A Psalm for Helpless People

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Are you facing an insurmountable challenge? Do you feel helpless and alone? How should you respond? David provides us with a helpful glimpse at a wholesome response to trials in Psalm 34. That’s why I like to call this “a psalm for helpless people.” By saying this, I am really saying that this is a psalm for everyone, because everyone is helpless. So this is a psalm for anyone who is willing to agree to this fact. When you answer the question of whether or not you are helpless to solve life’s challenges, the answer should be yes.

This is a psalm for everyone, because everyone is helpless.

The title of this Psalm tells us that David wrote this psalm. It also tells us the occasion for writing. It says: “A psalm of David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who sent him away, and he departed.” You can read more about this series of unfortunate events in 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1. Here’s a summary.

  1. David was anointed to be the next king of Israel, but Saul, the sitting king, hunted for David’s life, causing him to run as a fugitive.
  2. To catch a break, he crossed the border into the outlying city of Gath.
  3. The Philistine king was inclined to provide a safe haven, but his counselors lobbied him against it. Why? Because they remembered that David had led Israel in victorious battle against their people. In fact, it was David who killed their iconic hero, Goliath of Gath.
  4. To alleviate these fears, David pretended to be insane, but the king politely dismissed him anyway.
  5. As a result, David returned to Israel, taking refuge in a cave.

Reflecting upon this traumatic, discouraging experience, David penned these words, which I encourage you to reflect on for yourself. By doing so, he teaches us all that when life throws us a curve ball, we do not have take extreme, creative, manipulative measures to solve our problems. God is there, and God will intervene. You don’t have to flee. You don’t have to pretend you’re insane. You can trust in God, and here’s how.

Praise God (Psalm 34:1-3)

Is praise to God your first response to hard times? Too often we respond every other way, and praise God in the end. Or maybe we fail to praise God at all. David learned to praise God at all times, continually. This would include when he scurried around as a fugitive, fleeing for his life. David encourages all of us to do the same thing. In fact, David would eventually share these personal thoughts, from this personal trial, to the entire congregation of Israel in worship to God at the tabernacle. Could your response to trials be used to lead a group of people in worship?

Could your response to trials be used to lead a group of people in worship?

Ask God (Psalm 34:4-7)

With a heart of praise, David learned to ask God for deliverance. You should notice that he asked God for deliverance not only from his trials, but also from his fears. It is true that God will eventually deliver you out from every trial, but not at once. He uses trials to teach us valuable lessons, transform our character and draw us closer to him. Through them, he teaches that we are helpless (Psalm 34:6). So as we ask to be delivered out from our trials, we should also ask to be delivered from the gripping power of our internal fears. David learned that even when his life was in jeopardy, he could rely upon God without fear. Why? Because God himself, in person, was surrounding him, as an army surrounds a city in defense. This reminds me of 2 Kings 6:16-17.

He asked God for deliverance not only from his trials, but also from his fears.

Trust God (Psalm 34:8-10)

What is the happy result of praising God and asking for his deliverance? Implicit trust. Confident trust. Blessed trust. As you learn to fear God, you learn to be more aware of him and less aware of your trials. God is bigger than any trial. And think about this. When mighty lions, in the zenith of their power, want food, they get it. But even they face seasons of dearth and dire hunger. But the child of God who trusts in him? Though he will never be as mighty as a lion, he will never suffer as a lion may suffer. God will see to it.

As you learn to fear God, you learn to be more aware of him and less aware of your trials.

Obey God (Psalm 34:11-14)

So if God will care for your needs, then what remains for you to do? Nothing at all? Definitely not. Rather than stressing out to resolve your trials, focus instead on these three important priorities that David highlights.

  1. Use your tongue to speak good things and refrain from speaking evil. (By writing Psalm 34, that’s exactly what David was doing.)
  2. Stop doing bad things and start doing good things.
  3. Look for ways to encourage peace and devote yourself to following them through.

Watch God Work (Psalm 34:15-22)

In the end, you will discover with David that the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry (Psalm 34:15). He will guide your steps, avenge your enemies and resolve your difficulties in his time and in his way. And this is the best way. For David, Saul eventually passed away and he ruled the nation as God had promised. Though he lived as a fugitive for more than a decade, he lived to see the day of God’s deliverance. But what about you? Have you learned to praise, ask, trust and obey God in difficulties, then to wait on him and watch him work? “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

Have you learned to praise, ask, trust and obey God in difficulties, then to wait on him and watch him work?

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