We face many troubles in life. Some are brought on because of who we are and how other people perceive us; other troubles come by our own hand. Regardless of the source of our difficulties, Scripture teaches us that there is always a remedy.
Psalm 34 begins with an interesting inscription. It says:
Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
When we search for various incidents in David’s life when this might have occurred, we run into a seeming contradiction. Nowhere in the Bible does it speak about David acting in such a way with someone named Abimelech. However, if we go to the account of David’s life in the book of 1 Samuel, we run across what is likely the incident that triggered David to write this psalm.
For many years, King Saul pursued David to kill him. The Lord had removed His hand upon Saul and had the prophet Samuel anoint David to be king in Saul’s place. Saul wasn’t about to let go of the kingship easily and did everything in his power to thwart God’s will by eliminating David. At one point David fled to Gath to escape Saul and encountered King Achish.
At that time David had quite a reputation for his leadership of the armies of Israel. The people even sang songs about his prowess, which was part of Saul’s problem with David. They weren’t singing about Saul, and he was jealous.
With David’s reputation preceding him, King Achish learned who David was. In this foreign kingdom, David had no power and feared for his life at that point. In response, David acted in such a way that we read the account in 1 Samuel 21:12-15 with some amusement:
And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”
Apparently David was such a good actor that he convinced Achish that he was harmless, which enabled him to continue his journeys safely.
This brings us back to the inscription of Psalm 34. It’s obvious that the incident in 1 Samuel is the one to which the psalm is referring. Why is Abimelech referred to rather than Achish?
The likely answer is because of the error of a Biblical editor. Scripture is edited. There’s no doubt that many passages were assembled and edited to bring coherence. Although the Bible is the pure Word of God, He allowed fallible men to bring it to life. In its assembly over the years, transcription errors were made. God allowed these to stand and for His Word to still be considered infallible since none of these errors affected the intent which He wanted conveyed. The probable reason for the discrepancy is that the editor simply wrote “Abimelech” rather than “Achish” when doing his work. It wasn’t anything that altered God’s true purpose, so He didn’t prompt the man to change what he wrote.
All this brings us to what David did in the midst of his troubles. Psalm 34:4 tells us of his attitude:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
The first thing that David inevitably did when life overwhelmed him was to seek the Lord. By considering God as his first refuge, David pleased Him. Yahweh wasn’t fourth or fifth on David’s list of possible solutions, He was number one. Look at Psalm 34:8 to see how David thought about this:
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
It was a blessing and a pleasure for David to seek help from the Lord because he knew he could count on Him. Just think how our lives would change if we embraced the same mindset! What if the first thing any of us did when trials and tribulations beset us was to turn to God in absolute faith that He would come through for us?
David should truly be our example. He gives us the way to do this in Psalm 34:11:
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
This verse gives us two clues. We must approach God as His children who are helpless, humble, and needy. At the same time we must have reverent fear of the Lord. When we come to Him like this, totally dependent on His mercy, He responds as the loving and benevolent Father that He is.
This is where Psalm 34:15-16 shows us this response from God:
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
By having a righteous heart toward the Father, He hears our every cry and turns toward us. In the midst of a wicked world that seeks our harm, He rises up to defend us. Whether our peril comes from the evil hearts of men or otherwise from the consequences of a fallen world, God is always present with His righteous children. As Psalm 34:19 concludes:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
How then do we gain such protection? It’s all found in Jesus Christ. By calling out to Him and believing that He is and that He hears us, we gain the assurance of eternal life and the Lord’s hand upon us wherever we go and whatever we do.
How marvelous it is that when we trust in God, He delivers us out of every affliction!