Posted On September 8, 2018

Psalm 34:8-10 “You His Saints!”

by | Sep 8, 2018 | pSaturday Psalms, Theology

So far in this series, we’ve covered the first third of this psalm which is dominated by couplets.   Verses 1-7 were simple truths, and in this middle third, verses 8-14, we find simple instructions.  Having laid the foundation and displayed the correct attitude during those first 7 verses, David now begins to teach.  Simple truths lead to simple instructions the first of which is here in verse 8 and is seen by many as the theme of the Psalm.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! {Psa 34:8 NASB}

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Most commentators believe this is the foundation verse of this Psalm, and many call it the theme.  Certainly it is a prominent verse, but I do not think it is the central point.  David, I believe wants us to understand WHY God is good, and WHEN God is good, not simply that God IS good.  In fact, David writes throughout this Psalm as if God’s goodness is assumed, if perhaps a bit misunderstood or mysterious.  David’s emphasis seems to be to remind God’s people not simply that God is good, but that He is good ALL OF THE TIME; even in the darkest hours.  Moreover, David seems, especially in this middle third of the Psalm, to want to emphasize how we can know the goodness of God and experience it in our lives.

The superb commentator Allen Ross says “The Psalmist wants to discover the goodness of God by acting of their faith in the LORD, i.e., seeking him and praying to him.”  That seems to be the idea here. Tasting implies a sampling, an action taken to experience something. Spurgeon believed the verse to be quite straightforward as an instruction to make the knowledge of God’s goodness a personal and close experience for yourself, instead of a stodgy, academic concept.  “Make a trial, an inward experimental trial of the goodness of God. You cannot see except by tasting for yourself; but if you taste you shall see, for this, like Jonathan’s honey, enlightens the eyes…. Faith is the soul’s taste”2  The idea in this verse isn’t so much an instruction to put God to the test, but rather to make close observations of what God is doing and who He is. Take a sample, observe that it is good (because it IS good) and realize that sheltering yourself in the Lord is a blessed thing because you’re finding your refuge in something that is good.

Notice the trust in this verse. Everything we’re instructed and encouraged to do in this section can only be done if we trust God.  David, again and again, models for us throughout the Psalms and Old Testament what it means to have faith in God.  He trusts God.  He has confidence in God.  He doesn’t approach a concept like “Taste and see” as a hesitant uncertain skeptic.  On the contrary, David is fully invested, completely confident, and totally convinced!  This kind of trust in the Lord is exactly what it means to be a man after God’s own heart.  David can fall into sin (and does multiple times) and come out a man of God.  The reason why is because of His faith.  God is telling us, through David, that a relationship with Him always was, always is, and always will be about faith.  Trust Him!  Remember!  Those are lessons you must learn for the comforts of this Psalm, which will come in the final third, to make any sense at all.

[9] O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. [10] The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing. {Psa 34:9-10 NASB}

Verses 9 and 10 work together and it’s here we encounter the idea of fearing God.  Fearing the Lord is found almost everywhere in Scripture. I think Spurgeon said it best that fearing the Lord is to “Pay to him humble childlike reverence, walk in his laws, have respect to his will, tremble to offend him, hasten to serve him.” (I honestly struggle to grasp how anyone could have said it better)

Fearing God is about attitudes and actions, not some trembling in terror as one would under an abuser. It’s about submitting in a relationship, not about some mystical or emotional journey or state of mind that puts us on edge to be near God.  Surely in the presence of God, we would become like Isaiah: undone. Surely at the voice of God we would do as Peter, James, and John did on the mount of transfiguration: fall on our faces. But that’s not the idea in mind when the Scripture talks of fearing God.  “Pay to him humble childlike reverence, walk in his laws, have respect to his will, tremble to offend him, hasten to serve him.” Set your mind on these things.

Verses 9 and 10 also assert that those who do fear God will not be in want. Perhaps the most dangerous and damaging movement for those suffering and in trials is the charismatic prosperity gospel movement. It is that heresy that sees verses like 9 and 10 and reads them backwards saying that God really does want to give you great wealth and if you don’t have it, why… you must not fear God! Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Gerald Wilson writes on these two verses: “To lack nothing or no good thing certainly does not mean never to be in want or never to suffer pain and uncertainty. If that were the case, the psalmist would never speak of the blessed ones as the poor who call on Yahweh for deliverance from their troubles.”4

What does it mean? Verse 10 gives us the key. David writes of the most fearsome predator in the entire wilderness: a young lion!  These were the lions that weren’t cubs anymore, but had not yet taken a mate and had their own cubs.  Young, strong, full of energy, they had insatiable appetites and hunted almost constantly. And yet, they often went hungry!  Certainly they were more than capable of hunting their own food.  In fact they could take care of the whole process themselves.  They didn’t need a provider.

Or, did they?

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This is this the point. The young lions lack, and suffer hunger. Look at the verse, it’s present tense.  It’s happening right now. Not in some future time, not when Jesus comes back, there are starving lions right now. So clearly self-sufficiency and capability doesn’t eliminate need.  The message here is to eschew self-sufficiency and a reliance on oneself.  The message, again, is to trust God and have faith.  It works well with verse 8.  Don’t rely on yourself, rely on God – taste and see that He is good!

But what of those who seek the Lord?  What of those who have given up relying on themselves and rely on God?  They shall not be in want of any good thing! God provides for His people.  If you need it, and it is good, you’ll have it; not because you learn to work harder but because you trust the Lord to provide.

Let us not fall into the false gospel ditch of saying that suffering is a result of sin either.  David sinned, and in fact the occasion of this Psalm seems to hint that he was in sin at the very moment as he shamed himself before a lowly pagan king.  Our suffering and lack MAY be a result of sin, surely it is not out of bounds for God to use our material wealth or our needs to discipline us.  However, it cannot be said to always be the case.  As Gerald Wilson writes:  “We too often identify divine blessing with “getting the goods” in one way or another… The trouble is that we come to associate divine blessing exclusively with such external evidence… to equate all suffering with the consequences of sin is to miss the point Jesus made so long ago, both in the account of the blind man and in the Beatitudes:  The Righteous suffer undeservedly, but in their suffering they have the opportunity to glorify God and to receive His blessing!”5

So then, we have to face the elephant in the room: what have we to say to those faithful saints who do lack good things they need like medical care or food?  I say “oh fear the Lord, you His saints”. You have every morsel of food you need and every bit of medicine you need to survive every moment God wants you to survive.  Sure, we can ask Him for more than the bare minimum and He often provides it. But fearing the Lord means coming to realize we didn’t deserve even the minimum to begin with.  Fearing the Lord means coming to realize our life is shaped in His vision and serves His purposes, even if it doesn’t always satisfy Maslow’s Hierarchy.  Fearing the Lord means that those of us who have what others do not should see to it that they can have it too. Fearing the Lord means, come what may, we trust God as David did and we say with David “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall be continually in my mouth”.

1 Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on The Psalms, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregal Publications, 2011), 752.

2 Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Chios Classics, 2015), Kindle Location 17249.

3 ibid

4 Gerald Wilson, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), 575.

5 ibid

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