God the Mighty Deliverer – Psalm 46

Humans need help. And lots of it. We constantly need to be delivered. When I look at my life I know that without the help of others, I would be dead.

When babies are born, we often say that they are delivered. I know it was the case for me. I was born at 6:30am, at the time when the nurses changed shifts. My mom had to scream to get help because I came so fast, I popped out like soap and a nurse came just in time to catch me. I call my birth my first bungee jump.

As a 4 years old I once jumped into the pool without my floaters. I sunk straight to the bottom. If it wasn’t for my dad jumping with all his clothes on, I would have died.

In second grade, I was so bad at spelling, I even misspelled my own name on a spelling quiz.

I once burnt my backyard. If it wasn’t for my mom seeing the fire and the fire hose installed by qualified people, who knows what would have happened.

Without my glasses, I can barely see anything. Without eye doctors, I would be useless.

Even now, as I grown up, I continue to get in trouble and need help. One day, I was holding our little baby and I didn’t have a shirt on, and little Elena grabbed my nipple. It hurt so bad, and in the angle I was holding her I could not get her off, I had to yell to get my wife to come.

It’s hard to believe, but even the smallest people can put you in situations where you need to be delivered. The other day I was taking a bath with my baby to help her relax, and she started pooping all over the water. If it wasn’t for my wife helping me, it would have been a lot worse.

As humans, we constantly need deliverance. Sometimes from small and silly situations, but other times from life-threatening situations.

As of now, just in this audience, I can list a tons of things from which you may need to be delivered.

Some of you need to be delivered from bad decisions you have made.

Some of you need to be delivered from financial problems at home.

Some of you need to be delivered from dangerous situations that you put yourself into.

Some of you need to be delivered from drugs and other addictions.

Some of you need to be delivered from slavery to medias and entertainment.

Some of you need to be delivered from oppression from friends or family.

Some of you need to be delivered from your own stupidity and foolishness. And if you laugh because you think of someone in your mind, this one is for you, because there is no greater fool than the one who believes that he is better than those around him.

Some of you need to be delivered from the consequences of your own sins.

Some of you need to be delivered from bad puns that non-funny people make around you. Some of you need to be delivered like pizzas are delivered.

And all of you need to be delivered from temptations, from sin and from death.

Now, the world will often offer pleasures or distractions to help you cope with those issues. But in all of this world, I can guarantee you that there is only one Savior and deliverer powerful enough to deliver you from all you troubles, and at any times. That is the God that we serve.

This week, we are going to look at many different aspects of God’s deliverance. And today, as we begin, I wanted us all to be reminded of God the mighty Deliverer.

READ PSALM 46

Psa 46:1  To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. [2]  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, [3]  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah. [4]  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. [5]  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. [6]  The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. [7]  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. [8]  Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. [9]  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. [10]  « Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! » [11]  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.

 Now this Psalm is a Psalm of the sons of Korah. Now, who the heck are those guys? there are several Korahs mentioned in the Bible, but one in particular stands out in the book of Numbers because he opposes Moses. And the reason why he opposed Moses was because Korah and Moses both belonged to the same tribe, the tribe of Levi which had been set apart by God to serve Him. The Levites were indeed the priests and those who sacrificed and ministered in the tabernacle and the Temple.

Now one day Korah became jealous of Moses.

Num 16:1  Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. [2]  And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. [3]  They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, « You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD? »

Korah was jealous of Moses’ authority as a leader. Following this, Moses challenged him and his followers, and they put censers in front of them to see who God would bless. Then the earth opened from underneath their feet and “swallowed” them.

But then you get that very short verse that stands out: “But the sons of Korah did not die” (Numbers 26:10).

While God destroyed Korah and all the possessions that he had, he spared his sons. And as Levites they continued to serve God, and eventually became singers and wrote many Psalms.

Now what is important to know about the sons of Korah is that as Levites they only had the opportunity to blossom and really serve in the times of good kings, because when the kings didn’t care about God, well, most Levites lost their jobs. This is why they are only referred to in times of revival, first with king David, then king Jehoshaphat and king Hezekiah, periods which all went through terrible wars as well, and amazing miracles of deliverance from the Lord. So in all, the sons of Korah were probably some of the most qualified people in history to speak of God’s grace and deliverance.

And it is one thing to write a song in times of peace and prosperity. It is another one to write a song when there is an army that is coming against you, that is stronger than you, more powerful and numerous, and that can potentially destroy everything you live for. In times of war, when you are on the losing side, you can expect many things. Many would lose their lives and see many of their friends and family be killed. Some would see their wives and sisters and mothers and daughters be raped or kidnapped. Some would be taken as slaves. If you are on the losing side, your house and city might be burned, and even if you survive, it will be only to live under the oppression of a new system which will take advantage of you as a conquered land.

It is a question of life and death. And if you chose the wrong deliverer, you’re done.

And so when you read the words of this Psalm, there is a lot of weight in the trust they give to God to be their deliverer. And the main point is this: God is the Mighty Deliverer. He is bigger than the bigger danger. He is closer than the closest threat. He is stronger than the strongest enemy. He is the mighty deliverer.

I.                    God is bigger than the biggest danger (vv.1-3)

And so we begin our Psalm with this in mind, and the first point that we see is that God is bigger than the biggest danger.

Psa 46:1  To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. [2] Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, [3]  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

I love how this Psalm begin. What is the first word? God. It is also the last word in Hebrew, as the Psalm ends with “God of Jacob.” Yes there are difficult times and events and situations in life, but if we keep dwelling on them we will sink very fast. The best way to approach difficulties is by staying focused on God from the start.

“God is to us refuge and strength, a help in trouble exceedingly available” we could also translate this verse, more literally.

And why should we start on God? Because He is a refuge, He is strength, and He is available.

Now, we must understand the context once more. What is refuge in the Bible? Is it just a place to run when it rains a little bit outside? No, it’s much more significant than this. A refuge is a place of safety in times of life-threatening dangers. It is the strongest place of trust for someone in trouble.

David defines this in 2 Samuel 22 after God delivered him from Saul:

2Sa 22:2  He said, « The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, [3]  my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. [4]  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. [5]  « For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me; [6]  the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.

But God is not only a refuge, He is also strength. You know, it is one thing to have a place of refuge, but sometimes the most dangerous time in a war is when you are on your way to the place of refuge. Those are the times when we are the most vulnerable and the easiest to ambush. But God is not only a refuge, He is strength. He gives us the energy and the inner resource to stand firm and hold the fort.

And not only is He refuge and strength, but He is also available and present to help in times of trouble. Here the word for “trouble” is interesting because it comes from the root meaning “tightness.” Trouble comes when things get tied. When there is tension.

And He knows how to fix that. Remember when Adam was created and he was alone in the Garden? God saw His need and created a “helper fit for him.”

God is the one who created help. He is the One who invented the concept of helping. He is the best at helping, and He is exceedingly present to help those who trust in Him.

So yes, God is the best at helping, no matter the difficulties. We see that in the following verses:

Psa 46:2  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, [3]  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.

The imagery here is that of the tidal waves that destroy mountains. The enemies that faced Israel were so strong, they were compared to the power of the ocean, limitless, unstoppable, extremely strong.

And we know the power of the ocean. I am sure most of you have seen some footage of the tidal wave that hit Japan in 2011. 15,000 people were killed, and it damaged more than one million buildings, one out of 6 being completely destroyed. It left 4.4 million people without electricity. In fact, the earthquake that created the wave was so strong that it even shifted the axis of the planet several inches.

In 2004 there was also a tidal wave in the Indian Ocean that was so powerful, it killed over 230,000 people. It caused the entire planet to vibrate, and earthquakes were caused by it all the way to Alaska.

Water can swallow mountains. There is a reason why 16% of the world’s electricity is produced by water. It is strong.

Nature when it is unbridle is extremely powerful. In 10 minutes, a hurricane releases more energy than all the nuclear weapons of this world combined.

But guess what? God is much bigger than that. There is no wave, no hurricane, no mountain that can crush God’s refuge for those who fear Him. He is the ultimate deliverer. He is God. He always win.

I mean, how strong do you think that God is? He can eat any of the Marvel super hero for breakfast.

If you took all the planets and stars and galaxies and put all their energy into a mega ball of intense fire, it would not even splinter His finger.

He is God. He is the biggest, the strongest, and the most reliable. Those who take refuge in Him will always be rescued.

II.                  God is closer than the closest threat (vv.4-7)

First, God is bigger than the biggest danger. Secondly, God is closer than the closer threat. You see this in verses 4-7.

Psa 46:4  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. [5]  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. [6]  The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. [7]  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.

While the other nations are like the waves of the ocean, random, violent, unreliable, fearsome and deadly, God’s goodness is like a river. Unlike the waves of the ocean, that river is constant, it is always there, giving life, blessing and flowing with joy.

And contrary to the mountains that move into the ocean or the kingdoms that totter (verse 6, which is the same Hebrew word for “move” as well), that river does not move. God is always there, and always there to bless. His presence is a gift that cannot be taken away by enemies.

That presence He had chosen to put it in Jerusalem, in the Temple. In the Old Testament, the expression “city of God” always refer to Jerusalem. That was were God’s glory dwelt, where the Ark of the Covenant stood. And there was absolutely nothing that would move it away. God had chosen to be close to His people, and there was nothing that could come in between Him and them. For those who trust in Him, God will always be closer than the closest threat.

It doesn’t mean that there aren’t any challenges. But even in the midst of those, God is closer to us than the dangers are.

As a kid I still remember going very early to church with my dad one morning and seeing it in smoke because someone had tried to burn it by throwing a Molotov cocktail in the basement. The church was brand new, and to see it so badly shaped devastating. Yet, the insurance gave us over $160,000 for it. We fixed everything ourselves for $20,000, and the rest of the money served to pay off the church property. That’s our God!

 At the end of history, we will see the final score of all the bad things that happened: God 50 billion, Satan 0.  Even when Satan induced people to kill Jesus and to betray Him, God still used that to save the entire human race!

When Joseph’s brothers tried to get rid of him, they meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, and through Joseph the people of Israel were saved from the famine, as well as the people of Egypt and the surrounding countries.

You can’t beat God. Everything works together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purposes. He will always be there for those who seek Him for deliverance, and He will always win.

God is there, but again, only those who take refuge in Him will taste of His goodness.

Isa 8:6  « Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, [7]  therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, [8]  and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel. »

God was to His chosen people a gentle and pleasant river, full of grace and goodness. But for those who go away from Him and seek the pleasures of the world and the idols of the heart, not living in obedience and in love to Him, there will be destruction and no refuge.

A lot of you here need to repent from lives of sin and disobedience. And the good news is that God is there to welcome you and deliver you and free you from those passions that entangle you.

Psa 46:6  The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. [7]  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.

While entire nations and kingdoms may rise against you, all that God needs to do to stop all your trouble is to utter His voice. He just need to speak to stop the waves of the sea…wait…didn’t Jesus do that to?

He showed it to us in a tangible way, but that’s what He can do to any situation. He utters his voice, the earth melts. That’s pretty incredible. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool to have a flamethrower that could melt any problem you have in life? Any time you face an issue, a problem, a tension, you take your flamethrower and burn it to the ground?

Well, God is the mighty deliverer. He can do just that. Now it doesn’t mean that there is no war, but simply that when we trust in God we win every time. He promises wisdom to those who ask in faith. He promises strength to the weak. He promises joy even in the midst of sufferings. That’s the God who delivers.

But then look at verse 7.

Psa 46:7  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.

That is super meaningful. He is the LORD of hosts with us. Now, the word for host might not do the best job for us to describe what that means. When we think of hosts we often thing of a big mass of people, but in Hebrew, it most often refers to an army. That is why in French they always translate “LORD of hosts” as “LORD of the armies.”

Now, why is this significant?

Do you know the greatest atmosphere of the battlefield? Confusion. When you are on a battlefield, things come at you from all sorts of directions, move all the time, you lose people around you, things get destroyed, there is no stability. For God to be the LORD of hosts means that He is also the LORD who can lead you to do exactly what you need to do, even in the midst of confusion.

And many of you are confused. You are confused about your meaning in life. You are confused about your faith. You are confused about the choices you need to make or that you have made. You are confused about who you are and who you want to be.

As God of the armies, God is the only one who can take all of us confused people in the world and gather us into a unified army fighting for what really matters.

He is the LORD with us, a fortress worth trusting in.

III.                God is stronger than the strongest enemy

First, we saw that God is bigger than the biggest danger. Secondly, we saw that God is closer than the closest threat. Finally, we see in the last verses of this Psalm that God is stronger than the strongest enemy.

Psa 46:8  Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. [9]  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. [10]  « Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! » [11]  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.

Here is an invitation. Come! Behold the works of the Lord!

The sons of Korah were not just abstract theologians. They didn’t ask people to trust in God and take refuge in Him because it was the right religious thing to do. It was more than this. They had seen with their eyes God crushing the armies of the enemies.

Now, as I mentioned in the beginning, there are only 3 times where the sons of Korah are mentioned in the history of the kings of Israel. Since the Temple wasn’t built until after David, we suspect then that this Psalm was probably written during the time of Jehoshaphat or Hezekiah.

So let’s take a look at the stories, since the sons of Korah invited us to do so.

JEHOSHAPHAT

2Ch 20:1  After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. [2]  Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, « A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar » (that is, Engedi). [3]  Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. [4]  And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. […] [14]  And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. [15]  And he said, « Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. [16]  Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. [17]  You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you. » [18]  Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. [19]  And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. [20]  And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, « Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed. » [21]  And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, « Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever. » [22]  And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. [23]  For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. [24]  When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped.

HEZEKIAH

2Ki 19:6  Isaiah said to them, « Say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. [7] Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.' » […] [32]  « Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. [33]  By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. [34]  For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David. » [35]  And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

It does not matter how strong the enemy is. The king of Assyria had just conquered early the northern kingdom of Israel and taken the tribes into captive. In the southern kingdom, he had also come and destroyed almost everything. He wrote on a wall in his country: that he had destroyed in Judah 46 strong cities, countless smaller places, and had trapped the king in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage.

But God protected those who trusted in Him and took refuge in Him.

He is strong, stronger than the strongest enemy. There is nothing that can prevent Him from delivering those who trust in Him. Nothing.

And this calls to a response!

Psa 46:10  « Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! » [11]  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.

God holds the world in His hands. There is nothing that won’t happen without Him allowing it. Even the trouble in your life happens for a reason. Do you know why? So that you can know Him! The reason why God brings tests in our life is so that we can see Him deliver us! That’s His specialty!

See, in most religions God is a distant god. But our God can be known. You can get to know God, and how glorious He is. And you will get to know Him the more you trust Him. The more you turn to Him to satisfy your life, to guide you in times of confusion, to fill you with love and knowledge, the more you will know how good He really is, and how worthy it is to know Him!

God is worthy of all glory. He is powerful, beautiful, perfectly loving, just and holy, and one day He will get all the honor for this. His name will be exalted because it deserves to be exalted.

This is why we should saturate our thoughts with God. The Psalmist began with God being a refuge, and ends here with God being a fortress. It’s all about God. All your trouble and your problems and your confusion exists for a reason. God has allowed it so that through those things you can learn to trust Him and to know Him, who is the most precious to know in this world.

So don’t waste your troubles. Don’t waste your confusion. Don’t waste your trials and tests in life. Get to know God. Trust in Him, and see how strong of a Savior He is.

Bless Without Ceasing – Psalm 34

Sometimes I wonder…if God had a Bible for Himself…what would it say?

It is easy to know how much we are needy as human beings simply by looking at how big is God’s manual for us. If only we were a little smarter and had a little better memory, God would not need to tell us the same truths again and again and again, through all sorts of angles and parallels and stories…but the reality is that without reminders, we just forget what we need to do. Of course, God is not like this. He doesn’t need a manual to be God. He doesn’t forget what He is supposed to do, He doesn’t need instructions written in a book to keep in line with His job. But sometimes I wonder, if God had His own Bible…what would it say?

Well, I think it would probably blow our minds to see all the things that God intentionally does for us every day. No doubt, if God had a Bible, it would be filled with truths about His character that would make our minds explode in wonder.

Today we are going to look at Psalm 34, and when I read this Psalm, it makes me wonder if before creation God did not read a verse saying: “Bless without Ceasing.” 

Of course God doesn’t need to be reminded of anything, and not only because He doesn’t forget, but also because that’s simply who He is. God cannot help but to bless, and to bless at all times.

And this is what we see in Psalm 34.

We’ll look into it verse by verse in a moment, but before this, let me read a few passages, and tell me if you don’t see a pattern there:

Verse 1: I will bless the Lord at all times his praise shall continually be in my mouth

Verse 4: I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears

Verse 5: Those who look at him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed

Verse 6: This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him of all his troubles

Verse 9: Those who fear him have no lack

Verse 10: Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing

Verse 19: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all

Verse 20: He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken

Verse 22: None of those who take refuge in him will be condemned

In 1 Chronicles 17:27 it is written that when God blesses something, it is blessed forever. When God blesses, He doesn’t do it half-heartedly. When God sets His mind to do good to someone, believe me, goodness flows, and overflows, even grace upon grace as the New Testament puts it: one truck load after the other. 

God loves to bless. He loves to help people in need. In fact, that’s even His specialty. He even named His only Son “Jesus: salvation from God.”  Saving is what He does best, and so He loves being able to do it. He’s got skills beyond understanding, no matter the situation, the problem, the troubles; He can save and turn any circumstances into a blessing.

And as we look at Psalm 34, we will see 6 never-ceasing aspects of God’s blessings, so that we can grow to have a heart of continuous praise to Him.

Prayer

Now this Psalm is really interesting because it is one that we actually know when it happened. A lot of Psalms are anonymous and without historical context, but not this one.

Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

Now most of us would remember that story in 1 Samuel 21 when David flees from Saul and goes to Philistia to find refuge, and when the king Achisch sees him, David acts like a madman, making marks on doors and letting his spit run down his beard. Now the name Abimelech is a little confusing for tow reasons. First, it must not be confused with the prophet of Nob Ahimelech in the same chapter. Second, the name of the Philistine ruler here is Achisch, not Abimelech, but the truth is that the name “Abimelech” which literally means “my father the king” is very often used for rulers, especially in Philistia. When Abraham went to that region, the king’s name was Abimelech. When Isaac went to that region, the king’s name was also Abimelech.

If we turn a few chapters earlier in the book of 1 Samuel, we see what made David flee:

1Sa 19:1  And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David.

And then there is some drama happening. Jonathan takes the defense for David, and Saul swears before the Lord not to harm him. But then he changes his mind, and the second time it is Saul’s daughter, Michal, that saves him.

And so David is both confused and scared, and really fears for his life:

1Sa 20:3b  But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death. »  

And so David flees to Philistia, out of desperation, not really planning well what he will do. I mean, running to enemy territory might not be the smartest thing. It’s like if we all got scared of Obama and all ran together to North Korea instead. But David doesn’t have time to think. The king is after him. And so he runs to the land of the Philistines, and when he realizes what he has done, he gets really scared:

Sa 21:10  And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. [11]  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’? » [12]  And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

So again, when we understand the life of David, he was a fugitive for close to 10 years. And here is where it all started. Of the 12ish Psalms of David with historical background, this is only the 2nd one. The one previous to that is Psalm 59, when David just fled at night with the help of Michal, and the next one is Psalm 56, where much maturing  has happened then, so much that he doesn’t even seem fazed by the hardships, but simply awakens the dawn in praise.

And here we are. Right before this Psalm, David is afraid, and he doesn’t know what to do. And so he comes up with the most desperate, crazy, unimaginable scheme: he takes the role of a madman. And we don’t know how long he does this. It could have been days, it could have been weeks. But the king finally comes to check it out, he let him go.

And I can just picture David’s unbelief after the whole thing. “I can’t believe that this worked! That was the dumbest, most risk-taking, most unthought-of plan, and it worked! It simply means one thing: God can truly save anybody, out of any situation, at any time!”

I.                    Never-Ceasing Praise (v.1-3)

And so here we go into the Psalm. And the first aspect that we see, is a Never-Ceasing Praise.

Psalm 34:1   I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. [2] My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. [3] Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Here David affirms his conviction: that he desires to praise the LORD at all times, never failing. Not only does he want to praise God in all circumstances, but also in a growing manner. The way “continually” comes from the root meaning “to stretch.” Not only does David want his default mind-setting to be on praise mode, but he also want to have an automatic “click” on the refresh button continually, because he knows that new blessings will always come.

David speaks out of conviction. “I will bless the LORD at all times.” This is a resolution. This is a commitment. This is how he wants to live for the rest of his life. And again, we can understand why. He had made all the worst possible choices, and yet God had given him deliverance with absolutely no harm and no loss.

“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” he says. I love that image. David wanted his mind to be focused on the LORD at all times, and in consequences, he wanted his mouth to be filled with praises at all times. My little daughter, I never know what to expect when I see that her mouth is full. She has tried to eat dirt, Kleenexes, plastic objects, even her own poop. And often this is how we are, even as believers. The way we react to others and our responses are often random and not well seasoned.  But David wanted God to be on the tip of his tongue so that every time words would come out, praise to God would flow as well.

And he explains that a little more as he goes:

Psa 34:2  My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.

 Not only he is committed to do it in the future as a resolution, but he is starting right there, writing a song for God! He changes from the future tense to the present tense. “My soul makes it boast in the LORD.” He is living it out.

 Now it would have been easy for David to boast in himself. People sung songs about him, as the one killing his ten thousands. He had been the Israel Idol of the teen girls in Jerusalem. He was smart, cunning, courageous, victorious, a leader of men, a war strategist. And although he displayed great faith throughout his fights, I am sure that the temptation to accept praise would have been great. But here he doesn’t, and the reason why is that he couldn’t even if he wanted to. He was caught off guard, acted ruthless, and the only reason why he had been saved was a complete act of God’s grace. 

 And so he boasts in the LORD, and calls those that are of humble state to join him. And here the word for “humble” could also be translated as “poor, lowly, needy.” David here was reminded of something every important: God’s salvation is for those in need, those that are helpless and destitute. It’s not for those who have it figured out.

 He continues:

 Psa 34:3  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

 Here we have a call to worship with the unity of believers. David knows that the praise of one man alone is insufficient to do justice to the greatness of God’s name. He wants to magnify, literally “make great” the name of the LORD, and exalt his name, literally to “elevate, make it high.” 

God’s goodness is so great, it takes all of the praise of all the believers to do justice to it.

II.                  Never-Ceasing Protection (vv.4-7)

And why does David want to praise the LORD so much? The rest of the Psalm speaks for itself. From verses 4-7, never-ceasing praise comes from God’s Never-Ceasing Protection.

Psa 34:4  I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. [5] Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. [6]  This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. [7]  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

God never ceases to look for ways to protect and to bless. People can seek Him (v.4), look for Him (v.5) cry to Him (v.6) or even taste Him as we will see in verse 8.

First there is David in verse 4, the coming king, had been in danger, and God had saved him from all his fears. God delivered him, literally, “snatched him away.” David was in a “fear” zone, and God simply showed up, grabbed him, and walked out, leaving all the fears behind. All that David had to do was to seek the Lord and to pray to Him.

But God doesn’t want to only save David.

Psa 34:5  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

The faithful ones that look at Him are radiant. I love that word. It comes from a root that gave the words for river and for light in Hebrew. It speaks of a continual flow of life. It is often paired up with the notion of a deep and abundant joy that just overflows from one’s soul. That’s what happens to all who trust God. They taste of His never-ceasing protection. They can walk in joy day after day, because there is nothing that can come their way.

“Their faces shall never be ashamed” David says. In an honor/shame society, to tell someone that he would have shame again would be the same as giving a winning lottery ticket to someone believing in the American Dream. To live without shame would have been the utopia of the day. It’s like telling someone that everything he ever strived for was granted to him.

And that’s how God does things. He doesn’t bless just half-heartedly. When He blesses, He blesses even beyond what we can receive.

He protected David, He protects those who look for Him, and He even protected the poor random citizen:

Psa 34:6  This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.

Even the random poor man, God found out about him and saved him out of all his troubles. That man was so insignificant, David doesn’t even remember his name. But he remembered that even in his poor and lowly situation God had heard him, and he had saved him out of all his troubles, because that’s what He does best.

That poor man was in “trouble” a word here that comes from the root “tightness.” Things had been tight. Things had been difficult, complicated, unexpected, stretched thin to the point of despair. But in time God showed up, and there was not one trouble that He did not resolve.

Indeed:

Psa 34:7  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

I love this image. The angel of LORD encamps around those who fear him. He surrounds them under his protection and care, and He delivers them. He is no distant God. He is here, he is near, and there is no direction that we can walk, left or right, ahead or behind, where He is not protecting us. He is all around, as a shield against all dangers. We can go to the right and make a good decision and be protected by God, or turn to the left and make a not-so-good decision (which happens all the time since we are fallen beings) and still be protected by God.

And He “delivers” which is an interesting word because it comes from a root meaning to “withdraw” which is similar to the “snatching away” that we saw earlier, but it is also a play on word with a root that means to “equip for battle.” So not only God does deliver by taken us away from our fears and our troubles, but He also equips us to face them in His presence.

III.                Never-Ceasing Provision (vv.8-10)

 Never-ceasing praise comes from never-ceasing protection, but also never-ceasing provision. And this is what we see in verses 8-10).

Psa 34:8  Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! [9]  Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! [10]  The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Again we see here God’s heart to bless without ceasing. Not only is He good, but His goodness is also constantly poured out to those who seek Him.

And again, the blessing is near because God is near. He is right there, so close you can even taste His goodness as it passes by. This is why David encourages the hearers to take refuge in Him. “Go live where God lives! Stay close to Him, wrapped in His arms, and you will see that the taste of goodness will never leave your mouth!”

And the result of clinging to God is to have no lack.

Now we know this. We hear in Psalm 23 that those who count God as a Shepherd lack nothing, in 2 Peter 1:3 we hear that believers have all things that pertain to life and godliness. The problem is not so intellectually but practically. Sometimes the bank account run lower than we expect, our attitude changes. This is where we can learn from David. His resolutions of praising the Lord were not based no circumstances but on His God, and so He was committed to give glory to God no matter the outcome.

God does not want us or does not expect us to figure out everything on our own. Those that are naturally gifted are not necessary those that taste of God’s goodness.

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Here David does not talk about baby lions. Young lions in the Bible refer to lions in their strength, they have already learned how to hunt. In the Bible, young lions are described as those that never give up their prey. They are bloodthirsty, extremely dangerous, the worst enemies and can be a symbol of wrath. But even they suffer need and hunger.

Sometimes it is easy for us to trust in our natural giftedness and strength. And often we rest on these things because it appears successful. But again, we must understand everything in perspective. The success of the young lions is temporary. They might look strong in one context, but in another they are completely hopeless, and there is nothing they can do about it.

But God delights in blessing the humble. The one who seeks Him, and fears Him.

IV.                Never-Ceasing Pursuit of Man (vv.11-14)

And this is where David turns next. To the never-ceasing pursuit of man: the fear of the Lord. Never-ceasing praise comes from God’s never-ceasing protection and provision, but also from our never-ceasing pursuit of God.

Psa 34:11  Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.  [3rd mention] [12]  What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? [13]  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. [14]  Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Here David calls for children. Once again, this is a call to the lowly. To the humble. To the needy. It’s not just because he isn’t king yet and can’t teach the grown-ups. But sadly, this is a lesson that only the humble can accept.

Psa 34:11  Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD

Now what is the fear of the Lord? In some ways, the best way that we can define it is by faith. That is the way the righteous live. And as we will see, after these verses, the believers are no longer referred to as those who fear the Lord but as the righteous. The righteous lives by faith. He lives by fearing the Lord. He lives with a constant understanding of God’s presence, which changes his every moment decisions and actions.

The book that helped me understand this the most was the book of Ecclesiastes.

If we turn with me first to Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Ecc 2:24  There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, [25]  for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

Here we see a very simple concept. Believers and unbelievers basically live similar lives. All are human beings that generally grow up, are educated, work, are involved in relationships, have children, and die. And all these little things are opportunities that are given for man to see God and to acknowledge Him. These are all opportunities for us to see God at work. With God every moment is a test for us to see Him, as Job wrote:

 Job 7:17  What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, [18]  visit him every morning and test him every moment?

And we see why God does that later in the book of Ecclesiastes:

Ecc_3:14  I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

Ecc_12:13  The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 And this is why we can praise God in a never-ceasing manner. Every moment is a test for us to see the windows of heaven opened. That is our never-ceasing pursuit.

And then look at what happens:

Psa 34:12  What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? [13]  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. [14]  Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

When you walk by the fear of the Lord, who is good, you turn out to see good (v.12) and to do good (v.14). In short, you become like God. The more we learn as believers to wait on the Lord and to trust Him, the more we actually become like Him. And we start to bless people in a never-ceasing manner, like He does, speaking truth at all times, doing good in all circumstances, and bringing peace to those around us.

 V.                  Never-Ceasing Pursuit of God (vv. 15-19)

So yes, to learn the never-ceasing praise of God, we need to embrace this never-ceasing pursuit. But look at what comes next. Next comes God’s never-ceasing pursuit, which is that of blessing the righteous.

Psa 34:15  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.

Here we see God’s intense commitment to the righteous. His eyes are towards them, his ears are towards them, and his face…well it is against those who do evil because it is facing the other way towards the righteous!

God delights so much in those who fear Him, that the world will be given to them. The other ones who delight in sin and selfishness and indulge in the passions of the world will be forgotten. Their memory will be cut off from the earth. But it is not so for the righteous. When they cry for help, God is quick and ready to help and to deliver from all the troubles they find themselves into.

Why does God bless people so much? He blesses them so that He can bless them even more. The more you receive God’s blessings, the more you can understand, enjoy, and receive even more blessings!

But again, God doesn’t deliver people just because He is bored and has nothing to do. He does so because He wants to bless people by making Himself known to them, Him, the perfectly good and awesome God! The reason why God gives so much of Himself is because He knows that to know Him is to know the best thing in the universe!

And this is why God delights in delivering especially those who have their eyes open to see Him, those who humbly wait for Him, and who quickly go to Him in times of need, knowing that He desires to show up in glory!

  Psa 34:18  The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

 He is near because He knows that He will have an opportunity to bless, and He is near because He knows that His deliverance will be received in faith.

 Here we see the desperate situation of those in need: the brokenhearted. Those whose hearts have been scattered to pieces. They have been hurt to the depth of their core. The crushed in Spirit. Those whose spirit has been reduced to ashes. The word for “crush” here is the same one that gave the word “dust” in Hebrew. Those that have seemingly lost everything. Those that are desperate.

 Well, God saves them. It doesn’t matter how hurt people can be. He is the Savior.

 So why not come to Him more for deliverance? Why don’t we simply trust Him with our troubles? Bring your problems, your sins, your pain and your past to God, and see if He cannot deliver! It’s His specialty!

VI.                Never-Ceasing Promise (vv.19-22)

Finally, we see God’s never-ceasing blessings in God’s never-ceasing promises.

Psa 34:19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all [20]  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. [21]  Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. [22]  The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

And here we end our Psalm with 4 promises:

 Psa 34:19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all

That’s what He does. He is the cause of the deliverance. There is no salvation outside of Him. Sometimes when times are tight and rough we turn to different things to find comfort. We turn to self-indulgence, self-gratification, self-absorbance, selfish pleasures…but none of those things can deliver. Only God can. The LORD is the one who delivers from our real problems.  

Psa 34:20  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

The second promise is God’s commitment not to let His loved ones endure sufferings that are beyond what they can bear. David here speaks in amazement on his own experience. He had been at war dozens of times. It was a real miracle that his bones were intact.

Now the Bible doesn’t say that we do not have trouble. Tests and trials will exist until the end comes. But the LORD will never let us endure something that is beyond our capacity. His goal is not to torture our confuse us, but to refine us.

But this promise goes beyond that. It refers to Christ’s crucifixion (John 19:36). Just as the one-year old lambs needed to be offered whole without any broken bone, so was Christ offered for our sakes. Now again, we see the grace of God. Although Christ suffered tremendously, God protected Him from many unnecessary excesses. He suffered just enough to accomplish God’s purposes. And then rose victorious.

Psa 34:21  Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

 The third promise is this: those who do not have the LORD will suffer affliction without having a deliverer.

 This is a humbling and sobering truth, but the fact is that those who do not have the LORD simply do not have a deliverer. When the weight of this sinful world falls on them, they have no protection. In a world as corrupted as ours, this is a tragedy.

 My grand-parents in France have had a maid for decades, a super nice lady, although no a believer. Her daughter got married to someone who a few years ago killed her and then committed suicide. Of course something like this is devastating. But without the comfort and the hope of the LORD, how do you move on from something like that?

 True deliverance and comfort is only found in the LORD.

 Psa 34:22  The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

 The final promise is my favorite. The righteous will never be condemned.

 And the reason why this is so is that the righteous belongs to God. They are redeemed. He paid the price to have them saved from this world and to be His own. This passing world and its sinful condition have no say on our lives. The destiny of this present world is not ours. This world will eventually be destroyed and reduced to ashes. But we belong to God. Because of this, His goodness is fully ours. His heaven will one day be fully ours. His love and His peace are fully ours.

 And again, we see one more time the call to the lowly. Who is it that God redeems? His servants. Those who live, not as if they were the center of their own plot, but those who humbly agree to make God their hero, their Savior, and their King.

 CONCLUSION

 We have covered much in this Psalm, and there is still a lot more we could have looked into.

 When I think of God’s goodness, I sometimes think of the widow that the prophet Elisha went to minister to. All he asked her to do was to take empty jars and fill them with that one jar of oil that God had blessed. And we know the story. As she poured out the oil, every single empty jar was filled. None were half-filled. None were filled with corrupted oil. They were all perfectly filled. Because that’s how God blesses. The only think that limited her from tasting more of God’s blessing was her faith. All she had needed to do was to get more jars. God still would have filled them all.

 And our life will continue to be filled as long as we put empty jars for God to fill. This requires faith, and humility, but the result is without fail: we will like David know never-ceasing praise, as we taste of God’s never-ceasing blessings.