Samuel 21:1–22:1, David while running for his life from king Saul found himself in the Philistine city of Gath. Remember: king Saul had tried to kill David three times already, and David fled for his life. He stopped at the tabernacle in Nob where he was so hungry that he ate the bread consecrated for the Lord. Goliath’s sword, which David used to remove the giant’s head, was apparently on display in this temple in Nob. The sword would rightfully be David’s, and the priest gave it to him. He strapped it on his back and ended up in Gath.
Gath was Goliath’s hometown. What in the world was he thinking? Desperation . . . plus may be a bit crazy? Maybe he was feeling like giving up?
David escaped death at the hands of Achish by acting crazy. David ran back to Israel to the Cave of Adullam where he writes this psalm as a praise and a thanksgiving to the Lord for His provision and His faithfulness.
David speaks nothing of Achish or the sword or of being in the cave, he just sings to the Lord.
Although the gratitude of the psalmist prompted him thankfully to record the goodness of the Lord in vouchsafing an undeserved deliverance, yet he weaves none of the incidents of the escape into the narrative, but dwells only on the grand fact of his being heard in the hour of peril.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Was he also encouraging the others around him? Reminding them not to lose hope? They are in a cave, in hiding, afraid. But David has a story to tell, about how God is present and watching over them!
David wrote an acrostic poem here. The first letter of each line follows the Hebrew alphabet (minus one letter for some reason). This aided in memorization.
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. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! Psalm 34:1-3 ESV
It is a Call to Worship, to remember God’s faithfulness, and to praise Him. Always. “Let everything that comes out of my mouth be of praise to the Lord.”
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 ESV
David had done a stupid thing by strapping that sword onto his back and walking into the enemy’s castle, but God still delivered him. Here’s the thing; God is a good Father, and He saw David through this encounter despite his foolishness. He feels the same way about you and me.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Psalm 34:5-7 NLT
David probably wasn’t feeling too good about drooling and moaning in front of the king of Gath. It was probably a low moment for him, took his pride down a few notches.
But with God on his side, nothing else mattered. Not his choices. Not his fears. Not his pride.
David knew God was with him. Did David believe there was angel with him? Or did he believe God Himself as the “angel of the Lord” was standing guard?
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the LORD, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing. Psalm 34:8-10 NLT
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Some believe that the God of the universe is unknowable. Too big. Too vast. Too unapproachable. Have you seen Him? Have you heard His voice? Have you tasted of the goodness of the Lord?
God has made it possible for men to know whether or not his word is true. The person who receives it, obeys it, and trusts its promises will shortly come to know, “Whom he has believe,” having “tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5), and as Peter said, “Ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (1 peter 2:3).Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
Taste and believe. Seek the Lord; fear the Lord and have all that you need (even within a cave). Even the strongest of lions (maybe there were lions prowling around at night, or maybe he refers to his fighting men as the strong, young lions) get hungry and need the Lord.
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Psalm 34:10b
This is the Good News. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Share this, especially with those closest to us. When we seek the Lord, He will give us all that we need.
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:11-19 ESV
An acrostic psalm is meant to be memorized, and these words were written to be passed on. Can’t you just picture the cave and the firelight, and the people gathered around as they learned these words?
And finally, the words of verse 20 are fulfilled in John 19:
He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Psalm 34:20 ESV These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced." John 19:26-27
In New Testament times, Roman soldiers would break the legs of the dying prisoner to hasten death on the cross. When the soldiers walked toward Jesus to do the same, He was already dead.
Why do you think God fulfills these Old Testament words, if it’s not to reassure you and I of His faithfulness?
Calamity will surely destroy the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. But the LORD will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34:21-22 NLT
Take refuge in the Lord.
To Take Refuge: to seek protection or shelter from some source of danger or hardship in something or some place; to hide in something; to seek safety or the comfort of being safe in something.
The name of the LORD is strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10
Father in heaven, we thank you for your faithfulness to all generations. We thank you for your love and protection. Teach us to take refuge in you; to seek you in all that we do. Thank you for this psalm and what we can learn from it. May the words of this thanksgiving poem seep into our hearts so that we desire more and more of you. We love you. Amen.