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Psalm 27:1-9

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?

When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. 

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.

As a boy I went on a fishing trip with my middle brother and my dad. My brother and I were 8 and 10 years old. The trip required us to fly to a remote lake deep in north-central Ontario; there is no direct access to the lake we were on. The little cabin on the edge of the lake was owned by someone my dad knew from work. That man and his son were also there. Because they were there we slept in a tent pitched on a ridge high above the water. In the morning when we woke up just before dawn, the lake was covered with a think layer of fog that had yet to burn off. The ridge our tent was on rose above the fog; we watched it spread out over the entire lake and slowly burn off as the sun rose.

The night before we sat late into the night around the campfire. Mr. Nun decided to tell us boys a scary story. In the pitch black of the night, with only a small fire to see by, he told us the story of a monster, a half-man half-bear creature, that had been sighted in that exact region; how it stalked up to campers and scratched the side of cabins with it’s long claws; how it howled at the moon with an eerie and haunting scream; he told us that it knew how to blend into the forest so well many people thought it might turn invisible – he said  it could be watching us right now…

As we sat and listened to the sounds of the forest my fear grew and grew. At some point I think someone sneaked away from around the fire and dragged a stick across the back of the cabin and we all panicked – maybe even screamed a little.

A little while later, when bedtime came, my brother and I, with my dad, walked through the dark forest back to our tent on the ridge by the light of the moon. And I was not afraid – at all. I remember being afraid while listening to the story, but I also remember walking back to the tent, looking at my dad, and not being afraid anymore. 

The confidence of a little boy in his father to protect him – even from unknown and unseen monsters – is a powerful thing. I looked at my dad and didn’t have to be afraid.

That – but infinitely more so – is the confidence of David in this Psalm as he reflects on his life circumstances in the presence of the Lord. “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?” 

We don’t know exactly when David penned this psalm, but many have suggested that it is during the time Saul is seeking David to kill him, and David hides in the in the Caves of Adullam (1 Sam. 22) because of the word “stronghold” in vs. 1 (1 Sam 22:5 & 1 Chron. 11:16 specifically calls the Caves of Adullam a stronghold). It also seems David returns to the Caves of Adullam and stages a battle against the Philistines (2 Sam. 23:13f). Whatever the case may be, David knows that there are armies after him; he knows there are powerful people who will besiege him and who desire war (vs. 3). And at this moment he is not afraid; he is confident in the will of God. His faith is sure and so he can say, “My heart will not fear.

To be sure, David isn’t always this paragon of faith and confidence. In fact, Psalm 13 is an excellent example of David’s doubt and fears ruling his perspective on life: “How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” And yes, at the end of Psalm 13 he says, “I trust in your unfailing love… [the Lord] has been good to me.” But, as I’ve expressed elsewhere, I think that is an aspirational confession of faith; but even if it is not, we can’t dismiss the authenticity of the first verses. Interestingly, at least one person I read suggested that David wrote Psalm 13 upon first arriving at the Caves of Adullam after fleeing Gath.

The exact same place offers two completely different experiences of God. What changes? How does David move from the cries of Psalm 13 to the confidence of Psalm 27? I suggest at least two things happened: first, let’s look at 1 Sam. 22:1-2, “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.” One of the reasons David was able to change his perspective was that his family, his father and brothers, and so many others experiencing similar existential struggles came around him. In the economy of the kingdom of God we are given people to share life and story with. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Prov. 17:17) “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor. 12:24-26) When we find that we are not alone in our struggles because we can see the faces of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it becomes easier to see the face of God in the midst of adversity and tribulation – because we him in the faces of our brothers and sisters.

Secondly, David’s perspective on his circumstances changed because he worshiped. In his heart he sought God (vs. 8); the one thing he was seeking was the presence of God. To recall that, he recalled worship in the house of the Lord. He is transported by gazing on the beauty of the Lord to the safety of his dwelling; worship hides him in the shelter of the sacred tent. He will sing and make music to the Lord, he will call out in confession and in praise, and the Lord will hear him. David ends Psalm 27 by saying, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (vs. 13)

David, surrounded by the monsters of life and darkness of tribulation, looks to the Lord, his Father, and has no fear. In this life (“the land of the living”) he has confidence and rests secure. In the face of fear, in the moments when you are besieged with guilt, when you are wracked  with anxiety – you can be certain: God is near. And he has given you a people, a blood-bought family, to prove it.

Dear God, in my fears give me hope; in my trials give me faith; in it all let me worship. When I can feel your presence, surround me with a kingdom family to see it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.