Psalm 34 – Part One

Psalm 34 is all about ‘the God who delivers’. The word ‘deliver’ occurs 4 times:

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;

The God who delivers. But what exactly do we mean by that? Because the word “deliver” when used this way tends to be a bit of a Christian jargon word. Certainly we use it quite differently from how the rest of the world understands it.

For a start, people or businesses that “deliver” usually have something to do with fast food. Not that God doesn’t get involved in that sort of thing: for a while there was that raven franchise with Elijah.

Or if it’s not home-delivered food, delivery is all about transportation: “we deliver” is the slogan for Australia Post. They deliver the mail. Again, God’s not beyond sending the odd letter, usually written on a scroll: although for reasons best known to him, he often makes his messengers eat them.

But here in Psalm 34 – and throughout the Bible – the word “deliver” has more of a military background. As in “delivering us from our enemies; delivering us from danger.”  In its most basic sense, it’s about taking someone from a dangerous position and placing them in a safe position. That’s what God is known for throughout the Old Testament – the God who delivers his people: rescuing them from Egypt; from bringing them into the promised land; protecting them from attack by the nations around. Taking them from a dangerous position and delivering them to a safe position.

Background: David & Achish

And that is also what God has done for David, the author of Ps 34. The opening ascription says this Psalm is: “Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.”

We find this story very briefly in 1 Sam 21. David has been anointed by Samuel as Israel’s future king, but he’s on the run from the present king, Saul. He tries to take refuge in the city of Gath.

1 Sam 21:10 -22:1a That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. [Achish would also have been known by his royal title, Abi-melech, which means “son of the king.”] But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?”
David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. [That is, David was worried that his reputation as a warrior would cause Achish to be threatened by him, and kill him.] So he 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.
Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.

David escapes danger, and makes it to a place of safety. He is delivered. And although when you read the story in 1 Samuel it sounds like David escapes due to his own clever strategy – David realises that ultimately it was God who allowed him to escape. It was God who delivered him.

 

Praise for the God who delivers…

Which is why Psalm 34 is first and foremost a psalm of praise for the God who delivers:

1 I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

Why?

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

David’s first response is to thank God for rescuing him; for delivering him from the specific danger he had just faced while in the city of Gath.

But notice how that’s not all he praises God for. David quickly moves beyond the specific circumstances of his own rescue, so that the focus of the psalm becomes God’s character, his reputation. God delivered me from Achish – because that’s what he’s in the business of doing. He’s the God who delivers. The God who delivers those who call on him.

God delivers those who are weak, yet put their trust in him

He is to be praised because he delivers those who, by human standards, are weak. He delivers them because they seek him; they call out to him; put their trust in him:

10  The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

In the animal kingdom, the last animal to go hungry is the lion; he’s the strongest and  most self-sufficient. Yet sometimes even lions may get weak and hungry – maybe during a severe zebra shortage, I don’t know. But by contrast, says David, the one who trusts in God will not lack for anything. The poor call out, and God will hear them and will save them. They acknowledge their dependence on God; their inability to rescue themselves. God is to be praised, because he delivers those who trust in him.

God delivers those who fear him – who are obedient/righteous

And God is to be praised because he delivers those who fear him:

7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
9 Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.

What does it mean to “fear God”? Simply to be obedient and pursue righteousness. To demonstrate by your actions and behaviour that you do trust him:

11-15 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.

God is to be praised, says David, because he’s in the business of delivering those who trust him; those who pursue God & his values. He’s a God who delivers.

God delivers more than just individuals

And he delivers more than just individuals. Beyond David’s particular circumstances; beyond our own – there is his wider plan in view. His plan to rescue a people for himself.

When you read through 1 Samuel, you see God deliver David many times. And you can’t help but get the impression that God isn’t doing it just for him. After all, David is God’s anointed king – raised up to lead God’s people, to exercise God’s rule in Israel and even to the nations around:

1 Sam 13:14 (Samuel says of David:) “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people,”
Ps 2:6 (written for David’s coronation:) “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Throughout the Bible, when God delivers someone there’s always the bigger picture in view. His grand plan of salvation. God is to be praised because he is the God who delivers not just individuals, but whole peoples.

So David, after he had been delivered, sat down and wrote a psalm of praise about it – praise because of his own personal rescue, but more fundamentally about the character of the God who delivers.

Isn’t that what we do, too?

Each week Christians around the world gather in groups big or small, to celebrate the God who delivers. We might be thankful for some personal, specific way God has delivered us this week; or we might be in the process of calling out to be rescued. But most fundamentally, we gather to praise God because he is a God who delivers. The God who has already delivered each of us from eternity without him; from sin; from ourselves. And the God who wants to deliver others, too.

Spend some time thanking God for how he has delivered you.

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