Here we have another magnificent Song that teaches us one of the most critical aspects of life for human beings: what it means to fear the Lord. And the Song is given in such a way as to remind us that the God-fearing life is the Christ-like life! Like Psalm 25, this Psalm is an alphabetical acrostic, each verse beginning with a different succeeding letter from the Hebrew alphabet.
The title, if it is true (remember, these were added later and are likely accurate but are not part of the inspired text) gives an interesting context which you can read about in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. “Abimelech” may have been a title for Philistine kings as far back as the days of Abraham and Isaac. In David’s situation the name of the king was Achish. And while the story was a bit humorous in the way God delivered David, it nevertheless was an experience that evoked worship from David and which he saw as an opportunity for all God’s people to consider. So consider Psalm 34.
vThe call to praise, v1-3.
Consider the 5 terms David uses for praise. It is a reminder of the many ways there are for us to glorify God.
**Bless: to bend the knee before God, as one would bow before a King when entering the throne room.
**Praise: to honor someone by the singing of a hymn, words that recount that persons greatness.
**Boast: to shine a light so as to make obvious the perfections of the one being honored.
**Magnify: to twist together several strands to make a powerful chord; thus to recount the many reasons One is to be honored.
**Exalt: to honor by lifting up where the honored One and His accomplishments can be seen by all.
vThe reason for praise, v4-7.
As noted there is a historical situation referred to in the title to the Psalm. If that is the case, it is a story early in David’s life as he began the period where he was on the run from King Saul. What is interesting is that David, standing before the Philistine King had fears (v4). Prior to this David had killed the giant and killed 200 Philistines singlehandedly as a dowry for his marriage to Saul’s daughter Michal. But now he was on the run. Perhaps he had never really felt vulnerable in this way. Note that fear in v4 (used only one other time in this way in Isa. 66:4 where God gives idolators over to the things they fear) is not the same term as the fear of God in v7 (reverencing fear).
vThe call to faith, v8-10
David understands that what he experienced of God’s deliverance is something that the rest of God’s people need to learn. So he calls them to trust in God as he did. If they do they will have no “lack”. Two different words help us to understand that they will not be lacking in the sense of being in need (v9) nor will they lack what they need to do what needs to be done (v10).
vThe call to fear God (specifics), v11-16
David now teaches us what it means to “fear the Lord.” He gives specific applications that are repeated by Peter for believers in 1 Peter 3:10-12. When one fears God it shows up in how they live their lives. This helps us in understanding that fearing God is not running scared of God. It is a reverence that causes us to live righteously. Thus David concludes in the following verses.
vThe call to fear God (general), v17-18
The God-fearing life lives in the practical ways of v11-16 because it is humbled before God. Go back to the various forms of worship in v1-3 and you see the reason one cries out to God when he is in difficulty. It comes from a “broken heart” and “contrite spirit” (Psalm 51:17; Isa. 57:15). To be courageous like David can lead others to brand us as amazing and brave people. But even when you read the stories of David such as the killing of Goliath you see that he was one who feared God. The fear of man that caused the rest of Israel’s armies to cower in fear did not rule in David’s heart. But remember too that the next time we hear David speak of being broken is in his confession of sin, following a time when he did not fear God!
vThe Messianic application, v19-22
Understanding David’s later struggle with brokenness brings us to the closing paragraph where our thoughts are lifted to the One and Only One who was righteous in all of life. While David may not have understood the Messianic connection here, we do. John’s gospel quotes v20 in speaking of Christ who when the soldiers put the spear in His side it kept Him from the normal treatment of those who were crucified in having their legs broken so as to hasten their death (John 19:33-36).
In v19 deliverance (also in v4) means “to be torn away, snatched away from” trouble. In the case of David it was God leading him to feign madness. In the case of David’s greater Son Messiah it was through resurrection. May we note that God’s ways of deliverance are many and various. There will be a time when God will deliver the Church by a snatching away (literal translation of the term in 1 Thess. 4:17), delivering them from wrath (1 Thess. 1:10).
As you read these closing verses and think of Jesus Christ remember that He too had a broken heart and contrite spirit, which is made clear in His praying in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46). Jesus crossed the Kidron to the Mount of Olives to pray, “not My will but Thine be done.” Later in David’s life he too would cross the Kidron in the time of Absalom’s rebellion, at a time when his heart was broken but when he yielded himself to God for deliverance (2 Sam. 16:5-14).
And note that the One with the broken heart did not suffer any broken bones! When we come to Christ we have absolute confidence that even though we die, yet we shall live (John 11:25-27). And though Jesus was condemned by men, yet He was not condemned by His Father. Likewise we know that to be in Christ is to be totally free of condemnation (Rom. 8:1,34). Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Now there is an abundance of reason to bless, praise, boast in, magnify and exalt our Lord Jesus Christ!!!