Like so many of the psalms, this one has a specific context within the Bible. You need to turn to I Samuel 21 and read the chapter. Here we find David, before he becomes king, fleeing from Saul who is out to kill him. Ahimelech was a priest who knew David and respected him and gave him food even from the temple. But when David arrives at Gath he recognizes that the king of Gath is an ally of Saul and would probably look to kill him just as Saul was looking to kill him. The king of Gath knew that David was a dangerous man and capable of defeating even the most seasoned soldiers. So he posed a threat to the king. In order to escape harm from the king, because David had no weapons, he pretended to be crazy and even foamed at the mouth to escape the king from thinking that he might be dangerous to his people. It worked with the king saying: I don’t need one more crazy person around here. David escapes from this king who was a potential threat by pretending that he was crazy.
The psalm says that it is within this context that it was written. Now let’s see why it has this as a prelude to the psalm. Well, I just read through it and can’t really picture David hanging out in the caves after foaming at the mouth to pretend an illness writing this psalm. But, I do love vs.8 where we have a really interesting command to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” We aren’t often commanded to taste in order to identify the presence of the Lord. We are told to see, we are told to hear, we are told to speak, but normally not taste. I do love that image.
I get more of a sense from this psalm that David is giving advice to those who are coming up behind him on how to live life. So, I can see him surrounded by young soldiers who had followed him away from Saul and telling them in vs.11: “I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” How do you enjoy the good that God has provided you to enjoy? Vs.12 starts the advice by saying: “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
So today I want you to try to follow that advice. Taste and see that the Lord is good. The way that you can do that is by keeping your tongue from evil. Do not say one negative thing today about anyone. That’s a challenge! Keep your lips from speaking deceit. Try to make it through today without saying something that is untrue. It might be harder than it sounds. Depart from evil. Allow yourself to flee from temptation whatever that may look like. Identify the sin in your life which at times can overtake you and block it out today, just today for now. Do good. Be involved in one random act of kindness today, whatever that may look like. Surprise someone with joy so that they can be thankful. Seek peace. What an appropriate one for today. Don’t argue with anyone about politics today. Allow your presence to be one that is uplifting and that encourages people to see you as a messenger of peace. Pursue that peace until you find it.
That’s quite a bit of homework. I know that you can do it and this psalm encourages us to be involved in that kind of life.