Psalm 34 song of victory, song of faith


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Here are the slides that accompany the sermon on Psalm 34 from Simon Bowkett at Grace Christian Community Llandeilo on September 1st 2013.
Adding audio and producing a slidecast has failed so mp3 file available here:
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  • Have you noticed the connection between spiritual resilience and a person’s gratitude to God … expressed through the discipline of praise?Here’s a song of David’s written for those who find it difficult to make the link.And it springs from an interesting episode in David’s own life … it’s not some theoretical, super-spiritual pain in the neck speaking here.This one is real.So first of all, we need to take note of the historical background and life-setting of this Psalm … so this is the setting in life that David’s song is all about:In 1 Samuel 20-21 David is brought to the point where, for all his loyalty to King Saul, Saul’s jealousy has risen to dangerous levels and it is really no longer safe for David to remain at Saul’s court.David has been secretly anointed by the prophet Samuel to be King after the death of Saul … and the matter is complicated by the fact that Saul’s son Jonathan and David are the closest of very good friends, and utterly loyal to one another.It’s a story-line you really couldn’t write.Jonathan can’t believe what David is telling him about the intentions of Jonathan’s father, the king.So Jonathan and David swear loyalty to one another and Jonathan executes an exercise to test the waters with Saul.The outcome is that Jonathan encourages David to flee.David does so, and finds himself ultimately in the Philistine city of Gath, ruled by its King Achish.Now, Achish’s men weren’t so daft and picked up on David’s presence pretty fast!“the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:“‘Saul has slain his thousands,    and David his tens of thousands’?””David is now in a terribly perilous situation … fleeing from Israel’s king (whose armies he’s led against the Philistines) in order to preserve his own life, David runs straight into the arms of Achish, the old enemy.He’s gone rapidly from frying pan to fire … and he KNOWS it!1 Samuel 21:12“David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane(P) in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.”It is a desperate strategy.But it works … and v. 14 Achish dismisses his men’s warning:“Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”It is precisely as a result of THAT deliverance … not David’s most glorious military deliverance, but possibly His merciful God’s! … that the heading tells us that this psalm was written.Now, you may have spotted that the title of the psalm refers to ‘Abimelech’ and 1 Samuel refers to Achish.Yes, it does.But ‘Abimelech’ means ‘my father was King’ and appears to have been a title given to Philistine kings who inherited rather than seized their title to rule.The Achish of 1 Samuel 21 seems to be the contemporary Philistine King who’s referred to.
  • יהוה – YHWH … the faithful, covenant-keeping GodThere’s the Name, then there’s two other forms that come next in proliferation meaning ‘and the LORD’, and ‘of the LORD’ …So, really, the LORD should be at least twice as big in this diagram to reflect the repeated emphasis on the covenant-keeping God.
  • ירא - yare‘ those who fear … as in, ‘those who fear the LORD’ – a significant emphasis in this Psalm is that those with a healthy respect for the sovereignty of God end up in the right sort of relationship to Him!
  • מֵרָע - רע ra` - awayfrom evil.
  • Then there’s שמע - shama` … meaning ‘heard’, as in ‘He heard my cry’.
  • So here’s a passage where the LORD is big on the screenNext comes an emphasis on turning away from evil and the LORD hearing his cry.THOSE are the repeated emphases of the Psalm … but there’s a tremendous lot more happening along the way here!
  • The first half of this psalm switches back and forth between personal testimony (vv. 1-2, 4 & 6) and repeated invitations to join in the praise and stir up fresh faith.It is very carefully crafted and thoughtfully written, but it doesn’t have a clear structure so far as subject matter is concerned.It’s structure is external to the subject matter and all to do with its external form.It is an acrostic poem, where each successive line begins with the next letter of the alphabet … which only works if you’re reading it in Hebrew!But – as far as subject matter is concerned – although the structure gives the impression of circular argument, the subject matter is basically pretty consistent.The message is simple: ‘God has been GREAT to me – come on and REJOICE!’Now, of course, we may well tend to think that if someone is low and struggling the last thing we should do is make statements like this in their hearing: “I will extol the Lord at all times;    his praise will always be on my lips.2 I will glory in the Lord;”He says ‘at all times’!More exactly … ‘at every time’ … and it’s the more so given the recent experience at Gath, of which David is writing here.This isn’t mindless, this resolution to praise God at all time is rooted in reality.Did you realise that 1/3 of the psalms are public laments?There’s a real readiness in Scripture in general and in psalms in particular to acknowledge and (most importantly) to EXPRESS human sorrow and struggling.NO question!But there’s the other thing too … which we can very wrongly feel we have to suppress in order to ‘help’ the downcast.See it like this … you are NOT helping the downcast by being unrealistic, but you are certainly not helping them by hiding away real cause for rejoicing either.That’s NOT a charter for a lack of care … it needs to be an EXPRESSION of care to speak as the psalmist does here.Let’s look at how it works out …
  • And it doesn’t work out as a linear argument, but a series of associated blobs on the page!This diagram shows where we’re going … so we’ll be coming back to it.
  • So David has come to the conclusion … on the basis of his experience of God’s deliverance both at the court of Saul and down at Gath … that he will ALWAYS praise the God Who has done this for him.More than that, he won’t just keep the joy to himself.There are people out there whose lives are broken, afflicted and humbling … and as he has such great cause to rejoice in God himself, David wants to pass on what He’s received FOR THEIR BENEFIT!Why do YOU want to share your good news about the LORD?David has lessons to teach us here!And here’s where he starts … with a direct and personal appeal.
  • The message here from David is plain: ‘I have reason to rejoice … please JOIN me!’He speaks as one who has been afflicted (certainly feigning madness before the Philistine king of Gath to try to save your own miserable skin would have been an afflicting and humbling experience) … although the word could just as easily mean ‘humble’ … And speaking as one who has been through all of that he appeals to others in similar circumstances NOT by saying ‘oh yes, I KNOW how you feel’ but by saying ‘Oh, look I was there but look what GOD has done for me and therefore can still be expected to do for you … let’s REJOICE!’What’s happened is that the statement of purpose of vv. 1-2 … ‘I will rejoice’ has been fellowshipped-up to others who are also in fellowship with this covenant-keeping God, but whose sense of the privilege this entails is more dulled.‘Come ON!’ David says … my God is your God and LOOK what He’s done for me … at least that is the direction in which David’s taking this …
  • The word for ‘fear’ here is not the reverential fear that arises elsewhere in this psalm, but a more intense word for craven fear … it’s quite possibly not so much the events that are dreaded but the dread that’s taken over the man.David’s recital of his personal history with God is crucial to working out his determination to praise, and also to his appeal to the rest of God’s covenant people to do so … whatever their current circumstances.Now, we’ve gone to some lengths already to describe David’s situation down at Gath, where he’d fled the unjust persecutions of King Saul and found he’d moved from the frying pan into the fire.You can just see him, can’t you, trying to live beneath the radar in a hostile and godless place, then suddenly realising he’s been rumbled by the King’s men in Gath … being hauled up before the King and arraigned with being a really effective enemy of the state? … ‘Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands’ … flattering when it was sung as a victory song, but one that’s really come back to bite him where it hurts!And at that point, rumbled in Philistia, David sought the Lord.The game was well and truly up.All was unutterably, horribly lost.David’s fears ran at a terrifying never known high …And at that time he sought God, and God delivered David … delivered him from all the things he feared.So here comes the lesson David learned from that experience, for life.
  • There’s the point.There’s the principle.David had looked to God Who seems to have given him a thoroughly humbling strategy for a man like David the Philistine killer to pursue …It was a course of action that from a human perspective, a proud man’s perspective on life was humbling and humiliating and shaming … playing the mad man to escape the vengeance of your enemy … your God’s and your people’s enemy.And what is David’s take on it now?After he’s gone through the playing the fool and the dribbling in his beard and has pulled off and been derided for his acted insanity?“Those who look to him are radiant;… The word for radiant is a word found again in Isaiah 60:5, where it describes a mother’s face lighting up at the sight of her children who had previously been long given up for lost.    their faces are never covered with shame.”Have you ever been in a position where looking to the Lord’s led you deep into things your flesh findshumiliating?Where obedience to God seems to others and to you to be shaming?That’s NOT unusual.But the lesson for life David has to teach us is this … “Those who look to him are radiant;    their faces are never covered with shame.”Then it’s quickly back to his personal history …
  • David is still back in Gath, isn’t he?He’s the poor man, exposed, under threat, no human strength or help to meet his challenges …Troubles were plenty and help was non-existent.This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;    he saved him out of all his troubles.And that’s not just ‘whooppee-doo’ that’s for living by.David’s personal history’s taught him God …Here comes the derived lesson for life …
  • Now, I’ve no idea about you, but I’ve definitely been in threatening situations where that one verse has been very important to me!I can remember the first time.I can remember the last time.When even your life’s threatened and things have got sticky, that verse is a cracker to have with you!The fear of the Lord puts us under the protection of the most powerful of the angels of Heaven … in fact the angel or messenger of the Lord seems in Scripture to often refer to the angel of the LORD as embodying God Himself.In any event, the highest power flying out of Heaven (says David from his own scary experience), God’s special and oh-so-powerful messenger, protectively camps around those who fear God … and HE is the source of their safety.Man if that’s the case, don’t you want to fear God?
  • Now here comes the appeal again that chimes in with the first one at the start of this section, and links to it, closing the brackets …
  • Because He’s good, of course, there’s NO harm in fearing Him!But that’s not David’s point here at all.David’s point here is that those less willing to praise God than ‘delivered David’ himself need to take themselves off to the tasting session.The way to grasp the goodness of God in the land of the living is to get out there and grasp the fear of God in the faith-inspired life, taking refuge in Him for the consequences.You might not be able to rationalise to the conclusion that God is good … but some things are evident to reflective practitioners that never dawn on secluded academics … just taste (says David) and see that the LORD is good!
  • And finally (for today) David points out the importance of this appeal he has made …
  • The big motivating conclusion set to all of this appeal and recital both of experience and wisdom is that it makes sense to fear the LORD because those who fear Him lack nothing.Lions are at the top of the food chain.If anything in the jungle is going to eat, you can pretty safely reckon the lions are.In fact the Hebrew word used here is כפיר – kĕphiyrWhich specifically means ‘young lions’ … an old lion might be less fit and active and therefore less able to hunt effectively.Even young lions may in extreme circumstances … of drought and of famine and hardship … find themselves very short of what they need.“… but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”We have to be clear about this.Walking with the Lord we may lack SOME things.But seeking Him we will lack no GOOD thing.
  • Psalm 34 song of victory, song of faith

    1. 1. Welcome to Grace! Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Psalm 95:6-7
    2. 2. Psalm 34 • Introduction
    3. 3. Psalm 34 • Introduction
    4. 4. Psalm 34 • Introduction
    5. 5. Psalm 34 • Introduction
    6. 6. Psalm 34 • Introduction
    7. 7. Psalm 34 • Introduction
    8. 8. Psalm 34 • Introduction • Rejoice! Vv. 1-10
    9. 9. Psalm 34:1-10 • Personal history, v. 4 • Lesson for life, v. 5 Appeal, vv. 8-9a Importance, vv. 9b-10 Appeal, v. 3 • Personal history, v. 6 • Lesson for life, v. 7
    10. 10. Psalm 34 • Introduction • Rejoice with me! Vv. 1-10 – Statement of purpose, vv. 1-2 “I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.”
    11. 11. Psalm 34:1-10 Appeal, v. 3 “3 Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.”
    12. 12. Psalm 34:1-10 • Personal history, v. 4 Appeal, v. 3 ““I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
    13. 13. Psalm 34:1-10 • Personal history, v. 4 • Lesson for life, v. 5 Appeal, v. 3 “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
    14. 14. Psalm 34:1-10 • Personal history, v. 4 • Lesson for life, v. 5 Appeal, v. 3 • Personal history, v. 6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
    15. 15. Psalm 34:1-10 • Personal history, v. 4 • Lesson for life, v. 5 Appeal, v. 3 • Personal history, v. 6 • Lesson for life, v. 7 “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”
    16. 16. Psalm 34:1-10 • Personal history, v. 4 • Lesson for life, v. 5 Appeal, vv. 8-9a Appeal, v. 3 • Personal history, v. 6 • Lesson for life, v. 7
    17. 17. Psalm 34:8-9a Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. 9 Fear the LORD, you his holy people …
    18. 18. Psalm 34:1-10 • Personal history, v. 4 • Lesson for life, v. 5 Appeal, vv. 8-9a Importance, vv. 9b-10 Appeal, v. 3 • Personal history, v. 6 • Lesson for life, v. 7
    19. 19. Psalm 34:9b-10 for those who fear him lack nothing. 10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
    20. 20. Psalm 34 • Introduction • Rejoice with me! Vv. 1-10 – Statement of purpose, vv. 1-2 • Personal history, v. 4 • Lesson for life, v. 5 Appeal, vv. 8-9a Importance, vv. 9b-10 Appeal, v. 3 • Personal history, v. 6 • Lesson for life, v. 7