Thanksgiving is a pleasant US holiday that reminds us to be thankful for what God has done for us. Presidents Washington and Lincoln spoke about the need for a day of giving thanks and it eventually became a national holiday. As we consider all that God had blessed us with, your mind might go back to times where God provided for you at just the right time. It is good to remember what God has done and it is even better to thank God for what He has done.
The psalm we are going to look at today is Psalm 34. The inscription above the psalm says it is “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” Do you remember that story? King Saul hated David for his popularity and tried to kill him. David eventually had to flee into enemy territory where he lived among the Philistines (1 Sam. 21:10-15). When the Philistines recognized him as an Israelite war hero, they wanted to kill him. So, David pretended to be crazy and the king decided against killing him. This narrow escape caused David to write this psalm of praise to God.
With all of that in mind, we are going to look at just the first three verses of the psalm. In them, we will find three things that we should incorporate into our lives as believers. We should (1) praise the Lord, (2) boast about the Lord, and (3) magnify the Lord.
- Praise the Lord (Psalm 34:1).
Giving a blessing is not something we think about very often. In the Bible, the patriarchs would give their blessing to the next generation. They would proclaim a blessing about their descendants that would eventually come true because of what God had revealed to them. So, when we hear about someone saying they will bless the Lord, it is a bit confusing. I think here we should understand it not as us announcing some future blessing on God but proclaiming the blessing that He already is to us.
Our praise should be continual.
Notice the words used about blessing and praising God. It should be done at all times and continually. At all times reminds us that God deserves praise when things are going well and when they are not. There will always be ups and downs; but God remains the same. His mercies endure forever (Psalm 136:1) and are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). Despite our constantly changing emotions, energy, thoughts, and experiences, God doesn’t change. Because of who He is, we can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). In other words, we can praise God “at all times.”
The psalm also reminds us that our praise should be continual. It is something that should not end. I don’t think that this means that every thought and statement should start of end with praising God. This command carries the same idea as “pray without ceasing.” It doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about anything else or do anything other than praying. It just means that it should happen often. But do we really have a problem with praising God too much? I think not. We probably don’t do it enough. We ought to continually praise God for who He is and what He has done in our lives.
Stop for a moment and consider the highs and lows you have experienced in your lifetime. During the good times, it was very easy to praise God. But how about when you are in a down time? Can you still find something to be thankful for? If our praise to God is limited to only the good times, perhaps we should be reminded here that God is good all the time. Whether our situation ever gets resolved, God remains the same and always deserves to be praised. He is with us and the peace that He provides ought to be enough.
Our praise should be vocal.
God’s praise should be the constant focus of our speech. It is one thing to silently praise the Lord when we are alone with our thoughts. This often happens after we read the Bible and pray during the day. We thank God silently for what He has done for us or the truths we have been reminded of in the Bible. But this should only be the beginning. We ought to openly talk about God’s goodness so that others will hear about Him.
This past week, many people said, “Happy Thanksgiving” to me. When you think about it, that is a very generic thing to say. It is like saying, “I hope you have a good holiday” or “a blessed day.” When people said that to me, I tried to respond with something like, “We have a lot to be thankful for” or “We can thank for God for the many things He has done for us.” But I wonder how often God’s praise appears in our speech. Do we often praise God when speaking, or is it only on special holidays?
- Boast about the Lord (Psalm 34:2).
We normally think badly of pride and boasting. They are considered bad because they take the focus from God and place them on something or someone else. But in this psalm, the boasting is good because it places the focus on the Lord, who deserves to be praised. Kidner calls it “selfless enthusiasm.”1 When we boast in the Lord, we are telling others how good He is and helping others to experience the same gladness we have experienced.
Our boasting should be personal.
Do you notice how personal these statements are? “My soul” and “its boast” make it clear that this boasting about the Lord is personal and not some abstract statement learned from reading a book. It really meant something to him. This is because it was based on experience. He could boast about God because He has experienced Him personally. But he didn’t just talk about it like it was his alone to experience. Later in the psalm, David writes “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” He knew from experience that God was good and wanted others to experience the same thing.
Our boasting should be helpful.
As a believer boasts about the Lord, others will notice. In particular, those who are humble will hear what is said and be glad. Why is that exactly? The humble are not people with limited abilities. They are those who have recognized their place next to God. Throughout the Scriptures, many mighty people have humbled themselves before the Lord. Abraham humbly bargained with God for the lives of those in Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses humbly asked God to spare the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness. Job humbly recognized his place after God asked him those many questions. Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself after God judged him. The point is that those who are humble are not the dregs of society. Instead, they are those who have a proper view of themselves in comparison to God. Humble people who recognize God’s goodness will be glad when they hear someone boasting about God.
Have you ever considered how your speech could help someone else? When you talk about how good God is and how good He has been to you, that will have an impact on others. There may be some who will shake their head and wonder about you, but there will be others who will listen and smile and understand because they know what you are saying is true.
- Magnify the Lord (Psalm 34:3)
The psalmist uses the words “magnify” and “exalt” in this verse. The first word makes us think about a magnifying glass. Something small is made to seem even bigger. Something that wasn’t previously noticed is brought to the attention of others. The second word makes us think of a promotion. Something low is raised up. Someone who was not deemed important is brought out in the open for all to see. With God, there is no need of promotion as He is already at the top. But not everyone knows that.
Our exalting should magnify the Lord.
When you put both words together, you get the idea of causing others to see how good God is. What do people know about the Lord? Some don’t know anything. Others know a little. Fewer still understand a lot about Him. For all of these people, we are to magnify God’s characteristics and actions so that they can see and know who He is. Think of the many miracles performed by God in the Old Testament. The people in Jericho were terrified because word had gotten back to them how God had destroyed the Egyptians in the Red Sea and had walled up the water of the Jordan River for the Israelites to cross. Those stories magnified the power of God to them. The apostle Paul gave His personal testimony multiple times during his journeys throughout the Roman empire. He told all types of people how God had had mercy on him and changed him from a blasphemous, violent, religious freak to a loving, humble, and caring preacher of the gospel.
Our exalting should include others.
Notice how these actions can include others. As the psalmist magnifies the Lord, he invites others to do it with him. And as they join him, they are able to exalt God’s name together. It is a joint effort. And it is a progressive effort. It begins with one person magnifying the greatness of God and inviting others to join him. But it ends with them exalting God together. This is the way it should be.
After David escaped the Philistine king, he went to the cave Adullum and was joined by family members and a band of four hundred men who had experienced similar difficulties. I have a question for you? Do you think that David took the time to tell these people what had happened? Do you think he sang this psalm to them and asked them to praise God with him? I think he did. And I think that we should make a practice of inviting others to join with us in praising God.
The Thanksgiving holiday has passed and won’t be back for another year. But this idea of thankfulness and praise for God should be an all-year practice. May I offer a suggestion? Maybe we should take some time this afternoon to count our blessings. Start with recognizing God’s goodness as revealed in the Bible. Think of who He is and what He has done. Next, look at what God had done in your own life in the past. Think of the day God brought you to repentance and faith and caused you to be born again. Think of how He has changed you personally. Look back on all of the times He met your needs. Think of the many lessons you have learned over the years. Finally, consider all that God is doing right now. Whether you are going through highs or lows, look to God and rest in His goodness. When you do that, you will always have something to be thankful for.
1 Kidner 139.
Alexander, Joseph, The Psalms Translated and Explained, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975,
Kidner, Derek, Psalms 1-72, Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1973.
Spurgeon, C. H., The Treasury of David, Volume One, McLean: MacDonald, n.d.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. II, Joshua through Psalms, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
Ross, Allen P., “Psalms” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989.