Psalm 34

34:0Saul was King of Israel. He wanted to kill David. David ran away. Saul followed him. David went to Gath, which was a Philistine city. The king of Gath was Abimelech. He was not a friend to David. David became afraid. He should have trusted in the Lord. He did not, but made a plan of his own. He made Abimelech think that he (David) was crazy. For this reason, Abimelech did not kill David. In those days, they thought that it was wrong to kill crazy people. Abimelech sent David away. He went to a cave in Adullam, which was a few miles away. 400 people went to the camp that David made in Adullum. They were running away from a difficult life in Judah. Today we would say that they were refugees. The story is in a Part of the Bible that we call I Samuel, chapters 21 and 22 (see below). In Psalm 34 David thanked God that he was safe

Psalm 34 is an alphabet psalm. There are 22 verses in it. Each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew Alphabet. Verse 1 begins with aleph, verse 2 with beth, and so on. We have put verse 16 before verse 15, because this makes it easier to understand. Because it is an alphabet psalm, there are a lot of different ideas in it. Other alphabet psalms are 9, 10, 25, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145.

The Fear of the Lord

For David, when he made Abimelech think that he was crazy.

Abimelech sent David away and he went.

1 I will always say good things about the Lord.

Every day my lips will sing psalms to him.

2 My soul will boast about the Lord.

Humble people will hear it. It will make them happy.

3 Let us all make people see that the Lord is great.

We will make his name famous together.

34:3Verses 1-3: The Hebrew word for ‘say good things about’ is ‘baruch.’ We often translate it ‘bless.’ The word ‘boast’ usually means ‘tell people how great you are.’ Here, though, it means ‘tell everyone how great God is.’ Some people translate verse 3 as ‘Let us magnify the Lord.’ ‘Magnify’ means ‘make bigger.’ We cannot make God bigger but we can bring him near to people. We do this by always obeying him. In this way we magnify him.

4 I prayed to the Lord and he answered me.

He saved me from everything that made me afraid.

5 Humble people looked to the Lord and were happy.

Their faces were not ashamed.

6 This humble man prayed and the Lord heard him.

The Lord took him away from all his troubles.

34:6Verses 4-6: David was afraid. This was probably when he was with the Philistine king. David's crazy plan was working, but he wanted more. He asked God for help as well. God gave David help. David had a safe journey to Adullam. This made the humble people that came to him very happy. They were so happy that their faces shone!

7 The angel of the Lord made a camp.

He stayed in it, round the people that feared the Lord.

He took them away from danger.

34:7Verse 7: The angel of the Lord is often a name for God himself in the Bible. Some Christians think that it was the angel Michael. He was the special angel of Israel. Jesus said that we all have an angel when we are children. Our angel may give us help. Many Christians believe that our angel stays with us all our life.

8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.

The man that trusts in him will be very happy.

34:8Verse 8: Hundreds of years ago the Church used this psalm when they met for The Lord's Supper. Other names for it include The Holy Communion and The Eucharist and The Mass. They used it because this verse says, ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’ We eat bread to remember his broken body. We drink red wine to remember his blood that he gave for us.

9 Oh, fear the Lord all his saints.

People that fear him will need nothing.

34:9Verse 9: If you find this verse difficult, then translate it: ‘Obey the Lord, all his saints. People that obey him will not need anything.’ The last bit means we will have what is necessary, not what we like!

10 Young lions may need food and become hungry.

People that pray to the Lord will not need any good thing.

34:10Verse 10: Perhaps there were lions near the camp that David made for his men. Sometimes the lions were hungry. God will give his people all that they need.

11 Children, come and listen to me.

I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12 Which one of you finds pleasure in life?

Who wants time to see good things?

13 Do not say anything evil,

or let your lips tell anything that is false.

14 Turn away from evil and do good things.

Look for peace and follow it.

34:14Verses 11-14: These verses help us to understand the fear of the Lord. We show God that we fear him by obeying him. We also show him that we love him by obeying him! We call this strange mixing of fear and love by the word ‘worship.’ Look again at the note on verse 9.

15 The Lord's face is against the people that do evil.

Nobody in all the earth will remember them.

16 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

and his ears listen when they pray.

17 The Lord hears them when they cry for help.

He saves them from all their troubles.

34:17Verses 15-17: ‘The Lord's face is against’ means that ‘he is angry.’ He is looking at people that are his enemies. Verse 15 means that he can also see and hear righteous people. People are righteous not because they do good, but because God forgives them.

18 The Lord is near when their hearts break.

He saves those whose spirits are very sad.

34:18Verse 18: ‘A broken heart’ means that we are ‘hurting in our minds, and very sad.’ We must remember that God is near us when this happens to us. He wants to share our broken heart. He gives us help when we hurt inside.

19 Many evil things happen to the righteous,

but the Lord saves the righteous from them all.

20 The Lord keeps all their bones safe.

Not one of them becomes broken.

34:20Verse 19-20: Life is often very hard for God's people. God does not make life easy for them. He does give them help, though. This is what ‘saves’ in verse 19 means. The promise in verse 20 came true for Jesus when he died. The story is in John 19:36. It is at the end of this psalm. The soldiers broke the body of Jesus, but not his bones. God kept the body of Jesus safe. God raised him from the dead 3 days later. For us, ‘all their bones’ means ‘all their bodies.’ This is how the Jews said it. God will keep us safe until it is time to go to heaven. Then it does not matter what happens to our bodies, because our spirits (or souls) will be safe with God in heaven. Heaven is where God lives. God will raise our bodies, though. We do not know how he will do this. It will happen when Jesus returns to the earth.

21 Evil things will kill very bad people.

The Lord will punish the people that hate righteous people.

34:21Verse 21: In Australia, the aborigines have boomerangs. A boomerang is a bit of wood. The shape of it is as a letter V. When they throw it away, it comes back to them! ‘Throw’ means ‘make it fly from your hand’ The evil that bad men do is like a boomerang. It comes back to them and hurts them. It may take a long time, but it will happen. That is how God punishes people. Read Psalm 7: 15 for an example.

22 The Lord will make his servants free

and not punish anyone that trusts him.

34:22Verse 22: If we have done bad things, we must ask God to forgive us. Then he will not punish us. The evil that we do will not come back to us like a boomerang!