“THIS POOR MAN CRIED AND THE LORD HEARD HIM”
Please read all verses of Psalm 34, then consider these reflections.
The words of this Psalm were appropriate for any number of high-risk encounters David experienced as he was challenged and threatened by ambitious men who wanted to put him to death and to “grab the power” in Israel. These words could apply to many experiences of our own, some of which are entirely out of our control. At times our own well-being is at stake and our hearts are filled with fear of dangers that surround us and bad things that may be anticipated in the future. Psalm 34 is a powerful encouragement in our international pandemic of COVID-19.
The Psalm is divided into three parts:
(1) verses 1-3 is an invitation to praise God –– the One worthy of being continually magnified by all the people, at all times, under all circumstances. “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!”
(2) verses 4-10, the power of prayer in difficult times. My own father, Thomas Hendrix Tarbet, preached the gospel over 60 years in mission-fields of the United States and Australia. His pulpits were from the west coast to the east coast and included “Bible-belt” congregations in the southwest as well. Dad was not often acknowledged for his accomplishments. He went through many trials. He had very little money, and left almost nothing of this world’s goods to his family. Yet, he was one of the finest Bible teachers I ever knew. He treasured the book of Psalms. On one occasion, he told me of some of his struggles and said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and delivered him out of all his troubles.” This part of Psalm 34 will always have a special place in my heart. These words can be written on our hearts: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (verse 8)
(3) verses 11-22, a life focused on God’s providence will help His people live in every generation. Here are practical applications for a person who is learning how to walk “in the fear of the Lord,” (verse 9) and “desires life and loves many days, that he may see good” (verse 12).
From this Psalm one learns that to have a good life he must “seek” the Lord (verse 4), “look to Him” (verse 5), cry out to Him (verse 6), “taste and see that the Lord is good”, “take refuge” in Him (verse 8), “keep the tongue from evil,” “do good”, “seek peace and pursue it” (verses 12-14). Those who set their hearts on “fearing” the Lord (verse 7) with godly respect and awe, walking “humbly” (verse 2) before Him, depending upon Him to provide daily necessities are not promised exemption from sicknesses, viruses, poverty, enemies and a multitude of disappointments. On the other hand, they will receive what is needed to endure every trial, to rejoice in the “radiant” light of God’s face (verse 6), and “lack no good thing” (verse 10). In the words of John T. Willis, “By no means is a righteous man free from affliction, but suffering cannot touch him at the depth of his existence.” Though the righteous may have many “afflictions” Scripture promises that “the Lord delivers him out of them all” (verse 19). A Bible commentator wrote that Psalm 34 was “sung by the church of Jerusalem at the time of Communion,” and “was on the lips of martyrs as they faced the arena.”
Here is the “bottom-line” promise: “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are toward their prayer…The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned” (verse 18, 22).
NOTE: The heading-introductions to various Psalms were added after the Psalms were written and are not inspired by God. It may or may not be accurate to attribute Psalm 34 to the time when king David, fleeing from king Saul, came to the pagan king Achish, king of Gath, and pretended to be insane in order to protect his own life (1 Samuel 21:10-15).
–– David Tarbet, Outreach Minister
Church of Christ, New Milford, Connecticut
(Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version.)