Theme: David’s Own Testimony
This week’s lessons teach us of the need to praise and trust the Lord for his deliverance in the midst of difficult experiences.
Scripture: Psalm 34:1-22
David’s experience shows that this is a psalm for poor men—and poor women too. It is a psalm for you if you are alone or destitute, perhaps having nothing at all, or are not even sure that you will live long. It is for you if you find yourself at the absolute low point in life, which is where David was. Or if you find yourself between a rock, which in this case was King Saul, and a hard place, which was King Achish. It is for you when everything seems against you.
If David were here in person and you were able to explain your situation to him, here is what he would say (note the emphasis): “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (vv. 4-7).
What a great testimony this is! And what a helpful set of instructions! It gives us a sequence. First, there is trouble. David speaks of his many “fears” (v. 4) and “all his troubles” (v. 6). Second, there is prayer. He says, “I sought the LORD” (v. 4) and he “called” upon him. Third, there is deliverance, the answer to his prayers. He says, “The LORD… answered me; he delivered me” (v. 4). Again, “The LORD heard [me]; he saved [me] out of all my troubles” (v. 6). Fourth, his life became radiant with the joy of being in the care of such a good God: “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (v. 5).
I notice, because the end of the psalm points us in this direction, that David’s circumstances did not immediately change. He was still a fugitive. He was still in danger. For a time at least he was still alone. But God did deliver him from Achish; that is, he preserved his life. And his grim circumstances did begin to change. The future leaders of his kingdom began to come to him.
That is important. The promise of prayer does not mean that God will change every difficult thing in your life. But he will preserve you for as long as he has work for you to do, and he will transform even the difficult circumstances by his presence and perhaps by the presence of others whom he sends to be with you.
Moreover, he will do this even if you are unable to see it for a time. The reason I say this is because of the superb illustration of verse 7 in an event that occurred somewhat later in Israel’s history. Verse 7 says, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” What do you think of when you read that? I think of God’s deliverance of the prophet Elisha and his servant recorded in 2 Kings 6.
Elisha and his servant were in Dothan, and the king of Aram had sent his armies to surround the city because God had been revealing the military plans of the king to Elisha, Elisha had been passing them on to Israel’s king, and the Jewish armies had then been able to avoid and outwit the Arameans. The king of Aram thought that if he could capture Elisha, he could shut off this information leak and begin to win battles. As the story tells it, the armies of the Arameans surrounded Dothan by night so that they were there in the morning when Elisha’s servant went out of the city to draw water for his master. I can see him suddenly noticing the shining hosts of the enemy, rubbing his eyes in disbelief, and then hurrying back inside the safety of the city’s walls to tell Elisha, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do” (v. 15)?
“Don’t be afraid,” Elisha answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 7). Then he prayed for God to open the young man’s eyes, and when God did, “he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17).
That was David’s situation in the cave of Adullam, even though he could not see the divine hosts. It is your situation too, since the text speaks universally when it says, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Deliverance is an important theme in this psalm, occurring four times. In verse 4 we are told that the Lord delivers us from our fears. In verse 7 the Lord is said to deliver us from our enemies. In verses 17 and 19 the Lord is seen delivering the righteous from their many troubles. The psalm does not say that we will not have fears, enemies and troubles. But it does promise deliverance from them (and sometimes in them) by God’s power.
The angel of the Lord is the commander of the Lord’s hosts who appeared to Joshua before the conquest of Canaan (cf. Joshua 5:13-15), possibly a preincarnate manifestation of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. This figure is mentioned in the Psalter only here and in Psalm 35:5, 6.
From the lesson, what is the sequence observed in verses 4-6? What experiences in your own life have followed this?
What does the promise of prayer mean?
Key Point: The psalm does not say that we will not have fears, enemies and troubles. But it does promise deliverance from them (and sometimes in them) by God’s power.
For Further Study: If you are fearful and burdened from very difficult circumstances in life, Elijah also felt the same. Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “I Have Had Enough, Lord.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)