I went into a writing hiatus due to a circumstance my sibling was facing. I was greatly affected by it ’cause he is thousands of miles away from me, and his wife is going through a health condition. If you have read my blog posting entitled “Regarding Wilmer,” he was the one who offered and asked me about the Christian service for my departed son.
I’m not going to divulge private details concerning the health status, but the doctor categorized it as a critical condition. My brother has been with me each time I was in trouble. Now that he is in a difficult situation, I can’t even be with him, all because of this pandemic. I believe a lot of people can relate to the same predicament nowadays. I wanted to be comforted by the Lord, so that I can comfort my brother, so – as I always do – I turned to the Scripture. And Psalm 34 came to me, and I hope my reflection on this psalm would also be a comfort to anyone reading this blog who perhaps are in a similar circumstance.
The 150 Psalms of the Old Testament Bible must first be recognized as Jewish in nature. It’s a Jewish literature of songs and hymns written from the time of Moses to those of Ezra and Nehemiah. Beginning at Mount Sinai with Moses receiving God’s Covenant with Israel to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the rebuilding of the Second Temple which ultimately was renovated by King Herod during the Roman time. Psalms therefore impart prophecies of God in relation to His Covenant with Israel, reflection of the psalmist, and truths about the nature of God. Psalm 34 is one of the psalms written by David.
In order for us to truthfully understand the meaning and beauty of Psalm 34, we ought to first identify the occasion of this psalm. See Psalm 34:1.
Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away. I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!
The title of this psalm provided a hint, only one narrative would fit the description of Psalm 34:1 – the story of David in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.
And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands?'”
And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”
From the English translation, it might appear to be two different occasions, ’cause Psalm 34 referred to a person named “Abimelech,” while in 1 Samuel 21:10, “Achish king of Gath” was the one confronting David. The Lexicon Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions however, among other things, defined Abimelech, as “the king of Gath in David’s time; maybe title of Philistine kings.” Therefore, Psalm 34:1 and the narrative of 1 Samuel 21:12-13 are linked together, referring to one and the same incident in David’s life.
Now, having settled the issue of relevance; between Psalm 34 and 1 Samuel 21:10, let us move on to other details of both writings. In 1 Samuel 21:12, the Bible said, “David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath.” Perhaps David was afraid that Achish now having recognized him might turned him over to Saul, who obviously was deviously jealous of David’s more prominent status. See 1 Samuel 21:11.
And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David king of the land? Did they not sing to one another in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and david his ten thousands?'”
In reality Saul still reigns as king over Israel not David, but obviously the Jews have considered David as the standby king waiting to be enthroned. This was the reason for Saul’s envy and insecurity, hence he pursued David and wanted him dead. More importantly, because Saul had broken the commandment of the LORD, the prophet Samuel told him that:
The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for He is not a man, that he should have regret. (1 Samuel 15:28-29)
One of the highlights of David’s stories without a doubt should be that of his battle with Goliath. David was a lad when all Israel was challenged by Goliath to a man-to-man fight (1 Samuel 17:10). Not one person from the mighty army of Saul dared to fight with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:11). Nobody would venture to do so ’cause Goliath was a giant champion warrior from the Philistines. In this context, it was well understood that the inability of Israel to stand before Goliath’s challenge was an insult to the name of YHWH, the LORD God of Israel. Such an understanding may be seen clearly through the words of the lad David as he sought the approval of Saul to face Goliath in the battle. See 1 Samuel 17:36-37.
Your servant has struck down both lion and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defiled the armies of the Living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!
I guess we all knew the conclusion of that encounter. Goliath was defeated by the lad David in the name of the LORD of hosts with a sling and a stone in his hand (1 Samuel 17:45,49). Fast forward now to 1 Samuel 21:10-15, David was no longer the young lad but was now an experienced commander of Israel’s armies. When he encountered Achish king of Gath, out of fear, he acted insane. Surely it was a decline from being a brave young lad who faced and defeated Goliath but now humiliated.
Many of us are like that. I also fell to the same temptation. If you have read my blogpost entitled “Regarding Wilmer,” you would see how boldly I embraced and sought the Gospel of Jesus Christ right at the wake of my only son and after. The fears and questions that I faced then may be considered my Goliath which I had encountered and overcame by the grace of God. As we walk the journey of faith, sometimes we become too trusting of ourselves, our achievements, our status, our resources, or people around us. So we begin to live our lives, perhaps unconsciously forgetting God’s moment-by-moment’s divine providence. Then when moments of difficulty or trials are upon us, our faith would be challenged.
I may say my brother’s predicament became a challenge to me. No, I never doubted God. I felt burdened and sorrowed by my inability to be with my brother, forgetting that although I am thousands of miles away from him, the Lord is forever present. That may have been the experience of David. He forgot that God has already anointed him to be King over Israel so there was no way that Achish king of Gath could have him killed without being King of Israel first. See 1 Samuel 16:1, 7, 11-13.
The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for Myself a King among his sons.”
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD look on the heart.”
Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
Take note then that David was God’s anointed King over Israel before he fought Goliath. The victory of David over Goliath therefore occurred in accordance with God’s divine providence making him King of Israel. In essence, David was sent by God, not Saul, to fight Goliath. Many times in our journey with the Lord we fail to remember that we are a child of God, precious in His sight. Therefore, there is no coincidence or chance encounter but only divine appointment or providence. There should be no fear whatever comes before us ’cause Jesus is Immanuel – God with us.
True enough, God’s mysterious working in David’s life came to light in 1 Samuel 22:1-2,5.
David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.
Then the prophet of God said to David, “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.
After these twin divine workings of God, David, no longer alone, now has an army of four hundred men. Also David was timely aided by the prophet of God, thereby avoiding a massacre by Saul’s men (1 Samuel 22:18-19). Henceforth, David began to seek God’s guidance and was spiritually restored. That I believe was the background for David’s utterance in Psalm 34.
Our walk with Jesus is not a guarantee that we will always be shielded from life’s challenges. Life’s troubles would always be part of our daily living ’cause man was formed from dust so to dust our mortal body will return. Therefore, mankind is not immune to decay. The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:45,47-49, said,
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the Last Adam became a life-giving spirit … The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the Second Man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the Man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Man of heaven.
But the Good News was, Jesus Christ came. He fulfilled all the prophecies and requirements of the Mosaic Law. Subsequently, the promised salvation of God is now a reality. Our present existence, therefore, should make no difference – for Christ Jesus reigns then and forevermore. We then should live with full conviction that “neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
In normal times we are quick to fall into complacency, disregarding God’s daily presence and guidance. We tend to make decision as if we are masters of our life. The Bible said “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20). As Christians purchased by the blood of our Lord Christ Jesus who now reigns, so He alone is the Master of our lives, not us.
The proclamation of the Gospel should be done through our daily living. We live by the truths and promises of the Word of God everyday. We need not be sent out, as missionaries, that the Eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ be make known to the rest of mankind. Rather, the true Christian living should resonate the veracity of the Gospel.
I will ponder more on the thoughts, thanksgiving and confidence of David as expressed in Psalm 34 in my next blog posting.
If you want to follow our journey of unlearning tradition and relearning Scripture, you can stay updated by liking our Facebook page. You can also head to our Home page and subscribe directly to receive notifications in your inbox.