This Psalm teaches us to give glory to God and to teach and admonish ourselves and one another. The Happiness of Those Who Trust in God
Psalm 34 – A Psalm of David
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who desires life, And loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good
Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
His heart was trusting in God
Henry says – In this Psalm David was being forced to flee from his country due to the rage of Saul. He sought shelter as near as he could, in the land of the Philistines. There it was soon discovered who he was, and he was brought before the king. To prevent him being treated as a spy David pretended to be a madman. It had the desired effect and he escaped the hand that otherwise would have handled him roughly. We cannot justify David in this decision. It is not for a man of honour to pretend to be a fool. If we mimic those who we think do not have as good an understanding as ourselves, we forget that God might have made their case ours.
Yet he had such composure of spirit that even in that danger, his heart was trusting in God and he was able to pen this excellent Psalm. Happy are those who can maintain their temper, and keep their graces even when they are tempted to not do. In this first part of the Psalm David engages himself to praise God. Though it was his fault that he adapted his behaviour, yet it was through God’s mercy that he escaped. He resolves that he will praise God constantly: I will bless the Lord at all times, upon all occasions. If we hope to spend our eternity in praising God, it is fitting that we should spend as much as we can doing it now.
He is a prayer-hearing God
David calls others to join with him. (Ps. 34:2): “The humble shall hear of it, both of my deliverance and of my thankfulness. They shall be glad that a good man has so much favour shown him from such a good God.” Those who are humble have the most comfort in God’s mercies. They have the least confidence in their own merit and sufficiency. It pleased David to think that God’s favours to him would rejoice the heart of every Israelite.
We cannot make God greater or higher than He is. Yet if we adore Him as infinitely great, and higher than the highest, He is pleased to accept it. This is best when done together for God’s praises sound best in concert, as with the angels in heaven. Those who share in God’s favour ought to sing His praises. We have reason to join in thanksgiving to God for His readiness to hear prayer, which all the saints have had the comfort of. He has never said to any of them, Seek Me in vain. David acknowledges that he has found Him a prayer-hearing God (Ps. 34:4): “I sought the Lord, in my distress, entreated His favour, begged His help, and He heard me, answered my request immediately. He delivered me from all my fears, both from the death I feared and from the disturbance from the fear of death.”
He left his case with Him
The former God does by His providence working for us, the latter by His grace working in us. He silences our fears and stills our spirits. The latter is the greater mercy of the two, because our unbelieving, distrustful fear is sin. David’s prayers helped to silence his fears. He sought the Lord, and left his case with Him, and so waited with great composure. Many besides David have looked unto God by faith and prayer, and have been lightened by it, Ps. 34:5. It has wonderfully revived and comforted them such as with Hannah, who, when she had prayed, went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
When we look to the world we are darkened, perplexed and at a loss. But, when we look to God, from Him we have the light of direction and joy, and our way is made plain and pleasant. Those who look to God, have their expectations raised. Even a poor man cried, a mean and inconsiderate man who no man looked upon with any respect or looked after with any concern. Yet he was as welcome to the throne of grace as David: The Lord heard him, took notice of his case and of his prayers, and saved him out of all his troubles, Ps. 34:6. God will regard the prayer of the destitute, Ps. 102:17. See Isa. 57:15.
They encamp round about them
To those who look to God they have the benefit of the administration of good angels about them. (Ps. 34:7): The angel of the Lord, or a guardian angel, encamps around those who fear God, as a security guard around a prince, and delivers them. God makes use of the attendance of the good spirits for the protection of His people from the malice and power of evil spirits. The holy angels do us more good than we are aware of.
Angels are very much superior to us and retain their primitive virtue, which we have lost. Though they have constant employment in the upper world, the employment of praising God, and are entitled to a constant rest and bliss there. Yet in obedience to their Maker, and in love to those who bear His image, they concede to minister to the saints, and stand up for them against the powers of darkness. They not only visit them, but encamp round about them, acting for their good as they did for Jacob’s (Gen. 32:1), and Elisha’s, 2 Kgs. 6:17. All the glory be to the God of the angels.
Seek God and serve Him
David would have us to join with him in kind and good thoughts of God (Ps. 34:8): O taste and see that the Lord is good! The goodness of God includes both the beauty and pleasantness of His being and the bounty of His providence and grace. We must taste that He is a bountiful benefactor, relish the goodness of God in all His gifts to us. Let God’s goodness be rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel. We must see that He is a beautiful being, and delight in the contemplation of His infinite perfections. By taste and sight we make discoveries and take satisfaction. 1 Pet. 2:3.
God is good, for He makes all those who trust in Him truly blessed. Let us therefore be so convinced of His goodness to be encouraged in the worst of times to trust in Him. David would have us join with him in a resolution to seek God and serve Him, and continue in His fear (Ps. 34:9): O fear the Lord! you His saints. When we taste and see that He is good we must not forget that He is great and greatly to be feared. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness, Hos. 3:5. Fear the Lord; that is, worship Him, and make conscience of your duty to Him in everything. Not fear Him and shun Him, but fear Him and seek Him (Ps. 34:10) as a people seek unto their God.
Those who trust in God shall be fed
Address yourselves to Him and apportion yourselves in Him. To encourage us to fear God and seek Him, it is promised that those who do so, even in this wanting world, shall want no good thing. They shall have all good things so that they shall have no reason to complain of the want of anything. They shall also have grace sufficient for the support of the spiritual life (2 Cor. 12:9; Ps. 84:11).
They shall have what is necessary to the support of this life from the hand of God as a Father, He will feed them with all that is convenient. If in anything God denies them, He will give them grace to be content without it, Deut. 3:26. Paul had all and abounded, because he was content, Phil. 4:11, 18. Those who live by faith in God’s all-sufficiency want nothing for in Him they have enough. The young lions. often lack and suffer hunger—those who live upon everyday providence shall want that satisfaction which those who live by faith have.
Mind your own business
Those who trust in themselves, and think their own hand is sufficient for them, shall be in want. But those who trust in God shall be fed. Those who are ravenous, and prey upon those about them, shall be in want; but the meek shall inherit the earth. Those who with quietness work and mind their own business shall be content.
In this latter part of this Psalm, David undertakes to teach children. Though a man of war, and anointed to be king, he did not think it was below him. Even though his head was so full of cares yet he could find heart and time to give good counsel to young people. By divine inspiration, he instructs the children of his people. He had hopes that the tender branches will be more easily bent than the older and that children and young people will be more maleable. He calls together a congregation of them (Ps. 34:11): “Come, you children, who are now in your learning age. Perhaps he intended it for those children whose parents neglected to instruct them. It is a great charity to put those children to school whose parents are not in the capacity to teach them.
Keep a good conscience
“Listen to me, leave your play and toys and hear what I have to say to you. David undertakes to teach them—the fear of the Lord, inclusive of all the duties of religion. David was a famous musician, a statesman and a soldier; but he does not say to the children, “I will teach you to play on the harp, or to handle the sword or spear, or to draw the bow, or I will teach you about state policy.” But I will teach you the fear of the Lord, which is better than all arts and sciences, better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. That is it what we should learn ourselves and teach our children.
In verse 12 it is asked, “Who wishes to live a long and pleasant life?” This must look further than this present world; for man’s life on earth at best consists but of few days and those full of trouble. Who wants to be eternally happy and see the good in that world where there is all bliss and perfection? Most ask, Who will show us any good? But few ask, What shall we do to inherit eternal life? David prescribes the true and only way to happiness both in this world and that to come, Ps. 34:13, 14. To pass comfortably through this world and into the next our constant care must be to keep a good conscience.
Words are the indications of the mind
In order to do that we must learn to bridle our tongues and be careful what we say. We need to never speak improperly: Keep your tongue from evil speaking, from lies and slander. This goes such a long way that, if any does not offend in word, he is a perfect man. Faith does not go far without this. Of him who does not bridles his tongue it is declared, His religion is vain. We must be upright and sincere in everything we say, and not double-tongued. Our words are the indications of our minds. Our lips must be kept from speaking guile either to God or man.
We must leave all our sins, and resolve that we will have no more to do with them. We must depart from evil, from evil works and evil workers. It is not enough to do no hurt in the world, but we must study to be useful, and live to some purpose. We must not only depart from evil, but we must do good, good for ourselves, especially for our own souls, employing them well, furnishing them with a good treasure, and fitting them for the other world. As we have ability and opportunity, we must do good to others also.
Seek peace and pursue it
Nothing is more contrary to that love which never fails (which is the summary of law and gospel, and of grace and glory) than of strife and contention. It brings confusion and every evil work, we must seek peace and pursue. We must show a peaceable disposition, study the things that make for peace, do nothing to break the peace and to make trouble. If peace seem to flee from us, we must pursue it; follow peace with all men, spare no pains, no expense, to preserve and recover peace. We must be willing to deny ourselves a great deal, both in honour and interest, for peace’ sake. These excellent directions in the way to life are part of our gospel duty, 1 Pet. 3:10.
In these directions is the happiness of the godly in the love and favour of God and the miserable state of the wicked under His displeasure. Here are life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse, plainly stated before us, that we may choose life and live. See Isa. 3:10, 11. Woe to the wicked however they may bless themselves in their own way, God is against them. Sad is the case of that man who by his sin has made his Maker his enemy. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, Ps. 34:16.
No lasting honour that does not come from God
Sometimes God is said to turn His face from them (Jer. 18:17), because they have forsaken Him. Here He is said to set His face against them, because they have fought against Him. God is able to out-face the most proud and daring sinners and can frown them into hell. Ruin is before them for He is able both to kill and to cast into hell.
When God sets His face against them He will not only cut them off, but cut off the remembrance of them. He will bury them in obscurity, when they are dead He will bury them in oblivion. He will pour disgrace upon their achievements, which they gloried in and for which they thought they would be remembered. It is certain that there is no lasting honour but that which comes from God. For them their death shall be miserable. Death, to them, has a curse in it, and is the king of terrors.
They are sure of an answer of peace
(Ps. 34:19) The afflictions of the righteous, intimates that godly people have many troubles, and yet they do them no hurt, but are made to work for good to them. For God will deliver them out of them all. Wicked people may seem to have fewer troubles and yet even just one may prove their utter ruin. One trouble with a curse in it kills and slays, and does execution. But many, with a blessing in them, are harmless and beneficial. Say to the righteous, It shall be well with them. All good people are under God’s special favour and protection. We are assured of this under a great number of instances and expressions.
God takes special notice of good people, and takes notice of those who have their eyes ever to Him and who make conscience their duty to Him: The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (Ps. 34:15), to direct and guide them, to protect and keep them. Parents who are very fond of a child will not let it be out of their sight. None of God’s children are ever from under His watchful eye, but on them He looks with a singular satisfaction, as well as with a watchful and tender concern.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
They are sure of an answer of peace to their prayers. All God’s people are a praying people, and they cry in prayer, which denotes great persistence. God takes special notice of what we say (Ps. 34:17): They cry, and the Lord hears them, and hears them to make it appear He regards them. His ears are open to their prayers, to receive them all, and to receive them readily and with delight.
Though He has been a God who hears prayer ever since men began to call upon the name of the Lord, yet His ear is not deafened. There is nothing charming in a cry, yet God’s ears are open to it, as the tender mother’s to the cry of her sucking child. The righteous cry, and the Lord hears, Ps. 34:17. This intimates that it is the constant practice of good people, when they are in distress, to cry unto God, and it is their constant comfort that God hears them.
Humbled for sin and emptied of self
He not only takes notice of what we say, but is ready to relieve us (Ps. 34:18): He is close to those who are of a broken heart, and saves them. Those whose prayers are heard are of a broken heart and a contrite spirit (that is, humbled for sin and emptied of self). They are low in their own eyes, and have no confidence in their own merit and sufficiency, but in God only. They have God close to them, to comfort and support them, that their spirit may not be broken more than is should, lest it should fail before Him. See Isa. 57:15. Though God dwells on high, yet He is near to those who, being of a contrite spirit, know how to value His favour. He will save them from sinking under their burdens.
They are taken under the special protection of Divine government (Ps. 34:20): He keeps all his bones, not only his soul, but his body. David himself had found that, when he had a contrite heart, the broken bones were made to rejoice, Ps. 51:8, 17. One would not expect to meet with anything of Christ here, and yet this scripture is said to be fulfilled in Him (John 19:36). The Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves who were crucified with Him, but did not break His for they were under the protection of this promise.
God loves them and so corrects them
This speaks of the type of the paschal-lamb, the lamb sacrificed at that first Passover. It was requried that no bone of it shall not be broken. Christ was under these promises and through Him so are those who are His seed. A good man may have a broken bone, but, by the watchful providence of God such a calamity is often wonderfully prevented. Yet if he have a broken bone, sooner or later it shall be made whole at the very last at the resurrection, when that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power.
They are, and shall be, delivered out of all their troubles. They may have their share of crosses in this world, perhaps a greater share than others. In the world they must have tribulation, that they may be conformed both to the will of God and to the example of Christ (Ps. 34:19); Many are the afflictions of the righteous, as seen in David and his afflictions, Ps. 132:1. There are those who hate them (Ps. 34:21) and they are continually aiming to do them trouble.
God is engaged for their deliverance
Their God loves them, and therefore corrects them so that, between the mercy of heaven and the malice of hell, the afflictions of the righteous are many. God is engaged for their deliverance and salvation: He delivers them out of all their troubles (Ps. 34:17, 19). He saves them (Ps. 34:18), so that, though they may fall into trouble, it shall not be their ruin.
This promise of their deliverance is explained, Ps. 34:22. Whatever troubles befall them, First, they shall not hurt their better part. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants from the power of the grave (Ps. 49:15) and from the sting of every affliction. He keeps them from sinning in their troubles, which is the only thing that would bring them trouble. He keeps them from despair, and from being put out of the possession of their own mind and soul. Further the troubles shall not hinder their everlasting bliss. None of those who trust in Him shall be desolate. That is, they shall not be comfortless for they shall not be cut off from their communion with God.
Faithfully adhere to Him
Those who are God’s faithful servants make it their care to please Him and their business to honour Him. In so doing they trust Him to protect and reward them, and refer themselves to Him and have reason to be at ease whatever befalls them, for they are safe and shall be happy.
This Psalm teaches us to be confirmed in the choice we have made of the ways of God. Let us be quickened in His service, and greatly encouraged by the assurances He has given of the particular care He takes of all those who faithfully adhere to Him.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
[Slide right to left] I will bless the Lord at all times Prayer and praise I will offer At all times He will be blessed Praise and prayer are the twin keys To unlock His great treasure chest. These keys open the window of heaven And let the showers of heaven Descend Oh the power of giving praise to Him; Of the joys that will never end. It does not matter what circumstances are What the confinement may be, In the power of prayer and praise Every prisoner can be set free. Fling open the gates of your heart then Unlock every prison door. Let His praise be always on your lips So you thank Him more and more. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer for the Day
Prayer: Father, I come to You. I pray that I would be able to maintain my temper, and keep my graces even when I am tempted to not do. May I be and remain humble and so have the most comfort in Your mercies. I declare that I have the least confidence in my own merit and sufficiency. I adore You as infinitely great, and higher than the highest.
Help me always remember that I share in Your favour and so continually sing Your praises. I have every reason to join in thanksgiving to You for Your readiness to hear prayer. May I be prevented from unbelieving, distrustful fear for I know it is sin. Help me have a prayerful disposition in every circumstance so my fears will be silenced. I will seek You and so leave my case with You and wait on You.
When I look to You
When I look to the world I am darkened, perplexed and at a loss. But, when I look to You, I have the light of direction and joy, and my way is made plain and pleasant. I know as I look to You I have the benefit of the administration of good angels about me. Thank You that You make use of good spirits for my protection from the malice and power of evil spirits. Help me be more aware of the holy angels and the good they do to me. All glory be to You, the God of the angels.
I have tasted that You are a bountiful benefactor and I relish Your goodness in all Your gifts to me. You are a beautiful being and I delight in the contemplation of Your infinite perfections. You are good and You make all who trust in You be truly blessed. Let me be so convinced of Your goodness and be encouraged in the worst of times to trust in You. Let me be resolved to seek You and serve You and continue in Your fear for You are great and greatly to be feared. Help me direct my worship to You and make conscience of my duty to You in everything.
Shall not lack
I know that to those who fear You and seek You, it is promised that even in this wanting world, we shall lack no good thing. We shall be supplied with sufficient grace to also support our spiritual life. May I be one who lives by faith in Your all-sufficiency for I know I shall have enough. May I with quietness work and mind my own business and so be content. Help me teach myself and others the fear of You.
Lord I ask that You help me learn to bridle my tongue and be careful what I say. May I never speak improperly. Help me be upright and sincere in everything I say, and not be double-tongued. Cause me to leave all my sins, and resolve that I will have no more to do with them. Teach me to study to be useful, and live for Your purpose. May I do good for my own soul, employing it well, furnishing it with a good treasure, and so fit it for the other world. As I have ability and opportunity help me also to do good to others.
Help me seek peace
Help me seek peace and pursue it and show a peaceable disposition and study the things that make for peace. May I be willing to deny myself in honour and interest, for the sake of peace. Though I may have many troubles, and I know that they will do me no harm, but You will make them to work good to me. I know that all good people are under Your special favour and protection. You take special notice of good people to direct and guide them, to protect and keep them.
I am sure of an answer of peace to my prayers. May it be my constant practice to cry unto You when I am in distress for I know that You hear me. May I be always humbled for sin and emptied of self. I declare that I have no confidence in my own merit and sufficiency, but in You only. Help me always to know how to value Your favour.
Though I have my share of crosses
Though I may have my share of crosses in this world yet I know that You are engaged in my deliverance and salvation. Keep me from sinning in my troubles, which is the only real thing that would bring me into trouble. Keep me from despair, and from being put out of the possession of my own mind and soul.
May I be one of Your faithful servants and to make it my care to please You and my business to honour You. May I trust You to protect and reward me. I refer myself to You and have reason to be at ease whatever befalls me, for I am safe and shall be happy. May I be confirmed in the choice I have made in pursuit of Your ways. Let me be quickened in Your service, and greatly encouraged by the assurances You have given of the particular care You take of all those who faithfully adhere to You. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.