This Bible study on Psalms contains outlines, extensive cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, lessons to learn, and applications. Visit our inductive Bible studies for more studies on this and other books of the Bible.
Psalm 34 Inductive Bible Study With Discussion Questions
I. David’s decision: praise the Lord (1-3)
II. David’s journey: seeking the Lord (4-7)
III. David’s experience: God’s goodness (8-10)
IV. David’s advice: do good (11-14)
V. David’s awareness: God is watching (15-22)
I. David’s decision: praise the Lord (1-3)
- What decision does David make in verse 1?
- In what way is praising God a choice?
- If praising God is a choice, then what are we choosing between? We either praise God or do what?
- Share an example of a time when you had to choose how you responded to a difficult circumstance.
- How can you guide your thoughts rather than being led by them?
- What does it mean to bless the Lord “at all times?” Is this even possible?
- How does one boast in the Lord?
- Who is David talking to in verse 3?
- Who can you invite to praise God together with you?
- Why is corporate praise and worship important?
Hebrews 13:15 – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Psalm 109:30 – With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
Psalm 69:30 – I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Numbers 11:1 – And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
1. I will bless the Lord – Here we can see that David has made a decision. He has made a decision to praise God no matter what happens. We see from David that praising God is a choice. He did not allow the difficulty of his circumstances to phase him or control his attitude.
Throughout the Bible there are countless examples of people who faced hardships. Some of those people responded badly, turning to grumbling and complaining, or giving in to temptation. The Jews in the wilderness are one example. Although God had done numerous supernatural miracles on their behalf, they still persisted in looking at life through a “glass half empty” perspective. Rather than maintaining a spirit of thanksgiving for what God had blessed them with, they focused on the negatives and continuously grumbled.
Was David’s life better or smoother than theirs? David faced many hardships. Much of his life, he was a fugitive. He lived through many war. At times it may have seemed as if God had abandoned him. Certainly he could have become discouraged and embittered. But he he made a conscious decision to be positive and to respond with praise.
Application: Many times you cannot control your environment. Things will happen. People will let you down. Those are things which you cannot control. You are not responsible for the behavior of others, but you are responsible for your own attitude and responses. Many people go through life like a stick on the water, floating wherever the current takes them. God does not want us to be like that.
When is a time you have been tempted to complain or get a bad attitude? How would things have been different if you made the decision to praise God in the midst of the difficulty? How can you better guide your own thoughts and reactions next time you face trials?
2. At all times – What does this mean? It does not necessarily mean that every second of every day we are actively thinking about and praising God. This would be impossible. The second part of the verse clarifies and says that his praise shall “continually” be on our mouths. It is a habit, a lifestyle. “At all times” means in every type of situation we find ourselves in. When things are going well, David would praise God. And when he was on the run from his enemies, he would still praise God. During both situations, God is still on His throne. His attributes and plans do not change.
His worthiness to be praised does not change based on your circumstances.
James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
The sun is always there. Its size, brightness, and intensity are basically constant. However, our perspective of the sun can vary wildly. Some days the heat and glare can be overwhelming. On other days, there are so many clouds that we can’t even see it. On those days our world appears gloomy and depressing. However, the sun did not change. Something in our environment merely blocked its light.
The same is true with God. He is constant. As we will see in this Psalm, His goodness is constant. At times it is just harder for us to perceive that. On those days, we need to, like David, say “I will bless the Lord.”
3. My soul makes it boast in the Lord – When we think of boasting we normally think of it in a negative sense. The dictionary definition of boast is to “talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.” However, it can also be used when you draw attention to someone else’s achievements or attributes as in the case of “he boasted that no one could beat his brother.”
Therefore in this use of the word “boast” it is much the same meaning as if David said, “My soul praises the Lord.” However, by using the word “boast” David draws a contrast with the things people normally boast about. Most people boast about themselves, their successes, riches, or skills. When people take attention and glory away from God and to themselves it is pride. It is stealing God’s glory. Boasting about oneself is like bowing down to the idol of self.
God hates boasting. In Ephesians 2:8-9, it is declared that God saved people by grace so that “one could boast.” The most basic command in the Ten Commandments is to have no other gods. This includes the god of self. No one likes a big mouth who goes around boasting. Such people have bad reputations.
But do we have the reputation as having “big mouths” praising God? We should go around “talking up” God. And that is what David is doing in this passage.
4. Magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together – Here we see the theme of this chapter. David himself praises God as a lifestyle. And he invites all of us to join in with him. God created us for worship. And in the eternal state when this world as we know it is over and we are in heaven with Christ, this is what we will be doing (Revelation 7:9-12).
My parents have this verse inscribed on their wedding ring. It reminds them of their commitment to come together before the Lord as a couple to exalt the Lord.
If I was to ask you what is the first thing to pop in to your mind when I mention, “worship,” for many it would probably be the “praise and worship time” on Sunday morning. So our chief end is to glorify God forever and we do that by worshiping God 20 minutes a week during praise and worship time? It’s not enough. At its root, worship is much more than this.
Those twenty minutes are a place we can practice corporate worship. But we must practice personal worship. The entire Sunday service is a time to worship God.
Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
When we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, we are worshiping Him. We are to worship Him throughout the week. We worship Him through our behavior, not only our words.
Read Isaiah 29:13, “The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
Worshiping God is equal to glorifying God. And we glorify God when we choose His way over own way. What would you have said if I said, “I worship God by sharing popcorn with my wife?”
I don’t know about you, but I love food. I used to eat four meals a day. Sometimes in the evening I go the kitchen and prepare a late night snack. Before I go I might ask my wife if she is hungry. She answers, “I shouldn’t eat lat at night.”So I make some popcorn. I get it just right. Hot. With butter. A dab of salt. A few shakes of parmesan cheese. Add in some nacho cheese flavoring. I settle in with my bowl of popcorn and my wife comes in, “Wow, that smells great” and starts eating it.
Here is a choice for me. Will I sacrifice that popcorn? Or will I defend my right to eat it all, all by myself? Although it is a small thing, it requires real sacrifice.
Perhaps you hear this and say, “That is ridiculous! I could share popcorn easily.” Great! But what is difficult for you to sacrifice? What area is hard for you to die to self?
We worship God every time we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, every time we deny ourselves to follow God’s commands.
So imagine that during the week you do not sacrifice in those little decisions (I know it is very difficult to imagine, but try). You choose yourself instead of serving God. You are living for your own desires rather than to glorify God. But then on Sunday you shout out God’s praises during the praise and worship time at church. How do you think God might view that? I think He would view it in the same way He viewed the Jews in Isaiah 29:13 and that is to say, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
We must not separate in our minds worship time from the rest of our lives. Every moment of every day is worship time.
On this Billy Graham said the following: “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service.”
How might you live your life differently, if you really lived with the understanding that every decision you make and every word you say is a way to worship God?
- Changing your baby’s dirty diaper with a good attitude is an act of worship.
- Waiting for the bus without complaining is an act of worship.
- Speaking kindly to bureaucrats even when they are unhelpful is an act of worship.
- Looking away from an immodest woman and praying for her is an act of worship.
- And yes, sharing popcorn could be an act of worship.
II. David’s journey: seeking the Lord (4-7)
- What kind of fears may David have been facing at this time?
- How did he go about seeking the Lord?
- What does it mean in verse 5 that a person becomes “radiant?”
- How does one become radiant by looking to God?
- Who is the poor man in verse 6?
- Who is the angel of the Lord?
- Can you share an example of how God has delivered you?
Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Exodus 3:2 – There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
1. I sought the Lord – David tells us of his journey. You see, David was a man on a mission. He had a quest. Only his quest was not becoming king, or winning fame or riches. His goal was to draw close to the Lord. Some people seek for riches. Others seek for a wife. Many seek for power. But as in the parable of the pearl of great price, we should seek after God.
This desire of David’s can often be seen in the Bible, perhaps no place more clearly than his fight with Goliath. Why did he fight Goliath? He did it because he saw God’s name was being disrespected.
2. He answered me – One of the greatest truths in the Bible is that if you seek the Lord, He will answer you (Jeremiah 33:3.) Hell is not filled with people who desperately sought God’s forgiveness and couldn’t find it. It is filled with people who were seeking after other things. And perhaps they found them, but they didn’t find God.
So how does God answer us today? Share your thoughts and also any personal examples.
3. Those who look to him are radiant – One very tangible example of this is with Moses.
Exodus 34:29 – When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.
Moses’ face shone because of the time he spent with God. This could not be hidden from anyone. As soon as they saw him, they knew something special had happened. He did not leave God’s presence the same as when he went in. The same is true, albeit in a little bit different way today with us.
Truly spending time with God will change us. We spend time with God by prayer and reading the Word. Basically, devotions. It would be impossible for Moses’ face to shine on its own. It is impossible for us to “shine” on our own. We don’t shine the same way that Moses did. Moses’ meeting with God was physically face to face. Ours is a spiritual encounter through the Word. Therefore our meeting with God, causes a spiritual “shining.” (Php 2:15. Matthew 5:15.)
From other parts of Scripture, we know that this shining should be visible to the world. Just as the people saw Moses and recognized something had happened, people should see us and recognize that there is something different about us. They should see that our character is sanctified. But remember that this doesn’t happen automatically. It can only happen when we spend time with God (and part of that time should be worshiping Him.)
One key difference is that with Moses, he wore a veil over his face so that the people wouldn’t see this glory. But we are supposed to do the opposite God wants us to shine out so that EVERYBODY can see the difference He has made in us.
4. The angel of the Lord – This Old Testament title refers to God. One clear example of this is in Judges 2:1.
Judges 2:1 – The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors.”
The angel of the Lord is talking and he takes credit for what God did (bringing the people out of Egypt) and even for the covenant made to Abraham. An angel would never consider saying these things. In the Old Testament Yawheh Himself sometimes appeared as an angel in order to interact with His people.
And here David says that it is God who encamps around those who fear him. While God does do this in a figurative sense, protecting us from harms, he also can do this in a very literal sense.
I recently read a book entitled “The King of the Cannibals.” It is about John Patton, who went to the islands of New Hebrides (Northeast of Australia) as a missionary. The local people were cannibals. On one occasion, one of the local tribes surrounded his house, intent on killing him. John and his wife were inside praying through the night. When they woke the tribesman were gone and their lives were spared.
Some time later the chief of that tribe came to know Christ as his Savior. John asked him what happened that night. The chief then told him, “We came to [kill you]. But we stopped when we saw those soldiers with shields and swords standing outside your house. Where did they come from?”
John realized that God had sent angelic warriors to protect his life and enable him to keep sharing with these desperate island people. Throughout the course of the book, there must have been over twenty separate occasions when John’s life was in danger and each time through many different means God spared him.
However, there were other missionaries in those islands who were killed. God does not save people 100% of the time. When it is His time, it is His time. This too, He will use for good to accomplish His purposes. But until that time comes, God will preserve the life and well being of His people.
III. David’s experience: God’s goodness (8-10)
- How does one “taste” that the Lord is good? See?
- Can you share examples of times you have seen God’s goodness?
- How can you take refuge in Him?
- What does it mean to fear God?
- What can we learn about God’s provision in this passage?
- Does this mean for example that Christians will never starve?
- How would you explain this to someone who says “I have seen followers of God lacking good things?”
Romans 2:4 – Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Psalm 31:19 – Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
1. Taste and see that the Lord is good – David wants to share his experiences of God’s goodness with others. He is like the person who has tasted something so delicious he wants others to try. “Come on. Try it! This is the best ice cream ever! Just have a taste. You will keep coming back for more.”
Many people refuse to have that “first taste.” There is an old children’s book entitled “Green Eggs and Ham.” In this book a little creature named “Sam I am” keeps trying to convince a man to have a taste of this delectable dish. But the protagonist is unwilling. Over and over he refuses. He will not eat them on a train, in the rain, in a box, with a fox or in any other situation. But at the end of the book, he finally has a try because of the sheer perseverance of Sam. And he loves it! And he says that he would eat them again anywhere.
There are many unbelievers in the world like this person. They are completely unwilling to have anything to do with the Lord. We must be like Sam I am to keep encouraging them. But once people do have that “taste” they realize that God is inherently good.
Application: So what does it mean to “taste and see?” How would a person do this? How can you get even closer to God and experience Him on a deeper level?
2. God takes care of His people (11-12)-
Psalm 37:25 – I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
God takes care of His people in many ways. Firstly, He uses the principle of “you reap what you sow.” If a person is seeking after God, then he will obey God’s commands to work and be diligent. Ruth is a good example of this. She was very poor. But she was willing to go to the fields and work. God had provided for the poor in Israel through the laws related to gleaning. The same principle applies today. When a person industriously uses the skills he has to work in society (without caring about face), he will generally get what he needs. On the other hand a lazy person can never say “God is not keeping His promise,” because this promise is conditional upon obedience to God and a lazy person is already being disobedient.
Secondly, God provides for His people through other believers. In the early New Testament church, they shared everything they had. But even in when this is not the case (and it normally isn’t), believers will still often help each other when needs arise, just as families should. If you read through Christian biographies, you will soon find many examples of this.
Thirdly, God provides for His people in supernatural and providential ways. In those same Christian biographies you can read many amazing accounts of provision, missionaries receiving anonymous gifts of exactly the amount they needed.
In the book of Haggai, God promises to divinely bless and prosper the people once they begin to put Him first.
Application: Share an example of a way that God has provided for you, even beyond your expectations. Did you express thanks to Him? Is there someone around you with a need you can help to meet?
IV. David’s advice: do good (11-14)
- Who are the “children” that David refers to?
- What do we learn from David about the importance of passing on our knowledge of God?
- What is the “secret” to a good and long life in this passage?
- How would you go about seeking peace?
2 Timothy 2:22 – And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
Proverbs 16:31 – Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
Proverbs 21:23 – Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
James 1:26 – If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
1. David’s advice – So far we have seen David’s decision (and invitation), journey, and experience. Now out of all the things he has learned he offers advice. We can learn three things from this.
A. We should pass on what we have learned to others. Here we see God’s plan of reproduction (2 Timothy 2:2). He wants every believer to take initiative to share with others the lessons he has learned about God.
Application: Are you actively passing on what you have learned? Who is one person you can share today’s lesson from Psalm 34 with?
B. The righteous will generally live a longer life – This principle is seen in many places in the Bible, including in the command to honor parents.
C. We must be careful to guard our tongues. One of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. The tongue is very powerful. It can be a great tool for good or cause great harm.
Application: Sometimes our tongues are very quick. How can you train yourself to practice self-control in the words you speak?
V. David’s awareness: God is watching (15-22)
- What does it mean that the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous?
- What do you think the result may be for a person if the face of the Lord is against him?
- How does the Lord comfort the brokenhearted? How does He save the crushed in spirit?
- Has there been a time in your life when you experienced this?
- How can we understand verse 19 in light of the fact that some seemingly righteous people may live the majority of their lives facing affliction?
- How can we understand verse 22 in light of what we know from the New Testament?
Haggai 1:5-11 – In this passage you can see a real life example of what happens when God sets His face against a person or group.
John 19:36 – These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”
Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
1. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous – God is always watching. But this statement goes deeper than this. He is watching in order to help those who seek after Him. God’s desire is to help you. He loves you more than you can ever understand. It hurts Him when you go your own way or try to solve things with your own ability rather than going to Him.
There was once a boy who was playing in a sandbox. A large rock was in it and he wanted to move it away. But it was really heavy. He tried and tried to push it, lever it, pull it, roll it, etc. Nothing worked. He got increasingly angry. Finally he came inside and gave up complaining to his father, “I have tried everything and can’t move the stone!” His father said, “You haven’t tried everything. You haven’t asked me for help.” All the time he had been watching from the window waiting to see if the boy would come and ask him for help.
God’s eyes are always on us. He knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows every weakness and every problem you face. Will you cry out to Him for help?
2. His face is against the wicked – One clear example of this is in Haggai 1.
The more they invested the less they received in return – In Haggai 1:6 and 9-11 we see something amazing occurring in their lives. It is this which God wants them to step back and consider and recognize a profound truth. The truth God wanted them to recognize is that absent His blessing on their lives hard work resulted in nothing. They selfishly pursued their own interests and this is what resulted:
Several examples are given:
- They sowed much but harvested little.
- They eat and drink, but there is not enough to be filled.
- They put on clothing, but still feel cold.
- They earn money, but the place they store it rots away.
- They try to hoard and gather, but God blows it away.
- The sky withholds dew.
- The earth withholds produce.
- God has called for a drought.
It is an amazing picture God draws out for them. Working harder and harder to satisfy their own desires, there is less and less tangible result. You can see it is very low efficiency. It is almost like a person rowing a boat. But the harder he rows, the stronger the wind God sends against the boat. So the harder he rows the further he gets from shore!
Basically, this is a curse from God and virtually the opposite of Deuteronomy 28. God has cursed the fruit of their hands because they are working with their own strength to satisfy their own desires. Their priority is in the wrong place. It is the opposite of providence.
Providence is when God supernaturally influences circumstances, people, and even nature itself to bless His people who are living in obedience to Him. Here the exact opposite is happening. God is supernaturally influencing circumstances, people, and nature itself to oppose His people who are living in disobedience.
Application: Which would you prefer, providence or reverse-providence? The same thing may happen to us. When we try to work in our own strength, we may find ourselves working harder but accomplishing less. God can cause so many things to pop up which can drain away our time and energy. Bad health, division with other believers, complaints, conflict, policies, paperwork, medical emergencies, accidents, etc.
If you find that your money is inexplicably drying up every month due to unexpected expenses, you should “consider your ways!” Are you tithing? Are you putting God first. It may be that you are living in complete obedience and those are trials from God to test and refine you. But it may also be that you are struggling against God’s current and feeling the effects. You must step back and prayerfully evaluate and ask God to reveal the cause to you.
3. Verse 18 – Do you have an example to share of how God was near to you when you felt sad? Or how He encouraged you when you were discouraged?
4. Verse 20 – This Messianic prophesy is quoted in John 19:36 and was fulfilled by Jesus. Because Jesus died before the soldiers could break His legs, He still fulfilled this divine promise.
5. Verse 22 – God’s redemption and forgiveness are promised even in the Old Testament.
John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
This is a good place to end this chapter. The most important decision anyone can ever make is trusting in Christ. We have seen the results of seeking God or of going one’s own way. And in this case, David did save the best for last. The very best news for a believer is that God redeems us and we are not condemned. Because of Christ we are not condemned for our sin. Thank the Lord. Amen!
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