Let’s read Psalm 34:17-18, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart; and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (NKJV). In order to understand and appreciate these words, we do well to consider the background in which they were written. The title at the top of the Psalm says, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” This event in David’s life is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.   David was running for his life from King Saul and he went to Gath, a city of the Philistines, for refuge. While there he found himself in the presence of Abimelech, the king of Gath, and the servants of the king recognized him as their enemy and said, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” David was filled with fear and in order to escape the wrath of the king we read, “So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.” The king’s reaction was, “Look, you see the man is insaneHave I need of madmen…Shall this fellow come into my house?”

As we read this account, we might well ask the question, “When did David cry out to the Lord,” for David speaks of this in Psalm 34:17? The only logical answer is that while David was pretending to be mad, he also lifted his heart to the Lord in prayer and asked for deliverance. This may seem inconsistent to us, for David was, at the same time, trying to deliver himself through his own methods. But have we not ever experienced a trial in our lives where we are “trying to get out of it on our own,” yet we realize that only the Lord can truly deliver us and thus we cry out to Him? I have, and I suspect some of my readers have too! The next verse gives us the real key to understanding this, for it says, “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart; and saves such as have a contrite spirt.”  In spite of David’s failure in playing the madman, he did possess “a broken heart” and “a contrite spirit.” David had been HUMBLED! Can you imagine the thoughts that went through his mind as he found himself in Gath, in the presence of Israel’s avowed enemies? Surely he must have recalled the time he had defeated their champion Goliath in the valley of Elah. At that time he was trusting fully in the Lord to deliver the enemy into his hand and his faith was rewarded when he killed the giant with his own sword. Now here he is, in the enemy’s land and fearing for his life. Yet the Lord used that experience to humble David’s heart. He then cried out to the Lord from his broken heart and contrite spirt for deliverance and the Lord delivered him.

Years later David fell into sin once again and was humbled by the Lord. In Psalm 51 we have his prayer of repentance and it is beautiful to reflect on his words in verse 16-17, “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart, These, O God, You will not despise” (NKJV). David did not depend on rituals for forgiveness and restoration. He brought to God the sacrifices that count, “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart.”  God is interested in our HEART, dear fellow-believer. And when we sin, He is faithful to bring trials into our life to humble us, to give us “a broken heart” and “a contrite spirit.” For it is only then that we will feel our need of Him and cry out for deliverance. David learned this lesson well and I pray that we will learn it too.  (191.9)  (DO)