There are several promises in this Psalm that makes its reading give great comfort and encouragement to a believer.
The title of the Psalm tells us that this Psalm was penned by David recalling his experience before King Abimelech. This incident is found in 1 Samuel 21:10—15. David had fled from Saul to Achish king of Gath (Abimelech is a title like Pharaoh; Achish is the king’s personal name).
But the Philistines there recognized David as someone who had killed many of their people. When they told this to King Achish, David became very much afraid.
Then he pretended to be insane and acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. Thus David escaped from there because the king refused to have anything to do with him and drove him away.
The Meaning of the Context
Sometimes in life, we too take decisions that land us up in trouble. Often like David, we also escape from such situations by the mercy of God. Looking back at such incidents we cannot but praise God.
Are you by any chance in a troublesome situation where you’re sore afraid? Is that trouble of your own making? There’s still hope. The Lord will deliver you from trouble.
Praise (verse 1)
The Psalmist says that he will always praise God. Praising God at all times is not easy. Often we forget to praise God when everything is going well for us. At other times, when we’re in trouble, we find it difficult to praise God because of the heaviness in our heart.
Boast (verse 2)
The Psalmist says that his soul will boast in the Lord. We will be enabled to boast in the Lord only when we have an intimate knowledge of God. Is He the object of our boasting today? Read Jeremiah 9:23, 24 to find out God’s thoughts on our boasting about Him. The Psalmist thinks that those who are in pain and suffering would hear his boast in the Lord, and rejoice.
Glorify (Magnify) (verse 3)
Christians are called to be a worshipping community. Jesus said that “where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). It is also written that God is enthroned on the praises of Israel (Psalm 22:3 NIV footnote).
There is great strength and joy in exalting the name of God together. Our singing together in Church in praise of our God is one such experience.
Someday soon in heaven we will praise our God with people from all tribes and languages and nations. What a great day it will be! Hallelujah (That means Praise the LORD)! See Revelation 19:1—8. So lift up the name of your God. Magnify and glorify His holy name!
Summary: The Psalmist’s lips will praise God at all times. Others will hear and rejoice then. Now the Psalmist issues a call or an invitation for others to join him in praising God.
Dear child of God, do you have a “praise” attitude in life? Or do you have a “victim” attitude in life? Do you continually blame others and your circumstances or do you find joy in praising God? Think about it. Yes, friends, praise is contagious. Its joy and strength spills over and lifts up the hearts of an entire gathering in worship. Will your lips praise and glorify your God?
Seek the LORD (verse 4)
There are times when God comes searching for us like a good shepherd and carries us home. But there comes times in life when we should earnestly seek God. Then God will answer our cry. The main benefit of crying out to God is deliverance from all your fears. It is true that we become afraid quite easily.
Look to Him (verse 5)
Most people look to God today as if He is kind of Santa Claus bringing gifts from heaven. Oh, that is not the way the Psalmist loved to look to God! He looked to God with love in his heart and praise on his lips. He looked to God in expectation to help him in difficulties.
When you look to God thus your faces become radiant. It will not be covered with shame. Instead, your faces will have radiance by reflecting God’s presence like how Moses’ face was radiant when he had spent time with God in His Presence (Exodus 34:29—35). Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 also for your encouragement.
Call to God (verse 6)
David says, “this poor man called.” Here the word poor is not used in the sense of not having money but rather as not having much influence. When he called, God heard him.
Most of us often wonder whether God hears our prayers. Here is the assurance, God hears. He not only heard the cry of David but also saved him out of all his troubles. Now that is interesting because we too face many troubles in life. God may not prevent us from walking through trouble but he will save us “out of” it. Read Jesus’ words in John 16:33.
Angels (verse 7)
Even though “angel” is here used in singular it stands for many angels. Angels are heavenly beings of great power and wisdom. They are send to earth on missions to help and protect us.
Angels can appear in human form too. Often without our knowing it, they are send by God to protect us. During such times angels surround us and keep us safe from harm. See examples of Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:22), Abraham (Genesis 18:1, 2, 22; 19:1) and Jacob visited by angels (Genesis 32:1), children having angels to protect them (Matthew 18:10) etc.
Also note what Elisha’s servant was enabled to see when surrounded by enemies (2 Kings 6:17). And let us not forget the great company of angels that brought good news of great joy at Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13—15).
Summary: Fear is our great enemy. So seek God and be delivered from all kinds of fear. Look to God and He will not allow you to suffer shame (see Isaiah 54:4). Call to God and He will save you out of all your troubles. He will not hesitate to send angels to effect the deliverance.
Taste (verse 8)
Often when we go to certain sweet shops, they welcome us to have a sample of certain sweets. They do this knowing that once we get a taste of it, we will buy.
The Psalmist had experienced God’s goodness in his life. Now he is inviting others to do the same. Dear child of God; this is what testimony is all about. Only when you have tasted the goodness of God can you share God with others.
In simple terms, you need to experience God before you can tell others about Him. David says now without doubt, “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” That was his testimony. What have you got to say to others about your God?
Fear the LORD (verse 9)
This fear is not related to trembling in fear. Instead this fear calls us to give God the proper respect due Him. We are called saints here. That does not mean that we are perfect already. No. But it does mean that we who love God and fear Him are special to Him. To such there is no lack. They are satisfied.
Are you a satisfied Christian? Satisfaction comes from the knowledge that God cares and provides for you; and at any given situation He has provided for you what is best for you.
Lions (verse 10)
The picture of lions is brought here to make the contrast clear. Lions are strong and capable of hunting for themselves to find food. Even such strong creatures might become weak and hungry.
Saints of God, unlike lions, are not pictures of strength. Even then, God provides for them. When you seek God, you lack no good thing.
Lions sole aim is to find food. Our aim should not be like that. Our primary aim in life should be to seek God. But when you seek God first, your needs also will be provided. Read what Jesus said about this in Matthew 6:33.
Summary: Christian life is about experiencing God first-hand. Then it is about telling others how good God has been to you. There is blessedness in having God as your shelter. He provides for you. When you seek God you lack nothing. It is a picture of satisfaction.
The Singer now becomes The Teacher: So far David was singing God’s praise. Now he turns his attention to teach others what he had learned.
I Will Teach You (verses 11—14)
He wants others especially the younger generation (addressed as children here) to learn what it means to fear the Lord. He assumes that all of them loved to live a long life and have happiness (v. 12).
Now he gives a very practical instruction. He tells them to keep their tongue from evil and their lips from speaking lies (v. 13). Whether he wrote this because he pretended to be mad before the king, we do not know. But it is a very good advice for young people. Do not speak lies. Watch your tongue. Put a guard over your mouth as David says in Psalm 141:3.
Along with that he asks children to turn from evil (v. 14). As youngsters, you’ll be constantly invited by your friends to see evil things, to speak evil language, to do evil deeds and participate in evil schemes.
The instruction to you is simple and clear: Turn from evil. But that is not all. You need to practice doing good. Read what is written about doing good in James 4:17 as well as Proverbs 3:27, 28.
Finally, David advices to live in peace with others as much as possible (see also Hebrews 12:14). “Seek peace and pursue it” implies that honest and earnest effort is needed to maintain peace.
The Lord’s Attention on His Saints (verses 15, 17, 19)
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous says David. How simple and deep is that thought at the same time. Like a little child is never allowed to be out of sight of its mother; so is it how God watches over His children. It is simply foolish to forget that God’s watchful eye is on us all the time. “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9a).
In Ezra also we find a lovely verse: “But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews” (Ezra 5:5). His ears are always attentive to their cry. Again, it is like a mother who never ignores the cry of her child. God delivers his children from all their troubles.
In the context of this Psalm, troubles here include those that we cause by our own folly or bad decisions.
The Lord’s Nearness to the Brokenhearted (verse 18)
How important to note that sometimes God’s saints are brokenhearted. In that none of us is alone. When we pass through a crushing experience, do not think that God has forsaken. He never forsakes. He never forgets you. Instead He draws close to you.
Perhaps we come to know God and His nearness to us only through the experiences of life that bring brokenness into our lives. See how Jesus drew near to the disciples on their journey to Emmaus: “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them” (Luke 24:15). But they did not recognize Him.
And they stood still, their faces downcast (Luke 24:17). How often we fail to recognize the nearness of God to us in our brokenhearted experiences of life! If you’re passing through such an experience, whatever it be, right now, your God is near you. Not only is He near, He will also save you.
The Lord’s Protection of the Righteous (verses 19, 20, 22).
God is our protector. There are many occasions in life when we too have experienced God’s protection in our lives. The verse “he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken” was applied to Jesus by John (John 19:36).
Again verse 19 talks about a righteous man having many troubles. It is very realistic about troubles in the life of a Christian. There will be many. Again God is our Redeemer. That means the One who saves us from all evil. He does so for all His servants.
And those who take refuge in him will never be condemned. Read also Romans 8:1.
The Lord’s Fight Against Evildoers (verses 16 and 21)
Evil, no doubt, is on the increase in this world as Jesus Himself had predicted (Matthew 24:12). Today, we find many evildoers prosper. Because of this many Christians become discouraged.
But what we need to understand is that God is against evildoers. A day is coming when God is going to judge the world. Then the wicked will be forgotten.
Another point to note is the end of evildoers in the world. We find that the evil in which they rejoiced itself strike back at them and take their very lives. So, God will require an account from those who are enemies of the righteous.
Summary: This teaching section offers us some practical advice and also gives us hope.
Guarding our tongue, turning from evil and living in peace with others are some of the practical things we are called to do to live happy and long lives.
David tells us that though we will see many troubles, God is near to us in our brokenhearted experiences. He is always watching over us and is always listening to our cries. He will protect us and deliver us.
But evildoers will be cut off. So, make God your refuge (shelter) today. “No one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.”
Books of Study Used
1. The NIV Matthew Henry Commentary (Zondervan Publishing House).
2. Exposition of Psalms by H. C. Leupold (O M Books).
3. Prayer, Praise & Promises (A Daily Walk Through the Psalms) by Warren W. Wiersbe (Authentic Books).