Psalm 34: Taste and See That the LORD Is Good
The introduction says, “Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.” This is a reference to an episode that can be read about in 1 Samuel 21:10–15; the short version is:
- David finds himself in front of Abimelek, a foreign king, and is afraid for his life
- David pretends to be insane, so that Abimelek will leave him alone
- Abimelek buys the act, and drives David out of presence
- And then… apparently David writes this psalm, to celebrate the LORD’s goodness!
We sometimes tend to view God’s actions and our own in an either/or kind of way—either God is in control or I am—but both are usually happening at once. In this case, it was David who came up with a plan to act insane and then act on it, and it was God who made that plan successful. David is right to praise God’s goodness when his own plans are successful—we should do that more often, too!
1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
Although this psalm is written by David to celebrate the LORD’s goodness after a particular event, and is therefore a personal psalm, David knows that God is God over all, not just himself, so he wants everyone to glorify the LORD along with him.
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.
David talks about why he’s praising the LORD: David—“this poor man”—sought God, and God answered him. At the time this psalm was written David wasn’t yet king, he was still on the run from Saul who was trying to kill him, so how can he say that God saved him out of all of his troubles? I think this is partially poetic license—again, we shouldn’t read poetry the same way we read prose, or histories, or expository texts like the New Testament letters—but also partially David’s faith in God: God is so faithful that David is assured He will save David from all of his troubles.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
I think this portion of the psalm shows why David is called “a man after God’s own heart” in the Bible: he doesn’t just trust God, he pushes others to do the same. “Trust God, like I do, and get His blessings, as I do!”
15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
On this last part I’d go back to the point about poetic license: This feels like a pretty black-and-white text about God rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked, but this is a psalm/song/poem. I think David would likely agree that there are times when righteous people suffer, and wicked people do well. We can’t apply this as a universal truth and say it always happens this way1. However, David also knows that the LORD is just; he knows that the LORD has promised to bless His people; he knows that God is good. He was more right than he ever knew that God does deliver His people from their troubles, but the full implementation of that happens in eternity, not always in this life.
If you follow a preacher who says that it does always happen this way, you have what we call a “health and wealth” preacher, and that person is not teaching the Scriptures faithfully. The Bible does not teach that following God always leads to blessings and straying from Him always leads to suffering; the Gospels, especially, are full of places where Jesus teaches that his followers are going to suffer—just as He suffered. ↩︎