The Righteous One’s Affectionate Cry under the Cross

a brief study of Psalm 34, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 26 Jan 2007

Psalm 34 is not generally recognised as a Messianic Psalm by those who make use of the grammatical-historical method strictly. It was,—according to the Jewish editors who affixed the title,—written by David in recollection of the occasion “when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.”

This occasion was recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. David, you may remember, was on that occasion running away from Saul. He thought that he might seek refuge in Gath. But when he reached there, the Philistines recognised him and brought him before the King Achish, also known as Abimelech.

David feared for his life and we are told,…

“He changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard” (1 Sam 21:13).

His ruse worked, and Achish quickly sent him away.

David, filled with thanksgiving that the LORD had delivered him must have written this psalm as an expression of his gratitude to the LORD for His protection and deliverance.

But this psalm is certainly not about David only. Indeed, those who read this Psalm with an eye on the Lord, the greater David, should be able to see how this Psalm fits the experience of our Lord much more perfectly than it fits David’s experience.

Consider verses 6 and 7: While we are not told that David cried when he was arrested by the soldiers of Achish, we are told the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane cried unto the Father with “strong crying and tears” (Heb 5:7); and His perspiration fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

And who but the Lord could testify with certainty that the angel of the Lord encampeth around them that fear him. For we are told specifically that an angel appeared unto Him from heaven to strengthen Him after His ordeal in the Garden (Lk 22:43). And when His disciples drew swords to resist His arrest, the Lord would say:

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?”

Or consider verses 17 and 18: Who but the Lord can claim to be righteous in and of himself? The typical David was only truly righteous on account of the righteousness of the true David. Indeed, we wonder if the way that David reacted in fear before Achish was an entirely righteous response.

And why should David speak about not one of his bones being broken, whereas the Lord’s bones must not be broken despite the torture that He had to endure in order to fulfil Old Testament prophesy and the fact that He is the paschal lamb of God.

So Bonar says:

“Taking advantage of David’s peculiar state and feelings, the Holy Ghost gives to the Church a song that might suit her Head, the true David when He came, and might equally suit every member.”

Likewise 2 other commentators, Dr Allix and Horsley say: “This Psalm containeth the praises which the Messiah gives to his Father for having delivered him out of all his sufferings.” And “Messiah exhorts to holiness and trust in God, by the example of his own deliverance.”

Well, this is how we must see this Psalm in this study. It is the word of Christ, taken up in the lips of our Lord and given so that we may sing with Him in sympathy with us.

This psalm does have a rough structure:

· Vv 1-6 Expression of thanksgiving for deliverance.

· Vv 7-10 Exclamation of Contentment in God

· Vv 11-14 Exhortation to the young to trust in God

· Vv 15-22 Explanation that God will protect the righteous

However, because it is an acrostic psalm (just like Psalm 25), it is not necessarily to study the psalm according to this structural outline.

Instead, for our better appreciation of this psalm, I would like to highlight 3 Resolutions; 3 Exhortations; and 3 Promises.

1. Three Resolutions

a. The first resolution is a determination to praise the LORD at all times:

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

As David was delivered from the hands of Achish, so our Lord was delivered from the clutches of the Wicked One and his henchmen. He rose from the grave, and today, He is keeping His resolution to praise the Father continually—not only at the right hand of the throne of God, but every time His church gathers for worship.

Beloved brethren and children, as the body of the Lord Jesus Christ we must heartily praise the LORD in unity with our Saviour and with one another. Let us do so in public worship. But let us also do so in our family worship, in our individual devotions and indeed at all times.

Let us resolve with the Lord to bless the LORD at all times.

b. The second resolution is related to the first:

2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

Part of praising the Lord is to boast in the LORD. But boasting in the Lord is to praise and thank the LORD with confidence in our heart that whatever He does, He does for our good.

Again, our Lord’s resolution is to do so not only at the right hand of the throne of God but when His members gather for worship.

Indeed, it is often through the singing of His body, His Church, that the humble hears and be glad. For this reason, we may be singing a psalm of praise and yet we are exhorting and admonishing one another as the apostle Paul instructs us (Col 3:16).

Let us resolve, beloved brethren and children to boast in the Lord!

c. But our third resolution is in verse 11—

11 Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Little children are often totally unaware of God and His fear. This is why they think nothing of walking about during family worship or doing something else during public worship.

But the Lord Jesus is very patient with them. He suffered the little children to come unto Him, for unto such is the kingdom of God.

His resolution is to teach them the fear of the LORD. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and understanding. It is the ABC’s of the Christian Faith. Until and unless our children know the fear of the Lord, they will never truly know the Lord.

Children who grow up in an environment where worship is taken very lightly will grow up to be strangers to our Holy God.

Let us therefore beloved brothers and sisters, resolve with our Lord to teach our children the fear of God. Let us begin by ceasing to play with our children at worship. I know it is very tempting to laugh at a child who is being cheeky at worship, but let us play with the child at the right time so that he knows that we are coming into the presence of the most holy God when we worship Him.

Let us also resolve to teach our children the fear of God by solemnly leading the family in prayer whenever a crisis faces looms; and whenever the Lord grants deliverance.

Here then are the three resolutions: I will praise, I will boast and I will teach. May these resolutions of the Lord become ours too as we join our Lord to sing of His deliverance from His troubles for our sake.

2. Three Exhortations

a. The first of 3 exhortations is in verse 3:

3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

Can you see how this call is so much the more meaningful when it is issued by the Lord. David died and is no longer able to join us to praise the Father, but the Lord Jesus is with us by His spirit.

When we sing praises unto the Father with the words of our Lord, we are joining Him to magnify the Father with Him in a very real way.

Let us heed His call. Let us echo His call to one another to make the name of our God great. Let us exalt His name together.

b. The second exhortation is, verse 8—

8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

What does the Lord mean? We can neither taste nor see the LORD. Well, what the Lord would have us do is to learn first hand that God is good.

It is like if you go to the market to buy an orange. The sign says: Sweet mandarins. You are not very convinced. You ask the store holder: Is it sweet or sour? And the store holder says: “Oh, go ahead, take one, taste and see that it is indeed sweet.”

This is what our Lord is telling us to do. The Word of God says that God is good. But don’t take my word for it; come taste and see that the Lord is good.

How to taste and see that the Lord is good? Well, you must begin by trusting him. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” You must commit your anxieties to Him in prayer, and trust Him to deliver you and wait upon Him to deliver.

The LORD is a prayer hearing God. He will hear your cries. He will deliver you. Trust Him in specific terms: taste and see that He is good.

Is there a need in your life? Do not keep mum. Bring it to the Lord. If it is good for you, you can be sure that He will give it to you. Are you going through a trial in your life? Commit your problems unto Him and wait upon Him believing that He can do all things. If you do so, you shall soon join our Lord and a multitude of saints who have tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good.

c. But our Lord’s third exhortation is, verse 9—

9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.

This is of course related to the second exhortation, but it speaks of how we should fear the Lord. We must resolve with our Lord to teach the children to fear the Lord; but we ourselves must fear the Lord, and encourage one another as the saints of the Lord to fear the Lord.

What does it mean to fear the Lord?

There are two main shades of meaning for the word ‘fear’ in the Scriptures. One is a fear that wants to distance oneself. Many years ago, as a young man seeking adventure I went with a friend to visit an abandoned mansion in Sentosa in the night. We saw many interesting things like bats and owls. But sudden we heard loud barking. When we turned around we saw a pack of dogs dashing toward us.

I was instantly afraid. Fearing for my life, I took my friend’s hand and said: “Run!” But my friend who was almost 1.8 metre tall and stoutly built was so frightened that he froze on the spot. His legs could not carry him. I could not abandon him. So I stood with him. In split second the dogs came. They saw my friend frozen stiff, were totally confused by the sight and started turning away. It was a good thing that he did not run, for had he run, the dogs would have chased.

Now, the fear that my friend and I experienced is the first kind of fear. This is a fear of harm and danger. We ought to have such a fear of God when we sin against Him. Adam and Eve feared the Lord when they fell into sin. That was why they hid themselves.

The second kind of fear in the scripture is a fear that wants to draw near. This is the kind of fear that drew my friend and me to the abandoned mansion in the first place. That house looked very imposing even in the day. We were drawn to it.

This is the fear that a child or even an adult may experience if he is invited to see someone important. It is a fear that wants to draw near. It is a fear of love.

This is the kind of fear that the Lord is exhorting us to cultivate. Yes, when we sin against God, we should have the fear of pain if our conscience is not seared. But the fear of love, we do not naturally have.

It is given by the Spirit and we must cultivate it. How to cultivate it? We may cultivate it by seeking to walk according to God’s commandments in truth and integrity before the face of God (v. 13-14).

This implies examining our lives before the holy laws of God day by day and seeking to please the Lord in all our ways. In other words, it implies a consistent seeking first of God’s kingdom.

When we begin to do so, then we shall begin to experience God’s blessings.

Consider the…

3. Three Promises

a. The first promise is that of contentment. This is what the Lord says in the second part of verse 9 and also verse 10—

9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. 10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.

Those who fear the Lord will know God’s blessings both in temporal things and eternal things.

This is not to say that we will become rich. No, no; it is rather that we will have the blessing of contentment—that the Lord is providing sufficiently for us.

b. The second promise is deliverance from troubles, verse 17—

17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.


19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.


22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

These are the verses that many of us will read to a brother or sister in the Lord who is ill or is suffering some very difficult circumstance in life.

These are God’s promises of deliverance from trouble. This promise has been kept over and over again. It was kept on behalf of our Lord. Verses 4-6—

4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

As the Father delivered His Son, so shall He deliver all His adoptive sons and daughters, especially such as fear His name and cry out unto Him for deliverance.

Such as fear the Lord need fear no other, for the Lord will deliver them from all their fears.

He is a sovereign God, who is well able to deliver us out of all our trials. Only believe Him, only seek His deliverance.

This is the second promise; even a promise of deliverance.

c. But the final promise which we may draw from this psalm is that of God’s presence:

18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Of all the promises, is this not the most comforting? God does not only give us contentment and deliverance. He gives us an assurance of His favourable presence.

What was our Lord’s first prayer as He contemplated of His crucifixion? If you look at Psalm 22, you will realise that it is:

Be not far from me, O Lord my strength…

There is nothing we need so much in times of trials as a sense of God’s presence.

And this presence is promised by our Lord.

Sin is what makes a man forfeit the favourable presence of the Lord. All of us have no right to the favourable presence of the Lord because of our sin. We deserve to be forsaken by God. We deserve to suffer His wrath for all eternity.

But our Lord went to the cross for our sake. He suffered abandonment by the Father. For three hours of darkness, the Son of God saw nothing but the wrath of God. He knew nothing of the favourable presence of the Father.

He was suffering the wrath of God on our behalf. It was for our sakes that He knew not the presence of the Father.

Three hours later, our Lord cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” I believe our Lord cried these words at the end of the period determined to be sufficient for Him to pay for our sin.

And immediately He knew again the presence of His Father so that He could commend His spirit into His loving hands.

Our Lord paid for our sin fully. Since that moment, men, women and children united to Him need no longer doubt that God will never leave us nor forsake us.

Yes, sin may make us experience the Father’s displeasure for a season. But no, even sin cannot separate us from the love of God that was sealed in the blood of our Saviour. As soon as we come before the Lord in humble repentance and contrition, so soon do we find the assurance of the Father’s loving presence.

This is a promise that we must never doubt.

18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.


Here then are three resolutions: Praise the Lord, boast in His name and teach His fear.

Here are three exhortations: Magnify the Lord’s name, taste His goodness and fear Him.

Here are three promises: We shall have no want, we shall be delivered from trouble and we shall know the presence of the Father today and forever.

May the Lord help us that as we sing and meditate on these things, and pray about them, we may resolve to do what our Lord does, obey what He commands and experience the fulfilment of His promises in our lives. Amen.

— JJ Lim