# 113 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 27 Not disappointed!

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It was February 1967 and I had just had my 16th birthday, although I don’t recall any great celebrations. In fact. all I remember was recently moving into yet another rental property with my parents and younger sister. None of us were particularly happy with life (or each other) at that stage. Due to my parent’s financial difficulties it was the third move in as many years and that meant another High School to adjust to and new people to meet and try and make friends with. Both a real struggle for me who had just scraped through my studies in my previous years and was very shy and lacking confidence when it came to forming new relationships.

I recall there were very few people in my life that I trusted (including my parents who were as good as divorced) and at that stage of my life there was certainly no sense or knowledge of God to talk to about all my difficulties. So, it was just a case of “grin and bear it” and get through any way I could find, despite having no confidence in anyone (including myself) or anything, that things would work out.

But what a difference a few years make! Three years later, in February 1970, I discovered that I didn’t have to try and make something of life all by myself. I discovered, having picked up and read the New Testament, that there is a God who cares and can be trusted. I found a new confidence that comes through a relationship with Jesus.

Psalm 27 is sometimes called a Psalm of Confidence. Concerning this type of psalm Brueggemann says: “they speak of a relationship with [God] that is utterly trustworthy in the face of every threat. Presumably that deep conviction has grown out of a specific experience. [How] else…would one know to trust. These psalms are some of the best known and best loved, for they offer a faith and a life that has come to joyous trusting resolution. The speaker of these psalms cannot imagine a situation that would cause doubt or trouble enough to jeopardize that trust. The relationship has been tested severely, and [God] has shown himself to be profoundly reliable and powerful. That is to be celebrated.” (see references # 2)

So far in Psalm 27 we have heard all about that confidence that David has in his God and the deep desire he has to know God more and more. But the poem now moves into a prayer for God’s help. Listen (and learn) to David’s many words as he confidently seeks God concerning his problems:

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

What a wonderful thing to know God in such a way that we can just pour out our hearts like this to him about all that concerns us. And not with some kind of airy fairy “hope-so” attitude that God will hear and answer, but express these things with utter confidence in our Father’s grace and love as revealed in Him sending Jesus to deliver us and give us eternal life.

David continues:

13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

He then gives us, the ones reading this great psalm, some good advice. He says:

14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

The Passion Translation puts it like this:

Here’s what I’ve learned through it all:
Don’t give up; don’t be impatient;
be entwined as one with the Lord
Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope.
Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!

Over 50 years have passed since my 16th birthday and life has certainly had its ups and downs, but I would not be exaggerating if I said, what I’ve learned through it all:
He has never disappointed me!

So, friends, today, whatever your situation, Don’t give up; don’t be impatient;
be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope.
Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint YOU!

Father, I can’t imagine what my life would have looked like if you hadn’t intervened when you did. My life has been so blessed knowing you and trusting in you no matter what came my way -good or bad! You have never disappointed. Praise the Lord!

# 112 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 27 The essence of worship.

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If I was able to write intimate poetry to my wife then maybe I would write something like:

“Here’s the one thing I desire, my beloved,
the one thing I seek above all else:
I want the privilege of living with you every moment in our house,
finding the sweet loveliness of your face,
filled with awe, delighting in your glory and grace.
I want to live my life so close to you
that you take pleasure in my every conversation.”

Well, now I have to admit that originally these (modified) words were NOT written by a husband to his beloved wife, but were written by David (in Psalm 27) to God. Such was the intimacy of his relationship with God. And such is the intimacy available to us today in our relationship with God, through Christ.

Read slowly the following words of David to God and ask if you could speak like this concerning your heart’s desires towards your Heavenly Father. And if not, then ask yourself, why not?

Here’s the one thing I crave from God,
the one thing I seek above all else:
I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house,
finding the sweet loveliness of his face,
filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace.
I want to live my life so close to him
that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.
    In his shelter in the day of trouble, that’s where you’ll find me,
for he hides me there in his holiness.
He has smuggled me into his secret place,
where I’m kept safe and secure—
out of reach from all my enemies.
    Triumphant now, I’ll bring him my offerings of praise,
singing and shouting with ecstatic joy!
Yes, listen and you can hear
the fanfare of my shouts of praise to the Lord
!    (Psalm 27:4-6 The Passion Translation)

We read here that David’s desire is twofold.

to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.  (verse 4 NIV)

Wilcock says, “to know ever more intimately the beauty of the Lord’s Person and the wonder of his will… [these combine] as the one thing he wants above all others.” (see references # 5)

Kidner suggests that such a desire is “the essence of worship; indeed, of discipleship.” (see references # 29)

And Blaiklock adds that “Seeking the face of God” (verse 8), “realizing his presence, is the first movement of prayer.” (see references # 37)

Sadly, it is just too easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, including in serving the Lord, and somehow forget why we are here and why we are doing what we are doing. When this happens, we need to remind ourselves of the words of Jesus to the church in Ephesus:

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance… You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  (Revelation 2:2-4)

I guess it happens a bit too often that a husband (or a wife) is just too busy for what really matters in life in the midst of earning a living, gaining promotions, climbing the corporate ladder, (caring for the family) or even serving in full time Christian ministry. All this resulting in neglecting key relationships with spouse and/or children.

It seems, that, in their relationship with God, this is what was happening in the church in Ephesus in the 1st Century AD. Despite all their hard work and endured hardships, somehow they had let slip the most important part of what Christianity is all about – love for God and one another. About seeking above all else “the beauty of the Lord’s Person and the wonder of his will”. About “true worship…[and] real discipleship”. And about confident “prayer” to the Father.

The solution given to this group of believers remains the same for all people in the same situation ever since:

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.  (Rev. 2:5)

Maybe Paul was conscious that this could happen when earlier he wrote to the church in Ephesus with the words:

 I pray that out of [the Father’s] glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.                (Ephesians 3:16-19)

On the other hand, maybe when you read the words of David in this Psalm, it really resonated with you and the desires of your heart. And you, like the Apostle Paul could say,  

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.     (Philippians 3: 7-11)

And so, in this psalm, David recognizes that in loving and seeking God for who he is, not only is it why we are here anyway, but it is the only really sensible thing to do in life. Where else will he find a shelter in the day of trouble as God hides [him] there in his holiness? Then he continues, He has smuggled me into his secret place, where I’m kept safe and secure—  out of reach from all my enemies. (27:5)

No wonder he then exclaims:

    Triumphant now, I’ll bring him my offerings of praise,
singing and shouting with ecstatic joy!
Yes, listen and you can hear
the fanfare of my shouts of praise to the Lord
!    (27:6)

Father, the psalms challenge me where it really matters – in my relationship with you. Too often my prayers are mechanical, full of religious words but lacking true devotion to you. Teach me to ‘seek your face’, to examine my heart and allow myself to embrace the wonder of who you are, grasping, even a little, the depths, the width, the length, the height of your great love. Amen.

 

# 111 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 27 Lightbulb moment!

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Sunset in Kalbarri, WA

Had any “lightbulb moments” lately? According to the dictionary definition these are “a moment of sudden realization, enlightenment, or inspiration.”

My biggest and most important one was 47 years ago when the “light” of God’s truth shone deep into my being and I realized just how much God loved me. At that moment I said “yes” to Jesus and life has never been the same again! You couldn’t ask for a better companion in life than Jesus.

Before we move on in this remarkable psalm I want us to ponder one extremely important word the psalmist uses describing God and consider other Bible verses where this word is used. The word is “light” and it appears in verse 1 as follows

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?                                                              

The word “light” can be either a noun, a verb or an adjective. In the Bible, at different times it is used as all three.  Here in Psalm 27 it is a noun, in the sense that David is saying that “The Lord is my Revelation Light to guide me along the way!” (TPT) But it could also be understood here as an adjective, i.e. light describing a certain aspect of the very being of God, his nature, his character – as found in 1 John 1:5 “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” We shall consider this further, but firstly, note the personal pronoun, ‘my’, before the word. Here the psalmist not only speaks of this wonderful attribute of God’s being, but says that this same God, who is light, is in an intimate relationship with him.

Kidner comments on this:

Light is a natural figure for almost everything that is positive, from truth and goodness to joy and vitality…to name but a few. Here is the answer to fear and to the forces of evil [in our broken world].”    (see references # 29)

Consider the following verses:

Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me…
to the place where you dwell.
  (Psalm 43:3)

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness. 
(Isaiah 5:20)

Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
  (Psalm 97:11)

Longman adds:

“God is [the psalmist’s] light, the significance of which must be understood in contrast to the darkness…Darkness is often associated with disorder, confusion and eventually evil…

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.    
(Psalm 18:28)

Wicked deeds are done in the dark, and the light exposes them…”   (see references # 30)

Although my photo above is of a sunset, the sunrise is the actual time when the darkness is dispersed by the power of the light of the sun. No matter how thick the cloud cover, it cannot prevent the day light from filtering in and bringing some light and warmth to the earth and its people. What a good, amazing Creator we worship.

And so, this word light is used over 250 times in the Bible. We shall look at just a few of them.

Right at the very beginning of everything we know today, when our awesome “God created the heavens and the earth”, He spoke and said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1, 3-4)

Later we read of Moses blessing the people, and in the knowledge that the One who created light is Himself Light, he prays:

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”                                      (Numbers 6:24-26)

This blessing would ultimately be fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah as prophesied by Isaiah:

“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light
;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.”                          
(Isaiah 9:2)

Jesus later said concerning himself:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”                           (John 8:12)

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”     (John 12:46)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever.”   (1 Timothy 6:15-16)

The Apostle John then wrote these vital words for each one of us to read, understand and apply in our lives:

 “This is the message we have heard from [Jesus] and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”     (1 John 1:5-10)

Commenting on these verses, Andy Bathgate (Scripture Union notes) says:

“How can we have fellowship with the God who lives in ‘unapproachable light’ (see 1 Timothy 6 above), undimmed by our imperfection? We must ‘walk in the light’ (v 7), allowing the spotlight of God’s holiness to show us up for what we are. That unclothing would be devastating if the light only unmasked our deficiencies, but it also floodlights the Lord Jesus, whose blood can purify us [from all our sin].

Consciousness of sin as an offence against God [seems to be] a folk memory in our [Western] society. The [so-called] ‘death of God’ [philosophy] leaves us ‘sin-free’ but struggling to know what to do with our guilt. We end up hiving off blame onto others, cleverly excusing ourselves. John’s diagnosis? We have evaded the light.” (Encounter with God 2009)

It’s time to stop evading and instead to embrace the truth that Jesus is our light and salvation. Then and then only will we be purified from all unrighteousness and be reconciled to our Father.

So, the question we need to ask ourselves today is, can we say with real conviction and confidence that The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The second word David uses in Psalm 27:1 is salvation.  He says that God is not only his light but also his salvation! The word means, “deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.”   In the Bible it includes, “deliverance from sin and its consequences, believed by Christians to be brought about by faith in Christ.”

The Good News of Jesus is about living our lives in spiritual light instead of spiritual darkness; about deliverance from the consequences of our sin; about being able to live in a right relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, “the light of the world.”

Thankyou Jesus that you came to deliver us from living in spiritual darkness and through your death and resurrection to bring us into your kingdom of light. Today I confess my rebellion against you and put my trust in you, Jesus, Son of God, as my light and salvation and offer my life to you. Thank you for your forgiveness, deliverance, love and grace. Amen.

# 110 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 27 Two alternatives for life.

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Fear of heights may stop some people from walking along this path. About a metre or so from where I took this photo there is a sheer drop of 100 + metres to the rocks and ocean below and this may be enough to turn some off and send them to check out, what they may consider, less dangerous attractions. Even though I’m not a great lover of heights I enjoyed walking these paths along the Kalbarri cliffs (in WA) recently. But there have been times in my life when fear has been an issue hindering me and I have had to remind myself that with God with me I need not fear.

In fact, “Fear not”, words often spoken by the Lord to his servants, seems to be a pretty common phrase in the Bible (at least 170 times)! And here in this great Psalm 27 David asked the questions in verse 1, “whom shall I fear?” and then “of whom shall I be afraid?” In verse 3 he then makes the statement, “my heart will not fear”! He recognizes that there was no one or nothing he needed to fear, basing such confidence in the Lord with him.

Consider again these amazing verses from this psalm:

The Passion Translation entitles Psalm 27   Fearless Faith!

The Lord is my revelation-light to guide me along the way;     he’s the source of my salvation to defend me every day.     I fear no one!     I’ll never turn back and run from you, Lord;     surround and protect me. When evil ones come to destroy me,     they will be the ones who turn back. My heart will not be afraid even if an army rises to attack.     I know that you are there for me, so I will not be shaken.

One commentary on this psalm says that it “is an example of the honest dialogue of faith characteristic of the psalmists in the face of opposition…Verses 1-3 establish the basis of the psalm in terms of trust…The first verse…puts before readers two alternatives for life – fear or faith. Fear, and not doubt is cast as the alternative to faith.

I realize that fear is a normal human response to frightening situations in life and certain kinds of fear are healthy to prevent us from physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harm. But to remain in a state of fear, i.e. being “paralysed” by fear, and so not being able to do what is required of us, is not healthy.

I remember the time many years ago when my wife and I were planning to leave our home and move interstate for a couple of years of training to prepare for what we believed was God’s calling upon our lives, i.e. to eventually serve Him overseas in missions. At that stage we were blessed with the first 2 of our 4 children and they were only 3 ½ and 1 ½ years old. Unlike my wife, I had travelled very little in my life and so this was a new experience for me, and I naturally had some concerns about uprooting the family and moving them away from all that was familiar.

I expressed my fears to the Lord and as I read His Word He spoke the following words of comfort to my heart, enabling me to press on, in faith, without fear of the unknown.

“The Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”  (Isaiah 40:10-11)

That day I knew, like David, that I could say, “my heart will not fear” as I considered my family and the Lord’s loving kindness towards us. And now, many years later I can look back and see the Lord’s hand upon us all through the good and difficult times. It’s true, he did “gently lead” us with our young family and cared for us all along the way. He is a good Father!

So, I wonder, what do you fear today? Maybe it involves a big step of faith like us? Maybe it’s trusting God for his provision in an uncertain future? Maybe it is related to illness? Maybe even the prospect of dying? Maybe you are just not sure if God can really be trusted if you make a certain decision? Whatever it is, learn from David’s experience of walking with God and do not fear.

The commentators mentioned above continue concerning these first 3 verses of Psalm 27:

“The two faith affirmations suggest why the poet chooses faith. The Lord is light that dispels darkness and the one who brings wholeness (salvation) to life. The second image of the divine is ‘stronghold’, refuge or defence. In spite of life-threatening opponents…trust is the order of the day…In the face of armies and war and the onslaught of evil, the psalmist embraces trust in the mighty fortress who is the saving and protecting God. God is worthy of trust.” (see references # 39)

And if this is not enough for you, then there is the powerful truth that Paul wrote centuries after David when he said:

“If God is for us, who can be against us…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…[nothing] in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:31-39)

So, if the alternatives are fear or faith, choose faith in our good and loving God.

Father, what an incredible privilege it is to live life knowing you. There is so much around us that could drive us to a place of being “paralysed with fear” – wars, terrorism, poverty, injustice, corrupt politics, faltering economies, our own weaknesses – but you are our light and our salvation, the stronghold of our lives and in you we will trust. Amen.