“Out of the frying pan and into the fire” describes the experience of getting out of one difficult situation only to land in another. In 1 Samuel 21, David was on the run from King Saul. He went to the last place anyone would expect to find him, the Philistine city of Gath. However, officials there identified him as David, the man who had killed thousands of Philistines in battle. In response, David feigned insanity, and was able to get away. Reflecting upon that experience, David wrote Psalm 34.
In 1 Samuel 21, it looks like David got out of a difficult situation using only his wits and acting skills. However, David knew better. He confessed, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me . . . This poor man called, and the Lord heard him” (vv. 4, 6). He understood that his rescue was the result of answered prayer. This psalm illustrates the truth that there is no contradiction between faithfully using our talents and skills and being fully reliant upon the Lord. In a difficult situation, David prayed to the Lord and tried to work out a plan for escape. Upon his deliverance, he recognized that the Lord should get the credit.
After this remarkable answer to prayer David urged others to trust in the Lord. Verses 8–14 contain ten imperatives calling the congregation to “taste and see . . . come and listen” (vv. 8, 11). He encourages the faithful to “fear the Lord” (v. 9), to trust fully in Him. Having a proper fear of the Lord calms our hearts from other fears (v. 4). It is important to note that having a proper fear of the Lord does not make us immune to trouble (v. 19). But it does mean we can trust that God is with us and hears our prayers.
When we are in a difficult situation, it is easy to fall into one of two traps. First, we can work to resolve the trouble while ignoring God. Or, second, we can pray for God to fix the situation while doing nothing. This psalm encourages us to cry out to God for help and to use our thinking and resources in the strength the Lord provides.