The Stronghold of the Lord
In singing Psalm 27, God’s people have a way of not simply expressing confidence in Him but of cultivating that confidence for the weirdest range of challenging life situations. The psalm uses several synonyms for “enemies” (vv. 2, 6, 11, 12), giving it the concrete setting of a faithful person beset by those who would destroy him with bloodthirsty and deceitful means; one who can trust God in those circumstances can trust him in other situations as well.
Explanation of Psalm 27
The terms fear (vv. 1,3) and be afraid (v.1) contrast with be confident (v.3): the faithful must learn to base their confidence on God’s ever-present protection (light, salvation, stronghold, v.1); this will be a confidence that grows through experiences of deliverance. The picture of “to eat my flesh” in verse 2 is one of evildoers as wild animals who would devour the faithful. The house of the Lord, temple, tent and sacrifices show that Psalm 27:4-6 focus on public worship; they view unhindered access to God’s presence in worship as the best of all gifts. This is the place of true delight and safety. Psalm 27:7-21 turn to address the Lord directly making it clear that the deliverance asked for is the purpose of continuing to seek God. The singing worshiper in Psalm 27:13-14 addresses each one of the other worshipers, with the admonition to live in continued confidence, returning to the trust expressed in Psalm 27:1-3.
The stronghold of the Lord
How do we find a rock solid place of confidence when all else is swirling about us? It is this ability to stand confidently that sets the faithful apart and gives testimony to the presence of God in our lives. Where or to whom do you go when life seems too much to handle? Perhaps to your spouse or a close friend, a trusted minister or your parents? For the psalmist, God is the stronghold of his life- the secure place when all else fails.
Too often human relationships fail because they are human. Many of us have felt betrayed or abandoned by friends, spouses, and even parents. The statistics are not good. Divorce is on the increase even among born again Christians. Prominent news reports have detailed instances of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children by religious leaders and Christian parents. When we place our hopes and reliance on fallible human beings, we are bound to experience failure. When all of human resources are so unreliable, where do we turn for unshakable support?
According to the psalmists in Psalm 27, Yahweh is the one reliable support- the one who accepts us even though my father and mother forsake me (Psalm 27:10). There is no more crushing experience than for a child to be abandoned by his or her parents. Oprhan children- even those adopted by loving and caring families- are often obsessed to know why their birth mother abandoned them. Were they so unlovable unwanted, that even their mother gave them away? The recent legislation to open adoption records to such adult orphans, even against the wishes of the birth parents, illustrates the obsessive power such questions hold. But God is ultimately the only reliable source of care and acceptance. Many abandoned children who have been unable to answer the questions of their birth and loss of parental love have found in God a loving parent who does not forsake them.
Our fears thrive in the dark but they cannot survive the light. Like a flashlight pointed at a persistent noise, light shows up our fears for what they are. God for the psalmists and us shows the light that illuminates our way and reveals our fears and enemies for what they truly are in light of God’s power and care. This is not to say that all our fears are groundless or figments of our imaginations. The psalmists’ enemies are very real. But God provides refuge in the face of real attacks and struggles.
One of the most difficult aspects of faithful Christian living is waiting on the Lord. Waiting takes strength and demonstrates trust, courage and endurance. The words be strong and take heart are words of challenge and encouragement to soldiers just before entering battle. This is how Moses and God exhorted Joshua before leading Israel into battle (Deut. 31:7, 23; Josh 1:6, 7, 9, 18). In the same manner Joshua encouraged Israel before they faced the enemy (Josh. 10:25) David used these words when strengthening Solomon to assume the leadership of the kingdom (1 Chron. 22:13; 28:20), and so king Hezekiah exhorted his military officers when Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem (2 Chron. 32:7). These are words of preparation for action. Too often we find action preferable to waiting! Like Saul, we would rather take matters into our own hands and face the enemy boldly in our own strength rather than waiting for God 91 Sam. 13:1-15).
Waiting on the Lord is hard work. Yet it is one way perhaps the only way of demonstrating God’s strength manifest in our weakness. Whenever we rush frantically about trying to do it on our own, we in effect become functional atheists, denying by our actions that God is active in our lives. Often to admit that we are powerless is the first step toward acknowledging God’s strength unleashed in our lives. Acceptance is not resignation or despair but a step of trust and commitment. It means acknowledging my need to rely on God alone. It is an expression of the confidence that the psalmist of Psalm 27 mirrors in Psalm 27:13,” I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” He says this is in the presence of enemies even though God is not immediately apparent” (Psalm 27:7-9).
Sometimes this kind of confidence requires a different way of seeing. C.S. Lewis tells of his experience standing in a dark potter’s shed on a sunny day. Through a chink in the wall a sunbeam probed its way into the dark interior of the shed. Lewis suggests it is two different things to look at the beam of light and how it interacts with the dark, illuminating only a small part of the shed, or to step into the light and look along the beam to its source. Waiting for God is like standing in the dark but looking along the beam of light that comes from God. Knowing the source of light gives us confidence that outside the darkened sheds that describe our lives, light bathes the whole landscape. Light will not be overcome by the dark but will vanquish it. It is that kind of vision of God that gives us the courage to wait in confidence.