August 26: Psalm 34

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Life has its low points for us all and, for David, the events that lay behind this particular psalm rank close to the nadir. The title of the psalm links its composition to the time when David 'pretended to be insane before Abimelech'. On the run from Saul, he sought refuge among the Philistines, only to be driven out by them. This young man who had had such a promising start in life seemed to be on the rocks. Yet this psalm composed in the aftermath of these events is one of amazing exuberance. Circumstances that would have driven others to despair, for David, become the catalyst for praise - one has to ask, 'How so?'

The answer comes in the deliverance God gave him in answer to his cry for help (34.4). He goes on to describe in detail just how precious that deliverance was: speaking on the one hand of the depths into which he felt himself sinking, the desperation of his prayer for rescue and the joy of God's answer to that prayer. And far from being some private expression of praise, David's concern is to give public testimony to all God has proved himself to be and so invite others to put him to the test and discover it for themselves. The climax of what he says comes when he declares, 'Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him' (34.8). 

Two thoughts emerge from the broad sweep of what David says in this psalm. One is that for God's people to really discover the depths of God's goodness, it often means they are taken to the depths of suffering. Indeed, at times they are taken beyond their limits to places where they feel there is nowhere else to turn. But through it all 'The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry' (34.14) and 'The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and he delivers them' (34.7). For believers, in every troubled situation in life there is an unseen presence and a powerful hand that guarantees their protection.

The other observation is the fact that God's deliverances are never merely for private consumption. What God is to us and does for us as individuals is for the benefit of others. In part to bring God praise and honour; but in part also that those with whom we come in contact might learn through God's dealings with us - hence, 'Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord' (34.11).

As always in all the psalms, the melodic line that joins them all most perfectly together is the way they lead us to Christ and this psalm is no exception. David's great assertion that, 'A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken' (34.20) brings us face to face with the darkest experience of the Man of perfect righteousness and the way he proved it true.

Posted August 26, 2010 @ 10:21 AM by Mark Johnston

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