Of all the oppressive emotions we experience as humans, fear is usually one of the most powerful. Fear is an enemy that rises up against us throughout our lives. When we are small children, it attacks our immature minds about silly things like monsters in the closet or under the bed, impossible catastrophes, and vivid images from dreams or movies. Although these things are nothing more than imaginations, they are very real to young children. As we mature, so do our fears. Made-up monsters are replaced by horrors that actually exist in our sin-cursed world. While fear is something we definitely feel, we must realize that it is more than an emotion: it is a spiritual enemy. Scripture informs us that the spirit of fear does not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7).
David encountered the spirit of fear, leading him to pen Psalm 27. We do not know what provoked his terror, but he indicated that it was a time when enemies sought to destroy him (v. 6), family forsook him (v. 10), and his foes were spreading cruel lies about him (v. 12). David was a man of war, and this psalm could apply to many occasions in his life.
1. Profess your faith in the Lord.
David did not begin this psalm by stating his fears but by declaring his faith. In so doing, he identified the only solution to the problem of fear: trusting the Lord. In the same personal way that David referred to the Lord as his shepherd (Psalm. 23:1), he now testifies that God was his light, salvation, and strength. Because of his personal relationship with the Lord, he would not be afraid of anyone or anything.
a) He is your light (v. 1).
David’s first declaration about God takes on special significance if the setting for this psalm was his encounter with Ishbibenob, the gigantic Philistine (2 Samuel. 21:16). After Abishai helped David slay this monster, David’s faithful men counselled him to lay down his sword because he was “the light of Israel” (2 Samuel. 21:17). In response, David announced that he was brightened by a greater light: the Lord Himself. Whatever light he was to God’s chosen nation was merely the reflection of the light of the Lord in his life.
Throughout Scripture, God is called the light of our lives. In what ways is this true?
⇒God is the source of our lives. Scripture sometimes describes our lives as lamps or candles, especially in the poetic books (Job—Song of Solomon). The Lord supplies the light that causes us to burn or live; He gives us life.
⇒God lights our path: as we travel through life God guides us by His presence and His Word.
⇒God shines into the darkness of our souls (minds) and enlightens us to see His truth.
⇒God brightens our lives, giving us a spirit of gladness and a reason to rejoice.
⇒God is the source of every good thing in our lives.
b) He is your salvation (deliverer) (v. 1).
Salvation means deliverance, liberty, or rescue. In this psalm, David was referring to being delivered from his enemies. The Lord had made a covenant with David; therefore, he was unafraid. He knew that the Lord would be faithful to His covenant. The Lord would save David from his enemies because of His promise and His purpose.
c) He is your strength (protector) (v. 1).
When David declared that the Lord was the strength of his life, he was not saying that God was his source of might or vitality. Strength refers to a place of shelter, safety, and protection. It can be translated as fortress, stronghold, or refuge. David was convinced that God would protect him from his enemies. As long as he trusted in the Lord, he was safe within the impenetrable walls of God’s mighty care.
d) He is your confidence (vv. 2-3).
The Lord’s protection in the past inspired David to be fearless in his present trouble (v. 2). Some newer Bible versions interpret this verse in the future tense, but the past tense (as in the KJV) is accurate. God had given David victory over foes that were larger and more powerful than he. The length of David’s list of conquests depends on exactly when in his life this psalm was penned. If he wrote it early in life, when Saul was pursuing him, he had already slain a lion, a bear, and the giant Goliath. These had desired to literally eat or devour his flesh (1 Samuel. 17:34-37, 44).
David believed that the Lord who had strengthened him in the past against such formidable enemies as these would now deliver him from any host or army that might attack him (v. 3). He had always fought in the power of God, not in his own strength. The God who gave him power over the lion, the bear, and Goliath was mightier than any army that dared to war against him. Armed with confidence in the Lord, David could fearlessly face any foe.
Observation: Notice the order in this psalm: David professed his faith before he prayed about his fear. Why is this important? By encouraging himself through the Lord’s power and faithfulness, David was able to pray in faith rather than in doubt. When he asked for God’s help, he was certain that God would hear and answer him (vv. 7-13). This is how the Lord commands us to pray. In fact, when we pray with wavering faith, we cannot expect answers to our prayers (James. 1:6-7). It is the prayer of faith that is effective (James. 5:15-16).
2. (27:4-13) Seek the Lord and pray.
After encouraging himself with the truth of God’s power and faithfulness, David sought the Lord and asked for His help. Notice again the order of this psalm. Before petitioning the Lord to come to his aid, David revealed the highest priority in his life: to dwell in God’s presence daily.
a) This one thing above all else: God’s presence (vv. 4-6).
David was very clear about what mattered most to him: above all else, he desired the Lord’s presence in his life. At that time in Israel’s history, God’s house was the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle. This was where His actual presence was manifested and where David longed to be (v. 4a). Just like the priests, who alone were permitted to enter into the sanctuary, David wanted to live in uninterrupted enjoyment of the Lord’s presence throughout life.
David yearned to live in God’s presence in order to behold or gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (v. 4b). What is the beauty of the Lord? Scripture reveals that God’s beauty is in His holiness (1 Chronicles. 16:29; 2 Chronicles. 20:21; Psalm. 96:9). Every object in the tabernacle testified to the Lord‘s holiness. This is true worship: to bask in the presence of God, adoring His perfect holiness.
Additionally, David wanted to live in the Lord’s presence to enquire or seek Him (v. 4c). The Hebrew word used here literally means to plow into. David passionately desired to observe the Lord in His dwelling place, to meditate upon Him, to investigate Him. Simply put, David’s foremost priority was to know God. This is the desire of the true worshipper: not to receive something from God but to know God.
David recognized a vital fact: by living in God’s presence, he would receive God’s protection (v. 5). Many people turn to God only in times of trouble, but not David. He was not one to seek the Lord only when he needed something from Him. He understood that his relationship with God was the most important thing he could pursue. If he lived in the pavilion or dwelling of the Lord, he would be safely sheltered when trouble struck. The secret of his tabernacle (literally, secret spot or place) was the Holy of Holies, where the mercy seat was located—the actual place where God met with His people. By living in God’s presence, David would be set upon a high rock—a place that could not be penetrated, that sat high above his enemies’ reach (Psalm. 18:2; 31:2-3).
In addition to the protection of God’s presence, David would also experience the power of God on his behalf. God would fight for him, granting him victory and exalting him over his enemies (v. 6). When the battle was over, David vowed to joyfully offer sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord. Filled with faith in God’s deliverance, he looked forward to triumphantly singing God’s praises in His sanctuary.
b) Beg God to be merciful and to answer your prayer (vv. 7-9).
Seemingly, in an instant, David’s demeanour changed from confidence to concern. The fear that can so suddenly seize us reared its menacing head in David’s spirit. Perhaps he could hear the thundering of his enemies’ horses in the distance, or perhaps they came into view. Shaken by the ever-approaching battle, David called on the Lord (v. 7). Notice that he prayed aloud, not silently in his spirit. He asked God to have mercy on him—to stoop to help him in his time of desperate need. With little time to spare, he urgently prayed that God would answer him, that He would give His full, immediate attention and grant His help.
David reminded God that he often sought His face. He was not a person who prayed only in times of trouble, who sought only His helping hand but not His face (v. 8). Many people pray only when they desperately need something from God. David’s voice was a familiar one to God: he regularly prayed and sought God’s countenance. David prayed because he desired face-to-face fellowship with the Lord. He loved to be in the Lord’s presence; therefore he obeyed God’s command to seek Him (Deuteronomy. 4:29; Psalm. 24:6).
Now, in his hour of fear and trouble, David desperately needed to know that God was there. Gripped by fear, he pleaded with God to reveal Himself (v. 9). In Scripture, when God’s face is turned toward us, it is a symbol of His favour and blessing. When He hides His face from us, it means that we are out of fellowship with Him and have forfeited His protection (Deuteronomy. 31:17-18; Isaiah. 59:2; Micah. 3:4). David sought assurance that God was not angry with him because of some sin in his life. Never had he fought in his own strength but only with the help of the Lord. His only hope of salvation (deliverance from his enemies) was God (Elohim), the mighty, powerful one. He was David’s helper; He was David’s Saviour.
c) Acknowledge God’s faithfulness: He will never forsake you (even if parents do) (v. 10).
In his hour of fear, David once again spoke in faith, declaring God’s faithfulness. He encouraged himself in the Lord by remembering God’s promise to be always with us (Deuteronomy. 20:1; Joshua. 1:9). David used the most extreme example to convey the unfailing presence of God in his life: his parents loved him dearly, and, like most parents, they would likely have given their lives for their son. But even if they should abandon him, the Lord would gather him to Himself and take care of him.
d) Ask God for guidance (v. 11).
With his enemies waiting to destroy him, David sought direction from the Lord. He humbly asked God to teach or point out the way he should go. Although death at the hands of his enemies seemed inescapable, David was convinced that God would make a way—a path or road—through his crisis. He unwaveringly asserted that God would remove every obstacle that stood between him and safety. This is what he meant when he referred to a plain or straight path. He called out for God to reveal the clear way to him and to lead him along it.
e) Ask God for victory over your enemies (v. 12).
David refused to accept the possibility that God would allow him to be destroyed by his foes. Their will was not God’s will. God had revealed His plan for David’s life, and David boldly cried out to the Lord to stop his foes from preventing God’s purpose from coming to pass. They were false witnesses, men who had slandered David for the purpose of turning others against him. Because of his integrity and righteous walk, they found it necessary to create lies about David in order to justify their cruel or violent intentions toward him.
f) Express confidence in the Lord: That you will experience the goodness of God throughout life (v. 13).
Even as David’s bloodthirsty enemies drew closer, he declared his unwavering faith in the Lord. Notice that I had fainted is in italics, meaning that it is not in the original text but was added by the translators to clarify the verse. David’s confidence in God sustained him against the fear of his rapidly-approaching enemies. He was able to stand against the army that sought his life because the Lord was present with him.
The land of the living is used in the Old Testament in contrast to sheol (hell), the realm of the dead. David was sure of surviving this attack because of God’s promises to him. The Lord had made a covenant with him, and David believed that God was true to His word. When David referred to the Lord’s goodness, he was not speaking of God’s benevolence or kindness toward him. Rather, he was pointing to God’s attribute of goodness, a facet of His holy character. God is good as opposed to evil: He cannot lie; He cannot fail to keep His covenant. God’s faithfulness to His holy character was David’s sustaining assurance of deliverance from his enemies.
3. (27:14) Wait patiently for the Lord to meet your needs: Be strong and courageous while waiting.
David concludes this encouraging psalm with a word of advice: wait on the Lord. To wait on the Lord certainly involves patience; that is, enduring until God chooses to act on our behalf, according to His perfect timing. But it also includes expectation: fully anticipating God to do everything that He has promised. This is also what the word hope usually means in the Bible. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes it beautifully and clearly:
Waiting with steadfast endurance is a great expression of faith. It means enduring patiently in confident hope that God will decisively act for the salvation of his people (Genesis 49:18). Waiting involves the very essence of a person’s being, his soul. Those who wait in true faith are renewed in strength so that they can continue to serve the Lord while looking for his saving work (Isaiah 40:31). There will come a time when all that God has promised will be realized and fulfilled (Isaiah 49:23; Psalm 37:9). In the meantime the believer survives by means of his integrity and uprightness as he trusts in God’s grace and power (Psalm 25:21). His faith is strengthened through his testing’s, and his character is further developed (Psalm 27:14).
This expectation has the power to overcome fear in our lives, strengthening us in troubling times. We can face every foe—be it a wicked person or a frightening circumstance—with courageous hearts when we believe that God will faithfully do all that He has promised.
Conclusion: God can be trusted. We are His dear children, sons and daughters, for whom He paid the supreme price, the life of His own Son, Jesus Christ. We should be especially encouraged when we remember that nothing is more powerful than the love of God, who gave His Son for us.
We must also remember that God acts according to His schedule, not ours. He is never late; rather, He is always on time to accomplish His perfect purpose. Sometimes He allows us to suffer trouble and trials, as He did when Lazarus was sick. Jesus delayed visiting the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, because He had a greater purpose than healing Lazarus (John. 11). God has a purpose for everything that happens in our lives, so we must be patient until God’s perfect work through our trials is completed (James. 1:2-4). The waiting is the difficult part, but it is in God’s waiting room that He does so much important work in our lives.
In the meantime, we need not be afraid of anything that invades our lives. We can be strong rather than weak, courageous rather than fearful, and encouraged rather than discouraged when trouble comes. God is with us and for us, and He will deliver us when His purpose has been fulfilled. Until He does, we can endure with strength, courage, and hope.