Psalm 34: God is Tasty
August 2, 2009 Series: Songs of Summer | A Study of Psalms
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Psalm 34:8–34:9
August 2, 2009
Ephesians 5.15-20 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
David and His Men
Addressing one another in spiritual songs might sound strange. I’ve always wanted to have a group of minstrels follow me around and play dramatic music with every statement I make or mood I feel. The beauty of the psalms is that the run the range of the emotions, thus revealing that God doesn’t expect us to be happy-go-lucky-always feel-good worshippers all the time. It’s curious that we often only focus on the feel-good songs and its rare that we walk into church an hear a song of complaint or lament like Psalm 88 that sings to God, “You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me and you overwhelm me with your waves.”
We’re going to look at Psalm 34 today. This Psalm gives us an historical context recorded in 1Samuel 21.1-15. After David killed Goliath of Gath, a ten and a half foot monster of a man, he became increasingly popular with the people. Unfortunately, King Saul viewed him as a threat. Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best friend and David and Saul even gave David one of his daughters to marry in exchange for fighting against the Philistines. Though David was a mere shepherd with a sling, by God’s grace he had incredible success on the battlefield, so much so the people were enamored with him.
Eventually, the Lord rejects Saul and secretly anoints David as King. Because David reveres Saul, the man whom God installed as King, he does not act to overthrow—he quietly serves and waits on the Lord. A tormented Saul then speaks to his son about killing David but Jonathan shares this with his best friend. David is then forced to flee his country because of Saul’s rage. He first goes to see the Priest just south of the city. When questioned by the priest about why he is alone, David lies no less that four times about being on a ‘secret mission’ for the King; a lie that ends up in the death of the priests at Nob, their children, and even their animals. He cons the priests into giving him the Bread of Presence from theTempleand takes Goliath’s sword. Then he travels into the one place that Saul will never find him—Gath, Goliath’s home town in the land of their enemy the Philistines.
Eventually, David is found out and brought before a great Philistine King, Achish, also known by the formal title Abimelech. David feigns insanity by scratching on the walls and drooling on himself. Instead of a battle hardened warrior and spy thrown into prison, he is driven out of the land as a madman. By God’s grace, David escapes the Philistines and goes to live in cave because both his enemies and his own people are trying to kill him.
It is assumed that David wrote this Psalm sometime after his escape fromGath. Perhaps he was still hiding in a cave meditating on how God had delivered him from some scary men and some of his own stupid decisions. As he sat there, the Bible says that (1Sam 22.2) Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul (discontent), gathered to him. And it had to be tempting for this group to sit and wallow in their mutual discontent—to dwell on how God felt distant, how their circumstances were overwhelming, how their lot in life felt unfair. Imagine David sitting there, Captain of a rag tag group of losers God had built; he was a the leader, a king, over of bitter, indebted, and otherwise marginalized men. Yet, somehow, David takes these failures of society, and transforms them into warriors. How?
This is a teaching Psalm, and I wonder if it is one of the first things he taught these men. The first 10 verses of Psalm 34 are reflection and praise for what God has done—it expresses David’s attitude toward God, inviting His men to experience God’s goodness in the midst of a chaotic, disappointing, and failed situation. The last 12 verses are more instructive, teaching wisdom about HOW TO LIVE a good life: to fear the Lord at all times, to enjoy the Lord at all times, to trust the Lord at all times--that he might lead men who walk by faith and not by sight at all times.
1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord. We hear the term “praise” a lot from “religious” people, perhaps too much. I feels like one of those words that has been so overused so as to lose its meaning. The word praise is an expression of gratitude. It is a volitional act of worship in that we ascribes value to someone or some thing and communicate it in some way—the root meaning of the word is connected with making noise. Today, it is difficult to separate the idea of music from praise. As Christians it seems worshipping through song is the one place we can point to where we say—I praised Him there. Most of the time outside of Sunday mornings, we are not praising God with our mouths that way.
It’s not as if we don’t praise things. The act of praise appears to arise quite naturally for us in many different contexts as an consummation of joy or regard. C.S. Lewis wrote that, “praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. …(We see this as we watch athletes, see great movies, or even have good food.) CS LEWIS continues, In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him”. In saying I will bless the Lord, praise the Lord, worship the Lord at all times, is David saying I will enjoy Him at all times. But to enjoy someone or praise something is to know that thing.
Ceaseless praise, ceaseless enjoyment, is almost impossible for us to imagine as we consider all the crap that a life in this broken world brings us. In fact, actively praising God in those darkest moments is often the furthest thing from our minds. Instead of constantly speaking of what God has done, in the midst of disillusionment, we are more inclined speak of the times themselves and that which God has not done to get me out of them! Though we don’t “enjoy” our bad times, it seems like when I complain about my circumstances, I am in fact ascribe strength, value, and validity to the power of sin and brokenness in this world—I give them victory. When I dwell on my own circumstances, as opposed to God, I do the opposite of what David says here; boast in my own abilities to save myself. We do not ignore pain we direct it.
But David speaks to this group of broken people, each with their own story, telling them that HE will bless the Lord at all times. Despite the sins of others against him, despite his own sinfulness (stupid choices), he will praise him continually. Remember though David has done nothing wrong, he is hated. Though he has served faithfully, he is hunted ruthlessly. Though David continues to protect the kingdom, the king seeks to destroy him. As the leader then, David has to feel discouraged. But instead of dwelling in the emotion of the difficulty, he charges the men that are with him to praise God—not individually—but together with one voice. We come together in COMMUNITY not simply to experience encouragement, but to magnify the LORD together; to exalt his name together in a way that is personal BUT not private.
Now, David the worship leader, reflects on the CONTENT of his praise recalling his escape fromGath
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
David’s praise is rooted in what God had done in response to his cry for help—notice he didn’t pray until he was in REAL trouble. I wish all of us would live a princess leia mentality (most desperate hour). David further recalls his own situation, calling himself a POOR MAN—a man in want—who cried out of his NEED for God. Fear of the world, not only reveals to us our need for God, but the fact that we really don’t fear Him. What fears did he have? The same ones EVERYONE has who does not fear God. Fear of our enemy? Fear of failure? Fear of unknown? Fear of pain? Fear of impossible circumstances? Fear of dissatisfaction? Fear of men’s approval? Fear of men’s disapproval? He was delivered from his fear BEFORE he was delivered from the situation.
As David sings this to these broken, unbelieving, dispirited men, he says those WHO DO THIS (pray); those who look to him are radiant—they glow. Bible Professor Gregory Beale wrote, "what people revere (fear or look to), they resemble, either ruin or restoration." In times of trouble, despair, and need, men cry out to something—either the Creator of creation, either the one true God or a false one. Those who cry out to the true God are slowly transformed into the image of his Son Jesus—they become more and more like Him. Those who cry out to the man-made false gods to alleviate their fears…come to look and act like those gods. According to Psalm 115.84 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
Those who fear creation above God are not radiant and free. They are dark and paralyzed—they do not speak, do not see, do not hear, they do not feel, they do not walk, they cannot make a sound of praise. David invites his men to experience one true God.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
OH TASTE and see that the LORD is good
David challenges his men to come and experience what he has experienced. Taste is an important figure of speech in the Bible. Everywhere it’s used figuratively taste suggests full participation in and/or experience of the thing enjoyed. Often, when you taste something, you are required to employ most if not ALL of the other senses. Before or as you taste, see the food, you feel the texture, you smell the aroma, and you may even hear all kinds of noises as a result of tasting—sooner or later. But an invitation to taste of God is two fold. First it is a call to fully rely on him just as we eat for nourishment—in this case, nourishment for the soul. But we eat for more than just health. It is because of taste that eating is considered an experience of pleasure—on that we often repeat several times a day, not as a boring chore or duty, but out of desire because of what we’ve tasted before. For me, the worst food in the world is cooked carrots. I wonder how many of us view our faith in God, our relationship as feasting on prime rib, chocolate, or the like; or more like a child forced to eat their lima beans and mystery meat.
Not only does David invite his men by saying, “OH TASTE” but he also says, “OH FEAR.” Those who do this have NO LACK—they lack no good thing. The phrase “fear the Lord” is not the same as “be scared of the Lord”, rather, it is a reverent respect for WHO GOD IS. The question for all of us is this, how do you know when someone fears the Lord? What does fearing the Lord look like? From what David has said, it seems like it LOOKS like someone who lives in continual praise; someone who constantly feasts on the goodness of the Lord; someone who is genuinely content because they are full. I want that life. And David doesn’t just leave them in suspense—“You guys need to fear the Lord…thanks and don’t forget to tip your waitress.” He says: 11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
So David gives them THREE specifics:
LESSON #1 – Speak to Men
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The first thing David addresses in teaching men to “fear the Lord” is to watch their mouths with others. He speaks directly to our interactions with people. Most often, relationships with people succeed or fail because of an exchange of words. In speaking about our faith, James spends much of his book on the tongue, explaining how it can set a world on fire and is itself set on fire by hell. He says in James 3.10 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. We’re not talking about profanity, rather, words as an expression of the heart. David is both instructional and confessional here, telling his men not to lie having been driven to a cave because of four lies he told. His lies evidenced that he feared men more than God in that moment. David instructs the men to pursue good, to seek peace, to work at keeping the praise of God in our mouths at all times versus crying out about who hates us unjustly, why the situation is unfair, or refusing to admit our failures and through ALL of that reveal that we really don’t fear God.
LESSON #2 – Speak to God
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The 2nd thing he tells these men is to CRY to God. In short he says, pray because God hears you. I have been personally convicted because for most of my Christian life I have been less of a prayer warrior more of a prayer shadow boxer. We don’t pray because we don’t believe God hears us. We don’t pray because we don’t believe it actually does anything. Those are lies. How should we pray? Consider Luke 11.5-13.
LESSON #3 – Speak to Self Perspective
Not only does David instruct us on how to speak to men and how to speak to God, but he also addresses how we speak to ourselves. By speaking to ourselves I mean approaching life with the write perspective. Refusing to be “romantic” about our faith and thus end up disillusioned because things didn’t go the way we expected. David is quite frank about the walk of a Christian. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
If we are being conformed more and more to the image of Christ, even if we seek peace, pursue goodness, and live righteously, we will face affliction. We live in a sinful world, with a sinful nature, surrounded by sinful people. Though in Christ we are right with God, being right with God does not preclude us from suffering. But I do believe that, in Christ, the fear of God will help us endure suffering unlike any pill, book, or relationship will ever empower us to do.
1Peter 2.21-24 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
We do not fear God because we’re scared of him—fearing that he will reject us. We fear God, we revere God, because we DID reject him and yet he loved us. We don’t serve him so that he will redeem us, we serve him because he has redeemed us. We don’t praise him so that he will not condemn us, we praise him because we have tasted of the Lord, and he is good, and he has put a song into our mouth that we cannot hold back if we tried.