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Psalm 34: Taste and See That the Lord Is Good

It is believed that this psalm was written about David pretending to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away (I Sam. 21:10-15).  David was fleeing from his enemy, King Saul.  Several commentators do not believe that this was a sad episode in his life because he failed to trust God to protect him and relied on his own cunning instead.  However, David did cry out for God’s help and was delivered as this Psalm makes clear.

This Psalm is quoted twice in the New Testament and may be alluded to in other passages.  Note that vs 12-16 are quoted in I Pet. 3:10-12 as a promise of God’s blessing for those who live a godly life. Verse 20 is quoted by John as being been fulfilled at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus (John19:36).

Psalm 34 is a happy and joyful invitation because God rescued David and he praises God and wants everyone to join him in such praise. Along with this desire is the plea for one to know God, see Him, taste His goodness, fear Him, and rejoice in Him. 

In Romans 3 Paul gives a summary judgment upon this fallen world in a catalogue of Old Testament texts. He concludes with the indictment "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3:18; Ps. 36:1).  A symbol of our arrogance is found in the epigram carved over a saloon door on the Titanic: "Not even God can sink this ship," a blasphemy that still rots at the bottom of the Atlantic.  Psalm 34 tells us just the opposite. This psalm witnesses to a God who has delivered "this poor man" (v. 6).

Praise the Lord.

God had done great things for David; therefore, he declared that He would bless the name of the Lord. Bless (barak) is derived from the Hebrew word for knee, and it literally means to kneel. It usually describes reverential worship, as contrasted to exuberant praise. In blessing the Lord, David expressed His respect and gratitude to God.  We should follow David’s example in every season of life. It is easy to bless the Lord when all is well or when He does something marvelous for us. But it is not so easy to bless Him when we suffer loss or affliction. Scripture commands us to give thanks in every circumstance, knowing that God’s will is being accomplished in our lives (1 Th. 5:18). “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Th. 5:18)

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Knowing that the Lord never disappoints, he invited all to experience the kindness of God for themselves. He was not suggesting that we sample the Lord’s goodness to see if we like it. Instead, he was pleading with everyone to take every action necessary to become a servant of God and to realize that what he was experiencing, they too could enjoy God’s protection and help. What does this involve?

                     Trust—take refuge—in Him and you will be blessed (v. 8).

                      Fear Him and you will have all you need (v. 9).

                      Seek Him and you will lack no good thing: (v. 10)

It is David's intention in this psalm not only to worship the Lord and witness to His goodness, but also to teach us to fear God (v. 11).  Here David's invitation, "Come, you children," places him in the stance of the father instructing his sons in the proper way of life.  David asks, "Do you want to live long and well?" Most of us do, of course. "Then hear this."

As David taught, walking in the fear of the Lord can be summarized in three simple precepts:

Guard your words: speak righteously and truthfully.

Guard your conduct: shun evil and do good.

Guard the way you treat others: pursue peace, not conflict.

These principles are so crucial that the Holy Spirit repeated them in the New Testament, inspiring Peter to include them in his first epistle:

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Pe. 3:8-11).

If we fear God, we know that God sees and judges the way we act. He rewards us when we do good. 

“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.  16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.  17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (vs. 15-18). Peter quoted these verses in I Peter 3.

David did not mean that the righteous will not suffer pain and hardship, because he certainly did and Job, the most righteous man of his day, also suffered terrible pain.  But nothing happens to the righteous without God’s knowledge and supervision.  He will help us bear the problems of life and ultimately will take us home to live with Him (2 Co4. 4:16-5:1-8).

This verse also prophesies Christ’s death. He yielded His spirit on the cross before the soldiers came to break His legs, fulfilling this prophecy. It also fulfilled the type of the Passover lamb, which was a picture of Christ’s sacrifice for sin (Jn. 19:31-36; Ex. 12:46).

In the end Psalm 34 is like Psalm 1 in that it leaves us with two ways to live.

“Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned” (vs. 21-22).  The final verses teach us that: the wicked will be destroyed by their own evil; the servants of God redeemed; those condemned, and these justified, forever.