Summary: Talk about the results, the relationship, and the rewards of fearing the Lord (Material adapted from Bob Deffinbaugh at: https://bible.org/seriespage/5-psalm-34-fear-lord)
One man said, “I fell off a 6 foot ladder last summer. It was the most spectacular SPLAT ever. Talk about a perfect way to teach how not to do something! No roll. No slap. Just a flail, a yelp and a splat. Thankfully I didn't get hurt.” Reminds me of AFV where we are shown how not to do several things! In Psalm 34 David is saying something similar
Were it not for the superscription to this psalm, Psalm 34 we would have little difficulty seeing this as a psalm of praise and instruction based upon some unknown incident in which David was delivered from danger. Our difficulty in understanding the psalm arises from its historical setting: “Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.” Psalms 34:1, NIV. When I read the context in 1 Samuel 21:10-15 and then Psalm 34 I have trouble seeing how these link together. Should God be praised because David pretended to be insane and thus escaped danger? David face had no radiance more like shame when he pretended to be insane (vs. 5)? This is deceit so should others be taught (cf. vv. 11-22) on the basis of this kind of behavior? How can a psalm which condemns deceit (v. 13) be based upon the actions of a deceiver?
Read 1 Samuel 21:10-15. Need to give more background to this
The death of Goliath and the rout of the Philistines (1 Sam. 17) made David a military hero. The women of Israel sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). The popularity of David surpassed Saul, making the king extremely jealous (18:8-9). Saul began to look upon David as his rival, and eventually he was marked out for death (cf. 18:10-11, 20-29). Just as Saul sinfully responded to David’s popularity, David also reacted sinfully at times. Deception became David’s way of dealing with danger. The events leading up to Psalm 34 begin in 1 Samuel 19 when David escaped Saul’s assassination plot (19:10). He fled Saul’s spear, being lowered from a window by Michal, his wife. She then (at David’s instruction?) deceived her father. To allow time for David to escape, Michal placed a dummy in David’s bed (19:11-17). Sometime later David was expected to sit at Saul’s table to celebrate the feast of the new moon. Fearing for his life he asked Jonathan to lie about his absence from the festivities. Jonathan falsely explained to his father that David had gone to offer a sacrifice for his family at Bethlehem (20:6). David fled to Nob. There Ahimelech the priest questioned David why he appeared alone. David deceived the priest and said that Saul had commissioned him to carry out an urgent task and that he was to rendezvous with his men at an appointed place (21:1-2). David requested provisions and a weapon from Ahimelech. He was given some of the consecrated bread (referred to by Jesus in the Gospels to defend his disciples breaking traditional Sabbath customs) and the sword he had taken from Goliath. David’s flight to Nob was costly. Along with eighty-four other priests, Ahimelech was executed at Saul’s command. Saul’s paranoid purge included the slaughter of the men, women, children and cattle of Nob (22:6-19). David acknowledged to Abiathar, the only son of Ahimelech to survive the massacre at Nob, that he was morally responsible for the slaughter (v. 22).
While David was hiding out in the wilderness he did other things that were morally questionable. One is the incident with Abigail and her husband Nabal. Unless Abigail had intervened David and his renegade band would have killed Nabal and his whole household. One other incident that applies here is that David went a second time to the Philistine king and made an alliance. David’s actions were based upon pragmatism rather than on principle. He was willing to make an alliance with Israel’s enemies to feel safe and secure. We read about this in 1 Samuel 27, 29-30.
These events provide a backdrop for David’s predicament in 1 Samuel 21. This is early in David’s hiding out in the wilderness from Saul. David probably disguised himself when he went to Gath. He was soon recognized as David, the great military hero about whom songs were sung by the Israelite women (1 Sam. 21:11). These things were all reported to Achish, king of Gath. (Abimelech probably being a title for the king of Gath like Pharaoh was the title of the king of Egypt). When David was found out he was placed under house arrest. David probably wondered if he was doomed to spend his life as the prisoner of Achish. David was the enemy’s king (v. 11), or at least was going to be. And David was the one who had put their home-town hero Goliath to death. Things did not look good for David. It is not without reason that we are told, “David took these words to heart, and greatly feared Achish king of Gath” (v. 12). A plan then came to David’s mind. Concealing his sanity, David began to manifest the symptoms of a lunatic. He scribbled on the walls and drooled down his beard (v. 13). How could such a maniac possibly pose a threat to Achish? The result was that David departed, not voluntarily as 22:1 might allow, but by force. The superscription to Psalm 34 indicates that this Philistine king “drove him away.”