Psalm 34

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 8, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Sometimes, a writing is made more interesting because of who the author is and the circumstances of the author’s life at the time of that writing. Psalm 34 is one of these that caught my eye, because of its heading: “Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.” That’s rather descriptive, wouldn’t you say? So before digging into the psalm itself, I want to take a look into what was going on in David’s life at the time he wrote this.

Scholars connect this heading to 1 Samuel 21:13 specifically: “So [David] pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.” Check out the context in 1 Samuel 21:10-15, and you’ll see that David went to Gath as part of his fleeing from King Saul who was trying to kill him. The servants of King Achish were clearly afraid of David as his reputation for being a mighty warrior preceded him, so David was afraid they would try to kill him. Instead, he pretended to be insane, and his plan worked - King Achish wanted David to leave, and he does.

Knowing that context of the writing of Psalm 34, we can better appreciate the content of it: David praising God and extolling the virtues of wisdom.

The first section of the psalm, verses 1-7, is David praising God. David calls attention to what God has done, not David’s own deeds. God heard his cry and saved him. David invites the community of people to worship God together because of the mighty things God has done. David personally experienced God rescuing and delivering him, and he reminds us all that God is to be praised for that.

Verses 8-9 give us commands to experience what God has for us: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.” Taste, see, and fear and all command forms of those verbs, so they’re more emphatic than just simple suggestions. We, too, can experience all that God has for us when we take refuge in Him, just as David did when he was in Gath and afraid of what the people would do to him.

The rest of the psalm focuses indirectly on wisdom. Verse 11 has the feel of a teacher introducing a lesson: “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” This is especially interesting coming from a man who just pretended to be insane, that he should be teaching his readers about wisdom! But verses 12-14 give good examples of how to live out the fear of the Lord: don’t spread evil or lies, do good, and pursue peace. A wise person will do these things and will receive God’s blessing for them.

The next verses refer to contrasts between righteous and unrighteous people. God watches and is attentive to the righteous person, but not the evil one (verses 15-16). God hears the cries of the righteous, is close to them, delivers them, and protects them (verses 17-20). Evil and unrighteous people will be condemned, but the righteous will be rescued (verses 21-22).

It’s pretty clear that David wrote this psalm out of his own personal experiences. David had gotten into a situation in Gath where he was afraid for his life, but he trusted God to protect him. Sometimes, God protecting David meant God slaughtering David’s enemies, or God working through David to perform a mighty conquest like that; in this situation, however, God’s protection looked like David pretending to be insane, so the people of Gath wouldn’t want him around anymore and would let him go peacefully.

What does God’s protection look like in your life? Are you daily praising God for all the ways that He protects you? Are you “tasting and seeing” God’s goodness in your life? We are all called to fear God and give Him glory and praise with our lives. He is the giver of all wisdom, and sometimes that wisdom may show up in our lives in surprising ways, as it did for David.

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