“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:4-7).
In the title of Psalm 34, it reads, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed”. During the period of his life when David wrote this psalm, he had been fleeing for his life from King Saul. In fact, David was so fearful for his life, that he went over to the enemies of Israel, the Philistines (1 Samuel 21:10). However, the Philistines did not welcome him with open arms because they remembered he was the one who had killed their champion Goliath and who had killed many of them. The Philistines also remembered the Israelites saying of David: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 21:11). David was very afraid when he heard the Philistines say this “So he changed his behavior before them, feigned madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard” (1 Samuel 21:13). David pretended to be mad and the king of Gath, which was a Philistine stronghold, bought into David’s act, spared David, and sent him away (1 Samuel 21:14-22:1).
Throughout this psalm David shares with us the struggle he was having with his fears at this time in his life: “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). David was trying to come to grips on the one hand with his fear of King Saul who was pursuing his life, and on the other hand he was fearful of the Philistines among whom he was now dwelling and before whom he was feigning madness.
As he copes with his fear of man, David decides to focus his fear on God: “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (Psalm 34:9-10). Focusing on fearing God instead of man involves seeking after God. As David sought the Lord, God delivers David from his fears: “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). David adds, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).
It is interesting his focusing on fearing God instilled David with new confidence regarding the enemies he faced. Compared to God, his enemies were nothing. David realized God had heard him and was attentive to him: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15). He also adds, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18). David’s faith in God was now more powerful than the fear he had of man: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Psalm 34:19-20). David concludes “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned” (Psalm 34:22).
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can have a drastic effect in our lives if we let it gain a foothold. It can grieve our hearts, cause us to be a discouragement to others, and jeopardize our relationship with God by attacking our faith in Him. Today, like David, I will strive to focus on fearing God, not man.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).