Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 31 2019 - Psalm 34 – God answered my cry

The heading to this psalm suggests that it was written by David, "when he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left." The incident is recorded in 1 Samuel 21, though the name of the king of Gath mentioned there is Achish. It would seem that Abimelech (a word meaning "my father is king") was a dynastic title of the Philistine kings, rather like "Pharaoh" was a title of the kings of Egypt.

David was not Israel's king at this time. King Saul had tried to kill David because he was jealous of his success in fighting against the Philistines and of the acclaim he was receiving from the Israelites. So David fled from Saul armed only with the sword that had belonged to Goliath. Paradoxically, and perhaps foolishly, David sought refuge in the Philistine city of Gath, Goliath's home town. He hoped that since Saul and Achish were at war and Saul was now seeking his life, he would find a safe refuge in Gath.

Unsuprisingly, David's plan backfired. The king's servants reminded him of the Israelite chant, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands" – tens of thousands of Philistines! David knew that his life was in danger and so he pretended to be insane. In this way he was allowed to leave Gath unharmed. This is the psalm of praise and thanksgiving he wrote as a result.

Psalm 34 is an acrostic psalm, that is to say, each verse begins with sequential letters of the Hebrew alphabet – which consists of 22 letters. It was constructed with great care as well as expressing a great theme.

David provides us with his personal testimony, "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears… This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles." (vv. 4, 6). But David is not boasting of personal blessings, he is praising God for his goodness to all who will turn to him in prayer when they are in trouble. David turns his experience of God's goodness into an appeal that others might turn to this gracious God and find similar answers to prayer so that they too might enjoy the abundant blessings of God:

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (v. 8)

David wants all who are in trouble ("the afflicted, v. 2) to turn to God for help so that they can, "Glorify the Lord with me: let us exalt his name together" (v.3).

We also have much reason to "extol the Lord at all times" and for his praise to be always upon our lips (v. 1). God loved us so much that he sent his Son into the world to be our Saviour. Jesus loved us so much that he took upon himself the judgment our sins deserved and paid their penalty in full. Risen from the dead, he has given us his Spirit in our hearts, assuring us of his love and that we belong to him for all eternity. He is always ready to hear our prayers and receive our thanksgiving.

Think of what God has done for you in Christ and then read this psalm again making it your heartfelt testimony and response. 

As one who has tasted the goodness of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, take some time to think how you might encourage others to taste and see that he is good. A good beginning would be to ensure that his praise is always upon your lips.

Father God, we praise you for your goodness and mercy and particularly for the abundant blessings that are ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. May his praises often be the theme of our conversations. Help us to point others to him that they also may taste and see that you are good.

Peter Misselbrook