Psalm 27: The Changing Moods of Faith
Blog by Rob Vandeman
Psalm 27 opens with one of the most sublime Old Testament affirmations of the security of God’s people. The Lord is my light, to guide me, my salvation, to deliver me, and the stronghold of my life, in whom I take refuge. Of whom, then, shall I be afraid? It is a defiant, unanswerable question reminiscent of those at the end of Romans 8. When David’s enemies attack him, they will stumble and fall (verse 2). Indeed (verse 3), if a whole army should make war against him, even then he will be confident.
This steadfast assurance of one man against many foes is now more fully explained. It lies in the presence and the protection of God. David cherishes one desire above all others (verse 4), namely to enjoy unbroken communion with God, in order to worship His glory and discern His will.
Suddenly in the psalm, everything is different. The main verbs change from third person to the second and from a statement to a prayer. The mood alters too, as confident affirmation gives place to anxious supplication. So abrupt and complete is the change that some have suggested Psalm 27 to actually be two separate psalms written for separate occasions that have been awkwardly joined together. Yet those who know something of the soul’s moods, of the ebb and flow of faith, and of the alternating rhythms of praise and prayer, will not see the necessity for this double ascription.
David prays, seeking not only God’s ear, but also His face (verses 7,8). He is encouraged to do so because of God’s own invitation. When God says, “Seek my face,” his heart responds: “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” True prayer is never a presumptuous approach to God, but rather a response to His gracious initiative. It is this assurance, which prompts David to add: “Do not hide your face from me” (verse 9). Although he seems to recognize that his sins deserve only God’s displeasure, he is sure that God, who has been his help in the past, will not now cast him off (verse 10). Even were his own parents to forsake him, he says, “the Lord will receive me” (verse 10), or “adopt me as his child,” as one commentator puts it. For the likeness of God’s love in the Old Testament to the tender care of a father or mother see Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 49:15; 63:16.
The psalm ends as it began with an expression of serene confidence. David has come through his tunnel of darkness. His faith has been tested, but now it triumphs; “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (verse 15). He who desired to see with the eye of faith the beauty of the Lord (verse 4) is sure that, before he dies, he will see the same Lord’s goodness displayed in his own circumstances. So certain is he of this that he urges others to “wait for the Lord (verse 14), that is, to trust patiently in Him. It is not enough to urge people to be strong and take heart (verse 14). These would be empty sentiments unless they are both prefaced and followed by the other injunction to wait for the Lord. Courage can be no more than a Stoic virtue. It only is Christian when it is the fruit of a quiet confidence in God.