ONE OF THE INEVITABLE CHARACTERISTICS of those who genuinely praise the Lord is that they want others to join with them in their praise. They recognize that if God is the sort of God their praises say he is, then he ought to be recognized by others. Moreover, one of the reasons for praising the Lord is to thank him for the help he has provided. If then we see others in need of the same sort of help, isn’t it natural for us to share our own experience of God’s provision, in the hope that others will seek God’s help? And will this not result in an enlarging circle of praise?
It is wonderful to hear David say, “I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips” (Ps. 34:1). But he also invites others, first to share the Lord’s goodness, and then to participate in praise. Hence we read, first, “My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice” (34:2). The afflicted need to learn from the answers to prayer that David has experienced, and which he will shortly detail. And second, the broad invitation to expand the circle of praise follows: “Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together” (34:3).
The next lines find David testifying to his own experience of God’s grace (34:4-7). The succeeding section is an earnest exhortation to others to trust and follow this same God (34:8-14), and the remainder of the psalm is devoted to extolling the Lord’s righteousness, which ensures he is attentive to the cries of the righteous and sets his face against those who do evil (34:15-22).
God, David insists, did actually save him “out of all his troubles” (34:6). That is objective fact. Whether he can be seen or not, the “angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (34:7). But in addition to the troubles through which we pass, sometimes more threatening, certainly no less damaging, are the fears that attend them. Fear makes us lose perspective, doubt God’s faithfulness, question the value of the fight. Fear induces stress, bitterness, cowardice, and folly. But David’s testimony is a wonderful encouragement: “I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (34:4). True the word fears could refer to his own psychological terror, or to the things that made him afraid: doubtless the Lord delivered David from both. But that his own outlook was transformed is made clear by the next verse: “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (34:5).