Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures (Psalm 34)

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Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Psalm 34

“Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures”–that is the title of my message this morning. Actions that might seem extreme under normal circumstances are appropriate during adversity. Here are some good examples.

Parents having a hard time with the kids–they just won’t get along? Here’s the “Get Along Shirt”. What about this desperate customer asking the store to restock the vending machine with Doritos? And what do you do when you have cold fries from yesterday’s lunch, but no microwave to heat them back up? Use a blow dryer.

This is my favorite. Desperate for a date? What about this window sticker, with the position where the male would normally be ? And sorry singles, you can’t quite see it, but the license plate, “FREE2D8” is taken.

What’s your “Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures” story? We all have them–difficult times in life where we took extreme action. It seems like the Psalms are filled with desperate times. The psalmists often write about their adversity. They often write about their hardships, the tough experiences, the trials.

Why is that? Because these themes are indicative of our lives, aren’t they? We all go through adversity. We all go through trials. We live in desperate times. There are parenting seasons that are really difficult. There are diseases and sicknesses that don’t seem to go away. There are conflicts that put strain our relationships. There are obligations and responsibilities that weary us.

Sometimes the adversities are small–like an inconvenient cold or headache, a work frustration or a bad day with the kids. Sometimes the adversities are big–like the loss of a family member, a terminal illness, a rebelling child, or financial hardship. What is your desperate situation right now? What is the adversity on your plate? What extreme actions can you take in the midst of it?

Psalm 34 is a helpful psalm for us this morning. This psalm was written in one of David’s desperate times. It is his extreme response in the midst of adversity. Look at the title at the top to get the context. “A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed.”

This is important! This title provides clarity to the context and purpose for writing. This is a direct reference to one of David’s desperate times in life, recorded in 1 Samuel 21. Don’t turn there, I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version.

David is a fugitive on the run. King Saul is trying to kill him to prevent him from taking his throne. On the run, he comes across a city called Gath, which is significant–it is the hometown of Goliath, the Philistine giant that David killed with river-stones and a sling. The king of Gath is called Achish in this recording. Abimelech is probably a title for Philistine monarchs, like Pharoah is for Egyptian monarchs–same guy, same story.

David walks into the city and people start to notice–it’s David, the mighty warrior, the man who killed our Goliath. David’s popularity is growing. He even has his own theme song playing on “Hits Radio”–“Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.”

David hears the talk and starts to panic . . . “Uh oh–one guy in a city filled with Philistines who probably hate his guts for killing their superstar.” What does he do? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. The text tells us he disguised his sanity and acted insanely, scribbling on doors, and let his saliva run down into his beard.

He pulls the crazy card, feigning madness. An interesting technique when between a rock and a hard place, but it works! The king responds and says, “Does it look like I need more crazy people? Why did you bring another one to me?” Same question I asked Jon when he sent up the graduating 8th graders into high school ministry—“Does it look like I need more crazy people in my life? Why did you give me more?”

His crazy stunt worked and David escapes to the cave of Adullam. The text tells us that David’s family came to comfort him and he is joined by others. The text says, “Everyone who was in distress, everyone in debt, and everyone who was discontented”–great group. And this is where David most likely penned Psalm 34.

This is one of David’s desperate times in life. He is running for His life, acting crazy to get out of a pinch, hiding in a cave with a bunch of misfits. But In the midst of adversity, David knows extreme actions are required. Instead of wallowing in sadness or throwing a pity party, he praises, he teaches and he redirects our eyes off us and focuses them on the God of our salvation. Here are three extreme actions for believers in the midst of adversity.

1.  Praise God for Deliverance Verses 1 to 7

What is David’s first response to adversity? Praise! “I will bless the Lord, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord. 3 O Magnify the Lord with me. Let us exalt His name together.” Immediately, we are told this story is not about David and his experience–it is about God and His deliverance. I want us to learn from four characteristics of David’s praise.

A.  The Frequency of Praise Verse 1

Praise doesn’t stop in the hard times. “I will bless the Lord at all times”–praise doesn’t end when times get tough. “His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (verse 1). David is resolved to continue praising in the face of adversity. This is a good word for us who are fickle in our praise–praising God only when we feel like it . . . praising God only when life is good.

When do the praises stop in your life . . . when the kids are hard? When the people at work are frustrating? When relationships are difficult? When you are under the gun financially? When life gives you lemons? Should our praise ever stop?

Do we not serve a good God? His goodness can surely outdo any bad circumstance. Do we not serve a loving God? His love can surely outdo any unloving person. Do we not serve a sovereign God? His sovereignty can surely control any difficult situation. Do we not serve a saving God? His salvation can surely rescue us from any and all ensnaring pits.

There is never a circumstance so low in this life where we cannot still lift our voices to sing God’s praises. Our resolve should be with David, to bless the Lord at all times, continually praising Him.

B.  The Attitude of Praise Verse 2

My soul will make its boast in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice” (verse 2). David doesn’t give credit to his Oscar nominated “Madman” performance–he boasts in God. The Hebrew word for soul here is referring to the seat of your affections–the apple of your eye, if you will. This is what you want most in the moment. What David wants most in adversity is to boast in the Lord–for Him to get the attention and praise, not himself.

Notice who responds to this kind of praise—“the humble hear and rejoice.” Prideful people are not excited to boast in the Lord. They want to boast in themselves. They don’t want to hear about how good God is in adversity, they want to talk about how good they are in adversity.

Don’t expect the proud to show up to the praise party. Don’t expect the proud to sing with full hearts focused on Christ. Don’t expect to see proud people in Heaven praising Him who sits on the throne. Expect to see the lowly sinner, boasting in Christ, singing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain for my sins.”

Humility is so important. Remember the words of our Savior, Jesus Christ—“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The humble, those who recognize their desperate state and their desperate need, will rejoice and praise God even in the midst of adversity.

C.  The Togetherness of Praise Verse 3

That’s right, Webster–add it to the dictionary. Togetherness! There is a devastating trend spreading in the evangelical church–it is the “personal worship experience” . . . an individualistic approach. It is a focus on the individual, their comfort, their preferences, their experience, in priority over the whole group.

Some churches have bought into this–singing songs written for the individual, only preaching sermons with individual application, programs designed for your personal benefit, to meet your needs. Because of this, a lot of young people are inclined to their headphones and worship playlists to experience “true worship”. They prefer isolated worship over corporate praise.

Not David–he encourages us to praise together. Here is David, the worship pastor–here is his call to worship. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” In the midst of adversity, we need community, we need brothers and sisters to praise God with us. It is fire for the soul.

I don’t know about you, but the sweetest moments of praise for me have been with others. I remember camps where hundreds of students are singing with full hearts of praise to God. I love the Shepherd’s Conference, not so much because of the teaching, but because you enter an auditorium with 5,000 other pastors, singing loudly and boldly. I love looking over at baptisms to see the candidates singing the praise songs before they step into the tank.

But my favorite is every Sunday morning, here, praising God with you. There is no one else I would rather praise God with. Forget my personal worship experience, put me in a room with sinners and saints singing praise to the God. Give me the throne room of Heaven, where men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation are singing in unison, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns.”

Who’s going to save seats for the FBC section in the throne room? Let us take our eyes off ourselves. Listen to the call of this Psalm. Let us praise God together.

D.  The Reason for Praise Verses 4 to 7

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them” (verses 4 to 7).

Here is David’s reason for praise. God is faithful to deliver. He is the sure rope that will pull you out of trouble. When we are in the hole of life, there are many ropes to choose from—the comfort rope (family, fitness, finances), or maybe the pleasure rope (sex, food, substance), or possibly the self-made rope (I can pick myself up by my own bootstraps relying on mentality, or my own effort).

Or we could grab God’s rope. Seek the Lord–He answers. Look to Him and you won’t be ashamed. Cry to Him, He hears and saves out of trouble. Fear Him and he rescues. God delivers, so He is worthy of our constant, humble, all-together praise. We can sing even louder than David, knowing that our ultimate deliverance was accomplished at the cross, through the saving work of Jesus Christ.

There is always reason to praise. Praise in the midst of adversity is extreme. It is uncommon, an un-ordinary response to adversity. But it is the first desperate measure in the midst of desperate times.

2.  Fear God for Satisfaction Verses 8 to 14

In this section, David becomes the preacher. Spurgeon calls this the sermon of the song. There are many exhortations here, but I don’t want you to miss the good motivation behind the good commands.

A.  Taste God and find Him Good Verse 8

“O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (verse 8). Let’s make it clear, David is not saying to “try” it and “maybe” you’ll like it. This isn’t the breakfast buffet at the Golden Corral–pick something and you probably won’t like it, but you’ll eat it anyway because it’s all you can eat for $15.

He says, “Taste and see”–a sure test with sure results. What is the sure result of such a test? The Lord is good. “Faith is the soul’s taste; they who test the Lord by their confidence always find Him good” (Spurgeon). God is always good!

Psalm 119:68, “You are good and do good.” Psalm 31:19, “How great is Your goodness.” Psalm 136:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

When our credit is bad, God is good. When our hair is bad, God is good. When the kids are bad, God is good. When our attitude is bad, God is good. When our circumstances are bad, God still proves good. The question for you is, do you believe it? Will you taste and see?

B.  Fear God and Find Him Good Verses 9 to 14

In the midst of adversity, in the midst of trial, David emphasizes the importance of fear. You are not to fear circumstances. You are not to fear men. You are called to fear God. “O fear the Lord, you His saints.” There is great promise to those who fear God.

Verse 9, “there is no want,” verse 10, “those who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing,” verse 12, “life and length of days, and to see good.” Why do we see the commands of God so burdensome, when God promises great reward for those who follow them? The principle is forever true, “Fear God and you will be blessed.”

Look at the King of the Jungle, the lion in verse 10. “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger.” These are not the old, lazy lions you see at the San Diego Zoo or in the National Geographic. David observes the young lions–these are dangerous. Most of the lions involved in the deadly attacks we hear about are between the ages of two and four.

Young lions are dangerous because they are hungry. They are self-dependent to hunt their own food. If they don’t hunt, they don’t eat–if they don’t eat, they will die. That’s one way to live your life–always hungry, always searching for satisfaction. Like the young lion, in desperate times becoming more self-dependent. Or you could seek the Lord and not be in want of any good thing.

In this first section, David addresses the saints. These are the children of God, those who follow and obey Him. In this next section, he addresses young people specifically. ”Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (verse 11).

I love this–David, the anointed King, the mighty warrior of Israel did not find it below him to teach the young. Here is David the youth pastor. What is his topic of choice? The fear of the Lord.

Matthew Henry writes, “David was a famous musician, a statesman, a soldier; but he does not say to the children, ‘I will teach you to play the harp, or to handle a sword or spear, or to draw a bow, or, I will teach you the maxims of state policy.’ No, he says, ‘I will teach you the fear of the Lord,’ which is better than all the arts and sciences, better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”

Let me ask you parents–what is the topic of choice for your times of instruction? Are you most concerned with your child’s social development? Are you most concerned with your child’s academic achievement? Are you most concerned with your child’s athletic accomplishments–spending hundreds of dollars on tutoring, personal athletic training, music lessons, dance classes? (Are there any other air hoses I can step on?)

These aren’t bad things–I will probably spend money on a few of these things when my kids get older. But my concern is that it is so easy for us, in American culture, to be distracted from the most important thing by less important things. We can easily lose ourselves to investing so much money, time, and energy on teaching our kids to value most what is less important.

Fathers, how are you doing in teaching your children the fear of the Lord? Deuteronomy 6:5 to 7, teaching them to love God and keep His commands. Is this a priority in your parenting? How did David do? He wasn’t a perfect father, that’s for sure. But he must have done something right.

What does his wise son, Solomon, say toward the end of his life? Ecclesiastes 12:13, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” Something he probably heard regularly from his father, and it took him a lifetime to figure out that dad was right.

What does it look like to fear God? Here is a short list to get you started. ”Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” This isn’t a comprehensive list of God’s commands, but these are really practical, good commands for life.

You want to live long? Practically, watch what you say. Don’t be a liar. Leave evil things and do good things. Seek peace with others. These are basic, practical commands that will benefit your life–walk in them. In desperate times–we could be tempted to doubt God’s goodness. But David says, “Taste and see that He is good.”

We could be tempted to wander from His good commands. David says, “Obey him, and you will be blessed.” Desperate times call for desperate measures. Fear God for satisfaction.

3.  Trust God for Salvation Verses 15 to 22

In the first 14 verses of this psalm, David gives us the ground level perspective of trusting the Lord through adversity. In these last 8 verses, David gives us God’s perspective. What does God see in the midst of our adversity? How will He respond to our affliction?

A.  He is looking for Righteousness Verses 15 to 18

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (verses 15 to 18).

Who are the righteous? They are the ones we have been describing all along–those who have faith, those who praise God for deliverance, those who fear God and keep His commandments, those who trust God for salvation.

God’s protective eyes are fixed on these people. God’s responsive ears are attentive to these people. God’s saving hand is ready to deliver them out of all their troubles. Notice some characteristics of the righteous? Do they trust in themselves? No, they cry out to God. Are they proud and boasting in themselves? No, they are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.

See the frigate bird—in the first picture he is not a very attractive animal. He’s pretty ordinary. But notice the second picture of him. During mating season, he blows his chest out and shows off his red color, drawing all the attention to himself.

When God looks down from Heaven, He isn’t looking for those trusting in their beauty, their wit, their strength, or their works. He is looking for the righteous, those who recognize their need and cry out to Him in faith. Will you trust God and cry out to Him in adversity?

B.  He is looking to accomplish Redemption Verses 19 to 22

Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (verse 19). You don’t have to live in this world long to know that there are many afflictions for those who trust God. There are relationship afflictions. There are financial afflictions. There are health afflictions. There are self-afflictions (sin).

David says here, “the Lord delivers him [the righteous] out of them all.” How is that the case? How does God deliver the righteous from all their afflictions? “He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken” (verse 20). I’ve already broken my wrist, I’m out. “Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned” (verses 21 to 22).

Remember, David is giving us God’s perspective, the big picture–God’s plan of salvation. What was the answer to our cries for help? What is the ultimate solution for our problems? What was God’s means of to deliver us from all our afflictions? How can He redeem the soul?

The most desperate of times called for the most desperate measure. God saw our poor and afflicted state. He sent a righteous Redeemer. He became sin who knew no sin for our sake. He experienced the greatest affliction, the greatest adversity for our sake. He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross for our sake. He exchanged His body and shed His blood for our deliverance.

Isaiah 53, the Man of Sorrows who was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” John 3:15, “In Him we have eternal life.” Revelation 21:4, “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; these things have passed away.”

This is Jesus Christ, the righteous Redeemer, the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem the soul of His servants. It is only in Christ that we can trust God for our full deliverance. Desperate times call for desperate measures–take refuge in Christ today.

About Morgan Maitland

Morgan served from 2015-2020 as the high school pastor at Faith Bible Church. He is now the teaching pastor at Summit Bible Church in Fontana, CA.

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