Psalm 27 - Shelter In The Lord And Fear Not
How would you finish this sentence, "The Lord is my ..."? In Psalm 27 David begins the psalm with those exact words and he answers it in just four words. He says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation." This is the only time that David uses such an expression to describe his relationship with the Lord. For David, the Lord is his light and his salvation.
I can still remember a night out on a lake in Missouri. There were four of us out in a small boat in some back area cove. The problem was that the water was low that year and our boat had become lodged onto the top of an old tree that was under the water. When we would try to accelerate the boat to get off we would just spin in circles. Now the four of us in the boat was my step-mom, and two of my cousins. I was the only boy in the boat. I am not sure just how long we were stuck on top of that tree but I know that it was a long time and it was getting dark. Perhaps out of desperation and a bit of panic my step-mom told me that I should get out into the water and without my weight in the boat they could get off.
To be honest, that thought horrified me. It was dark, the water looked scary and just a bit earlier we had seen a snake in the water. Within moments I saw that all three of them were nodding in agreement that this was a good idea and they thought that it just might work. I really did not want to get into the water and I was willing to fight anyone that tried to throw me in if it were to come to that.
About the time that panic really started to set in we saw a boat in the distance coming towards us. What a relief. For the moment there was no more discussion of throwing me in to lighten the load. As that boat came closer you could make out the running lights on the front of the boat. I still remember the green and white lights that lit up the night sky.
After a while the boat made it closer and I heard the voice of my dad calling out over the noise of the motor asking us if we were all OK. He pulled the boat up next to ours and then tried to find out what the problem was. I will admit that it was at this moment that I let my dad know that the biggest problem we had encountered was that they had intended to put me out of the boat into the creepy water below.
My dad had us all climb into his boat and then he got into the one we had been in. He pushed us off and told us to get at a safe distance. He accelerated that little boat up and he began to spin in circles but then he eventually popped off of the old tree. Then we boated back to our campsite together and I was never more happy to tie a boat off at the dock as I was that night.
It has been thirty-five years since that happened and yet I remember that night as if it were yesterday. If someone were to ask me what I remember best about my dad I would imagine that this would be one of the top three stories that might come to my mind. I would remember that night when the small lights on that boat pierced through the darkness and my dad came in that boat to save us.
For David, the Lord had come to save him over and over again. And so, when David set out to describe the relationship that he had with the Lord, he said, "He is my light and my salvation". What a beautiful way to describe someones relationship with the Lord. Before the Lord came into my life there was darkness; but now there is light. Before the Lord rescued me there was confusion; but now there is light. Before the Lord showed up there was nothing but fear; but now there is light. The Lord had saved David in such a way that now he simply says twice in verse one, "Of whom shall I be afraid?" and "Whom shall I fear?" And in verse three David can think of the worst scenario in his life and still say, "My heart shall not fear" and "Yet I will be confident".
Oh, to have such trust in the Lord that I could have such a confidence in the Lord. Oh, how I would like to be so trusting of the Lord that fear would be vanquished and exiled from my heart! Listen again to what David says in verse one.
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?"
So what does it mean that the Lord was the light for David? Well, in one sense he answers it in verse two. He does this by contrasting the light he walks in with the darkness that his enemies walk in. As a result, David is able to worship and to be exalted far above his enemies (v.5-6); but his enemies stumble and fall in the darkness (v.2).
Now let us look at the second part of verse one. It says, "The Lord is the stronghold of my life". It seems that most of this psalm is about how David experienced the Lord as the stronghold of his life. So the first part of verse one has to do with the Lord being David's light and his salvation and the second part has to do with how David made the Lord his shelter. So the majority of this psalm is about how David made the Lord his stronghold. In fact, he will give us quite a few examples as to how we can do this too.
The first thing that David does is to give us an insight into his enemy. I am glad that he does this because David's enemy is larger than most of the enemies that you and I will face. It is also interesting to note that whenever David speaks of his enemies it is always in the plural. His enemy is not just the neighborhood bully but rather it is evildoers, adversaries and foes. I see in this the fact that there is appropriate grace in all of this for you and I as well. No enemy is too big. No situation is too large for the Lord to handle and to allow us to be confident in the midst of it. In fact, even if a war breaks out David says that he will be confident and will not fear.
Then David says that there is only one thing that he would ask of the Lord. He says that he will ask of the Lord and seek to dwell in the house of the Lord all of the days of his life. David, having been saved and had the Lord dispel the darkness now longs to be in the house of the Lord each and every day. He wants to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple. May this be the one thing that my heart would ask too.
Then in the second half of this psalm David begins to show us what he requested of the Lord so that he could shelter in Him. These are all things that you and I can do as well. The first thing that we are to do is to cry aloud to the Lord. And David's desire is that the Lord would hear his prayer. We are a needy people. And long after we are saved we will continue to cry out to the Lord each and every day.
The second thing he asks of the Lord is that He would be gracious to Him and that the Lord would answer his prayer. Salvation is of grace and our blessings are all of grace too. We don't deserve mercy but God is gracious to bestow it.
The third thing that David displays is a desire to be obedient to the Lord and to scripture. He says, "You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek.'" Jesus said that all who are weary and heavy laden are to come to Him and that they would receive rest. David is not a passive person in his walk with the Lord; rather, he is seeking, calling, and being intentional about sheltering in the Lord.
We all can look at our lives and see that God might turn away from us in our time of need. Therefore, David asks that the Lord would not hide His face from him and that the Lord would not forsake him and cast him off. Sometimes we have good reasons to harbor such fears in our hearts. In David's case, he goes on to say that both his mother and his father have forsaken him. Some of our greatest fears happen when we associate with God the things that we have experienced with others. We need to lift these concerns up to the Lord and seek his will in scripture so that these fears are not allowed to continue unchecked.
As a result, David then shelters in the Lord by asking that the Lord would teach David His way. Oh, I long to have a humble heart that knows our need to be transformed and taught how to continue on the right path. The scriptures are a great gift to the body of Christ. We ought to consistently drink from the deep wells of its truth.
David also shelters in the Lord by asking that the Lord will lead him on a level path. How prone I am to walk off the path. But the scriptures teach me truth and the Spirit of the Lord guides me in His Way. It is a straight and level path. There is a person in our church who works on the railroad. He told me the other day that conductors on trains have to get hip surgeries quite often. This is because they are always walking on uneven ground. A person who ventures off of the level path will be prone to injuries and problems. But Lord, lead us all on the path you would have us to walk.
Finally, David seeks one more thing from the Lord. This petition is grounded in another concern. There have been many false witnesses speak up against David speaking lies and breathing out violence. Therefore David says, "Give me not up to the will of my adversaries." In other words, David does not want to be thrown out of the boat that I talked about earlier. And the Lord will not. He is better than my father on that day even.
Let me close by simply getting us to appreciate one thing about this psalm. This psalm has just fourteen verses. Yet, in this short psalm the words: my, mine, me, and I are mentioned just under fifty times. In other words, this is an intensely personal psalm. David has displayed a personal relationship with the Lord (1), admitted to his personal struggle (2), let us look at his personal response to this (3), then he offers a personal request (4), he seeks personal protection (5), offers the Lord personal praise (6), then he makes a personal plea and pursuit (7-8), he has a personal concern (9), speaks of a personal experience (10), he identifies personally with the precepts of God and wants to walk on that path (10-11), and then again speaks of being under a personal attack (13).
All of this makes me wonder if this is a psalm that is for David only or are we invited to shelter in the Lord too? To answer this we simply need to look at the pronouns again. In the first thirteen verses we have looked upon David and heard his prayer, his petitions, and heard his proclamations. But for the first time in verse fourteen he invites us to join him in this shelter. He invites us to be strong in the Lord and to let our hearts take courage. Listen to these words,
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord.
Here in the last verse we discover that we are invited into this personal relationship with the Lord in which He is our protector and Savior. It is hard to wait though isn't it. So David tells us to wait twice. Don't make hasty decisions. Don't go on your own path.. Don't neglect the Lord's truth. Wait.
Through all of this David says this in verse thirteen, "I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." So Christian, do as David did. Accept his invitation to this type of relationship with the Lord. And through this you will not fear; but believe. You will not fear; but have great faith in God.