Who would’ve thought 2020 would be such a year? The rise of a virus and it spreading to around the whole planet, our President almost gets impeached, Kim Jong Un disappears for a time and is thought to be dead, the ridiculously strange TV show Tiger King soars in popularity, Murder Hornets, Monkeys steal Covid-19 samples, justice fueled protests, sinful violent riots, and all kinds of unrest in our cities, and now just this past week police in Tennessee began warning drug addicts to stop flushing their ‘Meth’ down the toilet because it’s creating aggressive alligators they’re calling ‘meth-gators.’ What’s next? If 2020 has done anything to us, it’s stripped away all the vain things we put our hope in. Many used to walk with a strut, but now it seems the confidence and courage of many have failed.

In such a time the question is not do you look to anything to find rest or solace in, but where are we looking for it? I’m sure you’ve felt tempted to look in all kinds of places, but when we look into Scripture we’re reminded there is only one true and lasting place to find such courage, confidence, and ballast for the soul, in our God. 

In walking through Psalm 27 this morning, we’ll be reminded of this very thing as it brings us face to face with ‘The God of Our Confidence.’

There are many ways to approach Psalm 27, the stanza structure isn’t as clear as it is in some other Psalms. But there is a general pattern or a movement clear enough to see. We do not know the situation that gave rise to this Psalm or why David wrote it, but he’s clearly in a position of need. In v1-6 the tone is all about a strong confidence, a courage, and a trust in the Lord despite the circumstances. But then it changes. The strength of v1-6 seems to give way to a neediness, a prayerful pleading for God not to abandon or forsake in v7-14. This change from such confidence to such desperation might seem strange at first but the more we look at it, it’s clear the confidence of the beginning fuels the prayer at the end.[1] And, rather than this being something foreign to us, I think this pattern actually matches our experience with God in this life. So lean in with me to Psalm 27.

I’ve divided it into two parts:

-Our confidence in the Lord (v1-6)

-Growing our confidence in the Lord (v7-14)

Our Confidence in the Lord (v1-6)

“OF DAVID. 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 evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 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. 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. 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.”

In v1 David begins by stating three things God is to him: light, salvation, and a stronghold.[2] God is light to David because he knows what it is to be in darkness. God is salvation to David because he knows what it is to be saved by God. God is a stronghold to David because he knows what it is to flee to God and find refuge in Him. These three terms are very related for sure, and in a true sense it’s very hard to separate them or pull them apart from each other. When God saves He reaches into the darkness, pull us out to the light, and bring us to Himself where we’re ever safe and secure. You see, these words show us that God is not only protecting David, God Himself is the protection for David.[3] Because of this truth, twice in v1 we hear a question we immediately know the answer to. “Whom shall I fear?” and “Of whom shall I be afraid?” Answer: when God is our light, our salvation, and our stronghold, even though all the world in all its weight comes down against us, God outweighs it all.[4]

As the Psalm progresses David keeps pulling on this thread. He just gave three descriptions of God in v1, now in v2-3 he gives four descriptions of his enemies. It’s as if he wants to show us again how God is never outmatched regardless how many enemies there are.[5] It’s military language he uses here: enemies assailing, adversaries and foes eating up his flesh, armies encamping and warring against him. For David this is something he experienced many times in actual war, yet he employs this military language here as well and I think we know why. Because when we feel spiritual attack it truly does feel like enemies drawing near, like troops coming against us. Yet, or in spite of all this, see the confidence? All these enemies thought they could make easy work of David, but they encountered Someone they did not expect. David didn’t send them running, no. These enemies encountered David’s God and upon encountering Him they stumbled and fell, and ultimately brought no fear or trembling to David’s heart.[6]

Look though. Do you see what flows forth from this mighty confidence? A mighty request in 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 inquire in His temple.” In his life David had been a frequenter of the temple to worship the Lord, and on those visits David, no doubt, would’ve seen the priests who lived within the temple, who were busy day and night tending and keeping it. In v4 David is not literally saying he wishes to be one those priests and live in the temple too, no. He’s saying his one great desire, the thing he desires to continually seek after is to permanently live in God’s presence spiritually wherever he might be. To always be near Him, to always dwell with Him, to always gaze on Him, to meditate on Him, to enjoy Him, and to ever be taking Him in with the mind and the heart.[7] Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said on this very topic, “Christians are those who delight to think of Jesus and to meditate concerning Him, and the more they think about Him and His glory and His greatness, the happier they are.” Do you hear that and think, ‘Yes that’s me!’ Or does this puzzle you? Church, this is the great desire of all those who know God as their light, their salvation, and their stronghold. Is this your great desire? We could turn this around and ask the same question differently. We would all conclude someone’s body to be sick if they have lost the desire to eat, right? We need food to fuel our bodies, without it we perish. Similarly, we ought to conclude someone’s soul to be sick when they don’t desire to know the Lord or be near the Lord like this.[8] So…how goes it with your soul? Do these things expose the idols of your heart, or do they confirm your deepest joy? The answer will reveal much about your true state before God.

Notice next then in v5-6 David returns to the tone of confident declarations like those in v1-3. He is once again quite sure, not sure of himself, but sure in God. Specifically, in v5 he’s sure that God will be a shelter to him, that God will hide him in His tent, and lift him high up on a rock. These words are all getting at God placing David so deep in Himself that David’s enemies can’t even get at him. David sees this as God lifting him up. In v6 this thought expands. Because God has so lifted David up above his enemies David will not be caught up with mocking his enemies from a position of safety, no. Instead his sights will raise higher as he offers shouts of joy and songs to the Lord for who He is and what He has done. David is deeply resting and thoroughly enjoying the confidence he has in the Lord. This teaches us much about ourselves and where we look in seasons like the one we’re in right now. More on this in a moment, for now look ahead to v7-14…

Growing Our Confidence in the Lord (v7-14)

“Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to You, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 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! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

As I began today I mentioned there is a change in v7. Did you feel it as we read through it? The strength of v1-6 has truly given way to a prayerful pleading. For what? For God not to abandon in v7-14. Why such a shift? What happened? Where did the robust confidence go? Did David lose it? Were his enemies too strong? Did his suffering rise too high? No. His confidence is there, for sure, but it looks a little different in v7-14. Here is what I think is happening in this shift. David knows God to be these things to him in v1-6 and that makes him rejoice in great confidence and sing praise to God, now David shifts from praise to prayer asking God to keep being those things for him in v7-14. In other words, David is doing what we should do: turning the promises of God into prayer toward God.[9] When we do this, turning promises into prayer, we grow our confidence in the Lord.

 It begins in v7-9 where we immediately sense the shift in tone. David cries out in prayer urgently asking that God hear him and be gracious to him. In v8 we find out God told David ‘Seek my face’ and David’s heart responded in faith, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’ But even in seeking the face of God faithfully David is pleading with God for God not to hide Himself from him or cast him away. But wait, didn’t David rejoice back in v5 that the Lord has hidden him in Himself, why now ask for God to not hide His face? Remember, David’s turning the promise into prayer. He loved hearing God promise that God will hide him so deep in Himself that his enemies cannot reach him. This moves David to pray asking that God would do what He’s promised to do, more and more. David knows God has been his help, and David can’t forget it. He remembers the bear he fought as a youth, he remembers Goliath, remembers Saul, remembers the Philistines, and how God saved him from them all.[10] So to David, and to all who know the Lord, the least hiding of the Lord’s face is a great affliction, too much to bear.[11] So David yearns for and asks God to keep being for him what He has been for him, the God of his salvation. This isn’t strange, this is what faith looks like. Pleading the promises of God back to God, asking Him to be for us what He has promised to be for us.

After praying such a request in v7-9 David’s soul moves to another statement of confidence in v10. It is sad, but it’s a sad confidence nonetheless. Now we do not have any record of David’s father Jesse or his mother forsaking David, so I don’t think David is speaking from personal experience here. Rather I think David is speaking with a heightened emphasis here, or hyperbole saying something like, ‘In this world I know, there are sadly extreme circumstances where even the love of a mother and father will fail towards their children. But even then, God will be both mother and father to His own.’[12]Which leads him to further prayer in v11-12, prayer that resembles v1-6 and picks back up the themes of his enemies assailing him. I think David has come full circle here in Psalm 27. He’s praised God, rejoiced in God, and rested in God’s great care over him. He’s pleaded with God to never stop being this for him. Now, David prays big all encompassing prayers asking God, as His true Father and Mother, to teach him, lead him, and not give him up. Again, this isn’t strange, this is what faith looks like. Pleading the promises of God back to God, even in the midst of enemies coming at him from all sides.

This all leads to a great final boast in v13, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!” Psalm 27 began in great confidence, it now ends in great confidence. It’s a statement of belief. “I believe…” I wonder, does David think doctrine is practical? Does what he believes matter? Does theology change how he lives? Very much so. He wasn’t content to let what he believed about God remain in his head, no. What he believed about God went into his bones, moved him to prayer, and gave him great confidence in God. What did it look like for David here in Psalm 27? Regardless what’s going on around him, he believes he will see, not just God moving and active in his life, but God’s goodness in, through, and all around his life. And he believes he won’t have to wait to see God’s goodness once he’s dead, but that he’ll see it here and now while he’s alive. So enemies may abound, he may be in danger, he might be in great suffering, but David believes that these things will reveal the goodness of God to him.

Only through the eyes of faith can one see treasure in the trial.

So David ends with a word, that’s as much for himself as it is for us his readers in v14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

Conclusion:

So Church, we could linger on many things as we end now. I’ll just say this: Psalm 27 speaks great words of trust and Psalm 27 is honest about great fear. And how unexpected to see that trust and fear are not as far removed from each other as we might think.[13]

Did you know such David like confidence can be yours as well? I’m not speaking of confidence in yourself, positive thinking, or something like that, no. True confidence doesn’t come from looking inside ourselves, but comes from looking outside ourselves to God. But, as great as David’s confidence is, did you know we can have a greater confidence in God? How? Because of Jesus, because of His gospel, all those who by faith grab ahold of Him and bank on His redeeming work find what? They find God to be their light, their salvation, and their stronghold. And their chief desire is life becomes being near to this great Savior.

This reminds me of Jonathan Edwards last words. The great pastor and theologian, missionary to the Native Americans, was at this time in his life the president of the College of New Jersey (later called Princeton), an institution founded to train pastors. That’s a story in itself. Anywho, a new vaccine had been created for smallpox and Edwards volunteered to take it to show others how we need not fear the advance of medicine. Well he had a reaction to it, developed a fever, and died shortly after on March 22, 1758. Right before he died he looked around and said, “Now where is Jesus of Nazareth, my true and never failing friend?” He closed his eyes, and those there with him at this moment thought he had died. But he then uttered one more sentence, “Trust in God, and you need not fear.”[14]

So Church, where is your confidence? I’ve mentioned it a few times, that Psalm 27 teaches us much about ourselves and where we look in seasons like the one we’re in right now. We don’t know what else 2020 may bring, but we do know if we look to the world we’ll be distressed…if we look to Jesus we’ll be at rest.


[1] Nancy DeClaisse-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, Beth Laneel Tanner, The Book of Psalms – NICOT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2014) 264-265.

[2] James Johnston, The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord Is King, Vol. 1, ed. R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 282–83.

[3] Johnston, 283.

[4] John Calvin, quoted in William S. Plumer, Psalms (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 2016), 353.

[5] Johnston, The Psalms (Psalms 1 to 41), 284.

[6] Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 – WBC (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1983) 232.

[7] Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary – The Writings (New York ; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018), 78.

[8] Johnston, The Psalms (Psalms 1 to 41), 287.

[9] Plumer, Psalms, 361.

[10] Plumer, 356.

[11] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David – vol. 1 (Mclean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing, reprint) 4.

[12] Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 79.

[13] DeClaisse-Walford, Jacobson, Tanner, The Book of Psalms, 272.

[14] Johnston, The Psalms (Psalms 1 to 41), 285.

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