A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
I. David begins by saying, "I will bless the Lord at all times." This should be our resolution also. (1) There is a great power in praising. It leads one away from self-consciousness. (2) Praise is a very strengthening thing. Our Lord strengthened Himself for the last conflict by praise. The spirit of praise is the very essence of heaven, and the man who lives in praise will live in "heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (3) Praise is a very reasonable thing. There is always something to praise God for. Let us learn the lesson, "We will praise the Lord at all times, in the hour of adversity as well as in the day of joy;" and depend upon it, the more you are praising, the more you will have to praise for.
II. The second point is confession. David goes on to say, "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord, and the humble shall hear thereof and be glad." So far from there being anything presumptuous in this confession of our faith in the Lord Jesus, "the humble shall hear thereof and be glad." If you determine to hide your feelings in your heart, you will soon have nothing to hide.
III. The third point is fellowship: "O magnify the Lord with me," etc. When God made man, He made him first of all alone, and then He decided it was not good for him to be alone; and ever since then God has so arranged it that man is never left altogether alone, or only under very exceptional circumstances. We are born into the world of our fellow-men; when we are born again, we are introduced into a new society, with a fellowship far more real than is to be found in the society of the world.
IV. The Christian life must be (1) a life of security; (2) a life of faith; (3) a life of labour.
W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, 1st series, p. 310.
Psalm 34:3-8I. Religion's first object is to magnify the Lord. The exhortation is to do this in concert: "O magnify the Lord with me," etc. Here is the essential element and the pure spirit of religious worship.
II. The second verse shows us the reason for this praise. It is first alleged by the inviter, "I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." A man must know what he says, and have a reason for saying it. And this is the Psalmist's reason for inviting us to exalt God's name together. A gracious act of God towards one Christian is an act of grace or a manifestation of grace to all, and may well draw their hearts into concert.
III. The inviter has given his testimony and flung down his challenge. But it is soon found he does not stand alone in having occasion to magnify the name of the Lord. The pronoun in the next verse speaks of plurality: "They looked unto Him, and were lightened." There is contagion in joy, as well as in other Christian experiences.
IV. There is no partiality in the invitation. We began with a king, but we have got down now to the poor man; and God has been as good to him as He was to the king.
V. The fifth verse is a guarantee against relapse. When thou fallest, thou shalt again arise, for "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them."
VI. The sixth verse gives the assurance to you that it is not only the king, not only the Church, not only this poor man or that poor man, but yourself and all who trust in God, who are welcome to come and exalt His name together.
A. Mursell, Lights and Landmarks, p. 165.
References: Psalm 34:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 195; J. Wells, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 93. Psalm 34:6.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 225.
Psalm 34:7I. It is generally supposed that the "angel of the Lord" here is to be taken collectively, and that the meaning is that the "bright-harnessed" hosts of these Divine messengers are as an army of protectors round them that fear God. But I see no reason for departing from the simpler and certainly grander meaning which results from taking the word in its proper force of a singular. For us the true Messenger of the Lord is His Son, whom He has sent, in whom He has put His name, and whose own parting promise, "Lo, I am with you always," is the highest fulfilment to us Christians of that ancient confidence, "The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him."
II. Whatever view we adopt of the significance of the first part of the text, the force and beauty of the metaphor in the second remains the same. If this Psalm were indeed the work of the fugitive in his rocky hold at Adullam, how appropriate the thought becomes that his little encampment has such a guard. (1) The vision of the Divine ever takes the form which our circumstances most require. David's then need was safety and protection. Therefore he saw the encamping Angel, even as to Joshua He appeared as the Captain of the Lord's host, and as to Isaiah in the year that the throne of Judah was emptied by the death of the earthly king was given the vision of the Lord sitting on a throne, the King eternal and immortal. (2) Learn, too, from this image, in which the Psalmist appropriates to himself the experience of a past generation, how we ought to feed our confidence and enlarge our hopes by all God's past dealings with men. (3) Note, too, that final word of deliverance. This Psalm is continually recurring to that idea. All the writer's thoughts were engrossed and his prayers summed up in the one thing—deliverance. He is quite sure that such deliverance must follow if the angel presence be there. But he knows, too, that the encampment of the Angel of the Lord will not keep away sorrows, and trial, and sharp need. So his highest hope is, not of immunity from these, but of rescue out of them. And his ground of hope is that his heavenly Ally cannot let him be overcome.
A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 29.
If, as we are told, the repentance of a single sinner adds sensibly to the enjoyment of the angelic host, and if these splendid creatures are but "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation," may we not think that, whatever the tarnish which the Fall brought on our nature, redemption has invested that nature with a majesty and beauty altogether unrivalled? A high place man's must be if creatures whom we are wont to reckon the highest are employed on his guardianship, and that they are thus employed is established by the words of the text.
I. This verse may be connected with a passage in the Gospel of St. Matthew: "In heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven." Their angels—angels, it would seem, which are specially entrusted with their care and guardianship.
II. What is to be learned from the encouraging declaration of the text? It is a fair deduction from the general representation which the Scripture gives of the ministration of angels that there are what are termed guardian angels; that nations, and perhaps even individuals, are entrusted to the protection of one or more spirits. When, stretched on his deathbed, Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, he spoke of the angel which redeemed or delivered him from all evil; and this would appear to convey as the patriarch's idea that some one angel had accompanied him in his wanderings, commissioned by God to watch over and assist him. So when the damsel Rhoda brought in word to the assembled disciples that Peter stood at the gate, the tidings seemed too good to be true, and the disciples said, "It is his angel." They undoubtedly thought that Peter was specially under the guardianship of one angel, and that this one angel had come with directions concerning his well-being.
III. What the Bible asserts as fact, reason must assent to as altogether possible. There is a greater resemblance to the association of life, and therefore a stronger appeal to the best sympathies of our nature, when we are told that each individual has his own ministering angel, engaging individually his watchfulness, than when we are informed that we share, in common with the rest of our species, the good offices of the company of spirits. If there be any motive to the avoiding sin and the pursuing holiness in the remembrance that the eyes of illustrious beings, eager for our welfare, are ever upon us, assuredly such motive will derive strength from the belief that one of these beings has attended us from our very birth, and that now, so far as his pure nature is accessible to grief, we shall cause him deep pain, in return for all his exquisite carefulness, if we yield to temptation and walk contrary to the commandments of God.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2901.
References: Psalm 34:7.—H. J. Wilmot Buxton, The Children's Bread, p. 126; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 4th series, p. 94.
Psalm 34:8The excellence and desirableness of God's gifts is a subject again and again set before us in Holy Scripture. All images of what is pleasant and sweet in nature are brought together to describe the pleasantness and sweetness of the gifts which God gives us in grace. And as it is natural to feel satisfaction and comfort in these gifts of the visible world, so it is but natural and necessary to be delighted and transported with the gifts of the world invisible; and as the visible gifts are objects of desire and search, so much more is it, I do not merely say a duty, but a privilege and blessedness, to "taste and see how gracious the Lord is."
I. I wish it were possible to lead men to greater holiness and more faithful obedience by setting before them the high and abundant joys which they have who serve God. Most persons do not at all deny either the duty or the expedience of leading a new and holy life, but they cannot understand how it can be pleasant; they cannot believe or admit that it is more pleasant than a life of liberty, laxity, and enjoyment.
II. God's service is not pleasant to those who like it not; true: but it is pleasant to those who do. The pleasures of sin are not to be compared in fulness and intensity to the pleasures of holy living.
III. Let no persons then be surprised that religious obedience should really be so pleasant in itself when it seems to them so distasteful. It is a secret till they try to be religious. Men know what sin is by experience. They do not know what holiness is; and they cannot obtain the knowledge of its secret pleasure till they join themselves truly and heartily to Christ, and devote themselves to His service—till they "taste" and thereby try.
IV. If a religious life is pleasant here, in spite of the old Adam interrupting the pleasure and defiling us, what a glorious day it will be if it is granted to us hereafter to enter into the kingdom of heaven! "Be not weary in welldoing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not."
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vii., p. 192.
Psalm 34:8Religion is a thing that all must try for themselves. Notice a few things that it is well to try and "taste."
I. Prayer. Find out in the Bible some promise, then go to God with that promise, and ask that it may be true to you, that you may enjoy it for Christ's sake. If you go on waiting and praying, you will "see."
II. Read the Bible. You may not always find it pleasant, because some things we must do as a duty, and the pleasure will follow. "O taste and see."
III. The pleasantest thing in the world is to feel forgiven—to feel that God loves you. It is the happiest feeling anybody ever has this side of heaven. "O taste and see."
IV. It is a happy thing to conquer one's sins, to keep one's heart clear. It is a pleasant thing to weed a garden; but the pleasantest of all is to keep your heart free from weeds.
V. Work. Knowledge in the head will not do without love in the heart, and that will not do without work in the fingers. Do something useful. Be kind. Do good to somebody.
VI. Everything is sweet till you have tasted a sweeter. The pleasures of the world are sweet to those who have never tasted religion, but people who have tasted Divine pleasures care not much for the pleasures of the world. They say that heavenly pleasures are better than earthly ones. Having once tasted the upper spring, they cannot go back to the nether spring. "O taste and see."
J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 1875, p. 57.
References: Psalm 34:8.—S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 411; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 115.
Psalm 34:8-9I. "Taste and see how gracious the Lord is." We may do this, it is true, but we may also refuse to do it. It would be a mere waste of words to say, "Taste of pleasure, and see how sweet it is;" but to say, "Taste and see how gracious the Lord is," is a very different thing from saying, "Taste of and enjoy your pleasure," even although it is most true that that pleasure cannot come without God's permission. Those who have tasted Christ's goodness in the strengthening and refreshing of their souls may well receive from His hand no less His gift of earthly blessings.
II. Nor wilt those who have tasted and are ready to taste again of God's graciousness, and of the blessedness of trusting in Him, be unwilling also to hear the Psalmist's next exhortation, when he says, "O fear the Lord, all ye His saints, for they who fear Him lack nothing." He who fears God will be certainly most likely to love Him also, and he will be free from all other fear in the world.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 163.
References: Psalm 34:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 65. Psalm 34:11.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 133; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 53. Psalm 34:11, Psalm 34:12.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xx., p. 210.
Psalm 34:11-15In the first place, David sums up his advice in one grand affection, which he calls the fear of the Lord. Then he proceeds to detail what is comprehended in "the fear of the Lord."
I. Notice, first, the details of the prescription. (1) "Keep thy tongue from evil." The tongue is a great mischief-maker, and not easily ruled. The root of this ill-governed member is in the unseen world of the soul; the force which animates and moves the tongue is generated in our spiritual nature. When the spirit which excites and controls the tongue is not love to God and love to man, the speaker by his words sows a curse in his own constitution. It is one of the laws of thy health that thou "keep thy tongue from speaking evil." (2) "And thy lips, that they speak no guile." The absence of guile exceedingly endears a man or a woman to Heaven. No sin is imputed where there is no guile. Except ye become as guileless as babes, your friends in the kingdom of God will behold you afar off, as persons who are unable to come nigh. (3) "Depart from evil, and do good." We cleave to a delight, and we abhor that which is contrary thereto. Let it be the fixed purpose of your will to be transparently good, and to do good; and by the instinct of your affections you will depart from the whole art and circle of evil. The currents which will flow into you from the infinite sources of good will leave no room in you for the deceitful ungood. (4) "Seek peace, and pursue it." Peace is the eternal health of goodness. No one can perfect peace except in the perfect good. When the joy of God and of heaven flows into and through the whole man, that is salvation, that is health, that is peace.
II. Notice the unity of these details in the spirit. If the spirit of man be fully and cordially open to God, so that the Divine and human wills become one will, and if the soul of the man be open to his God-filled spirit, and if his natural body be open to the influx and irradiation both of his soul and spirit, his renewal in eternal health is in daily, actual process. The spirit of glory and of God in a man's soul, and thence in his body, must be the most ethereal and health-giving virtue that the soul and body can have. Farther, the indwelling of the glowing Divine essence must give to all the senses and emotions a new intensity.
III. This law of human renewal and health is the very law by which all evil will be ultimately expelled from our planet. The energies which flow from God through His renewed sons and daughters, as their numbers increase, will purge and renew the soil, the atmosphere, and both vegetable and animal races.
J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 50.
The teaching and training which the Christian needs is such as will not only carry him through things temporal, but may also fit him for things eternal, a training such as will enable him not only to do his part well here and live respectably and die peacefully, but such as may be an earnest and preparation for heaven. And what alone can do either? Godliness.
I. In the world the days are always evil days; in God they are always good days. What have we to do but to trust to His promise that so long as we are followers of Him and that which is good, imitating His example and keeping His commandments, nothing shall harm us, nothing shall really hurt us, which does not separate us from Him? The end of the Christian, the true end of his love of life and of his desire to see good days, is simply the sight of Christ. And his training and education amidst a world of trial and temptation must be the training of an immortal soul for life and immortality, the training of a child of God in this world to be a child of the resurrection in the next.
II. How inexpressibly touching and solemn are the words of the text as addressed to the children of God, old or young, by their God and Saviour: some who, though disobedient children, are called His children still; others who are yet His. Has not the fear of the Lord, which might have been an affectionate, filial, reverential fear, now become to many of us what we by our sins have made it: a fear which hath torment? Is not what should have been the loving, confiding fear of a tender Father now the fear of a righteous Judge? Yet well were it for such to understand the terror of the Lord, so that it may bring them to repentance, and lead them back, like the prodigal, to His fear and love.
III. In the training of children we must remember that they have not only minds and memories to read and understand, but hearts and consciences to mark and inwardly digest what they learn by heart, not only minds and memories to make them scholars, but hearts and consciences to make them Christians, Christian disciples. They have hearts, which need careful and tender nurture to train them in the love of God, and consciences, which need watchful examination and strict admonition to awaken them and lead them on in His holy fear.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. vii., p. 172.
References: Psalm 34:12-14.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 121. Psalm 34:15, Psalm 34:16.—G. Moberly, Sermons in Winchester College, 2nd series, p. 1.
Psalm 34:16I. Consider the lofty and patient method of God in guiding and ruling mankind. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, not the weight of His hand as yet. His hand is still open, still dropping, broadcast, blessings on our life. It is the face of God which is against our evil. For a while He restrains the might of His terrible hand.
II. Notice the forms in which the face of God is against man's evil, and how it bears upon his life. (1) There is the face of God in the daylight of creation. There is a steady, calm, but mighty set of things against the evildoer. Nature, the current of things, does not help, but mightily hinders, him. (2) The face of the Lord is against them that do evil in the moral instincts, the moral judgments, of their fellows, and in the whole order of the human world. (3) The face of the Lord looks out on men through the various forms of the discipline of life. (4) The face of the Lord looks out against them that do evil through the gathering glooms of death.
J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 200.
Psalm 34:18One idea is embodied in these two sentences. According to a very common construction in the book of Psalms and in the book of Proverbs, and in other books of Holy Scripture, the latter sentence simply repeats the declaration of the former, in order to increase the emphasis and the force, for the "broken heart" is the same as the "contrite spirit," and the Lord being "nigh" is the same as the Lord "saveth."
I. Consider the broken heart and contrite spirit. The heart before us may be considered to be like a piece of fine mechanism disordered or some work of art fractured, or like flesh when worn and wasted and bruised and mangled. God is looking at the broken heart and crushed spirit, and as He looks at it He sees all the natural susceptibilities of sorrow awakened. The heart may be broken (1) by the consciousness and the remembrance of sin; (2) by fears and perplexities which are not explained simply by sin, and which are not explained by external circumstances; (3) by some tremendous outward affliction, like that of the widow or the widower. To such a heart God is nigh, and such a spirit God seeks to save.
II. Look at the position which God occupies in relation to the broken heart and crushed spirit. (1) He is nigh in knowledge. He knows the broken heart better than it knows itself. (2) He is nigh in ministration and salvation.
III. The doctrine of this passage instructs us (1) to check all morbid craving for creature help and fellowship; (2) to avoid thinking, feeling, and acting as though God were a distant help; (3) to remember that the resources of God are available in the hour of greatest need. (4) Guided by this passage, do not let feelings of despondency and despair creep into your spirit and take possession of it. (5) A broken heart and crushed spirit are named as not uncommon things. (6) God's being nigh is mentioned as something ordinary also.
S. Martin, Sermons, p. 35.
Psalm 34:19-20I. "Great are the troubles of the righteous," and who was ever so righteous as Jesus Christ? No wonder His troubles were so great, for we have all contributed something to them! The Lord hath afflicted Him therewith in the day of His fierce anger against our sins. If those troubles were nothing to us, we might well feel compassion for them; as it is, we may well feel compunction for them too.
II. "The Lord delivereth Him out of all." The Pharisees and rulers did not think so; in their great confidence they challenged Him to the fulfilment of this saying, as a crucial test of His pretensions. And as far as this world of common experience is concerned, He was not delivered out of His troubles. How then was He delivered? By death, which hath eternal life for the righteous, was He delivered from all His troubles. The last enemy rescued Him out of the hands of all His other enemies, but the last enemy only received his royal Prisoner in order to become at once His captive and to swell His triumph.
III. Lest we should still feel any doubt as to Jesus Christ being the Righteous spoken of by the Psalmist, he adds, "He keepeth all His bones," etc. St. John notes of Him that the soldiers broke the legs of the others, but not His, and he testified that this happened that the Scripture should be fulfilled. This incident marked the providential character of all that befell our Lord. Even in His death it showed that all the malice of man was being overruled unto Divine ends.
R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 81.
References: Psalm 34—A. Maclaren, Life of David, pp. 86, 139. Psalm 35:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 384; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 65. Psalm 35:13.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2086. Psalm 35—J. Hammond, Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p, 64; Ibid., 2nd series, vol. vii., p. 7. Psalm 36:5, Psalm 36:6.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 108.
My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?
Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.