The Mindset of the Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34: Part I

Introduction: The six-part series: The Mindset of an Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34 gives insight into Christ and David as innocent sufferers in order to guide believers. Trouble is part of life in a sin-cursed world. Moreover, the Bible recognizes the concept of the guilty and the innocent sufferer. Psalm 34 gives a David’s perspective of trouble and a proper response. The Mindset of an Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34 gives into the mindset of the great David and Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The Psalter consists of five books covering some 500 years of Israel’s history (1000 B.C. to the postexilic period around 500 B.C.). This period consists of the rise of the Davidic kingship which is covered in book I of the Psalter with its theme of confrontation and conflict (Psalms 1-41); the glories of the Davidic kingship with the theme of communication is covered in book II (Psalms 42-72); the collapse of the Davidic kingship with its theme of devastation is covered in book III (Psalms 73-89); life in exile with the theme of maturation is covered in book IV (Psalms 90-106); and the return from the exile with its theme of consummation is covered in book V (Psalms 107-150). David authored at least one half of the psalms with the majority being books I (3-41), II (51-71 and V (122, 124, 131, 133, 138-145). Psalms 86 (Book III) and 101-103 (Book IV) are also attributed to him.

The Psalms are situational but the historical situation is not always known. Psalm 34 is one of the Psalms in which the situation is known. It joins three other Psalms that emphasize the mindset of an innocent sufferer (Psalms 35-37). Most often, when the term suffering is read or heard, there is an emphasis on feelings and an emotive aspect. However, the Bible uses varying terms for suffering which include trouble, affliction, and misery. These are generic terms which indicate situations in life that God places people. These situations are best and most accurately considered as God’s providential control. They emphasize that God is in the problem for His glory and the believer’s good. We must be careful not to divest the situation from God’s control. We must also be careful not to overemphasize the subjective aspect. We will meet these cautions again.

In the New Testament the term most often translated as suffering is pathema and its derivatives. The Greek term means experience. This fact is important because all of mankind is a sufferer when rightly understood. Romans 5:12-14 speaks of sin, misery, and death as the aftermath of God’s judgment (Genesis 3:15). All of these are a consequent of God’s judgment on Adam and mankind as a result of Adam’s first sin. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 emphasizes the decaying of the outer man. The body will continue to decay even in the believer until death. Salvation does not reverse this aspect of the curse. However, in heaven or hell, the body never dies.

Moreover, in the physical world, every person is a sinner, saved or unsaved, and sins against others and will be sinned against. Thus rightly understood there are innocent and guilty sufferers. The psalms and this psalm picture the mindset of the innocent sufferer: Psalm 34 from God’s perspective. Innocent sufferers are those who have been sinned against with or without provocation such as an aborted baby or someone who is simply minding his own business or trying to be helpful with a godly intent and is attacked. Sinners yes but innocent except for their guilt and condemnation from being in Adam.

David in Psalm 34 is considered an innocent sufferer and he speaks from that mindset. He was on the run from Saul. David was next in line for the kingship. Saul had been rejected as king through his arrogance and ignorance (1 Samuel 13 and 15); David was anointed king but still ministered to Saul with music (1 Samuel16); Saul resented David and was fearful of him (1 Samuel 18); Saul attempted to kill David in any number of ways but David but David escaped with the aid of Jonathan, Saul’s son (1 Samuel 19); and David “lost” his friend Jonathan because of Saul’s actions toward David (1 Samuel 20). This added to David’s trouble.

In 1 Samuel 21, we find David on the run without provisions or weapons. How was this impossible? David was God’s man and agent to establish the kingdom of righteousness and peace. In that sense, the lesser David anticipated the greater David, Jesus Christ. Jesus did not run but he was in constant danger humanly speaking. With physical eyes rather with the eyes of saving faith, the mission to establish the kingdom seemed impossible. David was under attack as an innocent but not a sinless sufferer. Jesus is the only sinless, truly innocent sufferer (He is not guilty in Adam or from His own sins).

It is been hypothesized that Psalm 34 was written by David, an innocent sufferer, at the time of his escape from Saul to Gath (1 Samuel 21:10-15). Apparently David’s royal destiny was known inside and outside Israel. David’s circumstances seemed so desperate that he sought safety from the king of Gath while carrying Goliath’s sword; Gath was the home of Goliath! This action does not seem logical. David was endangered from Saul but perhaps now also within Gath. At Gath, for protection and safety David feigned madness. He acted irrationally as he was “not in his right.” In response the king of Gath did not arrest or kill David but sent him away though safe from Saul. He protected him! God’s providence is simply amazing.

David’s actions have been scrutinized and many have concluded that David did not trust God and the Psalm is evidence of that distrust. That seems unlikely. But no matter, the Psalm is a cry of an innocent sufferer. David cries out for deliverance and he was delivered.

David praised God not only for his deliverance but because of God’s intimacy with him and his with God. Relationships matter! David continued his “ministry” as he prepared to be God’s kind of King. In that sense, again the lesser David imitated the greater David, Jesus Christ, who ushered in a new age, a new existence for believers, a new creation, and a fulfilment of kingdom membership. Both had kingdom work to do and both relied on their relationship with the Triune God. A key feature expressed i the mindset of the innocent suffer: Psalm 34 is the emphasis on proper thinking and wanting. Feelings did not drive David.

1. What is your view of the innocent sufferer and the guilty sufferer? Read Psalms 34-37 and Psalms 38-41 to help you.
2. King David was placed by God in an estate of humiliation as catalogued in 1 Samuel 15-21. What was David’s mindset and how did it differ from Saul’s?
3. In Psalm 34, how did the lesser David’s mindset imitate Christ’s mindset, the greater David?

David’s Response: Psalm 34: Part II
Verses 1-3

Continuing our discussion: The mindset of an innocent suffer: Psalm 34, some would say that David was in a pickle. That term is not a common one today but it makes the point that David’s life had turned sour. From the shepherd fields, to the palace as a musician, to the battle field as a giant slayer, he was now on the run as God’s anointed from God’s previously anointed. What a turn of events! If David had not kept a long-term perspective – a mindset – of what God was doing, he may have attempted to abdicate his divinely appointed position or he may have attempted to “take matters into his own hands.” David was in the moment but he did not live for the moment. He was in the kingdom-building business but it was not his – it was the Lord’s. David took his position and His Boss seriously. Psalm 34 gives insight into both the lesser David and the greater David.

The first seven verses are an invitation to praise the Lord for David’s deliverance. We will consider the first three verses. Verses 1-3 contain a testimony to God’s goodness, David’s response, and the importance of relationships.
v.1: I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips;
v.2: my soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice;
v.3: Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together;

In these verses, David accentuates several non-negotiable truths that he had hidden in his heart in order for him to recall and apply in easy and hard times (Psalm 119:9-11). David, who practiced patterned thinking – a mindset of an innocent sufferer, may have been foolish but David was no fool. As did Jesus, David had a personal relationship with God and God with him. David knew truths about God and himself. He knew his Deliverer – the Creator and Controller of the universe. He knew that God beckons His people to pray not simply for something but to Him. David knew that God hears and answers prayers of His children. David knew that God deserves praise and prayer at all times.

Armed with knowledge and the desire to please God, David oriented himself properly in his situation. He displayed the mindset of an innocent sufferer. He was following Christ, the ultimate Innocent Sufferer. He knew that he was in the hands of God and trusted. David looked not simply at the circumstances but the God of those circumstances. His proper vertical orientation followed the example of Christ who always had a proper reference in and to life. Let’s be clear about two issues.
• One, David was not perfected. He was a sinner who was being perfected.
• Two, life is not it just is. Rather, by the term life. I am speaking of God’s providence and control.

David considered his situation from God’s perspective. David gave his motivation for prayer: God is God and he is not. His God is trustworthy: powerful, good, and wise. David had experienced God Himself and he enjoyed it. He was blessed.

The word translated afflicted in verse 2 is used in verse 6 and is translated as poor. A key meaning of the word is humbled. The psalmist wrote that it was good that he was humbled – brought low (Psalm119:67-68). James and Peter taught their people and believers today to humble themselves (James 4:6-10; 1 Peter 5:5-7). Humbling oneself is an activity involving thoughts, desires, and action. Moreover, humility and humiliation are synonymous. Humiliation refers to God’s providence – situation He places people if by their own agency. Humility is a judging oneself by a standard in regards to who you are and what you are doing. David was thankful for hard times because they were God’s tool for David to humble himself. And he did. They were a vehicle or chariot to carry David and every believer to a greater and deeper understanding of the Triune God’s love and intimacy with Him. Such is the mindset of the innocent sufferer. Such should be mindset of every believer.

In the discussion of verses 4-7 in the next blog, I further differentiate between humble and humiliation. There is a difference. Briefly, humbled and humiliated are markedly different. Humiliations are situations and they don’t humble a person in and of themselves. They have no innate power. They are the context for the person to respond in pride or humility. David knew he was totally dependent on God and responded in that way. In verses 1-2, David made a statement of what he is doing and will continue to do. In verse 3, he called others to do the same: glorify the Lord. David had an other-reference. Life at this time was not simply about David. As did Christ, David had a heart for God and others. David was preparing himself for his kingship through prayer, humility, and dependence on God. Those with the mindset of the innocent sufferer differentiate the two. Such was Jesus!

David knew the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). Israel was to be the people of the Lord (Deuteronomy 7:6; Exodus 19:5-6). Enemies of Israel were enemies of God. The king was to be devoted to the Lord (Deuteronomy. 17:14-20). King David had to learn those lessons. He must go down before he is raised up. Such is the way of the cross. Christ is the full picture of what God’s King is to be (Philippians 2:9-11). He descended only to ascend. Christ was placed and He placed Himself in humiliating circumstances and in them He humbled Himself – He learned obedience and dependence on the Father and He was heard (Hebrews 2:10; 5:7-8). David was not Christ but he, by God’s grace, chose to do the same.

1. How was it possible for David to pray?
2. Did he pray for relief? How will you know? If he did, for what purpose did he do it?
3. David included all people to praise God – David took deliverance seriously. What are some of the reasons he did?
4. Describe the mindset of the innocent sufferer.

David’s Response: Psalm 34: Part III
Verses 4-7

v.4: I sought the Lord and he answered me; the delivered me from all my fears;
v.5: Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame;
v.6: This poor man called and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles
v.7: the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him; and he delivers them;

Continuing our discussion: The mindset of an innocent suffer: Psalm 34, we come to David’s description of himself. He described himself and his activity in the heat of pressure (verse 4). As is everyone, David is a seeker. The key is which kind. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus told the disciples to make the object of seeking a top priority when He told them to seek first the kingdom of God. In essence, Jesus told the disciples to seek Him as their top priority. That focus would simplify their lives. Those truths were revealed to David before Jesus came to earth as the Godman. In verse 4, David declared that he sought the Lord and the Lord listened. This was a usual pattern for David. He went to the Lord in prayer. As a young lad in the fields as a shepherd, David communicated with God in thought and word (Psalm 23). In that sense, he, too, imitated Christ.

One theme found in Luke’s gospel is that of Christ’s prayer life. Of the fifteen references to Christ’s prayers, eleven are in Luke and three are only in Luke (11:5-13; 18:1-8; 21:36). Luke emphasized Jesus humanity and a vital part of His humanity was regular and powerful communication with the Father.
David had experienced – tasted – the goodness of God which he described as God listening and answering prayer. This statement touches upon the bridge between the Creator and creature. It touches upon the essence of God’s being. The transcendent, holy God, Creator and Controller of the universe, is also near and accessible. But it is on His terms and in His way that people draw near, do not die, and enjoy intimacy and fellowship with Him. This is a major theme in the book of Leviticus and God’s call to be holy as I am holy.

David acknowledged that he was a fearful man (v.4). Most of the time people read the word fear and consider it a feeling or an emotion as they focus on the physical changes and sensations that occur in the body. Rather fear is an inner-man activity related to thoughts and desires. It may be sinful (fear of man and things) or non-sinful and godly – right concern based on fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Fear, either kind, focuses on control – I have it or I don’t have it. Elsewhere, David gives one of God’s answers for ungodly fear: When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God whose word I praise I God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal men do to me (Psalm 56:3-4). Every person has a choice – he is a chooser. He can trust in God or self (Proverbs 3:5-8). David taught that fears are thoughts that can be controlled.

In verse 5, David wrote that godly seekers are God-trusters because they are enlightened (radiant). The light has been turned on in them and now they hate darkness but love the light (a reverse described in John 1:4-5; 3:17-21). God’s truth is light and life. New Testament believers were able to discern these facts because Jesus is light and life (John 8:12, 31-32; 9:5; 14:6; 12:35-36). God’s truth is and gives light and life because the Triune God is Life, Light, and Truth:

  1. Life:
  • God is: Isaiah 42:5; Deuteronomy 30:10; Psalm 36:9; Proverbs 14:27; John 5:26; Acts 3:15; 17:25; Romans 4:17; 1 Timothy 6:13
  • Jesus Christ is: John 1:14-18; 14:6; Acts 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:45; John 5:21-26
  • Holy Spirit is: John 3:3-8; 6:63; Romans 8:2

2. Light:

  • God is: Psalm 27:1; 36:9; 119:18; Isaiah 58:8; 60:1-2, 19-20; Micah 7:8; Acts 17:25; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 John 1:5; James 1:17; Revelation 22:5
  • Jesus Christ is: Isaiah 9:2; 42:6; 49:6 (Luke 2:32); 60:3; John 1:5, 8-9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36; 14:6; Acts 3:15; 1 C 15:45; John 5:26;
  • Holy Spirit is:  John 3:3-8; 6:63; Ephesians 1:17-19;

3. Truth:

  • God is: Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 45:19; 65:16; Revelation 3:14
  • Jesus Christ: John 8:31-32; 14:6
  • Holy Spirit: John 14:17; 16:13; 1 John 2:20, 27; 4:6; 5:6

New Testament believers were able to discern these facts because Jesus is light and life (see above). The truth sets you free by giving light and life. David had experienced this. As described, the mindset of the innocent sufferer enables the person to focus on pleasing God not relief.

In verse 7, David described himself as a poor man. The word indicates the humbled man, the man who has responded in a godly manner to God’s providence. David was not simply in a humiliating situation. Circumstances don’t change people. David had humbled himself in his God-given circumstances – God’s providence. He was poor because he was a humbled man. He learned well the lesson of humbling oneself.

As I have said, humiliation and humbling are not the same. Humiliation focuses on circumstances which are part of God’s providence. Humbling oneself is what one does by and through God’s grace. The person makes a correct self-assessment in any situation of himself and of God. In prayer and searching the Scripture, he seeks how to function in Christlikeness.

David completed the section by giving another motivation to fear the Lord and taste and see – experience – that God was good. Such is the mindset of the innocent sufferer. He pointed to the angel of the Lord which may have been the second person of the Trinity. The Trinity was at work in the Old Testament. God’s presence and protection were linked.

1. What kind of seeker are you?
2. Revisit the difference between humble and humiliation. Give examples of people who were placed in humiliating circumstances and their responses. What do you learn?
3. Define humility.

The Mindset of an Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34: Part IV
David’s Response, verses 8-10

v.8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him;
v.9: Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing;
v.10: The lions may grow weak and hungry but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing;

In our discussion: The Mindset of the Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34, David an innocent sufferer amplifies the greatness and goodness of God in terms of God’s presence, power, purposes, promises, plan, and provisions. David focused on communication with God via prayer and the Lord’s willingness to hear and heed. In this section, David, who pointed to the greater David – Jesus Christ – bid all believers to taste and see – to experience for themselves that the Lord is truly good (v.8). He gave a reason: blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. We don’t know how and if David’s circumstances had changed when he penned these words. We do know that he was not enthroned and he was still a fugitive. But he had God and he knew God had him. As Christ did, David focused on God and not on the circumstances alone. He viewed the circumstances through God and not God through the circumstances.

Via his relationship to his God, David had experienced one aspect of God’s goodness – physical deliverance. Yet he had experienced more. He knew that God was present and intimate with him. David knew that God heard and answered prayers. David knew that God was trustworthy. David knew that God had work that was to be done on earth and that David was to be involved in that work. David knew that there was something more than the present life.
In any aspect of God’s providence David knew that he had two options and only two: trust and take refuge in God or trust and take refuge in self. The reality of these two choices began in the heavens with the angels, continued in the Garden with Adam and Eve, and will continue until eternity. Wrong choices matter temporally and eternally.

Humbly and wisely, in this situation, David chose the former as an expression of his patterned living. Control and trust are major issues for everyone. I suspect David wondered how he would be God’s agent for establishing the kingdom if king Saul imprisoned him or killed him. But as Christ had, David practiced a big-picture mindset. Knowing the end and final results motivated Jesus to move from heaven to earth to humiliation, to the cross, and to the grave and to exaltation. Jesus knew the end as expressed in Hebrews 12:1-3. David knew in part but he also knew God and he had experienced His God-ness. David’s knowledge may have been limited but David knew what he needed to honor God and enjoy pleasing Him. Those facts enabled David to stay the course and trust and obey. The same is true for believers today.

Verse 8 is more than a simple invitation to come to God or to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Rather, as strange as it might sound, David declared that everyone should “try out God.” David is conveying a call to experience God. This is similar to Jesus’ call as given in Matthew 11:28-30 (see my series: Come to Jesus). Jesus had something “good” to offer hurting people – Himself! Job experienced this same phenomenon. He demanded answers which he never received. Instead he got God and he was satisfied (Job 40:1-5; 42:1-6)

David knew the mindset of the innocent sufferer. David knew the joy and beauty of experiencing God. Circumstances did not change his desire and capacity to experience God. He knew that as you experience the true God truly, the person will conclude for himself that God is good. It sounds so subjective and mystical. But is it really? How does one experience and try out God? David is speaking in relational terms and from practical, real-life experience. He was speaking of a one-one relationship with God and God with him. David knew that God had established that relationship. Therefore he was to honor God by enjoying all the benefits of his God-ordained and God-wrought relationship which are spelled more completely in the New Testament (Romans 6:11-4; 12:1-2).

David knew that what he had written under the influence of the Holy Spirit was true, in part because David could not get enough of God personally. This, too, was a gift from God. Relationally, he desired more and more of God. Even before the cross, David had determined that God had invested in him. He invested Himself in David! David was humbled. He became more and more captivated, motivated, enthralled, mesmerized, and devoted to pleasing God. As it was for Christ, pleasing God was David’s life goal. Circumstances did not change that fact. Moreover, David wanted his readers to have that same joy and pleasure. However, David was mot Christ as his life demonstrates. In Philippians 3:7-11, Paul makes the same assessment. Neither David nor Paul could get enough of God. Such was true of Christ (John 4:31-34).

David had learned and recalled certain non-negotiable facts. He knew this was God’s world and he would not compete with God and His control at least at this time. David would have lived a lie had he depended on self and his control. We have to be careful here. When David wrote that God was good he was not referring to what a person gets from God. David is not conveying a health-wealth gospel. David was quite a theologian!
The term good refers to the essence of God. In all that God should be, God is. God is in every way everything that God should be. God is good in Himself (Mark 10:18). Since He is, He is good for His creatures and He is the fountain of all that is good. God sets the standard for good. The phrase, God is good, is best summarized by saying that God defines good and He is good all the time eternally and continuously. In regards to God, goodness and God-ness are linked.

David continues with an exhortation in verse 9: Fear the Lord, you his saints for those who fear him lack nothing. David equates knowledge of God, wisdom, and fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). This takes us back to Psalm 1-3, a man who feared the Lord.

The wise man functions in life with a proper vertical reference which affects his relationship to others: friends or foes. It also influences his response in any expressions of God’s providence. David was getting personal. In verse 10, David moved to the animal for a motivation to fear God. He compares the mighty lion and the person who fears the Lord. The lion grows weak and hungry while the God-fearer is mounted up on eagles’ wings (Isaiah 40:29-31). Such is what happened to Christ and David. Christ ascended and is in session now. The greater King David is in heaven now, and believers wait their true coming home (John 14:1-3).

The New Testament alludes to verse 8 in 1 Peter 2:1-3: Therefore rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies. Crave pure spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you tasted that the Lord is good. Peter instructed the congregation which was in much the same situation as David. The congregation could be considered innocent sufferers. There were soon to be persecutions.

A major theme of the book is given in 1 Peter 2:19-24 and 4:19: as Jesus did, the congregation was to entrust themselves to the faithful Creator and Controller. Psalm 34:8 is that same call. Peter told the congregation to seek truth (the word in verse 2) that they may grow in salvation. Growth was and is desperately needed individually and corporately until Christ returns. Truth leads to endurance, courage, and hope. In verse 3, Peter called the people to eat the word – imbibe it. That admonition and encouragement is similar to David’s call to taste and see that God is good. They were to take in the Word so that it becomes part of them. It is truly food for the whole person – soul and boy.

David apparently had an appetite for true “soul-food.” Biblical truth, not feelings, logic divorced from God’s word, and or experience, will direct the person’s thoughts, desires, and actions about self, others, and God. Every believer must get a good taste of pure and unadulterated truth – God’s word. Every believer must get into his Bible and mine God’s precious truth and apply it daily (Proverbs 2:1-11). It is a matter of life and death.

1. What does Psalm 34:8 mean to you? How do you think Romans 12:1-2 and Philippians 3:7-11 fit in with that verse?
2. Jesus Christ is the One Who continually experienced the goodness and beauty of God as went to the cross and remained on it. How was that possible?
3. Jesus looked forward to returning to heaven as Lord of lords and King of kings. Yet, He came to do His Father’s will out of privilege, blessing and not simply duty (John 4:31-34).
4. What is God’s will for you daily (see Rom. 8:28-29; 12:13-14; 2 Cor. 5:9)?
5. .How does intimacy and fellowship with Christ through saving faith help you daily? Give examples.
6. How is Psalm 34:8 a blessing to you?

The Mindset of an Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34: Part V
David’s Response, v. 11-16

v.11: Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord;
v.12: whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
v.13: keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies;
v.14: turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it;
v.15: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous; and his ears attentive to their cry;
v.16: the face of the Lord is against those who do evil; to cut off the memory of them from the earth;

Continuing our discussion: The mindset of an innocent sufferer: Psalm 34, David moved to explain what it means to taste and see that God is good. As did the Greater David, David invites his people to come (Matthew 11:28-30). The truth that God is good is a non-negotiable fact. The issue for David, and all people, was his response to that fact and to his God. It is only the believer who is a taster of God and only the taster is blessed. In verse 8 David defined fear of the Lord as taking refuge in Him. David does not stop there. In verse 11 he invited believers to come into the class room of life (? hard knocks) and learn the fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is and can be learned. In the milieu of hard times (God’s providence), David is functioning as a student and a teacher. He had learned fear of the Lord – a willing spirit attuned to the fact that God is ever-present – in contrast to a rebellious heart. David desired to teach others (Psalm 51:12-13).

David wanted more of God. It was as if his appetite had increased given his tough times. He desired to experience the joy of salvation. The context of Psalm 51 is not David as innocent. He was guilty before God, others including Bathsheba and the baby who died, and the nation of Israel. In either case – as the innocent sufferer or the guilty sufferer, David wanted God. Later in his life David did run from God but in the end he ran back to Him. God did not leave him!

David would agree that fear of the Lord can be defined as the dominating awareness of God’s presence, person, and power such that the fearer acknowledges that God has something to say about every thought and desire that David or anyone has. As a result, every God-fearer is obligated to acknowledge God’s presence and to give an account of what he did or did not do, think, or desire. A proper view of God leads to a proper response to Him and His providence. Fear of the Lord involves thoughts, desires, and actions because of who God is. The God-Fearer seeks and experiences that the Lord is good. Seeking and finding the Lord leads to proper fear of the Lord. The two are linked.

As a godly king, David had learned the beauty of fear of the Lord. That early lesson was early in life but he jettisoned that truth in order to please himself (Psalm 51:1-5). After he repented, David was restored. Now David wanted to give his people the secret of life (Psalm 51:12-13). Therefore David summoned his people and all believers everywhere to come as a learner. Only learners will properly fear the Lord and fear of the Lord leads to proper learning.

A person’s fruits give evidence of a person’s fear of the Lord. The proper response of the innocent sufferer is to be wise and return good for evil (Romans12:17-21). This is a powerful statement and is countercultural and counterintuitive. It was practiced by Christ perfectly and continually. God’s redemptive plan is bigger than a person being wrongly sinned against and responding as judge, jury, and executioner. Rather doing good follows from the fact that God is good. Remembering the debt God in Christ by the Holy Spirit paid for you, will motivate to neve return evil for evil (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50). Pleasing God in thought, desire, and deed imitates Christ and is growth in Christlikeness. God is honored and the believer will be blessed. God takes care of His people as His people grow in fear of Him.

In verses 15-16, David emphasized God’s eternal scrutiny as a motivator for fear of the Lord (Proverbs 5:21-22; 15:3). Peter in 1 Peter 3:10-12 quotes Psalm 34:12-16. Peter understood Scripture and he could have chosen any of the Psalms directed toward the innocent sufferer. He chose Psalm 34 as a tool to exam his own mindset and his response in times of trouble. Peter had a congregation to care for that was to be in trouble. Peter developed his mindset through many toils and troubles many of which he was responsible. Yet, that too was God’s providence. He was eager to bless his people. He was eager for them to fear the Lord and enjoy Jesus and intimacy with Him. In that way they would be use tough times for growth (1 Peter 1:6-7; 2:19-24).

Peter’s first epistle is a treatise on how to handle unjust suffering. A major theme of the letter is a godly response to trouble, and to God, manifested by trust and obedience. In hard times for whatever reason, the believer actively, cognitively, and purposefully entrusts himself to his faithful Creator, the just Judge of the earth. Thus he follows the pattern set by Christ (1 Peter 2:19-24; 4:19). In summary Peter and Paul taught that the outer man (the tongue and lips) and the inner man (the heart) must be in sync God’s way for God’s glory. Both taught that everyone, especially the innocent sufferer, must trust in and fear the Lord especially when it seems so easy and natural to do trust self and fear circumstances and people. Only biblical truth defines what is good.

Part of experiencing a good God is developing and maintaining a heart which is not full of bitterness, grudge holding, anger, and resentment. The person who fears the Lord will not seek revenge or assume the role of judge. Revenge is the Lord’s business – growth is every believer’s business. Rather the believer, including the innocent sufferer, will return good for evil (Romans12:17-21). The believer will return a “piece of God.” By that I mean that the other person sees God in the life of the innocent sufferer – who is and His definition of good.

In some way the believer will give evidence of who God is, what He has done, and what He is doing. The believer can begin with thoughts even if they are not expressed to the other person. That is a good start. Thoughts will lead to doing good expressed by words and actions. For instance, a kind word turns away wrath and is sweet to the soul and healing to the bones – the whole person, body and soul – is affected (Proverbs 15:1; 16:24).

David and Peter delivered the same message: tasting and seeing God means saving faith-based, Holy-Spirit directed living because you liked what you tasted – what you experienced. In a nutshell, you like God! Thoughts, desires, and actions are changed from self-trust, self-reliance, and fear of men to trusting God. Fear of the Lord leads to more than dutiful and blessed obedience. It motivates the believer to an obedience that is out of this world: it is considered a blessing and privilege for the child of the King (1 John 5:3-4).

1. How do you define fear of the Lord?
2. What is the contrast that is described in Proverbs 3:5-8?
3. David practiced good stewardship of his body when going to Gath. How does that fit fear of the Lord?

The Mindset of Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34: Part VI
David’s Response, v.15-22

v.15: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous; and his ears attentive to their cry;
v.16: the face of the Lord is against those who do evil; to cut off the memory of them from the earth;
v.17: The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles
v.18: the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit
v.19: A righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all;
v.20: he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken;
v.21: Evil will slay the wicked, the foes of the righteous will be condemned;
v.22: The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who take refuge in him.

We are continuing our discussion of: The Mindset of the Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34. In the last section, David gave a final motivation for the innocent sufferer. David knew he was an innocent sufferer. But it is not always easy to determine if a person fits in the innocent or guilty category or both. David knew he was God’s man. God had designated him to be king. David had not taken and would not take revenge on Saul because Saul was the Lord’s anointed (see 1 Samuel 26 and 28). David evaluated himself according to what he knew about God and himself. He acted accordingly and sought intimacy with God. He received it and he was delivered.

In our study, The Mindset of an Innocent Sufferer: Psalm 34, David contrasted two mindsets and two lifestyles and their destinies – those who are righteous and fear the Lord and those who do evil because they have no room for the true God. David knew that in a world cursed by God because of Adam’s first sin and individual sins of people, sinning and being sinned against is a given. The righteous do experience hard times including being sinned against sometimes quite violently. God blesses the righteous but the blessing is not always deliverance or deliverance as the sufferer desires. God takes care of His people, individually and collectively. God’s care did not prevent the cross; in fact, it mandated and accentuated it. One author wrote that deliverance is one thing and exemption from trouble is another. The latter awaits heaven: Revelation 21:1-4.

Please note: God will not treat a saved sinner the same way He treated His Son. The Son went to hell on the cross and therefore the believer who is in Christ does not have that same destiny. But the sinner saved or not, cannot expect God to treat him better than He treated Jesus. Fear of the Lord helps a believer look beyond the temporal and fleeting aspects of this world. The book of Ecclesiastes describes life without fear of the Lord as vanity of vanities and meaningless (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Resurrection life begins at regeneration and it looks forward to heaven (Romans 6:9-10; Colossians 3:1-3). It does because of one reason as given in verse 22 of Psalm 34: The Lord redeems His people through the Son and His perfect lawkeeping before the cross and His perfect death at the cross. Therefore any deliverance in this life points to the greater and ultimate deliverance – from hell and damnation to everlasting life with the Triune God. The Mindset of the Innocent sufferer:  Psalm 34 is one that has an eternal view. Like Christ, he knows something bigger and better than this life offers: unfettered fellowship in the pr4esence of God. Resurrections life begins and is a taste for heaven.  Those truths drove Jesus to the cross and beyond.

Notice verse 18. The Lord is intimate with the person who humbles himself. Two words – brokenhearted and crushed in spirit – point to the man who fears the Lord. As a result he humbles himself and considers himself for who he is. He is not God but a creature saved by grace. He sees both the bad news and the good news. David was intimate with God and God with him. This intimacy had grown out of David’s acceptance of the invitation to come and taste see that God is good. Psalm 34 is one indication that David wrote as a man who had experienced God.

Verses 19-20 would have been a blessing and comfort to Job. A righteous man may have many troubles via God’s providence. The amount and degree of a person’s trouble does not necessarily correlate with a person spiritual state or his relationship with God. Moreover, God is the Deliverer, Redeemer, and Savior because He has brought all things to pass. The word for protect is often translated as guard, take care of, or keep (Genesis 2:15; 3:24; 4:9; Psalm 86:2 and 121:3-4, 7). It is a powerful word. It takes us back to the guard (Genesis 2:15; 3:24). Man was put in the Garden to take care of it and the angels guarded the gate in and out of the Garden. Psalm 121 is especially graphic. The same word as here word is translated as watch and keep. It speaks of God’s forever care of the believer, His child. God is the Keeper.

Verse 20 is a prophecy about Jesus – His bones were not broken at the crucifixion (John 19:36). Jesus had to be the perfect Lamb without blemish. God deserves nothing but the best. God protected Jesus in order to fulfill Scripture and to testify and affirm that He is trustworthy and the Keeper of His word. Since the believer is in Christ, God protects him as well. David experienced God’s protection in many ways and rejoiced. God is trustworthy. The cross affirms it!

David has taken a giant theological truth and applied it to himself. David counseled himself with God’s truth. This was one lesson taught by the greater David, Jesus Christ. The Father and Jesus are one (John 10:30). God’s intimacy with David was expressed in terms of physical salvation. That physical reality points to a greater spiritual reality. God draws near to His children and He draws His children near to Him. The drawing is accompanied by deliverance. There is physical deliverance but there is much more. Deliverance begins at regeneration/salvation but continues until God calls His children home. Jesus, the greater David and King David demonstrated the beauty and truth of intimacy with God and He with them.

1. What is your view of deliverance?
2. What is every believer delivered from and delivered to?
3. What is the basis for that deliverance?
4. What affect should the believer’s deliverance have in his present life?
5. Resurrection life begins at salvation: how do 1 John 3:1-3 assist you as you live out what you are in Christ?