David, son of Jesse, and later King of Judah spent much of his early life brilliantly evading King Saul, who was determined to capture and kill him. Again and again, David’s courage, bravado, and strategies foiled King Saul in spite of his superior resources.
On one occasion David sought refuge incognito in the Philistine city of Gath. This quickly turned out to be dangerous. Gath was the city ruled by King Achish whose servants said to him with alarm, “We recognize this man; he’s a king himself, and a mighty warrior” (1 Samuel 21:10 – 22:1).
At that point David sensed that his cover was blown. It was a walled city so how would he escape alive? Cleverly, he pretend he was insane, making marks on the doors of the gate, and letting saliva run down his beard.
The ruse worked: David was able to escape to the cave of Adullam, another Philistine site, and King Achish and his retinue were plenty happy to be rid of him.
The inscription that introduces Psalm 34 says this psalm is a reflection on that escape. How does David look back on his success? Does he deny any part in it? Does he exult? It’s hard not to feel some inner pleasure or even jubilation when we have made a move that has sprung us unscathed from a difficult problem or won acclaim for us.
So, when he is free to reflect on this or any of his many skillful escapes, often cheating death by a hair, where do his thoughts first go? The first verse of Psalm 34 may give the sense of the whole psalm: “I will praise the Lord at all times. / I will constantly speak his praises” (Psalm 34:1 NLT).
In my Bible, I have answered my question by shading every reference to God with a lead pencil. The nouns and pronouns referring to God occur 28 times in 22 verses. That page in my Bible looks like a bad case of measles.
“I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Verse 4). “Come my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (verse 11). “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (verse 19). And on and on it goes.
In this psalm and many others David teaches us what it means to be a God-fearing man. He is a skilled fighter, a gifted commander of troops, a brilliant strategist, and over all an honorable man. Even if these skills were inborn he himself has polished them till they shone. But when he achieves success, without denying his part in it, he first gives all glory to God.
“A righteous man has many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; / he protects all his bones, / not one of them is broken” (verses 19 and 20). That’s how David sees the escape he himself had managed. God gave him the wisdom he employed. The escape was above all by the grace and mercy of God. So, while being aware of and thankful for his achievement, all glory goes to God.