preacher and writer in Chicago

Take Heart: Three Thoughts on Psalm 27

Take Heart: Three Thoughts on Psalm 27

Psalm 27

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 evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 4 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 inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. 7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. 11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. 13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

I’m an anxious person. I wish it weren’t so, but I am. Instead of naturally trusting God when confronted with uncertainty I embrace a particular brand of fear. I don’t just consider negative outcomes I begin to consider the loss of idols. Like the other day when I felt particularly self-conscious about a sermon I preached, I didn’t just think about people leaving my church, I thought about never becoming famous. You see fame is one of my idols—not because I am famous by any measure but rather because I think fame would satisfy my longing for significance.

As I faced this idol, God turned me toward his face through Psalm 27. Here are three thoughts:

  1. God dismantles fear in his presence. The psalmist tells us if we want to deal with our fear, we need to get in the presence of God. This is no feeble nor sentimental word. God’s character does the work of eradicating fear because he is light (v.1) and salvation (v.1) and a stronghold (v.14). God speaks back truth when fear lies, that’s his light. God rescues us from the despair of fear, that’s his salvation. God sustains and protects us from the effects of fear, that’s him as a stronghold.

  2. God’s love is transformative. Notice God hides, conceals and lifts up his people (v.5). We are not momentarily safe, we are transformed and refreshed. Being in the presence of God is not some emotional head space of spiritual reflection. In his presence he extends care to us and for us which result in our preservation and care. We don’t just feel okay, we are safe in him.

  3. God is at work in the waiting. Though I’d like to say that all the things that make us anxious disappear when we come to God, that’s not what this passage says. The psalmist ends with a call to wait. And in the waiting God produces courage and strength in us (v.14). We come to God with anxiety and fear, and the good news is not that whatever bothers us is gone, but rather the God who cares for us is here (1 Peter 5:6-7).

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