Please read Psalm 34.
Peace comes to those who pursue it.
In days gone by, a young boy was driving a hayrack down the road when the wagon fell over. It tipped backwards right in front of a farmer’s house. The farmer came out, saw the young boy crying and said, ”Son, don’t worry about this, we can fix it. Right now dinner’s ready: Why don’t you come in and eat and then I’ll help you put the hay back on the rack.”
The boy said, ”No, I can’t. My father is going to be angry with me.”
Trying to soothe the boy, the farmer said, ”Now don’t worry, just come in and have some lunch and you’ll feel better.”
The boy said, ”I’m just afraid my father is going to be very angry with me.”
The farmer finally convinced the boy and they went inside to eat lunch. Afterwards, as they walked outside to the hayrack, the farmer said, ”Now, son, don’t you feel better after that great meal?”
The boy said, ”Yes but I just know that my father will be very angry with me.”
The farmer said, ”Nonsense. Where is your father anyway?” The boy said, ”He’s under all that hay.”
CONTEXT = According to the heading, this was NOT a peaceful time in David’s life. It refers to a time when he was being pursued by King Saul, who really was crazy and wanted to kill David. In 1 Samuel 21, David pretended to be crazy so he would get kicked out of a city rather than be put in custody and fall into Saul’s hands. The fact that David could write a song about peace during a time like that says a lot about the depth of his spiritual life.
COMMENT = Four points to be made in looking at the psalm from the peace-making perspective.
- Pursue peace by continuous praise. (1-3)
“Continuous Praise” is indicated in verse one. The words ALL TIMES and ALWAYS clearly indicate worship is not limited to Sunday mornings but is meant to be a feature of daily life. This virtue is challenging to practice; indeed, it would be impossible to do without the Holy Spirit. Consider this: doesn’t a life of praise make sense if we are truly grateful for what God has done for us? Wouldn’t praise come to mind more often if our focus is truly on God?
“Continuous Praise” is also indicated in the verbs in verses one to three. There’s little difference between these words; they are synonyms. And yet, they are all here in God’s inspired word, presumably to give us a full-featured definition of continuous praise.
EXTOL = “bless, praise, give thanks.”
PRAISE = “glorify; tell of God’s excellence; an act of worship.”
BOAST = “cheer; display positives.”
REJOICE = “be glad, delighted, happy.”
GLORIFY = “make great; honor; lift up.”
EXALT = “express pride; raise up.”
- Pursue peace by praying for divine deliverance. (3-7, 17, 19-22)
God answers all prayers. Note the personal pronouns in vs. 4-7; David speaks here from personal experience. May all of us have this quality of personal experience of God. I SOUGHT THE LORD: Jesus commended seekers in Matthew 7:7-8, promising a successful outcome to their search for God. Deniers and evil-doers have no hope. HE ANSWERED ME: there is no such thing as “unanswered prayer;” God always answers, even if it is “Hold please.” THOSE WHO LOOK TO HIM: people who look to the LORD expectantly have sound reason to hope and be satisfied. THIS POOR MAN CALLED AND THE LORD HEARD HIM: David thought of himself as a POOR MAN and even so, the LORD HEARD his prayer. THE RIGHTEOUS CRY OUT, AND THE LORD HEARS THEM (17) = RIGHTEOUS folks have good reason to hope the LORD hears and heeds their prayers because they are His children.
God delivers those who seek Him. The psalm is rife with promises of deliverance. HE DELIVERED ME FROM ALL MY FEARS (3): Worry is one of the two big opponents of peace. Anxiety is surrendering our God-given peace without a fight. They are RADIANT (5): what a great picture of joy! Those who know the Lord have reason to have a certain “glow” about them. They are unashamed (5): whether it’s true of false, guilt is also a roadblock to peace. The righteous are SAVED from all their troubles (6+17+19): if we stop and think about it, we can all testify to God’s deliverance from something. They are protected by God’s angels (7): Angels operate inconspicuously, so we are most often unaware of their assistance. But many believers can recount a time when the received some kind of miraculous assistance. None of their bones will be broken (20): in John 19:36, this promise is seen a prophecy fulfilled at Jesus’ crucifixion. In general, it is a metaphor of God’s care for His people. THE LORD REDEEMS HIS SERVANTS (22): to REDEEM someone was to buy them out of slavery. This image was taken up by Paul in the New Testament as a way of explaining how Jesus saved us. NO ONE…WHO TAKES REFUGE IN HIM…WILL BE CONDEMNED (22): looking ahead to Judgment Day and in agreement with Paul in RMS 8:1, those who trust in God will escape His wrath.
WICKED people are slain by the EVIL they practice (21). Life in this world and the next can be understood as choices and consequences. Justice will be done.
- Pursue peace by trusting God’s provision. (8-10)
God provides more than refuge for those who take refuge in Him (8+22). The word REFUGE implies a place apart from the pressures and problems of life; a spiritual retreat from the world to rest in God and commit ourselves to Him.
God’s goodness can be tasted and His provision proven (8). To “taste” something means to have a real and personal experience of God. Merely agreeing with a set of Bible teachings is not the sum total of faith. God must be known in one’s head and heart.
The LORD’S saints LACK NOTHING (9). Hearing that, we might be tempted to list all the things we feel we’re lacking right at the moment – that’s human nature. Truth be told, God provides all we need all our lives.
Even LIONS can get famished, but people who seek the LORD will LACK NO GOOD THING (10). The LIONS here in verse ten are a metaphor for rich or strong people; those who have much in worldly terms but are poor in the things of God.
- Pursue peace by righteous living. (11-20)
Aspects of righteous living in these verses include fear of the Lord, virtuous speech, seeking peace, and having full-featured godliness (avoids evil and does good). FEAR THE LORD (9+11): In Proverbs, fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. FEAR refers to awe and reverence, but it also includes the kind of wary respect that the all-powerful Creator of the universe deserves. KEEP YOUR TONGUE FROM EVIL AND YOUR LIPS FROM SPEAKING LIES (13): of all kinds of sin, sins of the tongue are the most pervasive and the most overlooked. They are the quickest way to ruin peaceful relationships. TURN FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD (14) are the two sides of righteousness. Some folks pride themselves on the obvious evil they don’t do and mistakenly believe they have exercised their duty to God. However, the truth is, that’s only half of being a godly person. When we fail to do good, that’s sin.
SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT (14). This is our keynote verse on this Peace Sunday. Peace is something God gives to those who promote it; who are peacemakers, not peace-breakers or peace-fakers. To PURSUE something indicates a deep commitment, a motive to work at it and perseverance to stick with it.
Psalm 34 promises six rewards for righteous living. Long life (12) may not mean living to old age, for the unrighteous do that. It more likely refers to a quality of life, a blessing of one’s days. The LORD is sensitive to the righteous (15+17): God’s EYES and EARS are sensitive to the plight of His people. Their suffering is not lost on Him. The LORD is against the unrighteous (16). According to Matthew 7:23, God will turn away from all evil people, saying, “I NEVER KNEW YOU. AWAY FROM ME, YOU EVILDOERS.” According to verse eighteen, the LORD saves hurting people. The words BROKENHEARTED and CRUSHED IN SPIRIT describe people who look honestly on their flaws and troubles. They are not defeated by them, but neither are they able to find victory in their own strength. Instead, as this psalm repeatedly says, they trust in the Lord for the strength to overcome trials and temptations. Deliverance from all troubles (4, 17+19): the word deliverance is used a lot in this psalm. In His grace, God lifts us out of our discouragements, giving us victory. Physical protection (20) is a metaphor of surviving this world, being delivered whole into God’s eternal presence.
Peace comes to those who pursue it.
Norman Vincent Peale said, ”The word ‘worry’ is derived from an Old Anglo-Saxon word meaning to strangle or to choke. How well-named the emotion – it has been demonstrated again and again in persons who have lost their effectiveness due to the stifling effect of anxiety and apprehension.
A story is told about a man who came face to face with the dangers of worry: Death was walking toward his city one morning and the man asked, ”What are you going to do?”
”I’m going to take 100 people,” Death replied.
”That’s horrible!” the man said.
”That’s the way it is,” Death said. ”That’s what I do.”
The man hurried to warn everyone he could about Death’s plan. As evening fell, he met Death again in the same spot outside the city limits.
”You told me you were going to take 100 people,” the man said. ”Why did 1,000 die?”
”I kept my word,” Death responded. ”I only took 100 people. Worry took the others.”
Our peace can be threatened and broken by others; we have no control over them. What we can directly manage is our own inner state. Peace is something we receive by faith because we are God’s children. There are some things we can do to preserve and promote peace within ourselves, then encourage it in others.
- Most importantly, forsake worry. Trust in God instead. Anxieties occur when we don’t trust God to keep all the promises in His word.
- Second, forsake anger. An over-emphasis on self promotes anger, so spend your days in continuous praise and your temper will improve.
- Third, guard your tongue. Your own peace is disrupted and the peace of others threatened when your tongue is too loose in your head and you say ungodly things.
- Fourth, pursue peace. Your devotion to peace will be measured by the things you give up to possess it. A God-centered heart will pursue peace instead of railing about one’s rights.
- Fifth, seek justice. Treat others right and expect right treatment from them. Work to see justice practiced in your home and in our community. Let love guide you.
The Daily Study Bible Series, George A.F. Knight
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Willem A. VanGemeren
Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance