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Chapter 34

This psalm was penned upon a particular occasion, as appears by the title, and yet there is little in
it peculiar to that occasion, but that which is general, both by way of thanksgiving to God an
instruction to us. I. He praises God for the experience which he and others had had of his goodness
(v. 1-6). II. He encourages all good people to trust in God and to seek to him (v. 7-10). III. He
gives good counsel to us all, as unto children, to take heed of sin, and to make conscience of our
duty both to God and man (v. 11-14). IV. To enforce this good counsel he shows God’s favour to
the righteous and his displeasure against the wicked, in which he sets before us good and evil, the
blessing and the curse (v. 15-22). So that, in singing this psalm, we are both to give glory to God
and to teach and admonish ourselves and one another.A psalm of David when he changed his
behaviour before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.
Verses 1-10 The title of this psalm tells us both who penned it and upon what occasion it was
penned. David, being forced to flee from his country, which was made too hot for him by the rage
of Saul, sought shelter as near it as he could, in the land of the Philistines. There it was soon
discovered who he was, and he was brought before the king, who, in the narrative, is called Achish
(his proper name), here Abimelech (his title); and lest he should be treated as a spy, or one that
came thither upon design, he feigned himself to be a madman (such there have been in every age,
that even by idiots men might be taught to give God thanks for the use of their reason), that Achish
might dismiss him as a contemptible man, rather than take cognizance of him as a dangerous man.
And it had the effect he desired; by this stratagem he escaped the hand that otherwise would have
handled him roughly. Now, 1. We cannot justify David in this dissimulation. It ill became an honest
man to feign himself to be what he was not, and a man of honour to feign himself to be a fool and
a mad-man. If, in sport, we mimic those who have not so good an understanding as we think we
have, we forget that God might have made their case ours. 2. Yet we cannot but wonder at the
composure of his spirit, and how far he was from any change of that, when he changed his
behaviour. Even when he was in that fright, or rather in that danger only, his heart was so fixed,
trusting in God, that even then he penned this excellent psalm, which has as much in it of the marks
of a calm sedate spirit as any psalm in all the book; and there is something curious too in the
composition, for it is what is called an alphabetical psalm, that is, a psalm in which every verse
begins with each letter in its order as it stands in the Hebrew alphabet. Happy are those who can
thus keep their temper, and keep their graces in exercise, even when they are tempted to change
their behaviour. In this former part of the psalm,I. David engages and excites himself to praise
God. Though it was his fault that he changed his behaviour, yet it was God’s mercy that he escaped,
and the mercy was so much the greater in that God did not deal with him according to the desert
of his dissimulation, and we must in every thing give thanks. He resolves, 1. That he will praise
God constantly: I will bless the Lord at all times, upon all occasions. He resolves to keep up stated
times for this duty, to lay hold of all opportunities for it, and to renew his praises upon every fresh
occurrence that furnished him with matter. If we hope to spend our eternity in praising God, it is
fit that we should spend as much as may be of our time in this work. 2. That he will praise him
openly: His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Thus he would show how forward he was to
own his obligations to the mercy of God and how desirous to make others also sensible of theirs.
3. That he will praise him heartily: "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord, in my relation to
him, my interest in him, and expectations from him.’’ It is not vainglory to glory in the Lord.II.
He calls upon others to join with him herein. He expects they will (v. 2): "The humble shall hear
thereof, both of my deliverance and of my thankfulness, and be glad that a good man has so much
favour shown him and a good God so much honour done him.’’ Those have most comfort in God’s
mercies, both to others and to themselves, that are humble, and have the least confidence in their
own merit and sufficiency. It pleased David to think that God’s favours to him would rejoice the
heart of every Israelite. Three things he would have us all to concur with him in:—1. In great and
high thoughts of God, which we should express in magnifying him and exalting his name, v. 3.
We cannot make God greater or higher than he is; but if we adore him as infinitely great, and
higher than the highest, he is pleased to reckon this magnifying and exalting him. This we must do
together. God’s praises sound best in concert, for so we praise him as the angels do in heaven.
Those that share in God’s favour, as all the saints do, should concur in his praises; and we should
be as desirous of the assistance of our friends in returning thanks for mercies as in praying for
them. We have reason to join in thanksgiving to God,(1.) For his readiness to hear prayer, which
all the saints have had the comfort of; for he never said to any of them, Seek you me in vain. [1.]
David, for his part, will give it under his hand that he has found him a prayer-hearing God (v. 4):
"I sought the Lord, in my distress, entreated his favour, begged his help, and he heard me,
answered my request immediately, and delivered me from all my fears, both from the death I feared
and from the disquietude and disturbance produced by fear of it.’’ The former he does by his
providence working for us, the latter by his grace working in us, to silence our fears and still the
tumult of the spirits; this latter is the greater mercy of the two, because the thing we fear is our
trouble only, but our unbelieving distrustful fear of it is our sin; nay, it is often more our torment
too than the thing itself would be, which perhaps would only touch the bone and the flesh, while
the fear would prey upon the spirits and put us out of the possession of our own soul. David’s
prayers helped to silence his fears; having sought the Lord, and left his case with him, he could
wait the event with great composure. "But David was a great and eminent man, we may not expect
to be favoured as he was; have any others ever experienced the like benefit by prayer?’’ Yes, [2.]
Many besides him have looked unto God by faith and prayer, and have been lightened by it, v. 5.
It has wonderfully revived and comforted them; witness Hannah, who, when she had prayed, went
her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. When we look to the world we are
darkened, we are perplexed, and at a loss; but, when we look to God, from him we have the light
both of direction and joy, and our way is made both plain and pleasant. These here spoken of, that
looked unto God, had their expectations raised, and the event did not frustrate them: Their faces
were not ashamed of their confidence. "But perhaps these also were persons of great eminence,
like David himself, and upon that account were highly favoured, or their numbers made them
considerable;’’ nay, [3.] This poor man cried, a single person, mean and inconsiderable, whom no
man looked upon with any respect or looked after with any concern; yet he was as welcome to the
throne of grace as David or any of his worthies: The Lord heard him, took cognizance of his case
and of his prayers, and saved him out of all his troubles, v. 6. God will regard the prayer of the
destitute, Ps. 102:17 . See Isa. 57:15 .(2.) For the ministration of the good angels about us (v. 7):
The angel of the Lord, a guard of angels (so some), but as unanimous in their service as if they
were but one, or a guardian angel, encamps round about those that fear God, as the life-guard
about the prince, and delivers them. God makes use of the attendance of the good spirits for the
protection of his people from the malice and power of evil spirits; and the holy angels do us more
good offices every day than we are aware of. Though in dignity and in capacity of nature they are
very much superior to us,—though they retain their primitive rectitude, which we have lost;—
though they have constant employment in the upper world, the employment of praising God, and
are entitled to a constant rest and bliss there,—yet in obedience to their Maker, and in love to those
that bear his image, they condescend to minister to the saints, and stand up for them against the
powers of darkness; they not only visit them, but encamp round about them, acting for their good
as really, though not as sensibly, as for Jacob’s (Gen. 32:1 ), and Elisha’s, 2 Ki. 6:17 . All the glory
be to the God of the angels.2. He would have us to join with him in kind and good thoughts of God
(v. 8): O taste and see that the Lord is good! The goodness of God includes both the beauty and
amiableness of his being and the bounty and beneficence of his providence and grace; and
accordingly, (1.) We must taste that he is a bountiful benefactor, relish the goodness of God in all
his gifts to us, and reckon that the savour and sweetness of them. Let God’s goodness be rolled
under the tongue as a sweet morsel. (2.) We must see that he is a beautiful being, and delight in
the contemplation of his infinite perfections. By taste and sight we both make discoveries and take
complacency. Taste and see God’s goodness, that is, take notice of it and take the comfort of it, 1
Pt. 2:3 . he is good, for he makes all those that trust in him truly blessed; let us therefore be so
convinced of his goodness as thereby to be encouraged in the worst of times to trust in him.3. He
would have us join with him in a resolution to seek God and serve him, and continue in his fear
(v. 9): O fear the Lord! you his saints. When we taste and see that he is good we must not forget
that he is great and greatly to be feared; nay, even his goodness is the proper object of a filial
reverence and awe. They shall fear the Lord and his goodness, Hos. 3:5 . Fear the Lord; that is,
worship him, and make conscience of your duty to him in every thing, not fear him and shun him,
but fear him and seek him (v. 10) as a people seek unto their God; address yourselves to him and
portion yourselves in him. To encourage us to fear God and seek him, it is here promised that those
that do so, even in this wanting world, shall want no good thing (Heb. They shall not want all good
things ); they shall so have all good things that they shall have no reason to complain of the want
of any. As to the things of the other world, they shall have grace sufficient for the support of the
spiritual life (2 Co. 12:9 ; Ps. 84:11 ); and, as to this life, they shall have what is necessary to the
support of it from the hand of God: as a Father, he will feed them with food convenient. What
further comforts they desire they shall have, as far as Infinite Wisdom sees good, and what they
want in one thing shall be made up in another. What God denies them he will give them grace to
be content without and then they do not want it, Deu. 3:26 . Paul had all and abounded, because
he was content, Phil. 4:11, Phil. 4:18 . Those that live by faith in God’s all-sufficiency want
nothing; for in him they have enough. The young lions often lack and suffer hunger —those that
live upon common providence, as the lions do, shall want that satisfaction which those have that
live by faith in the promise; those that trust to themselves, and think their own hands sufficient for
them, shall want (for bread is not always to the wise )—but verily those shall be fed that trust in
God and desire to be at his finding. Those that are ravenous, and prey upon all about them, shall
want; but the meek shall inherit the earth. Those shall not want who with quietness work and mind
their own business; plain-hearted Jacob has pottage enough, when Esau, the cunning hunter, is
ready to perish for hunger.
Verses 11-22 David, in this latter part of the psalm, undertakes to teach children. Though a man
of war, and anointed to be king, he did not think it below him; though now he had his head so full
of cares and his hands of business, yet he could find heart and time to give good counsel to young
people, from his own experience. It does not appear that he had now any children of his own, at
least any that were grown up to a capacity of being taught; but, by divine inspiration, he instructs
the children of his people. Those that were in years would not be taught by him, though he had
offered them his service (Ps. 32:8 ); but he had hopes that the tender branches will be more easily
bent and that children and young people will be more tractable, and therefore he calls together a
congregation of them (v. 11): "Come, you children, that are now in your learning age, and are now
to lay up a stock of knowledge which you must live upon all your days, you children that are
foolish and ignorant, and need to be taught.’’ Perhaps he intends especially those children whose
parents neglected to instruct and catechise them; and it is as great a piece of charity to put those
children to school whose parents are not in a capacity to teach them as to feed those children whose
parents have not bread for them. Observe, 1. What he expects from them: "Hearken unto me, leave
your play, lay by your toys, and hear what I have to say to you; not only give me the hearing, but
observe and obey me.’’ 2. What he undertakes to teach them—the fear of the Lord, inclusive of all
the duties of religion. David was a famous musician, a statesman, a soldier; but he does not say to
the children, "I will teach you to play on the harp, or to handle the sword or spear, or to draw the
bow, or I will teach you the maxims of state policy;’’ but I will teach you the fear of the Lord,
which is better than all arts and sciences, better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. That is it
which we should be solicitous both to learn ourselves and to teach our children.I. He supposes that
we all aim to be happy (v. 12): What man is he that desireth life? that is, as it follows, not only to
see many days, but to see good comfortable days. Non est vivere, sed valere, vita—It is not being,
but well being, that constitutes life. It is asked, "Who wishes to live a long and pleasant life?’’ and
it is easily answered, Who does not? Surely this must look further than time and this present world;
for man’s life on earth at best consists but of few days and those full of trouble. What man is he
that would be eternally happy, that would see many days, as many as the days of heaven, that
would see good in that world where all bliss is in perfection, without the least alloy? Who would
see the good before him now, by faith and hope, and enjoy it shortly? Who would? Alas! very few
have that in their thoughts. Most ask, Who will show us any good? But few ask, What shall we do
to inherit eternal life? This question implies that there are some such.II. He prescribes the true and
only way to happiness both in this world and that to come, v. 13, v. 14. Would we pass comfortably
through this world, and out of the world, our constant care must be to keep a good conscience;
and, in order to that, 1. We must learn to bridle our tongues, and be careful what we say, that we
never speak amiss, to God’s dishonour or our neighbours prejudice: Keep thy tongue from evil
speaking, lying, and slandering. So great a way does this go in religion that, if any offend not in
word, the same is a perfect man; and so little a way does religion go without this that of him who
bridles not his tongue it is declared, His religion is vain. 2. We must be upright and sincere in
every thing we say, and not double-tongued. Our words must be the indications of our minds; our
lips must be kept from speaking guile either to God or man. We must leave all our sins, and resolve
we will have no more to do with them. We must depart from evil, from evil works and evil workers;
from the sins others commit and which we have formerly allowed ourselves in. 4. It is not enough
not to do hurt in the world, but we must study to be useful, and live to some purpose. We must not
only depart from evil, but we must do good, good for ourselves, especially for our own souls,
employing them well, furnishing them with a good treasure, and fitting them for another world;
and, as we have ability and opportunity, we must do good to others also. 5. Since nothing is more
contrary to that love which never fails (which is the summary both of law and gospel, both of grace
and glory) than strife and contention, which bring confusion and every evil work, we must seek
peace and pursue it; we must show a peaceable disposition, study the things that make for peace,
do nothing to break the peace and to make mischief. If peace seem to flee from us, we must pursue
it; follow peace with all men, spare no pains, no expense, to preserve and recover peace; be willing
to deny ourselves a great deal, both in honour and interest, for peace’ sake. These excellent
directions in a way to life and good are transcribed into the New Testament and made part of our
gospel duty, 1 Pt. 3:10, 1 Pt. 3:11 . And, perhaps David, in warning us that we speak no guile,
reflects upon his own sin in changing his behaviour. Those that truly repent of what they have
done amiss will warn others to take heed of doing likewise.III. He enforces these directions by
setting before us the happiness of the godly in the love and favour of God and the miserable state
of the wicked under his displeasure. Here are life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the
curse, plainly stated before us, that we may choose life and live. See Isa. 3:10, Isa. 3:11 .1. Woe to
the wicked, it shall be ill with them, however they may bless themselves in their own way. (1.) God
is against them, and then they cannot but be miserable. Sad is the case of that man who by his sin
has made his Maker his enemy, his destroyer. The face of the Lord is against those that do evil,
v. 16. Sometimes God is said to turn his face from them (Jer. 18:17 ), because they have forsaken
him; here he is said to set his face against them, because they have fought against him; and most
certainly God is able to out-face the most proud and daring sinners and can frown them into hell.
(2.) Ruin is before them; this will follow of course if God be against them, for he is able both to
kill and to cast into hell. [1.] The land of the living shall be no place for them nor theirs. When
God sets his face against them he will not only cut them off, but cut off the remembrance of them;
when they are alive he will bury them in obscurity, when they are dead he will bury them in
oblivion. He will root out their posterity, by whom they would be remembered. He will pour
disgrace upon their achievements, which they gloried in and for which they thought they should
be remembered. It is certain that there is no lasting honour but that which comes from God. [2.]
There shall be a sting in their death: Evil shall slay the wicked, v. 21. Their death shall be miserable;
and so it will certainly be, though they die on a bed of down or on the bed of honour. Death, to
them, has a curse in it, and is the king of terrors; to them it is evil, only evil. It is very well observed
by Dr. Hammond that the evil here, which slays the wicked, is the same word, in the singular
number, that is used (v. 19) for the afflictions of the righteous, to intimate that godly people have
many troubles, and yet they do them no hurt, but are made to work for good to them, for God will
deliver them out of them all; whereas wicked people have fewer troubles, fewer evils befal them,
perhaps but one, and yet that one may prove their utter ruin. One trouble with a curse in it kills and
slays, and does execution; but many, with a blessing in them, are harmless, nay, gainful. [3.]
Desolation will be their everlasting portion. Those that are wicked themselves often hate the
righteous, name and thing, have an implacable enmity to them and their righteousness; but they
shall be desolate, shall be condemned as guilty, and laid waste for ever, shall be for ever forsaken
and abandoned of God and all good angels and men; and those that are so are desolate indeed.2.
Yet say to the righteous, It shall be well with them. All good people are under God’s special favour
and protection. We are here assured of this under a great variety of instances and expressions.(1.)
God takes special notice of good people, and takes notice who have their eyes ever to him and who
make conscience of their duty to him: The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (v. 15), to direct
and guide them, to protect and keep them. Parents that are very fond of a child will not let it be out
of their sight; none of God’s children are ever from under his eye, but on them he looks with a
singular complacency, as well as with a watchful and tender concern.(2.) They are sure of an
answer of peace to their prayers. All God’s people are a praying people, and they cry in prayer,
which denotes great importunity; but is it to any purpose? Yes, [1.] God takes notice of what we
say (v. 17): They cry, and the Lord hears them, and hears them so as to make it appear he has a
regard to them. His ears are open to their prayers, to receive them all, and to receive them readily
and with delight. Though he has been a God hearing prayer ever since men began to call upon the
name of the Lord, yet his ear is not heavy. There is no rhetoric, nothing charming, in a cry, yet
God’s ears are open to it, as the tender mother’s to the cry of her sucking child, which another
would take no notice of: The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, v. 17. This intimates that it is
the constant practice of good people, when they are in distress, to cry unto God, and it is their
constant comfort that God hears them. [2.] He not only takes notice of what we say, but is ready
for us to our relief (v. 18): He is nigh to those that are of a broken heart, and saves them. Note,
First, It is the character of the righteous, whose prayers God will hear, that they are of a broken
heart and a contrite spirit (that is, humbled for sin and emptied of self); they are low in their own
eyes, and have no confidence in their own merit and sufficiency, but in God only. Secondly, Those
who are so have God nigh unto them, to comfort and support them, that the spirit may not be
broken more than is meet, lest it should fail before him. See Isa. 57:15 . Though God is high, and
dwells on high, yet he is near to those who, being of a contrite spirit, know how to value his favour,
and will save them from sinking under their burdens; he is near them to good purpose.(3.) They
are taken under the special protection of the divine government (v. 20): He keepeth all his bones;
not only his soul, but his body; not only his body in general, but every bone in it: Not one of them
is broken. He that has a broken heart shall not have a broken bone; for David himself had found
that, when he had a contrite heart, the broken bones were made to rejoice, Ps. 51:8, Ps. 51:17 . One
would not expect to meet with any thing of Christ here, and yet this scripture is said to be fulfilled
in him (Jn. 19:36 ) when the soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves that were crucified with
him, but did not break his, they being under the protection of this promise as well as of the type,
even the paschal-lamb (a bone of him shall not be broken); the promises, being made good to
Christ, through him are sure to all the seed. It does not follow but that a good man may have a
broken bone; but, by the watchful providence of God concerning him, such a calamity is often
wonderfully prevented, and the preservation of his bones is the effect of this promise; and, if he
have a broken bone, sooner or later it shall be made whole, at furthest at the resurrection, when
that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power.(4.) They are, and shall be, delivered out
of their troubles. [1.] It is supposed that they have their share of crosses in this world, perhaps a
greater share than others. In the world they must have tribulation, that they may be conformed both
to the will of God and to the example of Christ (v. 19); Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
witness David and his afflictions, Ps. 132:1 . There are those that hate them (v. 21) and they are
continually aiming to do them a mischief; their God loves them, and therefore corrects them; so
that, between the mercy of heaven and the malice of hell, the afflictions of the righteous must
needs be many. [2.] God has engaged for their deliverance and salvation: He delivers them out of
all their troubles (v. 17, v. 19); he saves them (v. 18), so that, though they may fall into trouble, it
shall not be their ruin. This promise of their deliverance is explained, v. 22. Whatever troubles
befal them, First, They shall not hurt their better part. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants
from the power of the grave (Ps. 49:15 ) and from the sting of every affliction. He keeps them from
sinning in their troubles, which is the only thing that would do them a mischief, and keeps them
from despair, and from being put out of the possession of their own souls. Secondly, They shall
not hinder their everlasting bliss. None of those that trust in him shall be desolate; that is, they
shall not be comfortless, for they shall not be cut off from their communion with God. No man is
desolate but he whom God has forsaken, nor is any man undone till he is in hell. Those that are
God’s faithful servants, that make it their care to please him and their business to honour him, and
in doing so trust him to protect and reward them, and, with good thoughts of him, refer themselves
to him, have reason to be easy whatever befals them, for they are safe and shall be happy.In singing
these verses let us be confirmed in the choice we have made of the ways of God; let us be quickened
in his service, and greatly encouraged by the assurances he has given of the particular care he takes
of all those that faithfully adhere to him.
Benson Commentary
Psalm 34:1-2. I will bless the Lord at all times — I will never forget to bless God for this
miraculous deliverance. My soul shall make her boast, &c. — Shall glory in this, that I have so
powerful and gracious a Lord and Master. The humble shall hear — Or the meek, that is, the
righteous; and be glad — Both from their love to me, and the public good, which they know that I
design and seek above all things; and for the comfort and benefit of my example to them, in similar
straits and difficulties.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
34:1-10 If we hope to spend eternity in praising God, it is fit that we should spend much of our
time here in this work. He never said to any one, Seek ye me in vain. David's prayers helped to
silence his fears; many besides him have looked unto the Lord by faith and prayer, and it has
wonderfully revived and comforted them. When we look to the world, we are perplexed, and at a
loss. But on looking to Christ depends our whole salvation, and all things needful thereunto do so
also. This poor man, whom no man looked upon with any respect, or looked after with any concern,
was yet welcome to the throne of grace; the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The holy angels minister to the saints, and stand for them against the powers of darkness. All the
glory be to the Lord of the angels. By taste and sight we both make discoveries, and have
enjoyment; Taste and see God's goodness; take notice of it, and take the comfort of it. He makes
all truly blessed that trust in him. As to the things of the other world, they shall have grace sufficient
for the support of spiritual life. And as to this life, they shall have what is necessary from the hand
of God. Paul had all, and abounded, because he was content, Php 4:11-18. Those who trust to
themselves, and think their own efforts sufficient for them, shall want; but they shall be fed who
trust in the Lord. Those shall not want, who with quietness work, and mind their own business.
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
I will bless the Lord - I will praise him; I will be thankful for his mercies, and will always express
my sense of his goodness.
At all times - In every situation of life; in every event that occurs. The idea is, that he would do it
publicly and privately; in prosperity and in adversity; in safety and in danger; in joy and in sorrow.
It would be a great principle of his life, expressive of the deep feeling of his soul, that God was
always to be regarded as an object of adoration and praise.
His praise shall continually be in my mouth - I will be constantly uttering his praises; or, my thanks
shall be unceasing. This expresses the "purpose" of the psalmist; and this is an indication of the
nature of true piety. With a truly pious man the praise of God is constant; and it is an indication of
true religion when a man is "disposed" always to bless God, whatever may occur. Irreligion,
unbelief, scepticism, worldliness, false philosophy, murmur and complain under the trials and
amidst the dark things of life; true religion, faith, love, spirituality of mind, Christian philosophy,
see in God always an object of praise. People who have no real piety, but who make pretensions
to it, are disposed to praise and bless God in times of sunshine and prosperity; true piety always
regards him as worthy of praise - in the storm as well as in the sunshine; in the dark night of
calamity, as well as in the bright days of prosperity. Compare Job 13:15.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
PSALM 34
Ps 34:1-22. On the title compare 1Sa 21:13. Abimelech was the general name of the sovereign (Ge
20:2). After celebrating God's gracious dealings with him, the Psalmist exhorts others to make trial
of His providential care, instructing them how to secure it. He then contrasts God's care of His
people and His punitive providence towards the wicked.
1-4. Even in distress, which excites supplication, there is always matter for praising and thanking
God (compare Eph 5:20; Php 4:6).
The Treasury of David
1 I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
Psalm 34:1
"I will bless the Lord at all times." - He is resolved and fixed, "I will;" he is personally and for
himself determined, let others do as they may; he is intelligent in head and inflamed in heart - he
knows to whom the praise is due, and what is due, and for what and when. To Jehovah, and not to
second causes our gratitude is to be rendered. The Lord hath by right a monopoly in his creatures'
praise. Even when a mercy may remind us of our sin with regard to it, as in this case David's
deliverance from the Philistine monarch was sure to do, we are not to rob God of his meed of
honour because our conscience justly awards a censure to our share in the transaction. Though the
hook was rusty, yet God sent the fish, and we thank him for it. "At all times," in every situation,
under every circumstance, before, in and after trials, in bright clays of glee, and dark nights of fear.
He would never have done praising, because never satisfied that he had done enough; always
feeling that he fell short of the Lord's deservings. Happy is he whose fingers are wedded to his
harp. He who praises God for mercies shall never want a mercy for which to praise. To bless the
Lord is never unseasonable. "His praise shall continually be in my mouth," not in my heart merely,
but in my mouth too. Our thankfulness is not to be a dumb thing; it should be one of the daughters
of music. Our tongue is our glory, and it ought to reveal the glory of God. What a blessed mouthful
is God's praise! How sweet, how purifying, how perfuming! If men's mouths were always thus
filled, there would be no repining against God, or slander of neighbours. If we continually rolled
this dainty morsel under our tongue, the bitterness of daily affliction would be swallowed up in
joy. God deserves blessing with the heart, and extolling with the mouth - good thoughts in the
closet, and good words in the world.
Psalm 34:2
"My soul shall make her boast in the Lord." Boasting is a very natural propensity, and if it were
used as in this case, the more it were indulged the better. The exultation of this verse is no mere
tongue bragging, "the soul" is in it, the boasting is meant and felt before it is expressed. What
scope there is for holy boasting in Jehovah! His person, attributes, covenant, promises, works, and
a thousand things besides, are all incomparable, unparalleled, matchless; we may cry them up as
we please, but we shall never be convicted of vain and empty speech in so doing. Truly he who
writes these words of comment has nothing of his own to boast of, but much to lament over, and
yet none shall stop him of his boast in God so long as he lives. "The humble shall hear thereof, and
be glad." They are usually grieved to hear boastings; they turn aside from vauntings and lofty
speeches, but boasting in the Lord is quite another matter; by this the most lowly are consoled and
encouraged. The confident expressions of tried believers are a rich solace to their brethren of less
experience. We ought to talk of the Lord's goodness on purpose that others may be confirmed in
their trust in a faithful God.
Psalm 34:3
"O magnify the Lord with me." Is this request addressed to the humble? If so it is most fitting.
Who can make God great but those who feel themselves to be little? He bids them help him to
make the Lord's fame greater among the sons of men. Jehovah is infinite, and therefore cannot
really be made greater, but his name grows in manifested glory as he is made known to his
creatures, and thus he is said to be magnified. It is well when the soul feels its own inability
adequately to glorify the Lord, and therefore stirs up others to the gracious work; this is good both
for the man himself and for his companions. No praise can excel that which lays us prostrate under
a sense of our own nothingness, while divine grace like some topless Alp rises before our eyes,
and sinks us lower and lower in holy awe. "Let us exalt his name together." Social, congregated
worship is the outgrowth of one of the natural instincts of the new life. In heaven it is enjoyed to
the full, and earth is likest heaven where it abounds. A Psalm made upon that occasion, though not
at that time.

His behaviour; or, his habit or posture, or his reason, as this word is taken, 1 Samuel 25:33 Psalm
119:66 Proverbs 11:22. When he counterfeited madness. Wherein, whether he sinned or not, is
matter of dispute; but this is undoubted, that God’s favour and his deliverance at that time was
very remarkable, and deserved this solemn acknowledgment.

Abimelech, called Achish, 1 Samuel 21:10. But Abimelech seems to have been the common name
of the kings of the Philistines, Genesis 20:2 26:1, as Pharaoh was of the Egyptians, and Caesar of
the Romans.

David praiseth God, Psalm 34:1,2, and exhorteth others thereto from his own experience of God’s
kindness, Psalm 34:3-7. He showeth that they are blessed who trust in God, Psalm 34:8-10. He
exhorteth others to learn to fear him, Psalm 34:11, and showeth the way to happiness, Psalm 34:12-
14. The privileges of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked, Psalm 34:15-22.

I will never forget to bless God for this miraculous deliverance.


Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I will bless the Lord at all times,.... That is, ascribe blessing, give honour, praise, and glory to him,
both as the God of nature and providence, for every temporal mercy; and that every day, and at all
times in the day; since these are renewed every morning, and continue all the day long: and as the
God of grace, for all spiritual blessings; and that continually, because these last always; they are
irreversible, unchangeable, and without repentance; yea, saints have reason to bless God in times
of adversity as well as prosperity, since it might have been worse with them than it is; they have a
mixture of mercy in all, and all things work together for their good;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth; not the "praise" of which God is the author, but of
which he is the object; which is due unto him, and is given him on account of the perfections of
his nature, and the works of his hands, and the blessings of his providence and grace; this, the
psalmist says, should be in his mouth: his meaning is, that he should not only retain in his heart a
grateful sense of the divine favours, but should express it with his lips; should both make melody
in his heart to the Lord, and vocally sing his praise; and that "continually", as long as he lived, or
had any being, Psalm 146:2.
Geneva Study Bible
<<A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away,
and he departed.>> I will bless the LORD {a} at all times: his praise shall continually be in my
mouth.
(a) He promised never to become unmindful of God's great benefit for his deliverance.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
1. His praise] Cp. Psalm 33:1.

1, 2. Resolution of praise.
Pulpit Commentary
Verse 1. - I will Bless the Lord at all times; i.e. even in times of adversity. If the statement in the
title may be relied upon, David's fortunes were now at the lowest ebb. He had fled from the court
of Saul on finding that Saul was determined to put him to death (1 Samuel 20:31). He had hoped
to find a safe refuge with Achish, but had been disappointed. He was on the point of becoming a
fugitive and an outlaw, a dweller in dens and caves of the earth (1 Samuel 22:1). He had as yet no
body of followers. We cannot but admire his piety in composing, at such a time, a song of
thanksgiving to God. His praise shall continually be in my mouth (comp. Psalm 92:1, 2; Psalm
145:1, 2; Psalm 146:1, 2; Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). "Continually" must be
understood as meaning either "every day" or "many times every day," but must not be taken quite
literally, or the business of life would be at a stand.
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
Hence the call to praise God is supported (2) by a setting forth of that which His people possess in
Him. This portion of the song is like a paraphrase of the ‫ אׁשרי‬in Deuteronomy 33:29. The theme
in Psalm 33:12 is proved in Psalm 33:13 by the fact, that Jahve is the omniscient Ruler, because
He is the Creator of men, without whose knowledge nothing is undertaken either secretly or
openly, and especially if against His people. Then in Psalm 33:16 it is supported by the fact, that
His people have in Jahve a stronger defence than the greatest worldly power would be. Jahve is
called the fashioner of all the hearts of men, as in Zechariah 12:1, cf. Proverbs 24:12, as being their
Maker. As such He is also the observer of all the works of men; for His is acquainted with their
origin in the laboratory of the heart, which He as Creator has formed. Hupfeld takes ‫ יחד‬as an
equalisation (pariter ac) of the two appositions; but then it ought to be ‫( ּומבין‬cf. Psalm 49:3, Psalm
49:11). The lxx correctly renders it καταμόνας, singillatim. It is also needless to translate it, as
Hupfeld does: He who formed, qui finxit; for the hearts of men were not from the very first created
all at one time, but the primeval impartation of spirit-life is continued at every birth in some
mysterious way. God is the Father of spirits, Hebrews 12:9. For this very reason everything that
exists, even to the most hidden thing, is encompassed by His omniscience and omnipotence. He
exercises an omniscient control over all things, and makes all things subservient to the designs of
His plan of the universe, which, so far as His people are concerned, is the plan of salvation. Without
Him nothing comes to pass; but through Him everything takes place. The victory of the king, and
the safety of the warrior, are not their own works. Their great military power and bodily strength
can accomplish nothing without God, who can also be mighty in the feeble. Even for purposes of
victory (‫ּתׁשּועה‬, cf. ‫יׁשּועה‬, Psalm 21:2) the war-horse is ‫ׁשקר‬, i.e., a thing that promises much, but
can in reality do nothing; it is not its great strength, by which it enables the trooper to escape (‫)ימּלט‬.
"The horse," says Solomon in Proverbs 21:31, "is equipped for the day of battle, but ‫הּתׁשּועה לה‬,
Jahve's is the victory," He giveth it to whomsoever He will. The ultimate ends of all things that
come to pass are in His hands, and - as Psalm 33:18. say, directing special attention to this
important truth by ‫ הּנה‬- the eye of this God, that is to say the final aim of His government of the
world, is directed towards them that fear Him, is pointed at them that hope in His mercy (‫)למיחלים‬.
In Psalm 33:19, the object, ‫לחסּדו‬, is expanded by way of example. From His mercy or loving-
kindness, not from any acts of their own, conscious of their limited condition and feebleness, they
look for protection in the midst of the greatest peril, and for the preservation of their life in famine.
Psalm 20:8 is very similar; but the one passage sounds as independent as the other.

Psalm 34 – Praise from the Cave


This Psalm is titled, A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who
drove him away, and he departed. 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 Adullam Cave 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.
The structure of this Psalm is acrostic, or nearly so. Each verse begins with another letter of the
Hebrew alphabet, except for the letter waw. The purpose in this Psalm mainly seems to be as a
device used to encourage learning and memorization.
Abimelechwas probably a title given to rulers among the Philistines; the ruler’s proper name was
Achish (1 Samuel 21:20).
A. Calling God’s people to praise.
1. (1-2) A life overflowing with praise.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
a. I will bless the Lord at all times: Given the title of this Psalm and its historical setting, we see
David triumphant and relieved at God’s rescue when he was held by the Philistines (1 Samuel
21:10-22:1).
i. “He may have acted like a fool, but he was not so foolish as to neglect praise of him who was
his only true wisdom. He may have been hiding in a dismal cave, but this psalm tells us that in his
heart he was hiding in the Lord.” (Boice)
ii. Praise shall continually be in my mouth: “Not in my heart merely, but in my mouth too. Our
thankfulness is not to be a dumb thing; it should be one of the daughters of music.” (Spurgeon)
b. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord: David might have boasted in himself. The 1 Samuel
account describes how David cleverly won his freedom by pretending madness, but knew that the
working of the thing was due to God, not his own cleverness.
i. “What scope there is for holy boasting in Jehovah! His person, attributes, covenant, promises,
works, and a thousand things besides, are all incomparable, unparalleled, matchless; we may cry
them up as we please, but we shall never be convicted of vain and empty speech in so doing.”
(Spurgeon)
ii. Yet in a sense, David had little to boast of, from a human perspective. He had to humiliate
himself like a madman to escape the Philistines, whom he had foolishly sought refuge among –
even bringing Goliath’s sword with him to Gath!
iii. Therefore this is a humble boast of David, boasting in the Lord and even a bit in his own
humiliation. “Paul, in his great passage on boasting, may have remembered this saying and this
episode, and so recalled his own ignominious escape from another foreign king (2 Corinthians
11:30-33), and the lessons learned in such straits.” (Kidner)
iv. “The seeming idiot scrabbling on the gate is now saint, poet, and preacher; and, looking back
on the deliverance won by a trick, he thinks of it as an instance of Jehovah’s answer to prayer!”
(Maclaren)
c. The humble shall hear of it and be glad: David won his freedom by a radical display of
humility. Other humble people would be glad to hear how God blessed and rewarded David’s
humility.
i. It’s significant that he calls the people of God in general, the humble. It is as if being proud
were a denial of God Himself – and in a sense, it is.
2. (3-7) The testimony of the delivered one.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
a. Oh, magnify the Lord with me: David knew there was something magnetic about the true
praise of God. When one genuinely praises God, he or she wants to draw others into the practice
of praise. If it is good for one to exalt His name, then it is even better to do it together with His
people.
i. David thought praising God was to magnify Him – that is, to make Him larger in one’s
perception. Magnification does not actually make an object bigger, and we can’t make God bigger.
But to magnify something or someone is to perceive it as bigger, and we must do that regarding
the Lord God.
ii. “As not sufficient to do a great work himself, he calleth in the help of others.” (Trapp)
iii. “The Christian, not only himself magnifies God, but exhorts others to do likewise; and longs
for that day to come, when all nations and languages, laying aside their contentions and
animosities, their prejudices and their errors, their unbelief, their heresies, and their schisms, shall
make their sound to be heard as one, in magnifying and exalting their great Redeemer’s name.”
(Horne)
b. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears: David’s simple
testimony is still powerful thousands of years later. David sought the Lord – looked to Him in
loving trust. God then heard His servant, with the implication that He heard him with love,
sympathy, and action. God responded when He delivered David from all his fears.
i. Commentators are divided as to if David sinned when he feigned madness among the Philistines,
or if he was obedient and guided by God. Morgan observed, “There does seem to be incongruity
between David feigning madness to save his life, and this exalted outpouring of praise to God as
the Great Deliverer.”
ii. “Wherein, whether he sinned or not, is matter of dispute; but this is undoubted, that God’s favour
and his deliverance at that time was very remarkable, and deserved this solemn acknowledgment.”
(Poole)
iii. “Even when I was in the enemies’ hands, and playing my pranks as a mad-man amongst them;
I prayed secretly and inwardly.” (Trapp)
iv. Even if David sinned in feigning madness, God delivered him and did not abandon him. “It is
easy to understand how, in the quietness and solemnity of that cave of refuge, he recovered, and
that with new power, his sense of the Divine care and wisdom and might and sufficiency. So he
sang.” (Morgan)
c. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed: In moving from
“I” to “They,” David indicates that this experience was not his alone. Many others have known
and will know what it is to set the focus of their loving trust upon God and receive His help.
i. They looked to Him: “The more we can think upon our Lord, and the less upon ourselves, the
better. Looking to him, as he is seated upon the right hand of the throne of God, will keep our
heads, and especially our hearts, steady when going through the deep waters of affliction.” (Smith,
cited in Spurgeon)
ii. And were radiant: The idea is that they draw something from God’s own glory and radiance.
Later, the Apostle Paul would explain much the same thought: But we all, with unveiled face,
beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from
glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18) This radiance is some evidence
that one has truly looked to Him.
iii. “Radiant is a word found again in Isaiah 60:5, where it describes a mother’s face lighting up at
the sight of her children, long given up for lost.” (Kidner)
iv. And their faces were not ashamed: David also knew that God would never forsake the one
who trusts in Him. God would give them confidence in the moment and vindication in time.
d. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him: David again emphasized his personal
experience of these truths. He was the one. He was the poor man who cried out to God, and God
graciously answered.
· A cry is short, and not sweet.
· A cry is brief, and bitter.
· A cry is the language of pain.
· A cry is a natural production.
· A cry has much meaning and no music.
i. Acting the madman among the Philistines, David certainly was the poor man. “To get the force
of David’s words one has only to recall his peril and his abject clowning to save his life.” (Kidner)
e. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him: David narrowly escaped
death among the Philistines. He was still a hunted, wanted man with King Saul determined to kill
him. A rag-tag group of desperate losers gathered to him at Adullam. David was at a genuine low
point, yet he was still filled with praise and trust, even knowing that God had an angelic camp all
around him.
i. The triumph and joy of this Psalm is so clear, it is easy to forget the life context of the Psalm. “It
is for people who find themselves at the absolute low point in life, which is where David was. Or
find themselves between a rock, which in this case was King Saul, and a hard place, which was
King Achish. It is for you when everything seems against you.” (Boice)
ii. David’s protection is 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 is an actual material
appearance of Yahweh Himself (as in Judges 13 and some other places). We don’t know if David
meant that is an angelic being sent by God, or God Himself present with the believer. Both are
true.
iii. “The fugitive, in his rude shelter in the cave of Adullam, thinks of Jacob, who, in his hour of
defenceless need, was heartened by the vision of the angel encampment surrounding his own little
band.” (Maclaren)
iv. This is one passage that gives support to the thought of a guardian angel for everyone, or
perhaps at least for believers. One can’t say that this passage proves the idea, but it is consistent
with it. “Let the consideration of these invisible guardians, who are also spectators of our actions,
at once restrain us from evil, and incite us to good.” (Horne)
3. (8-10) An invitation to share the joyful testimony.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
a. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good: After telling of his own experience, David challenged
the reader (or singer) of this Psalm to experience God’s goodness for himself or herself. It could
only come through a personal encounter, in some ways similar to a taste or to see.
i. Taste and sight are physical senses, ways in in which we interact with the material world. In
some ways, faith is like a spiritual sense, and with it we interact with the spiritual world. In this
sense to taste and to see are like trusting God, loving Him, seeking Him, looking unto Him.
ii. “Taste, i.e. consider it seriously, and thoroughly, and affectionately; make trial of it by your
own and others’ experiences. This is opposed by those slight and vanishing thoughts which men
have of it.” (Poole)
iii. “As he that feels the fire hot, or as he that tasteth honey sweet, ye need not use arguments to
persuade him to believe it; so here, let a man but once taste that the Lord is good, and he will
thenceforth, as a new-born babe, desire the sincere milk of the word.” (Trapp)
iv. “Both Hebrews 6:5 and 1 Peter 2:3 use this verse to describe the first venture into faith, and to
urge that the tasting should be more than a casual sampling.” (Kidner)
v. “There are some things, especially in the depths of the religious life, which can only be
understood by being experienced, and which even then are incapable of being adequately
embodied in words. ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.‘ The enjoyment must come before the
illumination; or rather the enjoyment is the illumination.” (Binney, cited in Spurgeon)
b. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! David was sure that the one who did taste and see –
or, who trusted in God – would not be forsaken. God would make him blessed.
c. Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! David thought to fear the Lord was much like trusting Him
and experiencing His goodness. This fear is the proper reverence and respect that man has for
Deity. If you really experience God’s goodness, if you really experience the blessedness of trusting
Him, you will also have an appropriate fear of the Lord.
d. Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing: Even one as strong as the young
lions may lack and suffer hunger; but David testified of God’s greater provision.
i. “The word ‘lions’ may be a metaphor for those who are strong, oppressive, and evil.”
(VanGemeren)
ii. “Were there lions prowling around the camp at Adullam, and did the psalmist take their growls
as typical of all vain attempts to satisfy the soul?” (Maclaren)
iii. David experienced a good thing from God in his deliverance among the Philistines. He knew
it was a good thing not due to his own strength or might; it was the goodness of God extended to
those who seek the Lord.
iv. “Although God doth usually take a special care to supply the wants of good men, and hath oft
done it by extraordinary ways, when ordinary have failed, yet sometimes he knows, and it is
certainly true, that wants and crosses are more needful and useful to them than bread, and in such
cases it is a greater mercy of God to deny them supplies than to grant them.” (Poole)
v. “Paul had nothing, and yet possessed all things.” (Trapp)
B. Teaching the people of God.
1. (11-14) Living in the fear of the Lord.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
a. Come, you children, listen to me: Following David’s deliverance through feigned madness
among the Philistines, many who were in distress, in debt, or in discontent gathered to him at
Adullam cave (1 Samuel 22:1-2). It’s reasonable to think that David taught these men his own
recent lessons of faith, including the fear of the Lord.
i. As David describes the fear of the Lord, it is rooted in action, not religious feelings. “David is
saying that the fear of the Lord is doing right, that is, that it involves obedience.” (Boice)
b. Who is the man who desires life: David taught his unusual group of followers that one must
do to see God’s blessing on the life – to live in the fear of the Lord.
· Keep your tongue from evil: David taught his men – rough as they were – that they should not
speak evil.
· And your lips from speaking deceit: David taught them that a particular form of evil to avoid
is that of lying and deceit.
· Depart from evil and do good: David spoke to his men about simply directing the life away
from evil and to do good.
· Seek peace and pursue it: David taught his men to not only think in terms of war and battles,
but in terms of peace, and the pursuit of it. Peace with God and among men should be sought.
c. And loves many days, that he may see good: David’s instruction of his men at Adullam cave
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 by our own
obedience.
i. “To teach men how to live and how to die, is the aim of all useful religious instruction. The
rewards of virtue are the baits with which the young are to be drawn to morality. While we teach
piety to God we should also dwell much upon morality towards man.” (Spurgeon)
2. (15-16) Living under the watchful eye of God.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
a. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous: David continued to instruct his men, teaching them
about the watchful eye and attentive ear of God upon His people. This was another aspect of reward
to those who do lived the obedience described in Psalm 34:13-14.
b. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil: It was important for David’s men to also
know that – particularly under the Old Covenant – there were not only blessings on obedience, but
curses upon disobedience. Those stuck in their evil and rebellion could find their remembrance
gone from the earth.
3. (17-18) God, the helper of the humble.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
a. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears: David reminded his men at Adullam cave that
(again, especially under the Old Covenant), God’s attentive care is upon the righteous. David’s
testimony was that God had delivered him out of all his troubles.
b. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart: This teaching from David was wonderful
for the men at Adullam cave to hear. They – being in debt, distressed, and discontent – were likely
those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. They were objects of God’s favor and salvation,
not His scorn.
i. “Those whose spirits are oppressed, and even broken, with the greatness of their
calamities….Those whose hearts or spirits are truly and deeply humbled under the hand of God.”
(Poole)
ii. “A bird with a broken wing, an animal with a broken leg, a woman with a broken heart, a man
with a broken purpose in life – these seem to drop out of the main current of life into shadow. They
go apart to suffer and droop. The busy rush of life goes on without them. But God draws nigh.”
(Meyer)
iii. “We are apt to overlook men in proportion as they are humbled beneath us; God regards them
in that proportion.” (Horne)
iv. “Broken hearts think God far away, when he is really most near to them; their eyes are holden
so that they see not their best friend. Indeed, he is with them, and in them, but they know it not.”
(Spurgeon)
v. A contrite spirit: “‘The beaten-out spirit.’ In both words the hammer is necessarily implied; in
breaking to pieces the ore first, and then plating out the metal when it has been separated from the
ore.” (Clarke)
4. (19-22) God’s care for His righteous ones.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He guards all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
a. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: David spoke from his own experience to his men at
Adullam cave. Though he was relatively young, he had still suffered many afflictions, and as a
righteous man.
i. ” ‘Many are the afflictions,’ but more are the deliverances.” (Maclaren)
b. But the Lord delivers him out of them all: This was the principle that answered the previous
statement. Indeed, the righteous had many afflictions; yet God’s deliverance was real in David’s
life and in the experience of many of God’s people.
c. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken: David could look at his own body and
see that though he had endured many battles, accidents, and hardships – yet not one bone was
broken.
i. According to the Gospel of John, David spoke not only of his own experience. He also spoke
prophetically of the Messiah to come, Jesus Christ. John explained that the Roman soldiers that
supervised the crucifixion of Jesus came to His body on the cross, expecting to hasten and
guarantee His death in the traditional way – breaking the legs of the crucified victim. When they
looked carefully, they learned that Jesus was already dead and they pierced His side to confirm it.
John wrote, these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones
shall be broken” (John 19:36).
ii. “Christ’s bones were in themselves breakable, but could not actually be broken by all the
violence in the world, because God had fore–decreed, a bone of him shall not be broken. So we
confess God’s children mortal; but all the power of devil or man may not, must not, cannot, kill
them before their conversion, according to God’s election of them to life, which must be fully
accomplished.” (Fuller, cited in Spurgeon)
d. Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned: David had
confidence in more than the rescue of the righteous. He was also confident that the wicked and
those who hate would be judged.
i. Evil shall slay the wicked: “Either, 1. The evil of sin. His own wickedness, though designed
against others, shall destroy himself. Or, 2. The evil of misery. When the afflictions of good men
shall have a happy issue, theirs shall end in their total and final destruction.” (Poole)
e. None of those who trust in Him shall be condemned: David could proclaim that God would
rescue the soul of His servants, and they would be found in a place outside God’s condemnation.
i. Many centuries later the Apostle Paul would write, There is therefore now no condemnation to
those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Even under the Old Covenant, David knew something
of this freedom from condemnation.
#1: Psalm 34

Written by Bob Stone

"Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and
he left."

Click here to download the complete PPT presentation.

I want to begin with a question. Why would anyone write this verse?

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

What you see here are the words of someone who has experienced a broken heart, has been
crushed in spirit and found that the Lord was close, that the Lord saved him. And that's really the
heart of the Psalm that we want to look at today. At the first part of Psalm 34, before the first
verse, there is a title or heading which gives us a description of the context of this psalm. Not all
the psalms have this, but this puts it in an historical setting.

"Of David" tells us David wrote it. "When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who
drove him away, and he left." I don't know about you, but that's very intriguing to me! Because
it's helpful for us to have a little understanding of where this comes from, let me give you the
timeline, from 1 Samuel 20.

Most of you know that the first King of Israel was Saul. Saul did very well for awhile, but
because of a series of disobedient events, he was rejected as king. Before he died, before he was
removed from the kingship; Samuel, the prophet anointed a new king, and his name was David.
But there was a gap between the anointing and the coronation. During that time period, God did
some remarkable things in David's life which—as we look back at it—are probably the key to
making him the kind of king he ended up being.

After David killed Goliath, we know that he became a musician in Saul's household and played
the harp, to calm the demons in Saul. He became a military man and was responsible for military
victories. He was brought right into the king's table. But soon a song was being sung, and it went
something like this: "Saul has killed his thousands, David has killed his tens of thousands", and
that ticked off Saul. So he became very jealous and on one occasion tried to throw a spear at
David to kill him. After a series of events it became obvious that David's life was in jeopardy.
Saul's son Jonathan made that very clear to David. David, then, after having this anointing and
all this acclaim, was forced to flee. He went to Ahimelech, the Priest and got some day-old
bread, holy bread.

Because he had to flee without any weapons, he also asked for a sword, and Ahimelech said,
"You know, I still have that sword from Goliath, the guy you killed! It's behind the alter. Here it
is." It was probably a massive sword. So here's this guy fleeing for his life, a sack of day-old
spiritual bread over his back and carrying this huge sword. Now where would he go? This was a
strange turn of events. Apparently David believed that he was safer with the enemies of Israel
than in Israel, so he went to the Philistines, to Achish, the King of Gath. He thought that maybe
he wouldn't know who he was.

Well, it was pretty obvious who he was, and soon the King was told who David was. So here he
was with the sword of Goliath, with day-old holy bread, with the Philistines. The King became
very angry when he found out who David was, so to keep from being killed, David pretended to
be insane. This was an Academy Award-winning performance, recorded in 1 Samual 21.

David took these words [expressions of recognition] to heart and was very much afraid of Achish
[or Abimelech is the more formal name], King of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their
presence. And while he was there in their hands he acted like a mad man, making marks on the
doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. Isn't that an exciting scene! Can't you
imagine a guy saying, "Now, Lord I want to do whatever you want me to do, and I'm just going
to open up my Bible and wherever my finger points, that's what I'm going to do!" You can
imagine what would happen if he pointed to this passage of scripture! It's doesn't appear very
inspiring, at least on the surface, until you tie it together with Psalm 34.

"Achish said to the servants, look at the man, he is insane, why bring him to me? Am I so short
of mad men that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me?" In other
words, "I've got enough crazies around already, okay? Must this man come into my house?"
"David left Gath and escaped to the cave at Adullam."

What does David's experience say to us?

Most likely, while David was alone in this cave, he wrote Psalm 34—an acrostic—in which each
stanza starts with the successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It was designed to be a memory
device and was also, I think, designed so that he could remember his findings, his experience as
he was here in the cave. This experience gives us some instruction and hope for our troubles,
when we find ourselves in a cave.

For David, holy bread and Goliath's sword were not enough. He was still fearful. And for us,
there are, will be, and have been many occasions when our wisdom is depleted, when it's not
enough. We need help for the caves of our fear; for our broken hearts; for loneliness; for
separation; for stress; for poverty; for weakness. In Psalm 34, we discover ways to escape from
the caves of our lives: the stretching moments we all find ourselves in.

Back in the '70s and '80s we used to sing the first few verses of this particular psalm:

"I will bless the Lord at all times.

His praise shall continually be in my mouth.


My soul shall make its boast in thee, oh Lord.

The humble shall hear thereof and be glad.

Oh magnify the Lord with me.

And let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears."

Where should we begin?

What do you do when you find yourself in this spot? The first way to deal with the cave if you
have to stay there for awhile, and also to eventually escape it, is prayer and praise.

Prayer and Praise

This is the first way we can escape those caves of isolation and fear. And it really should be
cyclical: prayer and praise, praise and prayer!

1] I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. 2] My soul will boast
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.

I will extol the Lord at all times. His praise will always be on my lips.

Even when I don't feel like it!

My soul will boast in the Lord.

And there's this kind of parenthesis; as if David understands that someone else needs to hear this,
he says...

so let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

He's speaking out of his own experience and trying to draw others into it.
Glorify the Lord with me. Let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord and he heard me and
he delivered me from all my fears.

So what was it that enabled David to escape from the king, to deal with his loneliness and his
fears? Was it his acting? Was it his shrewdness? No. It was his praise and his prayer.

Those who look to him are radiant. Their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man...,

he's talking about himself, obviously very poor...

"this poor man called and the Lord heard him, he saved him out of all of his troubles. The angel
of the Lord encamps around those who fear him. And He delivers them."

That's a wonderful section of Scripture to meditate on. As we begin this process of escape, of
dealing with those caves in our lives, we are going to discover that there are some wonderful
benefits of prayer and praise. And these certainly should encourage us to do it.

1. Answer to prayer, of course. There's deliverance from all of our fears for those who fear
Him! So David is making it clear that fear is the beginning point. Fear of the Lord. Awe
of God.
2. Deliverance from all of our fears
3. Radiance, no shame. When we begin to look to the Lord in the midst of the cave, we
find radiance, no shame. Stephen experienced this on the day on which he was
persecuted, about to be stoned with rocks. Acts 6 says that "his face was shining like that
of the face of an angel." There's no shame in being in a cave, in running for your life
when in fact you are in the will of God. There's no shame in being brokenhearted,
crushed in spirit, when in fact you are doing what He wants. The enemy of our soul
would like to shame us, to come to us and say, "You're in a cave, you deserve to be in a
cave, you should be shamed by being in a cave, you'll never escape this cave, you are
worthless!" But those who discover the secrets of Psalm 34 understand that there is a
place of radiance even in the midst of stretching moments.
4. God hears us, and he saves us out of our trouble. He encamps around us.

Patient Perspectives

We not only meditate on the Lord and His goodness with praise and prayer and participate in it,
we need a little perspective! And that perspective needs to be infused with patience even as we
wait in loneliness and fear. Here's the perspective:

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."

There is a device in Hebrew poetry called parallelism, which is used in many ways. When you
read the Psalms and Proverbs, you should understand it. Sometimes the author will say one line
and the next line will take that subject and just extend it a little further. Other times there is the
first line and the second is just the opposite; and the contrast, as you compare the two, teaches us
something.

In this case what you see is "Taste and see that the Lord is good," first line. The second line
explains and extends the thought, "Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." I used to use
this verse as an encouragement to the person who doesn't know Him, like this. "You know,
you've never tried the Lord. You've never given it a shot, so taste and see and you'll find that the
Lord is good." I think it has application there. But the context tells us that if you are a believer
and are in a difficult moment, just "taste and see that the Lord is good" because "blessed is the
man who takes refuge in Him."

As you taste and see, you'll find that it's good; that in fact there is blessing for the person who
takes refuge in the Lord. That's the perspective you need to hold onto. "Fear the Lord you saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry . . " David writes,
using a metaphor to talk about himself.

Perspectives to Maintain:

 If we taste of the experiences, even the troubles God may take us through,
ultimately we will find it will be good. The New Testament corollary, of course
is, "For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
and have been called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28)."
 If we take refuge in God, we will be blessed.
 If we fear and seek the Lord, we are promised we will lack no good thing. It's not
a promise for everything we want, but for everything that is good for us.

I have a doctorate in exposition, and one of the key things that drives my life and is the center of
my education, as well as the way that I preach, is the whole idea of context. You cannot interpret
Scripture outside its context, take a verse and rip it out of context and have understanding. You
have to understand what's before that verse and what's after it. When it's in context and you
understand a bit about the social and geographical setting, you're going to have some
understanding. The same thing is true of our lives. It's the principle of life context.

We can't accurately interpret the present until the future is the past. In other words, we need to be
(James 5:7) "patient like a farmer." There is always a gap between sowing and reaping, between
the "anointing" and the "coronation." When we go through stretching moments and find
ourselves in caves, we need patient perspectives, the principle of life context. We try not to
interpret the present until we've lived a little while and can look back on it and see what God is
doing. We can't rip the present out of context, and we can't just use the past to interpret it. We
have to wait sometimes.

My granddaughter was over at our house in the springtime and found some old corn seed. Well, I
have never planted a garden that I can remember, but she found some seeds so they must have
been really old. So she said to grandma, "Grandma, you know I'd like to plant these corn seeds.
Can I plant them in the flowers?" Well, Nancy thought they were so old they'd never grow, but
she dug the little trenches and they planted the seeds, and now when you come to our house you
can see the result: we have corn coming out of our flowers! It's a great scene!

There is always a gap between the planting and the reaping. We had no idea that it would really
work; we had to live a little while to see the result. So, it's not just what is happening (the
present); it's not just what has happened (the past). We need the context of the future before we
can interpret the present circumstances of our life. Sometimes things happen in our lives that
don't make any sense, and we are absolutely convinced there will be no fruit! If we're patient,
we'll see the fruit.

Pass on the principles

It's time to share what you're learning. In verse 11, David writes, "Come my children, listen to
me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord." He's still in a cave. He's still alone. He's not been
crowned the king yet. He's still being pursued by Saul! In the midst of that, however, there is a
pause, a moment. He's learning something. It isn't at the end of the process that you share what
you're learning; it's while you're in it, while it is meaningful, fresh.

In case that invitation wasn't enough motivation, David added, "Whoever of you loves life and
desires many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from
evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it." That's a mouthful. That's the sermon. That's what
David wanted the person who was watching and listening to learn from him.

How do you fear the Lord? How do you live a long life?

Begin by thinking and speaking the truth. No lies! When you're in a cave, you begin to
imagine things, to allow lies to penetrate your mind and your spirit. The enemy comes again, and
tells you that you deserve to be there. Lies begin to be your focus, and those lies take you further,
deeper into the cave. You live the lie! It's the truth, though, that sets us free. David learned while
in the cave that he needed to speak the truth, and if he was speaking the truth, it meant he was
thinking the truth. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

When you think and speak the truth, sin is revealed: not only someone else's sin, but yours: your
need for purification, for repentance. So begin speaking the truth, turn from evil, do good and
pursue peace. It's not just a no, it's also a yes. We discover when we're under pressure that there
are sins in our lives, so we confess our sin. It isn't enough just to confess, however; it isn't
enough just to turn from evil. We then are to take a positive stance and begin to do good and
pursue peace.

I don't know how many people I've talked to in my ministry experience who say, "You know, I'm
going through a hard time and soon as I get through it, maybe I'll minister, maybe I'll do this or
that." And my counsel usually is, "Right now might be the very best time for you to do good, to
do ministry, to take the present lessons, the daily answers to prayer and share them with someone
else. Find some way to pass on the principles, the lessons, the warnings, the concerns that you
might have.

Pursue peace. As Saul was pursuing David, David pursued peace. On two occasions he could
have killed Saul but pursued peace instead, honoring the Lord's anointed.

Practice his presence

It's very important for us to think about where the Lord is in our experience. Ps 34:7, 15-18. "The
angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him... The eyes of the Lord are on the
righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off memory from the earth. The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them. He delivers
them from all their troubles." And here's the verse we started with: "The Lord is close to the
brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

What does this tell us about God, about His presence? He encamps around us; the eyes of the
Lord are on us, the Lord is attentive to our cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
The Lord hears us. The Lord is close, the Lord saves. David said in Psalm 23, "Even though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." At the
end of the Great Commission, He said, "and lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the
age."

Practicing the presence of God is the encouragement we need when we're in a cave.

Proclaim his promises

These are the promises we've proclaimed as we celebrate his presence. "A righteous man may
have many troubles. [Did you know that is a promise?] but the Lord delivers him from them all.
He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." Here's a good promise (vv 19-22):
"Evil will slay the wicked. The foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems his
servants, no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him."

Conclusion

This is the way we deal with the caves, the stretching experiences in our life:

Praise and Prayer

Patient perspective

Pass on the Principles


Practice His Presence

Proclaim his Promise

The alliteration there is designed to go along with the way this psalm was originally designed, as
an acrostic. I would encourage you to write this simple outline next to the verses in Psalm 34. If
you haven't needed it, you will. You just may need it now. Allow the verses to work through
your soul and mind and spirit. There is wonderful healing and help that will come to you.

We all need safe places. David needed a cave, and there are moments in our lives when pressure
is great. It may be a five-minute walk around the block. It may be that we steal away and go on a
hike. It may be that we go to Whistler for a couple of weeks and enjoy the beauty up there. We
all need a safe place. But that safe place can be lonely.

We all need still times. We need time to reflect, to write in our journals. We need to have those
moments when things like Psalm 34 can begin to roll out of our spirits, to begin to write down
and reflect and pray and to begin to learn the lessons of our lives. But that's still not enough.

We all need special friends. First Samuel 22 tells us that David left Gath and escaped to the
cave, and when his brothers and his father's household heard about it, they went down to him
there, and it goes on and tells about the 400 men that came. Now initially they weren't real close,
but they became very special friends to him.

The safe places, the still times and the special friends helped to prepare him for what was ahead.

There is a little river that runs through Whistler, British Columbia, and it's beautiful. If you go up
there in the spring, it's kind of rip-roaring. But if you go up there in late summer, there are little
sand bars revealed in the middle, filled with rocks. These rocks have a whole lot of water
crushing in on them and affecting them almost all the time.

The last time I was there, I went across this little beaver dam and got out in the middle of this
sand bar and found a rock. If you looked at it real close you'd find that it's not quite round yet,
but it's getting there. If you look at common gravel, in contrast, it has ragged edges, because it
hasn't been in water. It hasn't been turned over, pressured and pushed, and the edges haven't been
knocked off. A rock in the middle of a river, however, has had the pressure and is being rounded.

I thought about the fact that when David went to the brook to pick up the stones that would kill
Goliath, he picked five smooth stones. They would probably go through the air better and reach
their target because the corners had been rounded. I kept the stone I had picked up, and it is a
reminder to me of Psalm 34. I keep it in my pocket and rub the edges, and remind myself that the
Lord is working in me, his good pleasure.

Our lives are like stones in the river, and God has some very special things in mind. There's a
target that needs to be reached. There will be experiences during which we feel the pressure, feel
alone, feel "turned." We're going to feel as if we can't make it. But the principle of patient
perspective, the principle of context says, "Let the river roll on!" Let the experience continue!
There comes a time when we'll be able to see the work of the Master and see that we're much
better, more prepared for what is ahead. We would discover that those experiences that are
hurting us, stretching us, knocking off some of the sins and rough edges of our lives are for our
good, to make us useful, smooth stones safe in the Master's hands.

If you are in one of those places, I encourage you to find a river, or go down to the bay. Pick up a
little rock and hold it in your hand. Allow your finger to go over the edges. Remind yourself of
what God is doing in you.