It is too much. It isn’t real. Life doesn’t allow that much praise. There is too much trouble, too much difficulty, too much suffering.
But no, David was writing a hymnbook for his people, and it needed this level of praise in spite of trouble. The people needed to remember praise WHATEVER the struggles of life. They needed to remember that praise is spontaneous, deep and lasting, when we go God’s way.
That is what David found out. When he went his own way and sinned, when he gave in to temptation, life was bitter, and praise was gone. In Psalm 38 he gives personal testimony to the effects of sin.
Ps. 38:4–7 4For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: As an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. 5My wounds stink and are corrupt Because of my foolishness. 6I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. 7For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: And there is no soundness in my flesh.
This is how we need to feel when we do wrong. Sin is a burden we need to leave behind.
But when David turned to God, repented and asked for mercy, God was there to help him, and the mourning turned to praise.
In Psalm 34, we see the other side of David. Yes, David still knew serious trials, but he was on TOP of the trials instead of the trials being on top of him. Saul could be pursuing, or the Philistines could be eyeing him and muttering, “this is the fellow who killed Goliath.” But God was his helper, his stay, his keeper, and David knew he could depend on God. It was reason enough for all day praise. David knew what Paul said years later,
Rom. 8:28 28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Let’s look at what is happening in David’s life in Psalm 34. Here David is giving his men a personal testimony of his faith. He says,
Ps. 34:4–6 4I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. 6This poor man [David] cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
David remembers—gratefully—how God had rescued him. And he is inspired to put it on the record for us who would be coming along centuries later. How does God rescue? How does He help? It is the same for us as it was for David:
Ps. 34:7 7The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.
The angel of the Lord! God sends His angel when he is needed most. And the angel camps – literally, sets up a tent and stays nearby. Nearby whom?
7The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.
That is what we need to hear: The angel stays by those “who fear Him,” ready to deliver at the instant he is needed.
What a comforting promise! To David, and to us. Hear David’s open appeal:
Ps. 34:8–11 8Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
“The Lord is good. Blessed”– there it is again. The blessing goes to the one who trusts God.” Total confidence, total trust in God.
Ps. 34:9–11 9Oh, fear [reverence] the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.
10The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
David is deeply grateful for the Lord’s provision. Often he has heard the angry growl of a hunting lion out there on the hills, and so he adds, young lions do lack and suffer hunger.” David had seen this many times. But, by contrast,
…those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
David wants to share his life lessons with those nearest him. This is the tone of verse 11:
Ps. 34:11 11Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Picture David with a group of his devoted men. He beckons them to come closer, it is time to stop and be refreshed at the fountain of God’s knowledge. David was a teacher as well as a warrior and king. He says, we need to be serious about the God we serve!
So they gather around him, these men who admired him and would follow him to the ends of the earth.
David starts with a meaningful question:
Ps. 34:12 12Who is the man who desires life, And loves many days, that he may see good?
It is a stunning question: Who doesn’t want a life—future life, ETERNAL life with its rich rewards? This is what God has to offer us. That was a question aimed to get the grip of anyone’s attention.
What follows is a very good mini-sermon, good enough to be quoted at length in the New Testament a thousand years later. (Peter quoted it in 1 Peter 3:10-12).
David says, Based on my experience, you need to take heed to three things.
#1: Take heed to your words
Ps. 34:13 13Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit.
- Two things to avoid: evil (open falsehood) and deceit.
- Nothing to cover up, no evil to hide. Then
#2: Take heed to your walk
Ps. 34:14 14Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
- Not only run from the evil, but go after the good – DO what you know is good!
- At the same time, “seek peace” – seek peace aggressively. No time for leisure here.
#3: Take heed to your works.
- Why? Because God is selective. He is looking for those with upright character. The next verse identifies that character:
Ps. 34:15–16 15The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.
Do we want God to hear our prayers? Then we must be seeking to be “righteous,” right in God’s sight. Because
16The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
David is saying to his men, Pay attention and get on the right side. Learn from my example. I am living proof of what I have been telling you. This is what I am doing with my life, and God is with me. Get right with God, it is the first step.
Ps. 34:17–20 17The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
David says to the Lord, “I know you heard me” – Ps 66:19
How does He deliver? He is the heavenly “keeper,” and He delivers according to His promise.
18The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Here is the picture. He is not expecting “righteous” ones who have never sinned, but God is looking for the “broken heart,” the “contrite spirit.” What did David say at another time?
Ps. 51:17 17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
And didn’t Isaiah say it too?
Isa. 66:2 2For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.
Humble…contrite.. with trembling regard for the word of God. Who are we to tell Him what is right? Who are we to resist Him? God is not looking at the proud, standing boldly for their own way. He wants those who can say, “I am sorry, I was wrong,” and turn from it! That is all He asks, that we acknowledge His greatness, His goodness, see our own speck-worthiness, and turn from the evil so that He can pardon us. Yes, what are we but mere “specks” in God’s sight, unless serving Him.
Back to Psalm 34:
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. 20He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.
Then David sums up his lesson: you cannot oppose God and prosper. No way. Be sure your sins will find you out!
Ps. 34:21–22 21Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. 22The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
In effect David tells his men (and us), “I’m going to practice what I preach. I am leaving my case in God’s hands. I will take care of the evil in my heart, and let God take care of my enemies. No vengeance, no retaliation, no ill will from my side. I’m not here to change Saul. It isn’t for me to slay Saul. It is not for me to take vengeance. I’m trusting God for that part. Meanwhile, my heart wells up in praise to our merciful God! Let me tune my harp and SING! All day praise.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
He will not, He will not desert to its foes;
That soul though all Earth should endeavor to shake,
He’ll never, no never, no never forsake!