Psalm 34, 24 Oct 21

‘Seek peace and pursue it’ (14)

This is another acrostic poem probably, as seen in verse 11, for educational purposes: “Come children and listen to me; I will teach you the way of God.” David draws on a particular occasion when he avoided disaster (see 1 Samuel 21) to encourage praise and trust in a more general sense: “Many are the troubles … but God will deliver”. (19) So he urges exaltation (3) and invites listeners:

Taste and see that God is good; happy are those who trust. (8)

‘Taste and see…’ Psalm 34 sometimes also appears in the Lectionary for All Saints’ or All Hallows Day, which follows but is not related in the Psalter to Hallowe’en and its pumpkins.

The song refers frequently to divine care, guidance and protection for ‘the righteous’, those who seek (and sometimes even achieve) justice, love and equity. The mood is far from passive satisfaction. Who among you loves life? (11) Then, says David, ‘… do good, seek peace, pursue it!


Several excellent settings of this psalm by early composers can be found online — and many more can’t. Tomás Victoria’s setting only concerns itself with verse 1, and that’s in Latin — Benedicam Dominum. So in this performance by a recorder consort, the lack of words in no way detracts from its beauty :

If you want a vocal treatment, try the quite similar composition by Victoria’s contemporary, Giovanni Croce (1557-1609), sung beautifully by a group of women from sirventes berlin, a vocal ensemble dedicated to early music.

Several composers chose the hopeful theme of verses 9-10, often used as a gradual for All Saints mentioned above:

9 O fear God, you his holy ones,
    for those who fear God have no want.
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger,
    but those who seek God lack no good thing.

Would that it were more often so.

Tenor entry into William Byrd’s Timete Dominum omnes sancti ejus, from verse 9.

In modern settings,Together in Song 22 is a ready choice, although the solo verses will benefit from a reasonably experienced cantor. At Woden Valley this week we turn to a simple local refrain that can be refitted with words according to the text:

2 thoughts on “Psalm 34, 24 Oct 21

  1. Beautiful.

    But my goodness, where do you get all this stuff (especially that which can’t be found online!)?

    You must spend from Wednesday to Monday preparing these devotionals! Brilliant research.


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