The Choices that Get Us Through-Psalm 34
Psalm 34 was written by David while he was living life on the run, living in hiding, moving from place to place as he awaited King Saul’s death so he could take the throne as King of Israel. In I Samuel 21 David had fled to enemy territory, to Gath, just because he had to keep moving. He was discovered in Gath and was taken to the king there. The king’s men exposed who he was, telling the king that he was David, the mighty warrior who could pose a real military threat to the king of Gath. David, scared at what his fate may be, just pretended to be insane. He started clawing at the doors to the gate and started letting saliva drip down his beard. Gross, but very clever. The King bought the song and dance and David was on the run again. In chapter 22 he found himself in a cave.
1 Samuel 22:1-2 1 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
What is the expression? “Misery loves company?” I guess it’s true. Everyone else who was down and out and discontented went to hang out with David. They really must have been down and out because they made David, a man on the run, a man who King Saul wanted dead, to be their leader.
It is from this cave experience where David feels this weight, this major responsibility that all of these other desperate people are now counting on him to lead them out of their own despair. And it is from this cave experience David penned the words of Psalm 34. He made some decisions about how they were all going to get through the trying time they were enduring. Let’s look first at verses 1-3 of Psalm 34.
Psalm 34:1-3 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.
We see the first choice David made was a strategic one. David chose to glorify the LORD.
Remember, David had just escaped capture, probable torture and maybe even death as he had just escaped the King of Gath’s presence by acting like he was crazy. Also remember, a few chapters earlier in I Samuel, David had killed Goliath, a giant, who was from Gath. He was their prized fighting man. It wouldn’t sit well with the King of Gath for David to be found in Gath after he had killed Goliath and sent the entire Philistine army running.
And David’s first choice on the heels of this escape from Gath was to glorify God. Listen, David knew that any time he escaped what people were out to do to him that he needed to glorify and thank the Lord for it. He was out of enemy territory for a minute in this cave, and he wanted to give God the credit.
David had an audience in this cave. Over 400 men had come to be with him. He could have talked to them about his harrowing experience in the presence of the King of Gath and how clever he was to have come up with the idea to act crazy in order to escape. He could have put the emphasis on himself, on where he had been, what he had done, and how difficult life was for him at the time, but he didn’t. He chose to glorify God.
David did what he had always done. This wasn’t the first time he had experienced rescue from the hand of God. David was just giving a life of praise testimony in the cave as he had done many times before. He had told his enemy Goliath in I Samuel 17 that as God had delivered him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear that God would rescue him from Goliath. David had already come through a lot in his life, and he knew it was only by the grace of God and the help of God that he had made it this far.
Notice the construct of the opening three verses. It was a triplet of praise. David extolled the LORD and talked about continual praise in verse 1. “I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” It’s not about praising just when things are good. It is about a life of praise. It is about ongoing and unbroken praise. Turning to God in praise wasn’t new for David. This was regular behavior. I’m here to tell you this morning as is evidenced in David’s life that regular praise will result in regular deliverance.
If God is good then He is always good. If He is always good then He is always deserving of praise. There is a direct correlation between recognizing and rejoicing in God’s goodness and sovereignty and in our ability to receive His peace and power to get through anything we face. We WILL overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony because that it what glorifies God! (Rev. 12:11) It is simply a good decision to live a life of worship and praise.
In verse two of this triplet of praise David says he will boast in the LORD in the deepest part of himself-that in his soul he will glorify God. That, my friends, is deep praise. There is testimonial, hand-raising worship. There is “I am a child of God” worship where our hands are raised as if to say, “Count me in! I’m a Child of the King!” There is hand clapping worship when we feel the music and are happy to be in the house of God where people are rejoicing and where we can just get a break from the stress of the daily grind for a few minutes. There is head worship where we know and respect God for being the Almighty One. There is mouth worship where we are faithful to proclaim the goodness of God.
But beyond those expressions, there is soul worship which is deeper than I can describe. It is soul worship which enables you to let a deep spiritual anchor connect with the reservoir of God’s peace and power that will cause you to have supernatural ability to get through ANYTHING. I said ANYTHING! Do you believe it?
And then in verse three David encourages all the down and out, depressed and in despair people that will follow him to glorify God with him. There is power that comes into people and places where groups of people will get together to glorify and praise God. Remember, the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost wasn’t given to one person who was sitting in isolation in his own home praying to receive a revelation or a miracle. God’s Spirit was poured out on a corporate body of people who were waiting in prayer and worship and expectation that God would fulfill His Word.
We actually become a spiritual army to route the principalities and powers of darkness when we come together to praise the Lord. When we come together for corporate praise and worship to exalt and glorify God together we become an army that is intact and engaged and warfare takes place. Yes, you can do spiritual warfare on your own Monday through Saturday, and you must. You must praise and worship the Lord throughout the week, but you also must understand the benefit of being together with God’s people to exalt the Lord. For when we do we are not only focusing on Him, but we together we are defeating the enemy of our souls and every lying, false spirit that has tried to attached itself to us during the week.
In addition to being an active army, David knew that corporate praise and worship was going to bring transformation to those over 400 people who were “in distress or in debt or discontented.” (VS 2) If you need to get perspective on your distress, your debt and your discontent, don’t sit on the sidelines during praise and worship, but participate in order to elevate your mind and soul on something more powerful than your circumstances! When you glorify the Lord and invite people to join you, you are inviting them to a better way of life!
What a great choice David made when he decided to glorify the Lord. Second, this Psalm tells us David chose to seek the Lord.
Psalm 34:4-8 4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. 8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Before we seek a way out of our situation, let us seek the Lord. Before we look to self-help books and the opinions of our friends, let us seek the Lord. Before we accept any earthly report, let us seek the Lord.
Verse four tells us when we seek the Lord we can be saved from ourselves. We are often our own worst enemy in times of trouble. We can concoct the worst case scenario in a hurry. Our mind can go from curious to troubled, from troubled to anxious, from anxious to panicked, from panicked to afraid, and from afraid to over-whelmed in a hurry.
But if we will stop and seek the Lord we can be delivered from the added stress we ourselves bring to the situation.
I love verse 5 because it describes people I know. It says those who seek the Lord have a radiant face. There are people we all know, even in this congregation, people of faith whose earthly lives give them no reason to smile, but they are smiling anyway. They are truly radiant with the grace and peace of God because they are seeking Him in the midst of their turmoil.
Verse 6 makes it so easy. David sought the Lord and he was rescued. Seeking God is way to experience God as “ever present” in your situation. Psalm 46:1 tells us God is an ever present help in time of trouble. Ever present, but often ignored. Ever present but underutilized. Ever present but not sought out for help as often seeking God is our last resort. Many will go to their FB friends before seeking God. Many will look to escape their circumstances through alcohol, drugs, food, sex or some other fulfillment of a fantasy rather than seeking God. Many are chasing after something they think can offer an answer when THE ANSWER is always standing right there just ready to be asked for help.
Verse seven tells us the angel of the LORD encamps around those who are seeking God. The angel of the LORD in this passage is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.
As we seek Him we not only are saved from ourselves, we not only have reasons to smile, we not only have opportunities to see Him in our situation, but verse eight says we will be satisfied in Christ no matter what our circumstances are taking from us.
The person who wrote “I can’t get no satisfaction” wasn’t seeking the LORD when he wrote that song because when we seek the LORD we taste and see that He is good. When we seek Him it means we have spent time in His presence, time getting to know Him, time enjoying being around Him, and we find out He is more than enough. Nothing and no one satisfies a soul like Jesus.
David chose to glorify God and to seek God and third, he chose to fear God, and he found that fear of the Lord conquers every other fear.
Psalm 34:9-16 9 Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. 11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, 13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. 14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
A lot of people are comfortable claiming the Lord as Lord of their lives but they don’t want to respect Him by living the way He asks. What they don’t understand is that disobedience to the Lord short circuits blessings and provision for our lives. Those who respect His commandments and ways, according to this Scripture, lack nothing good that is needed to sustain and fulfill their lives.
David was so convinced that he said it twice. He said it in verse 9 and again in verse 10. In verse 10 he expounded upon what he meant in verse nine. He said if we feared God we would lack no good thing. We have to trust what God believes is good for our lives. Too often we like to be the ones to define what “good” should look like. Verse 12 implies that fearing and respecting God means we want to see the kind of good that God wants to deliver to us. We have to desire God’s kind of goodness for our lives. It has so little to do with possessions and status, but it has everything to do with faith and character.
Fearing and respecting God means, verse 13 that we watch our mouths and live a life committed to the truth. Fearing and respecting God in verse 14 means we not only accept good things from God, but that we turn from evil and do good. Sin isn’t good and it doesn’t produce anything good in our lives. In addition fearing and respecting God means we value people and want to be at peace with them whenever possible.
These choices David made to glorify the Lord, to seek the Lord and to fear the Lord led to the testimony he could give in verses 17-22.17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. 21 Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. 22 The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.
These last several verses sum up beautifully what David was trying to say. He has said it in Psalm 23 when he spoke of the Lord being His Shepherd. These last several verses summarize what it means to be in a relationship with God. It means He is always listening for us to cry out to Him. It means He gets even closer (or we experience His closeness more intensely) during times when we are heartbroken and crushed or afraid. It means that the God who created us is the One who is for us, and He is walking with us to ensure our enemies will be defeated and that we will be safe forever with Him.
Verse 17 says it is the righteous who receive these benefits. Allow me to share who those people are. They are those whose sins have been forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus on cross. Sin causes spiritual death. The sacrifice of the blood of Jesus pays the price for our sins and restores us to a right state or righteous state just as if we never have sinned.
We live in that righteousness when we glorify God, when we seek Him, and when we fear and respect His ways. And when we make those choices, we have an overwhelming and profound sense that as we walk with the Lord He will absolutely right every wrong, keep us safe, and revive whatever part of our spirit has been torn or crushed. Life has ways of making us feel limited, but when we make the choices David made we will be overcomers who get through any circumstance emerging stronger, safer in our minds and spirits and more secure inside the protective will and hand of God than in any earthly stronghold or experience. Which of these choices do you need to make today?