“They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5)
We live in an era of fear and uncertainty. With all that is unfolding around us, it is easy for us to get distracted and focus on the wrong thing. Some find their eyes captured by current events; others are focused on tantalizing treasures just out of reach; still, others turn their focus inward and are consumed with either narcissism or self-loathing. All of these will lead to fear or disappointment because the subject of the attention is in some measure flawed. Current events change with amazing rapidity; tantalizing treasures never fully satisfy, and self-focus is always doomed to a disastrous conclusion. But the psalmist writes of those who had a different focus: “They looked unto him” (Psalm 34:5).
I am not sure of whom the psalmist speaks when he references those who looked unto Him; perhaps it is the humble whom he references in verse 2 who will hear and rejoice in his praise of God. Nevertheless, we have a great example found in both their choice and the consequence of their action.
According to its title, this was a psalm composed by David when he changed his behavior and fled in fear from the king of Gath. That story is recorded in I Samuel 21:10-15. As David fled from the wrath of Saul, in his fear, he made a foolish choice. He went to seek refuge in Gath, a Philistine city. He carried with him the sword of Goliath, the Philistine giant he had slain, and Goliath’s hometown was Gath (I Samuel 17:4). As the men of the city began to speak against him, David resorted to feigning madness to escape their hands.
From the cave of Adullam, David looked back on his escape from those who would destroy him and penned these words: “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). Then David penned the words of our text verse, “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.” Let’s analyze this verse for a few minutes and see what we can discover.
First, let’s note The Direction of Their Look – “They looked unto him.” That is, the direction of their focus was not on the circumstances but on the Lord. David had looked around at the circumstances and, as a result, had fled to Gath. It was there he had found himself in great danger. But he sought the Lord, and God delivered him. He now realized the danger of focusing his attention in the wrong direction. How often we are guilty of the same response as David—we turn our eyes in the wrong direction. Instead of looking around us, we must learn to look up. As the psalmist expressed it in Psalm 121, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” We can look up by looking in the Scriptures. Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). As we examine the Scriptures, we see the Lord revealed to us.
We can also look up by way of supplication. David himself said, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me” (Psalm 34:4). Instead of our last resort, prayer should be our first response. As we bow our hearts to God and seek His help, we find that the circumstances and problems are brought into their proper perspective before the throne of grace.
Also, in this verse is recorded The Delight from Their Look—“and were lightened.” The word lightened simply means “to be cheerful.” When we look around at the circumstances, we can often be distressed. It seems like everything is turned upside down, and there is no hope. Many suffer from anxiety and fear because of the focus of their look.
When we look at ourselves, we can certainly become discouraged. We know our own failures better than anyone else. If we make an honest assessment of our personal life, it is easy to become disheartened by the repeated failures and slow progress along our spiritual journey.
When we look at others, we are sure to be disappointed. Our heroes are flawed, our friends will let us down, and our own families sometimes turn against us. It has been said that “the best of men are men at best.” And this is certainly true.
But when we turn our eyes toward the Lord, it brings joy to our lives. When Paul was on a storm-tossed ship in the midst of the sea, the situation was desperate. Luke expressed it like this, “All hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (Acts 27:20). But notice the response of Paul in this situation. “But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, “I exhort you to be of good cheer” (Acts 27:21-22). While others had been looking around, Paul had been looking up; and in looking up, Paul had found a cause for joy. God was in control and had promised to see them safely through.
We also see The Discovery from Their Look – “and their faces were not ashamed.” This word ashamed carries the idea of being disappointed. When they looked unto the Lord, they were not ashamed or not disappointed. When we look to Christ, we will never be disappointed. As the writer C. W. Waggoner expressed it,
Christ is not a disappointment! Every longing in my breast
Finds, in Him, complete fulfillment, He has brought me into rest.
I have tested Him, and proved Him, more than all I dreamed He’d be;
Christ is not a disappointment, He is all in all to me!
There is no disappointment in His Character, for He is always without flaw. There is no disappointment in His Consistency, for He is unfailingly faithful, and He never changes (2 Timothy 2:13; Malachi 3:6). There is no disappointment in His Conduct, for He does all things well (Mark 7:37). There is no disappointment in His Compassion, for “his compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22), and he is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15).
Like those of whom David wrote, we too, can look unto Him. And like those of centuries ago, we will find tremendous delight and no disappointment in Him. Helen Howarth Lemmel expressed it so clearly when she wrote:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
 James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2010), pp. 513, 182.
 Ibid., pp. 31, 94.
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Bro. Burcham serves as the Chairman of the Bible Department at Golden State Baptist College. Prior to coming to GSBC, he served as a missionary with his family in Japan for a number of years and then pastored in Missouri. Bro. Burcham also teaches an adult Sunday school class at NVBC.