psalm-34A man and his wife were driving to town one day and happened across a young man sporting an exceptionally heavy backpack. The couple pulled over and offered him a ride. He thankfully accepted and climbed into the back of their truck. After several minutes of driving the man back and to his surprise the young traveler continued to strain under the heavy load of the backpack.

Throughout the course of life, when confronted with various struggles and challenges, we have the opportunity on how best to deal with our burdens. We may choose to bear it alone, seek help and yet continue to bear the burden or look to other sources of strength and encouragement and truly lighten our load.

During the course of his life, king David was confronted with many burdens and challenges. Some of these things were self-imposed and others were beyond his control.

God loved and blessed David in many ways. Sadly, at times, God’s blessings can bring out the worse in others. We see this in the life of king Saul. Upon seeing and hearing of the success and popularity of David among the people, Saul became jealous and attempt to kill David. The king’s jealousy was so immense that 1 Samuel 18:28-29 says, “Thus Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him; 29 and Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul became David’s enemy continually.”

Once David realized that the king sought his life, unwilling to harm the king, how did he respond? 1 Samuel 21:10-15 says, “Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.”

David took matters into his own hands and fled from Saul to the land of another king. Verses 11 says, “And the servants of Achish said to him, ‘Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?'”

David fled one adversely only to find himself being threatened by another.

Verse 12 points out “David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath.” He realized that he had made a potentially fatal mistake turning to Achish. To his dismay he went from the “frying pan into the fire.”

Fearing for his life, verse 13 says David, “changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.”

David pretended to be crazy. His little act must have been very convincing for verse 14 points out, “Achish said to his servants, ‘Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?'”

David successfully fled king Saul, and tricked king Achish, thereby delivering himself from great danger, imprisonment and possible death.

When David faced these great trials one might wonder, what was going on inside. How did he bear the burden? How did he face the uncertainty of the moment?

To answer such questions one need only consider Psalm 34 which David wrote. The title of the Psalm says, “when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” This psalm sheds light on where David was at emotionally and spiritually during the challenge.

In verse 4 David points out that he was afraid. In verse 6 he said that he “cried out” and needed to be “saved” from his “troubles.”

David was a great warrior and yet when confronted with challenges beyond his control he was afraid, fled, pretended to be a madman and eventually cried out to God.

Like so many others, David wasn’t shaken by the great challenges that were within his realm of comfort. In 1 Samuel 17:36 he spoke of killing “both the lion and the bear.” In 1 Samuel 17:49 he killed the great giant Goliath. In 1 Samuel 18:7 the people celebrated him as a great warrior.

Regardless of how confident, how courageous, how experienced amid the greatest of challenges, like David, it is the unexpected trials that catch us off guard and throw us out of our comfort zone. Rather than looking to the many ways we have confronted, overcome and tasted God’s deliverance, at times, we fear and find our own solution to such things.

The lesson we see in Psalm 34 is that it is natural for frail humans to fear, flee and cry out, but as in David’s case, we must never settle for such things. Rather, we must look to the Lord for guidance, strength and deliverance.

In the Psalm, David provides three important things for us to consider–his pursuits, his passions and his promises.

PURSUITS
Like most, David had some pursuits in life. In verse 1 he says, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” In verse 2 David says, “I will glory in the Lord.” In verse 4 says, I sought the Lord, and he answered me. And in verse 11 he says, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”

David’s primary spiritual pursuits centered around continuously seeking out and lifting up the name and virtues of his God privately and publicly through praise and instructing others.

The essences of David’s life, regardless of how challenging the situation, is focusing on the Lord in all aspects of life. Given the fact that his words were written during such dark and difficult times ought to challenge us to strive to focus on God even during the simpler and less trying times many of us encounter.

PASSIONS
David had pursuits, but he also had passions as well. In verse 3 David says, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.” In verse 8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.” Verse 9 “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!”

David pursued a relationship with God, but at the heart of his pursuit was passion. His love and awe of God were not some sort of emotionless experience. He did not engage in a daily relationship with God because he was commanded to. Rather, the essence of his pursuit was a real and personal passion for God, His Word and His ways.

The terms used to describe this passion illustrate where David’s heart was at: magnify, exalt, taste and fear. Lifting up the name of the Lord, savoring a relationship with Him, while at the same time approaching Him not as a buddy or a pal, but with the utmost respect, humility and awe.

Sadly, far too many minimize the essence of who God is by trivializing the nature of a relationship with Him. Rather than seeing Him for who He is, the almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of the heavens, earth and our very souls, some encourage others to “try Jesus” as if He’s a flavor one may choose from at an ice cream shop. David understood this when he said in verse 9 “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!” Fear the Lord! Don’t minimize or trivialize your relationship with Him.

The word translated as fear denotes fear as in revering God morally. To be afraid and even dread Him.

Given our proximity to the throne of God, it’s difficult for us to grasp and truly appreciate the concept of godly fear. In some ways, the world we live in acts as a buffer or blinds between us and God, dulling our awareness and understanding of the Holy.

If the void were naught, how might we respond if standing in the presence of the Almighty?

In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, when the prophet saw “the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up,” we see how he responded to this partial glimpse of the majestic One.

In verse 5 Isaiah says, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah’s response wasn’t one of ease and comfort when faced with God. He didn’t view the moment as cool or entertaining. He didn’t see God as his buddy or pal. Isaiah was downright afraid! His fear was accompanied by a sense of his spiritual filthiness before God. Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips.” At that moment, he recognized his unworthiness to even speak on God’s behalf. Thankfully, God in His grace and mercy resolved the problem by cleansing him of his sin.

David understood that God is love, but he also realized He is holy as well. Thus, as we approach Him with must do so with proper sobriety, humility and reverence.

David’s passion was all encompassing and touched every facet of his being.

PROMISES
David’s life was marked by many encounters with God. He maintained a personal relationship with Him like few others. During the course of his life he came to better understand the virtues and promises we can count on as we engage in a meaningful relationship with God.

In verse 7 David says, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.” In verse 8 he says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” In verse 10 he says, “But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” In verse 15, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.” In verse 16, “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” In verse 22, “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.”

Many are the promises and blessings of those who embrace a true and eternal relationship with God.

During times of struggle and challenge, as in David’s case, it is easy for us to loss sight of the Lord’s presence, nonetheless,David said in verse 7 that “the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,” “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,” “His ears are open to their cry,” and “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants.” Initially, David in his humanity lost sight of these promises, but as his faith and trust in the Lord rekindled, his spirit was reignited and burned brightly for the Lord.

Everyone, including those of great faith, can waver at times. The question isn’t whether you fear or waver, but if or when you do, how will you respond? Like David, will you recognize it and cry out to the Lord, or will you seek out you own remedy, your own deliverance?

When the beautiful emperor moth makes its way out of its cocoon, it must labor and struggle for some time. In the process, fluids are forced from the body into the wings, thus equipping the moth for flight. Apart from the challenge, the moth would not be able to strengthen its wings and fly freely from the confines of its cocoon.

As mere humans, seldom do we grasp why God brings great challenges and struggles into our lives. One thing is for certain, like David, they can help build our faith and trust in God, draw us closer to Him, and shower us with unexpected blessings.

Let us learn and grow from David’s struggles and challenges. And like David let us pursue the Lord with great passion and rest upon His promises.