Psalm 34

This truly is an amazing psalm. At the time he wrote it David was on the run from Saul and this was written during the events recorded in I Samuel 21:10-22:1. Basically David had sought safety in Gath (a Philistine city) but found no refuge there and ends up acting insane in order to escape. He ends up living in a cave but he was not alone. I Samuel 22 begins by letting us know that “…everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him…”

This psalm, like Psalm 119, is written as an acrostic poem. It is interesting to note that while we know it was penned during the events recorded elsewhere, David does not go into detail about the actual incident. There is some debate as to whether he out right sinned by looking for refuge in the city of God’s enemies or whether it was just a mistake but he focuses completely on the fact that no matter what had brought him to this low point God had heard his cry and rescued him.

What an incredible response to the calamity he was facing. He did not panic but rather chose to offer praise. Instead of worry he worshipped. Physically speaking he might have been hiding out in a cave with no food and no weapons and a sorry sad bunch of people but it is clear that his heart was directed to finding solace in God.

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth

David sets the tone by sharing three things in the very first line of this poem.

what he would do ~ praise

who he would praise ~ God

when he would praise ~ all the time

It was not enough to just feel grateful and relieved that God had rescued him, he had to give voice to it. He was keeping both his thoughts and his mind focused upon God and His goodness. What a beautiful reminder that God promises to keep those in perfect peace who first keep their mind fixed on Him!

My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear it and be glad.

David could have told a rousing tale of how he had pretended to be crazy in order to escape Gath but he knew the only thing truly worth boasting of was God Himself, his character, His mighty works, and His faithfulness in keeping His promises.

He knew that the benefit of his praise would strengthen and encourage that rag tag group of followers he had acquired. It would only serve to confirm that their trust was in the right place as they faced their own difficult circumstances. And not only does he make his declaration of God’s faithfulness but he invites those same people to join him in praising God.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!

No matter that he would resolve to always bless the name of the Lord David recognized that his praise alone was not enough to tell of God’s goodness. Join me! he said. Let us all speak of His greatness. A natural outcome of genuine worship and praise is the desire to share in it with others. We cannot discount the impact corporate worship makes on us.

I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from my fears.

David’s testimony is simple and true. He had no where else to turn but to God and God not only heard him, but he answered him. The hand of the Lord is mighty indeed!

Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed

Our faith and confidence in God will clear our countenance and lift our head that may be hanging low in shame or feelings of despair.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles

A cry is a short and bitter sound. It is the language of pain and I can almost see David pounding his chest as he made this statement, This poor man…me! I cried out to God and he heard me. How can we not take heart and be of good courage when we know that God hears us?

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them

Christ surrounds us to defend and console. I am reminded every time I read this of the great and gloriously long hymn, I Bind Unto Myself Today also known as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, 
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Don’t just take my word for it. Search it out for yourself and see that it is true. We can only know in part by hearing but truer deeper understanding comes from experience. We do not have to be afraid of the hard times, the difficult times. We can face our suffering knowing that it’s bitterness is blunted by the sweetness of our God’s faithfulness. It is there in those hard dark trials that we come to know the essence, the very taste of God.

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Fear ~ that holy reverence for God. Sometimes I think we get too comfortable and while we are able to approach His throne with the confidence of a child before their father we also know that the fear of God, a right understanding of Him, is the beginning of wisdom. I saw a thing this week that said the sun can burn your eyeballs and be 92 million miles away and yet we think we can just stroll casually before God, the maker of the sun.

Spurgeon says of this verse that “many whims and wishes may remain unfilled but real wants the Lord will supply…no really good thing shall be denied to those whose first and main end in life is to seek the Lord.”

Come, O children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?

Though he was a mighty warrior and an anointed king, David was also willing to teach. He understood that man needs and wants to know how to live and how to die. There is good to be seen and enjoyed here in this life and it is found by living a particular way.

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Throughout scripture we are admonished to reckon with the power of the tongue and to keep careful watch over it. Spurgeon would say that, “lying and wicked talk stuffs our pillow with thorns, and makes life a constant whirl of fear and shame.”

Notice also that it is not enough to just keep our lips from speaking lies and to turn away from evil. Do good we are told…don’t just ignore sin but be active in pursuing the opposite. Seek peace and hunt it down. Work for it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ear towards their cry.

God is attentive and ever watchful of His people. In Psalm 121 we are told that He does not sleep or slumber. We are never neglected by the One who made us. There is this picture here not of God just sitting in heaven going about His god business and our cry comes to Him out of nowhere but rather He is listening for us. Back in January my youngest had a seizure and it was a terrifying experience for all of us. For weeks afterward I would be in my room and would focus all of my hearing on listening for any sound coming from her room. The language of this verse reminds me of that, and all of the other times as a mother, when I have focused my hearing toward my kids. He is looking and listening to us with love and tenderness.

The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Contrasting that beautiful attentiveness toward His people is this verse. Not just a passive ignoring of the wicked but a setting against them ~ He actively opposes them. In Deuteronomy 28 we are told many times that there are blessings that come with obedience and curses that come along with disobedience. In Proverbs 10 we are told that the name of the wicked will rot.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Never has there been a greater comfort for me than to know that God hears me in my distress. I don’t really understand how prayer works but I know that it does. “Our affliction may be numerous and complicated, but prayer can set us free from them all, for the Lord will show Himself strong on our behalf.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Obviously in this context we may find comfort in knowing that even if or when we feel utterly alone in the midst of our trial or suffering He is close to us. We are not ever alone because He will not abandon us. But the words also bring to mind another verse for me, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

A repentant heart is one that is broken over its sin. The contrite heart literally means “the beaten out spirit” and is referencing the work of a hammer breaking into pieces precious metal being separated from the ore.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

The christian life is the way of the cross. We are called to suffering and actually we are told the way to find true life is through death. We must expect hardship and trouble but our great comfort and encouragement is found in the second part of this verse. But the Lord will deliver. As Christ was so shall His people be. We are delivered, resurrected and set free. David goes further with the prophetic reference to Christ in the very next verse.

He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Obviously, Christ suffered severe physical injury and just as obvious for us is that we have suffered physical harm, some of us have even broken bones so how does this work? Spurgeon believed that in a sense for us it is the idea of great injuries of the soul which will have no lasting eternal impact. There is not one part of the spiritual body of Christ that shall be broken or maimed just as His physical frame of body was preserved. We shall enter eternity without spot or blemish.

Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

David was not just confident that the righteous would be rescued he knew that ultimately the wicked would not escape justice and would face judgement. The idea is more fully expressed in Psalm 94 when the psalmist, which may or may not have been David, points out that their own wickedness will come back upon them. What a picture of this do we see in the story of Esther between Mordechai and Haman!

The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Despite our sin, whether intentional or not, willful or ignorant, is a life that has been bought with a price. One that was far to high for us to ever hope to pay and one that was costly beyond all measure. We have been redeemed and not only that, but the sin that demanded so high a price is fully and completely done away with. There is no longer any condemnation for those who He has rescued and now find their place in Him.

We are never forsaken, never abandoned or given up to ruin.

God, our God, keeps us. He hears us and He answers us.

Later in his life it is believed that David would once again take up the acrostic poem style of writing and pen Psalm 37 and I wonder if the sorrow and affliction of his circumstances when he wrote this psalm came to his mind?

“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”

Thanks be to God!


Psalm 23

Probably one of the most widely known psalms in the history of ever is Psalm 23. If for no other reason than it’s popularity at funerals the words of this short chapter (only six verses) is easily recognizable to just about anyone and everyone but oddly enough it is a psalm much more about life than death.

It is a rich treasure trove of comfort and encouragement and begins with a most astonishing claim.

The Lord is my shepherd.

David is saying that the God of heaven and earth, indeed the Great I AM, is in fact his shepherd. What would be startling about this to David’s readers was that the job of shepherd was not held in very high regard. It was a task typically given to the youngest member of the family since it was considered to be the lowliest of work. And here he is pointing out that Yahweh Himself is his shepherd.

David had been a shepherd though and he knew better than most just how utterly dependent the sheep were upon the shepherd. He was not only making this statement about who God is he was also making a statement about himself. The Lord is my shepherd. He recognized how foolish and weak he was at times and how much he relied upon God to protect and rescue him.

I shall not want.

David knew that he would lack nothing because of who his shepherd was. The promise here is that all of our needs will be met. If God feeds and clothes the birds of the air than we can trust that our physical needs will be met. His grace is sufficient for all of our circumstances so our spiritual needs will be met.

What is really intriguing to me about this phrase is that not only can it be read as a declarative sentence but also as a decision David has made. I will not want anything…only that which comes from the hand of my shepherd, nothing more and nothing less. It is a decision to be content.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

It is interesting to note the wording here. He makes me lie down ~ we don’t always know what we need but God does. And not only does He give us a place to rest but He also leads us to a place of nourishment. For us we can, I think, make a connection between that place of rest and nourishment with the Scriptures themselves. It is an idea robust with the themes of comfort, care, and rest.

He restores my soul

The Hebrew root word for restore means to turn back or return and is the same root word we find in places like Jeremiah 3:22, “Return (repent) o faithless sons and I will heal your faithlessness.” Literally the Shepherd repents us. What an amazing picture is given to us when we see the green pastures as God’s word and the still waters as the Holy Spirit bringing us to repentance and restoration! The Good Shepherd turns us back from sin and returns us to Him.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake

We do not always know what we need or where we ought to go but we can trust Him to lead us there. We are strengthened by Him so that we can walk in the way of the Lord. We know from other verses in the Bible that the one who follows after the way of God is blessed or happy. And this isn’t done because we are so uber special.

It is common in our world to see a type of affirmation that has just enough objective truth in it to blind us to the danger it actually presents.

You are loved. You are chosen.

These are, in a real sense, true statements. But when the emphasis is on the “you” the focus is shifted away from that which is really the point. Specifically, the One who loves, the actions and redeeming grace of the Shepherd. We are lead in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. His glory…our good.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil


There is no sense of rushing around or running in fear. No standing still in uncertainty or confusion. The psalmist says he walks through the valley knowing that it is not his destination. As Charles Spurgeon puts it, “…death is not the house but the porch.”

Also, what a beautiful comfort in knowing that it is just the shadow of death we face? The shadow cannot hurt us. Spurgeon would also go on to say of this verse, “The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill, and the shadow of death cannot destroy us.” Does Romans 8:31 immediately come to your mind? What about Romans 8:35-39 when you read the last part of that verse?

A beautiful aspect of this Psalm isn’t seen in our English translation but is too beautiful to not note. In the Hebrew text the next line says for you are with me. In the original language this statement is the exact center of the psalm with twenty six words before it and twenty six words after it.

David has moved from green pastures and still waters into the shadow of death and evil and it is in this moment of danger that the “He” in the first three verses becomes “You”.

Perfect safety ~ no matter what comes our way we may have the ultimate comfort of knowing that we are not alone. God is with us. Christ himself says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me..and behold I am with you always…”

Your rod and staff, they comfort me

The rod and the staff were used by shepherds to protect and correct the sheep. We may rest easy knowing that our Shepherd will both protect us as well as discipline us.

Your prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

The word prepare seems to indicate foresight and planning, not some hastily thrown together snack. A table has been prepared…an abundance more than could be held in the hands. A beautiful full table is set before us in the presence of our enemies and we are bid to come eat. The enemy may be near but we are able to feast in perfect peace.

You anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over

Anointing is a sign and symbol of blessing. Even in the midst of struggles and trials God still blesses His people. And it is not a stingy little blessing either like the $5 you scrounge up to put gas in your tank to hopefully get you through until payday. His blessing is so generous that it spills over and out of the cup.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

This verse is another case where knowing what the original text says adds so much to our understanding. Firstly, this can actually be read as only goodness and mercy. Secondly, the word follow used in the Hebrew means to chase after, to pursue.

Quite literally we are pursued by mercy. We are chased down by grace. And it is not only on what we would consider our good days but also on our bad days but also on the easy days and the hard days. Days of victory and days of defeat. Days of feasting and on the days we fast. All the days.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever

This is not a temporary state we find ourselves in either. It is eternally ours.

He pursues us and leads us to green pastures and beside the still waters, down the righteous paths. He repents us and turns us back and restores us. He lays us upon His shoulders and then He carries us home.

Psalm 1 ~ Blessed Is The Man

Have you ever gotten a little too comfortable with something or little too familiar? It could be the best thing but you are so used to it that you take it for granted and forget the value it really holds?

To be honest, this is exactly how I had begun to feel about Psalm one. I know, I know, that is a terrible thing for any Christian much less a pastor’s wife to cop to but it is the truth. Psalm one gets recited and quoted a lot at my girls’ school. Obviously with good reason but I had allowed myself to let it become humdrum in my mind.

Thankfully God is incredibly gracious and forgiving and so not stingy and when one of the ladies suggested that psalm for our weekly study He totally renewed a love for this short chapter in my heart. I ended up with nine pages of notes too. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and share it all here but I do highly encourage you to take a little time to read these six simple verses and really ponder their meaning.

The chapter can be seen as two groupings. Verses 1-3 describe a godly man’s life ~ what he does and what results from those actions. Verses 4-6 describe the way of the wicked.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

The word blessed here is actually a Hebrew word that has the connotation of happy or contentment. It is also in the plural form and so denotes either multiple blessings or the amplifying of blessing.

The idea of happiness, what it is and how to attain it, is elusive and seemingly individualized. My happy may not be your happy but it’s okay because we both have a right to be happy.

Only that isn’t what God’s word says. He says that the blessed man, the happy man, is the one who walks according to His ways. There is a happiness, a blessedness, that comes from being right with God. And it is a blessing readily available to anyone who will follow after God. Remember Psalm 119? Happy is the man whose whole life is devoted to knowing God’s law and who lives in obedience to it.

Charles Spurgeon said of this verse that it is a blessing as closely within the reach of “…the poor, the forgotten, and the obscure as by those whose name figures in history, and are trumpeted by fame.”

That blessing is found by being unwilling to do certain things. According to this verse he will not walk a certain way, he will not stand on a certain path, and there is a seat he will not sit in.

God’s people are called to live a life that looks vastly different from those who are not his people. There should be a notable difference in the way we think (walk), the way we behave (stand), and who we belong to or identify with (sit).

but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

In contrast to verse one verse two tells us what the blessed man will do.

He delights and he meditates.

I have long been astonished at all the things that are ours to enjoy through our senses. God blessed us with the ability to taste the deliciousness of a blueberry or to have our breath taken away by the astounding colors of a sunset just because it pleased Him to do so. We are made to delight in something and unless we delight in true things, the best things, we will naturally settle for lesser things. The psalmist is telling us that the path to true happiness is found only in delighting in God’s word. We cannot settle for the wisdom of man, even godly men, more than God’s actual words. David also didn’t see it as a burden or as if God’s way is somehow a killjoy but he delighted in it and he thinks on it day and night. He gains a high degree of pleasure from the gift of God’s law and keeps it rolling around and echoing in his mind. He literally fills his mind with God’s word.

What really makes this fascinating is that David basically only had the Torah…Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. How much greater should our delight be in having access to the full canon of Scripture? We have the feast of the psalms, the wisdom of the Proverbs, the poetry of the Song of Solomon. Not to mention the entire New Testament!

Given how I started this post can you imagine the conviction I felt on this verse? I must not be the only one to feel so about Scripture at times though because Spurgeon referred to it as a negative purity. We aren’t exactly walking in the way of the ungodly but neither are we pursuing righteousness.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Man, I really love this verse! Not a wild tree left to grow every which way and all willy nilly. But the man who delights in God’s law is like a tree purposefully planted by rivers of water. A planted tree is one that is cultivated, pruned and cared for. This tree is being shaped by God’s word and it is fruitful and full of life. It is going to have patience in times of trouble, strong faith in the face of difficulty and it will be able to also handle times of prosperity with humbleness and joy.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

There is a severe contrast between the righteous and the wicked. David just painted that beautiful picture of a vibrant healthy tree and now he literally says, “Not so the ungodly, not so!” They do not have life. They have nothing to offer. A tree bears fruit, it offers shade. But the chaff of the wicked is easily blown away by the wind. God’s blessings are not given to everyone. They are reserved for His people.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

The wicked will not be able to stand before God. The wheat and the chaff may grow up together here but they will not dwell together in heaven. Again I quote Charles Spurgeon* who said that sinners cannot live in heaven because they would be out of their element. “Sooner could a fish live in a tree than the wicked in Paradise.”

And finally verse six ~

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The Hebrew here is best translated as the Lord knowing the way of the righteous. It is an active form of knowing. It is the knit me in my mother’s womb knowing. The number of hairs on my head sort of knowing. The Psalm 139: 1-24 kind of knowing…when I sit and when I rise up kind of knowing.

The way of the wicked, even their name, will be blotted out and not remembered. They will perish and no one will remember them.

How amazing is this chapter? How deep and soul nourishing is this short little psalm?

We are blessed by God when we very simply do things the way He says we ought to do them. Not because He wants to deny us joy and happiness but because He wants us to know true lasting contentment.

He is our God and he has made us. How glorious the truth of Isaiah:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.

*Charles Spurgeon was a theologian that authored The Treasury of David, commentary on the book of Psalms. I’m using other resources when I study but he is a mainstay.