Psalms For our troubled land 


by The Rev Ross Anderson

If David is the author of this Psalm, the context is probably his pursuit by Saul (his king) or his flight from Absalom (his son). Whoever they are, he says his enemies are “evil men” who want to kill him (v2, cf. v12). He testifies that his confidence and security rest in the Lord (v1), so he overcomes his fear (v3). He is confident of God’s presence and protection, and he cherishes one desire above all others (v4), “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

He cannot mean it literally because only the priests (of the tribe of Levi) lived in the precincts of the tabernacle at Shiloh or on Mount Zion, and David belonged to the tribe of Judah. He is expressing his longing to enjoy unbroken communion with God to worship him and discern his will (cf. Psalm 23:5-6). David uses two metaphors (v5) to describe God’s presence and protection: a tent that gives the traveller shelter from the fierce sun; and a rock that is stable even in a time of flood. For such deliverance, he will praise God in His Tabernacle (literally this time) with sacrifices and shouts of joy (v6).

V7 marks an abrupt change in the Psalm. The main verbs change from the third person to the second and from a statement to a prayer. The mood also changes from confidence to anxious appeal. David prays that God will hear his request and reveal himself to David (vv7-8). He does so because of God’s own invitation, for God says, “Seek my face,” and he responds, “Your face, Lord, I will seek”. True prayer is always a response to God’s loving initiative.

Why is David afraid that God may “hide his face” and be “angry” with David, and “reject” him, and “forsake” him (v9). No doubt because David is very aware of his sin (cf. Psalm 51). But David is also aware of God’s loving faithfulness to his covenant people and so concludes that even if his parents were to forsake him, “The Lord will receive me” (v10). In v13, the prayer not to be forsaken is followed by a positive request for guidance. He desires to be taught God’s way.

The Psalm ends as it began with a serene confidence, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (vv13-14). To wait for the Lord means to trust in him, in his gracious and sovereign providence.

In South Africa, in these turbulent and uncertain times, when many voices speak in threats and violence, how can we “be strong and take heart”? These are empty sentiments unless we “wait for the Lord”. Courage can be no more than a fragile mask, a stoic virtue, a denial of reality. It is only Christian when it flows from a quiet confidence in God, a wholehearted trust in him, a waiting for the Lord.

Psalm 27

Of David.

  1. 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?
  2. When the wicked advance against me to devour[a] me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.
  3. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.
  8. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.
  9. 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.
  13. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
  14. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.