Make no mistake about it

I think I know what I need. That’s my first mistake. Then I work my fingers to the bone going after what I’m sure I need. That’s my second mistake. After that, the mistakes just keep multiplying.

David acted crazy before the Philistine chief Abimelech because he thought that was the solution to his danger (1 Samuel 21:10-15). It was a crazy strategy for what he thought he needed. Supposedly, it got him out of hot water. But did it?

Psalm 34 is a much beloved song of deliverance. The inscription reads, “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”

In the old Beacon commentary series, W.T. Purkiser organized this psalm under four headings: Praise (vv. 1-6); provision (vv. 7-10), practice (vv. 11-14), protection (vv. 15-22). His alliterative outline is probably appropriate for a psalm whose structure is an acrostic using the Hebrew alphabet.

Purkiser’s headings give a hint as to why David’s psalm is so read and loved. It covers most all the bases of life’s challenges.

Let’s focus on the second heading, “Provision.” Here we have an echo of Psalm 23 and a foretaste of Matthew 6.

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Psalm 34:9-10 ESV

Three things stand out here. First, who it is that has no lack. David describes them as his saints. God’s holy people. Pagans rush after the things of this world (Matthew 6:32). Even in creation there is suffering for an animal’s needs, but nothing lacks for God’s people.

Second, David uses two verbs to describe what God’s holy people do who have no lack: they fear God and they seek the Lord. They are synonymous terms, each with its own shade of meaning. Fear of God is the essence of man’s relationship with him. It is the daily dependence on the Lord, the constant consciousness of God as sovereign. Seeking the Lord is that active energy that puts God squarely in the center of thought and practice. He is the organizing principle of all we do.

Third, David makes a blanket statement about lacking no good thing that, at first glance, seems hard to reconcile with experience. Who among God’s people has never felt sharply a need in life? If we lack no good thing, why do we feel needy?

Several explanations may cover this.

First, I may not in fact be needy. Feelings often do not reflect reality. What I feel may not be my real situation. I sometimes think that I just have to have something, but after I get it, it doesn’t seem as important as when it was new and shiny behind the glass at the store.

Second, I may be confusing wants with needs. Twenty-first century needs have little to do with the basics. People often talk about first-world problems, due to our materialism, that people in poorer parts of the world can’t begin to imagine. The choices between Apple and Android aren’t earth-shaking.

Third, it may be necessary for me to feel the need in order to ask God to fulfill that need. Some things God gives us without our asking — no doubt about that. But others things he waits for us to ask. He has his wisdom in this. Perhaps he desires to create a greater sense of dependence and trust in our hearts.

The take-away from all this is that (a) God is good and provides for his own — we must be certain of this — and (b) if we are to be his holy people, we must fear him and seek him.

The Bridgeway commentary says, “The strongest and most successful flesh-hunting beasts do not always find enough food to satisfy them, but David never suffers a shortage of supplies. He fears God, and therefore God provides for him.”

This is a lesson for every child of God to learn. The Lord wants to be glorified in us, and he will provide all we need when we fear and seek him. For that I am thankful.

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