Psalm 34: A Thanksgiving Poem
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 for us.
Are you thankful this week? I am trying to count my blessings, as I'm sure you are 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!!!
I want to share a couple of things here that I've learned while researching this week, and these things blow my mind! God is good, my friends. Every time I open and really study His Word, He teaches me something new. I love that so much.
Let's talk about headings, or inscriptions, as Bible scholars call them.
When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek,
who drove him away, and he left.
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 in Genesis 20 and 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, kind of like Pharaoh or Caesar. Interesting. And it means something like; my father king or father king or royal father (James Gill, English pastor, 1679-1771).
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 this 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 (see below for both on this psalm).
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.
To me, these differences help me to better understand the Word. To me, if I'm reading a translation of the Bible that I know to be trustworthy, then these words ARE of God.
Here's an interesting article from the late Bible scholar and pastor, Dr. Bill Barrick.
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."
Finally, as Dr. Barrick mentioned, there are times in the Bible where the inscriptions are referred to elsewhere in the text. Here is just one of those times, and I feel like I need say no more:
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:
Of David. A psalm.
David signed Psalm 110, Jesus said he did in fact write it. Wow.
Inspired for sure.
Now let's head back to the Thanksgiving Praise from a Cave: Psalm 34.
"A fugitive from Saul, David went to the Philistine city of Gath but found no refuge there and narrowly escaped. Those events are recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1. Following that, David went to the cave of Adullam where many desperate men joined him. This joyful and wise psalm seems to have been written from that cave, and sung in the presence of those men."
--Pastor David Guzik
At this point, King Saul had tried to kill David three times. David fled for his life, probably had his three fighting men with him, as I assume they never left his side. He stopped at the tabernacle at Nob where he was so hungry that he ate the bread consecrated to the Lord (but that is a story for a different time). Goliath's sword (which he himself used to remove the giant's head, remember?) was apparently on display there. The priest gave the sword to David, as it was probably rightly his anyways; David strapped the thing on his back and left.
What did David do then? He went to Goliath's hometown, Gath! With that sword strapped to his back! What in the world was he thinking? Desperation....plus maybe a little bit crazy? Maybe feeling like giving up?
David escapes death at the hand's of Achish and goes back to Israel to the Cave of Adullam. David 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 a 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."
Was he also encouraging the others around him? Reminding them not to lose hope?
After all, he wrote an acrostic poem (the first letter of each line follows the Hebrew alphabet minus one letter for some reason). This aided in memorization. David's escaped from Saul and from Gath, and he is now surrounded by his loved ones and those loyal to him, and he pens this song of Thanksgiving. And the people memorized it.
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!
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. (V4 ESV)
David had done a stupid thing by strapping that sword onto his back and walking into the enemies castle, but God still delivered him! Do you ever just feel embarrassed about yourself, the way you act over and over again, or how you keep doing that one thing that you truly despise about yourself? Here's the thing; God doesn't see it that way. God 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.
I'm pretty sure David wasn't feeling too good when he had to drool and moan in front of the king of Gath. I'm pretty sure that was 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, but he always KNEW God was actually with him!
"David's protection was real, even if it was invisible. He could not see the angelic presence around him, but it was real. Many times in the Old Testament, the angel of the LORD was an actual material appearance of Yahweh Himself (as in Judges 13). We don't know if David meant an angelic being sent by God, or God Himself present with the believer. Both are true."
--Pastor David Guzik
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. (V8-10 NLT)
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Don't just take my word for it! Some believe that God is unknowable, they can never truly know if He exists. But I don't believe that. Have you touched God? Have you seen Him? Have you heard His voice? Have you tasted 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 believed,' 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 and scaring them, 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.
Oh, that we should be sharing this Good News with everyone we meet. We should especially be sharing this with our families and our children and grandchildren. 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 affliction of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
An acrostic psalm is meant to be memorized, and these words were written to be passed on, for sure. Can't you just picture the cave and the firelight and the people gathered around as they learned these words?
"David's instruction of his men at the cave of Adullam was very much in light of the Old Covenant, by which he and the rest of Israel related to God. Under the New Covenant, God's blessing is in Jesus Christ and received by faith, not only by our own obedience."
--Pastor David Guzik
The righteous person faces many troubles, but the LORD comes to the rescue each time. (V19 NLT)
"Broken hearts think God far away, when he is really most near them; their eyes are holden so that they see not their best friend."
"Our Lord himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and he is the ever ready comforter and Saviour of those whose hearts have been broken by the soul's tragic encounter with the wicked world in which we live."
--James Burton Coffman, American pastor, 1905-2006
My friends, the words of verse 20 are fulfilled in John 19:
He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. (V20 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: 36-27
In New Testament times, Romans soldiers would break the legs to hasten death of the one being crucified. Soldiers walked toward Jesus to do the same; only to see He was already passed. Why do you think God fulfills these Old Testament Words if it's not to reassure you and I of His faithfulness and His control?
"A pagan roman action fulfilled a king of Israel's prophecy."
--Pastor Sandy Adams.
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. (V21-22 NLT)
Take refuge in the Lord this week.
To take refuge in: 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 a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your faithfulness to all generations. We thank you for your love and protection; for our salvation; for your Word; for your Son. Teach us this week to take refuge in you; to seek you in all that we do. Thank you for this psalm and what we can learn for it. May the words of the Thanksgiving poem seep into our hearts so that we desire more and more of you. In your will, heal our world, protect our loved ones, strengthen your church. We love you. Amen.