mentions a time in David’s life “when he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.”
This account is in , when David was fleeing from jealous King Saul, who wanted to kill him.
David came to the territory of the king of Gath, but his reputation for killing “tens of thousands” of Philistines has preceded him.
To avoid suspicion, David acted as if he were insane.
The king berated his servants for bringing such a man into his presence, and David was allowed to leave.
It was a time of great distress for David, one when he desperately needed God’s help.
The two verses from Hebrews come from a different setting altogether.
The book of Hebrews was written to Christians from a Jewish background who were suffering their own version of rejection: being ostracized for choosing to follow Jesus as Messiah.
The pressure to return to Judaism was intense.
The writer, who is not named in the book, urges them not to do so, lest they abandon all they have received in Christ.
The writer is trying to persuade his readers that what Christ provides through the new covenant is much better than what the old covenant was able to provide.
The portion we have today is part of the writer’s case for why Jesus is the better high priest.
Call to Praise -
First to note here is the defining characteristic of Hebrew poetry: parallelism.
This means making a statement and then repeating the thought in slightly different words.
Here David maintains that he has chosen to adopt a posture of continual praise to the Lord.
David is not claiming that he lives in a nonstop state of praise.
Rather, he is emphasizing that situations of distress and despair (such as the one described in the psalm’s heading) are occasions when God should be blessed and not discarded.
This is a powerful thing for a man on the run to say.
He is not singing this song from a padded pew in beautiful sanctuary.
He sings a song of praise when others would be tempted to curse their enemies and feel sorry for themselves.
David strives to exalt God at all times - even the worst of times.
Though on the run from King Saul, David found the ability to praise God despite his circumstances.
To be determined to “extol the Lord at all times” is not denial or escapism; rather, this is the normal response of someone who has been grounded in the Lord and knows that God will be faithful, regardless of difficulties.
What would out neighbors notice about us if we were committed to praising God at all times?
In speech and demeanor when times are good; in speech demeanor when times are hard.
David eventually escapes his perilous surroundings, but he doesn’t dwell on his own ingenuity.
Instead he directs all glory to God.
In addition, he does not keep his rescue to himself.
He wants others to know about it.
More parallelism presents itself as David invites others to join him in praising the Lord.
The word glorify appears numerous times in the Scriptures, and that word causes us to think of the angels giving honor and praise to God in Heaven.
While we do our best to glorify the Lord and exalt his name, our efforts inevitably fall short, as we cannot add more glory to what God already possesses.
Our perspective must always be that he is the transcendent, eternal Creator, Redeemer, and Ruler - and we are not.
What practical steps would help our church members to exalt God’s name together?
During corporate worship; while participating in shared ministries; in group Bible-study settings.
Caring God -
In verse 4, we begin to see in this verse a repeated poetic pattern.
David began this psalm by speaking of himself.
Then in verse 3, just considered, he addresses an audience (which may be his band of 400 followers noted in ).
This is evidence of the psalm’s being a communal invitation rather than an individual meditation.
Again the psalmist shares his own testimony and indirectly invites his audience to seek God.
The Lord is responsive when his people seek him out ().
David doesn’t list specific fears.
But judging from the psalm’s superscription, we may surmise that he feared being killed either by King Saul or King Abimelek.
David probably knows of the times when Abraham and Issac felt threatened by a Philistine king, so both spoke to him deceptively.
They were found out, but God protected them nonetheless.
David has had good reason to fear; yet he has had even better reason not to fear; God can deliver him.
How did a time of God’s deliverance from a fearful season prepare you for future challenges?
Lessons learned about God; lessons learned about fellow Christians; lesson learned about yourself.
Although God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (), he is especially interested in providing for all of his faithful ones.
Abraham and Isaac revealed character flaws in speaking deceptively.
God knew what was going on, of course, but he was merciful.
God’s people have hope as long as they look to him.
That hope is not rooted in their own worthiness, but in the worth that God attributes to them.
Though disdained by the world, they have no reason to be covered with shame.
By contrast, David prays in that those who intend to harm him “be put to shame and confusion.”
In verse 6, notice that David is talking about himself, thus identifying with the poverty of his audience.
The word poor is the singular version of the plural word translated “afflicted” in verse 2, above.
David himself is from a lowly background.
He was watching his father’s sheep when the prophet Samuel came to Bethlehem seeking one of Jesse’s sons to anoint as the next king of Israel.
No one considered David, the youngest, as a possible candidate.
No one, that is, except God.
The angel of the Lord forms a protective perimeter around those who fear God.
Fear is a term of reverence and respect for God.
The passage is reminiscent of , where Joshua encounters the commander of the Lord’s army.
Joshua wants to know whose side the angel is on.
The angel refuses to pick sides; God’s angel simply fights for or against whomever God says.
If we want God to fight for us, we must fear him.
Only then can we be confident that he will deliver us.
The Lord’s protection may not take a visible form, but it is there.
In verse 3, above, David has invited listeners to join in glorifying the Lord.
Now he invites them to enter into a personal relationship of trust in God and to experience him firsthand.
David invites us to eat at the Lord’s table, for only he truly satisfies.
The state of being blessed that is experienced by those who take refuge in God is one of sustained satisfaction and contentment.
Verse 9 talks about fear of the Lord.
teaches that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Fearing God includes believing that what says is true.
When he says that certain actions will yield certain negative consequences, we must believe him.
In other words, we should fear what God says we should fear.
Corresponding with that is the understanding that we should not fear what God says we should not fear.
If we live as God desires, we have nothing to fear because he created us and know what is in our best interests.
He knows all our needs and will provide for them.
What life-lessons have you learned about God’s provision?
In regard to your faith; in regard to God’s character; in regard to your fellow believers
Compassionate Savior -
focuses on God’s desire and ability to provide for those in need.
David experienced this and eagerly invites his followers to trust the Lord in a similar fashion.
But one might reasonably ask how God can know what we really need since he himself has never needed anything ().
One might respond by pointing out that since God created us, of course he knows what we need.
As a car designer knows what it takes to keep an automobile running, so also God knows what we need to flourish.
Even so, it is particularly reasonable to ask how God knows what it is like to suffer oppression.
No one can oppress God.
His greatest enemies tremble before him.
He may know what our bodies need on a biological level, but how can he relate to us on an emotional level?
How could God identify with being afflicted?
The author of Hebrews provides a most convincing reply.
When God became flesh in Jesus, he entered personally into all the frailty of human existence.