The Shelter of God’s Salvation

| Psalm 27:1-14

The Point:  God Himself is my salvation.

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation:  Psalm 27:1-6.

[1]  The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? [2]  When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. [3]  Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. [4]  One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. [5]  For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. [6]  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.  [ESV]

“When confronted with mounting adversity, every believer must have resolute faith in God, a trust marked by an unshakable confidence. This was the experience of David as recorded in Psalm 27, a song of hope in the Lord. This is the second of three consecutive psalms – Psalms 26, 27, and 28 – in which David focused upon seeking the Lord in the house of God. With triumphant confidence in God, he declared the blessing of being in the Lord’s house close to the manifestation of his presence and glory, even when surrounded by trouble. When confronted with many enemies [2-3,12] in his day of trouble [5], David sought God in the tabernacle [4-6] and found in the Lord great courage and strength. Although God had not yet delivered him, he was confident that God’s help would surely come. This psalm of David is a strong testimony of God’s promise to help and defend His people. When faced with threats and trouble, believers should always seek the Lord, especially in the place of public worship. There is great strength in God’s house, where worship is rendered to God and His Word is taught. It is in the house of the Lord that His presence is often realized, in the midst of the congregation where God’s glory is revealed. Let the church not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but encourage one another in the public place of praise.”  [Lawson, pp. 150-152].

“Psalm 27 is one of the best known and most comforting psalms in the Psalter. But it is hard to know whether it is chiefly a psalm of confidence, written against the dark background of David’s many enemies, or chiefly a lament in which David cries out for help against implacable foes. The reason for the confusion is obvious. The first half of the psalm [1-6] exudes confidence. The second half [7-14] is a very moving prayer. But there are links between the psalm’s two halves. The enemies whom David fears in part two are also present in part one [2-3], and the desire to dwell in God’s house in order to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord in the first half [4] finds a natural sequel in the later determination to seek God’s face [8]. What is even more significant, the two chief themes of part one, confidence in God before enemies and the desire to seek God’s face, are also the two chief themes of part two, though they occur there in inverse order: first the desire to seek God’s face, then confidence. An arrangement like this points not only to both parts having been composed by the same author but to both halves being parts of a single composition. What we have here is an unfolding of two closely related moods by the same inspired author, put together like two movements of a symphony. And the point is that these two apparently opposing moods are also often in us, frequently at the same time or at nearly the same time. Don’t you find that you are often both confident and anxious, trusting and fearful, or at least that your mood swings easily from one to the other? Since that is true of us, it should be a comfort to realize that it was also true of David. We can be instructed by what he did at such times. [1-3]  The Soul’s Confidence. The first three verses of Psalm 27 express the soul’s confidence in God on the basis of the psalmist’s previous experience of Him. David says that God has been three things to him: his light, his salvation, and his stronghold. When any of us think of God, perhaps trying to visualize Him, the best we can do is to think of light, remembering Paul’s teaching that God dwells in unapproachable light [1 Tim. 6:16]. For this reason, it is a bit of a surprise to learn that, although God is often associated with light in the Bible, this verse is the only direct application of the name light to God in the Old Testament. Job speaks of heaven as the dwelling of light [Job 38:19]. Psalm 104 says of God covering yourself with light [Ps. 104:2]. Several verses affirm that God lightens my darkness [2 Sam. 22:29; Ps. 18:28]. Psalm 36:9 declares, in your light do we see light. However, Psalm 27:1 is the only Old Testament text in which God is actually called light. We have to go to the New Testament to find a good parallel, and when we do, we find that there light is a name for Jesus Christ: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world [John 1:5,9]. John, who makes this identification, also says, God is light and in him is no darkness at all [1 John 1:5]. What is this image supposed to mean? In the gospel of John it has to do with understanding, which is why it is applied to Jesus. It is in Him that we see or understand what God the Father is like. In the first letter of John light has to do with God’s purity or sinlessness, because it is opposed to the darkness of sinful behavior [1 John 1:7]. What about Psalm 27? Here the term is not specifically explained. It could suggest illumination, purity, joy, life, and hope, among other things. But since David is thinking about his enemies and is seeking deliverance from them, he is probably affirming that even in the darkness of the terrible threat of way, he has no fear for God is the light that can dispel such fearful darkness. David also writes that God is my salvation. The Hebrew word for salvation means ‘deliverance’ explicitly, and again this probably has to do with deliverance from the king’s immediate enemies. The very next psalm expresses the same idea when it says, The Lord is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed [Ps. 28:8]. The military images and the concerns they represent continue in the third of these great images for God, namely, that He is a refuge or stronghold. David clearly needed a refuge from his foes. He had it in the past. Therefore, he will not fear any future dangers. Even if his foes should attack, an army should besiege him, or war should break out against the nation, David will not fear as long as God is his stronghold. Proverbs 18:10 expresses the same idea saying, The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous man runs into it and is safe. On the other hand, we have to say that, although in this setting these three images for God all probably have to do with military deliverance and protection, they also rightly suggest even greater meanings to us. Light speaks of spiritual understanding. Salvation points to the greatest of all deliverances, namely, deliverance from sin by the death of Jesus Christ. Stronghold refers to that spiritual refuge from the pains and buffetings of life which God Himself is for His people. For us this is a well-rounded statement of God’s manifold spiritual blessings. [4-6]  The Soul’s Desire. The second stanza of the psalm expresses David’s one great desire, which is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life [4]. This sounds a great deal like Psalm 23, which ends with David dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. But there it has to do with heaven, while here, in Psalm 27, the reference is to the earthly tabernacle. Indeed, David seems to be ransacking the Hebrew language for nouns to describe it: the house of the Lord [4], his temple [4], his shelter [5], his tent [5-6]. Why does David have this single and obsessive longing for God’s house, particularly when we remember that the glorious temple of Solomon was yet many years in the future? At this point God’s house was still a tent, the tent David erected for the ark when he brought it from Kiriath Jearim to Mount Zion [2 Sam. 6:17]. The answer, of course, is that it was not the earthly temple itself that charmed David but rather the beauty of the Lord that was to be found at the temple in a special way. He desired to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord in a special way. It is the Lord Himself that David is seeking. [Boice, pp. 237-241].

Prayer for Intimate Fellowship with God:  Psalm 27:7-14.

[7]  Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! [8]  You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." [9]  Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! [10]  For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. [11]  Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. [12]  Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. [13]  I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! [14]  Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!  [ESV]

[7-14]  The Soul’s Prayer. The latter half of Psalm 27 begins with verse 7. It is here that we find an abrupt change of language, structure, and tone. The verbs change from the first or third person to the second, the earlier affirmations become prayers. The mood changes from confidence to earnest entreaty. In this section of the psalm most people’s attention is directed to verse 10 which says, For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. This is partially because being forsaken by a parent is so poignant and partially because so many people have experienced disappointment from a parent to some degree. There is another reason why we are naturally drawn to verse 10, however, and that is because the idea of a rightly functioning parent is ideally suited to everything David notes in this section that he is seeking from God. What do we seek from a parent after all? We look to a parent to receive, listen to, guide, and protect us, don’t we? Well, that is exactly what David is seeking from God in these verses. We seek acceptance. In the world, we experience much rejection. Parents reject children; children reject parents. Husbands reject wives, and wives, husbands. We are rejected by erstwhile friends, potential employers, people we are courting, and others in dozens of diverse situations. Most of us experience rejection from someone almost every day. But God does not refuse us. David prays, Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! [9]. David knows, even as he prays, that God will not forsake him. God has accepted him in the past. He will continue to accept him. We seek to be heard. Sometimes children talk to us only because they want to be listened to, not really caring what we say in response, and unfortunately many parents are too busy to listen. Is God ever too busy to listen when we speak to Him? Never! Why don’t we do it more often then? The reason is that we are too busy, not God. Or perhaps the reason is our sin or unbelief. Perhaps we do not really believe that God is a true, listening parent, a parent who says, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you [Matt. 7:7]. We seek guidance. Which of us knows the way to walk so we will be kept out of sin and make progress in the way of righteousness? No one! We no more know how to live our lives for God than children know how to avoid danger and care for themselves and others. They need to be taught, as do we. In God we have one who can be turned to for guidance. David prays, Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. He prays confidently because he knows that God will do it. We seek protection. The fourth thing a child looks for in a parent is protection, and David is certainly seeking this of the Lord because of his many enemies. They are the background of the psalm, being mentioned as early as verse 2 and being suggested even in verse 1 (whom I shall fear). David prays, Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence [12]. Does David have the acceptance, answers, guidance, and protection he needs from God? Yes, because the psalm ends on this note, returning to the tone of quiet confidence with which it began: I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! [13]. David is not speaking about the afterlife here. He is speaking about the land of the living, here and now. But there is this warning, which I call a prescription. The things he is praying for (and for which we pray) do not always come to us at once. God has His timings, which are not ours, and therefore what we pray for and need is sometimes delayed. What then? Are we to despair of having answers, to lose confidence? Not at all! We simply need to wait. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! [14]. If some wealthy person promised to give you an expensive gift, wouldn’t you wait for it expectantly? If you were in trouble and a king were coming to your aid, wouldn’t you be alert for his appearance? God is just such a generous benefactor and powerful king. He is well worth waiting for. It is a privilege to wait for Him. Yet how little true waiting most of us really do.”  [Boice, pp. 241-244].

Questions for Discussion:

1.         Psalm 27 consists of two parts: 1-6 and 7-14. How are the two sections alike; how are they different? What two themes are found in both sections?

2.         What does David mean when he writes that the Lord is his light, his salvation, his stronghold? What do these descriptions of God mean to you? David had learned to trust in God’s faithfulness which gave him confidence to meet new challenges. Have you learned this lesson? Is your confidence in God’s faithfulness to His promises?

3.         David’s one great desire is expressed in verse 4. Is this your one great desire? What does the beauty of the Lord mean to you. How is God beautiful?

4.         Read verses 7-14 as a prayer. Note how David connects statements of trust in God’s faithfulness in verses 1-6 with earnest entreaty for God to act in verses 7-12. What do we learn from this psalm concerning how we should meet the challenges of life?

5.         What is David seeking from God in his prayer [7-12]? List all the things David asks the Lord to do. Note again how David prays for things that he knows God will do for him.

6.         David ends his prayer in verses 13-14 with a statement of faith (I believe) and instruction (wait for the Lord). Isn’t this the attitude we should have whenever we pray for God to act on our behalf (believing and waiting)? Note the emphasis David places upon waiting for the Lord by repeating the command to wait.  

References:

Psalms, volume 1, James Boice, Baker.

Psalms, volume 1, John Goldingay, Baker.

Psalms 1-75, Steven Lawson, Holman Reference.