By Donnie V. Rader
Psalm 34 is a Psalm of David. It is an acrostic (Alphabetic) Psalm where in Hebrew each line begins with the successive Hebrew alphabet. However, it is irregular. One letter (vau) is missing and another (pe) is repeated. It is the second such Psalm. The twenty-fifth Psalm is one also.
The title of the Psalm says, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” This refers to the events of 1 Samuel 21:10-15 where David, because he was afraid, acted like he was crazy before Achish, the king of Gath. The Psalm does not indicate any attempt to vindicate David’s action. In fact, in the Psalm, David makes no reference to his conduct. He makes no comment upon it. He merely recalls his feelings at the time of his deliverance. We are not to assume that this was necessarily written at the time of the events of 1 Samuel 21.
A quick reading of this Psalm suggests there are two divisions: (1) vv. 1-10 and (2) vv. 11-22. Charles Spurgeon calls the first part a hymn and the second a sermon. The first ten verses deal with thanksgiving and praise for deliverance. The last twelve deal with instruction.
The Point Of Psalms 34
The point of the Psalm is that Jehovah is our provider, protector, and deliverer. Albert Barnes wrote, “The general purport and bearing of the Psalm, therefore, is to furnish an argument for trusting in God in the time of trouble, and for leading such a life that we may confidently trust him as our Protector and Friend” (Barnes Notes, Psalms, I:286).
We also learn some lessons about the fear of God and the blessings that those who fear receive.
1. David’s Praise Toward God (vv. 1-10)
a. Pledge to praise God always (vv. 1-3).
b. David’s experience: The Lord heard and delivered
c. God blesses those who trust and fear (vv. 8-11).
2. Instructions To Fear (vv. 11-22)
a. How to fear God (vv. 11-14).
b. The blessings of those who fear (vv. 15-22).
A Closer Look At The Psalm
David begins with a pledge to praise God at all times (vv. 1-3). In every circumstance and situation whether in trials and darkness or calmness when all is bright. In this, he makes a statement of his dedication and devotion of which he is not ashamed (v. 2). He stirs others to magnify God’s name with him (v. 3).
In the next four verses David tells of how he cried to the Lord and the Lord heard and delivered him from his enemies. He shows his confidence in the Lord. It is in this section that he introduces us to the fear of the Lord (v. 7). His point is that the Lord protects and delivers those who fear God.
Verses 8-10 describe how God blesses those who trust him and fear his name. He said, “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear him” (v. 9). He concludes the first part of this Psalm saying, “But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (v. 10).
The second part of the Psalm (vv. 11-22) is instructions to fear God. First, he invites all to come and learn about the fear of God (v. 11). In the next verse he tells us that those who fear God are the ones who truly enjoy life and see good days (v. 12). The writer then tells us how to see those good days (thus telling us how to fear God): (1) Control the tongue (v. 13). (2) Depart from evil (v. 14). (3) Do good (v. 14). (4) Seek peace, and pursue it (v. 14).
Verses 15-22 tell of the blessings that those who fear God receive. The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous (those who fear) and his ears are open to their prayer (v. 15, cf. 1 Pet. 3:12). The Lord delivers his people from their troubles (vv. 17, 19). He redeems the soul of his servants (v. 22).
Lessons About Fear From This Psalm
There are several practical lessons we learn from this Psalm about the fear of God.
1. Fear must be taught (v. 11). If we fear God, we have been taught to fear God. If we want our children to fear God, we must teach them to fear God. When we wonder why some of our children have no use for God or his word, we would do well to consider that maybe we didn’t teach them to fear God.
2. What it means to fear God. The term “fear” is equated with several other expressions in the context. These terms serve as a commentary on what is involved in fearing God. What verses 7, 9, and 11 refer to as one who “fears,” v. 8 describes as one who “trusts in him.” Verse 10 says “seek the Lord.” Verse 15 calls this one “righteous.” Verse 22 says he is a servant.
3. The Lord protects those who fear him (vv. 7, 15, 17, 19). The Lord cares about his people. He delivers them from their troubles.
4. The Lord blesses those who fear him (vv. 8-10). God gives us all that we need (2 Pet. 1:3). There is no promise that the Lord would give us all we want. He did promise that he would grant all we need. While the young lion may hunger, his people will not lack any good thing (v. 10).
5. Those who fear God are those who really enjoy life (v. 12). Those who seek pleasure from life without the fear of God, have no idea what real joy is. In fact, they don’t really understand what life itself is all about.
6. God’s listens to those who fear him (vv. 15-22). What a privilege to have God’s ear tuned to our request! Such an honor is not granted to just anyone. It is an honor bestowed only on those who fear God.