Psalm 27

This morning we are continuing a series in the book of Psalms.  And today we are going to study Psalm 27.   Which reads (NIV)

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 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.

Before the age of GPS – in fact, before the age of mobile phones….  my friend Kevin and I were driving to Maine for a youth conference.  We had an idea of where we needed to go, but as we often did in those days – we figured we’d just drive up near there and then we’d stop somewhere and ask for directions when we got close.

As we pulled off the interstate to pay the toll, I asked the toll booth guy for help.  “Excuse me sir, can you tell me how to get to such and such conference center?  He looked at me, wrinkled his forehead and said words that I haven’t forgotten to this day.  He calmly said, in a deep Maine accent – “You can’t get there from here.”

Whoa!  How disconcerting!  Now, I’ve been lost before, but never THIS lost!  Apparently I made such a wrong turn that my final destination was now eternally out of reach!

I looked at the guy and said, you’ve got to give me more than that.  He suggested I go back down the road a piece and ask the fella at the next exit.  So that’s what we did.

I bring this up – because what I see when I read Psalm 27 – is a bit of a travel story.  I see David moving from heya – to theya.  So this morning – here’s where we’re heading.

What is “here”

What is “there”

How do we get “theya” from Here?

First – what is here?   One word – Crisis!  That’s what is here.  Here is – for David – a land full of trouble!  David is dealing with some heavy stuff.

David is king of Israel – about 1000 years before Jesus was born.  And as they say, heavy is the head that wears the crown.  Uneasy is the head – now let’s just take a look at the pressing issues that David is feeling here in this psalm.

David begins the psalm – The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?  Is David suggesting that he doesn’t have any fears?  No!  There’s plenty to fear!  He is living in a state of crisis!

  • Wicked people trying to devour him
  • Enemies and foes – with real swords by the way – armies besieging him
  • Father and Mother forsake me? 
  • False witnesses spreading malicious accusations. 

How does David feel about the real crisis he is experiencing?  He tells us two times in the first verse – he is dealing with fear.  He writes – whom shall I fear?  So he is having a conversation with his soul – in an effort to reason with himself – the Lord is for me – who shall stand against me?

And the reason he is having this conversation is because he is fighting fear – fighting worry – fighting anxiety.   The crisis is real.  And his reaction to them is normal.  He’s fearful.

This psalm is interesting because it has a tone that sounds super triumphant – but there is also laced throughout it the recognition that the crisis is real and the fear is there – but it shall not rule over me.

And that’s very biblical.  throughout the bible we find a tension between triumph and the idea that we are in a fight.  We’ve won the battle, and yet – every day is a scrap.  Each day is a bare knuckles brawl against real enemies that seek to beat us down.

I mean – in the Lord’ prayer we prayed – when we pray “lead me not into temptation” – is that not an acknowledgement – that sin is crouching at my door?

When we pray in the Lord’s prayer – “deliver me from evil” – is that not an acknowledgement that we have a spiritual enemy, the devil, that, according to 1 Peter 5:8 prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.    

You have to appreciate the honest manner that David is dealing with his crisis.  He isn’t trying to sweep the issues under the rug.  David accurately sees the trouble and calls it for what it is.

IN fact he makes a list of the battles he is fighting right now.  He writes out on a sheet of paper – these are the battles I’m fighting right now.

In fact – you know what’s interesting about this.  See – if you are dealing with stress, many self help sites on the web will say- if you are dealing with anxiety – you should just reason with yourself – that the troubles you are worrying about are likely to never happen.  Just tell yourself – that’s probably not going to happen.

The self help sites encourage you instead to think positive thoughts – there is power in positive thinking – retrain your thinking to imagine the best happening instead of the worst.

And there might be some logic to it – but when we read Psalm 27 – it seems that David has the opposite strategy.  He is imagining the worst.  It seems that he might be writing theoretical problems down on as well as real ones.

Even if my parents forsake me – is that happening?  We don’t read of that being part of David’s story in the bible – instead it seems that David is imagining the worst.

David is thinking like a Husker fan – you hope for the best, but prepare yourself for the worst.  And in David’s thinking – even if the worst does happen – I’ll be okay – I’ll be safe in the hands of God.  And – by the way – later in his life he will be betrayed by his own flesh and blood – as his son Absalom tries to kill his father, David.

David was prepared for the worst – he wrote it down – real and perhaps theoretical – and then he looked at the list of troubles in front of him and asked himself – is God enough?  Is God able to get me through even these things?  And his answer was yes –

So – what is HERE?  Crisis.

Then – what is THERE? There is living confidently in the midst of Crisis.   Where does David envision himself being?  David has confidence that God will see him through his trials and tribulations.  David has confidence that God will triumph over his foes.

Even if I am attacked,

  • I will remain confident.  v. 3
  • Then I will hold my head high, even when my enemies surround me. 6
  • Be strong and courageous  as we wait patiently upon the Lord.

Brave, strong, head held high – courageous, confident in the midst of crisis.

That’s the goal.  for us.  And so – the question is how.  How did David go from crisis to confidence in the midst of crisis?

What’s the key?  David says – one thing.  One thing.  We find it in verse 4 – now interestingly David says that he is asking for one thing and then lists three different items – all of them apparently are rolled into one.  What are they?

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.

Now – notice- David says one thing –  then lists three things. He says the one thing is dwelling, gazing and seeking.

How do we get from the land of fearful crisis to the land of courage and confidence?   By dwelling with and gazing upon and seeking God himself.

It sounds like three things but they are one thing.  But let’s look at all three facets of this one thing.

First – What does David mean when he says that he wants to dwell in the house of the Lord?  Is he being literal?

No – he doesn’t want to move into the temple.  And actually – when David was King the temple was actually a tent – it was a tabernacle – the temple would not be built until his son Solomon reined.  Like we worship God in a gym – the Israelites went into a tent – and it was there where they worshipped until Solomon built them a home – a temple where, like here – generations would one day worship.

Either way – David doesn’t want to move into the tabernacle either.  So what does he mean?  To dwell with God means he wants to be in his presence – to know God personally.  He wants to be in his presence always.

I remember one time when my kids where little ones – after a long day at work I came home tired and sat on the couch – and up jumped my daughter to sit on my lap and tell me all about her day.  She had so many words as a little one to share – and I think that my mind began to wonder.  I was listening to her but I was looking out the window – my mind wandering.

My daughter senses that she was in my presence but I wasn’t with her – and so I remember her reaching over and grabbing both sides of my head and turning my face to look at her when she was talking.  I want to see your face!  Look at me, daddy!

Think about that and let’s read David –

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,

Three times – I want to see your face.  I want to dwell in your presence.   

The next time you are in a crisis – I want you to imagine this – I want you to imagine your hands lovingly placed on each side of Jesus’ face – and I want you to imagine that I just want to make sure you are here.

Do you think that bothers God?  I don’t think so and I’ll tell you why…  in 1980 during some excavation in Israel these tiny amulets were discovered – and on these amulets was inscribed what turns out to be the oldest scripture we know of – written 500 years older than the dead sea scrolls – what’s on this amulet?

It’s a verse from the book of Numbers – and it’s the place where the Lord himself meets with Moses and explains that – this is how I want you to instruct the priests to tell the people on my behalf.

Numbers 6:22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

The oldest scripture we have is this blessing that God himself wrote out – This is how I want you to bless my people!   The Lord make his face – not only turn to you – but shine upon you!  The Lord bless you – (Flourish) turn his face toward you and give you peace!

In order for us to get there – that place of confidence in the midst of crisis – it starts with dwelling with God.  Being in his presence.  Seeing his face turn toward you.

Do you have any idea how much God loves you?  If you tried to count how often God thinks of you, it would total more than the amount of grain of sand on earth.  You are known and loved.

David asks for one thing from the Lord to lead him to being able to live confidently in crisis.  To dwell with, to gaze upon and to seek God himself.

What does it mean to gaze at something? Ever see something in creation that makes you want to stop and drink it in?  Ever see a sunset or sunrise that made you pull your car over to watch it?  To just drink it in?  That’s what it means to gaze upon God.  To drink him in – to admire and appreciate him for all his beauty.

Now it’s summer time – good time to read some books – sit on the deck and read, right?  May I challenge you to read a book this summer that increases your knowledge of God?  That shines a light on the beauty of God?

Here’s one suggestion by one of my favorite authors – Timothy Keller – It’s just one suggestion.  But if you read it you will learn more upon which to fix your gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

You know what would be fun?  If you went to our Facebook page and left suggestions – books that you wish others would read.  Put it into the comments on today’s sermon and we’ll be able to help one another.

Gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.  Learn – grow – and think highly enough of the Lord that you find it easy to trust him in times of crisis.

How do we move from here – from crisis to confidence? One way – according to Psalm 27.  Dwell with, gaze upon, and seek the God who loves you so.

Now finally, what doe David mean when he says he wants to seek God in his temple?

Well, David went to the temple because, in the Jewish mindset – that’s where you found God.  He was in the tabernacle.  And what happened in that temple?  What did David see when he went to the temple?

He watched as priests day after day offered sacrifices to God.  He watched in awe – at the mercy of God, as family after family appeared before the priest – at least once a year – often with a lamb around their shoulders – and David watched as the priests offered that innocent lamb before the Lord and asked the Lord in his mercy to transfer to sins of the family to this pure, innocent lamb.  And then David watched as the lamb died for the sins of the family, and watched the family walk away, declared innocent of their sins.

And what David saw in that temple continued day after day, year after year, generation after generation – until one day, 1000 years after David wrote this,  John the Baptist looks up and sees Jesus walking toward him- and John the Baptist stops his gang of followers and declares of Jesus, John 1:29  “Look!  (Behold!  Fix your gaze) upon the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”

A couple of years later Jesus is speaking to a group of religious leaders and he tells them – tear this temple down and in three days I will raise it back up again.  The people said – You’re crazy – it took 46 years to build this temple – but Jesus wasn’t talking about the literal temple – he was talking about himself.

If you want to seek God – you see him most clearly through the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus.   God in the flesh – who tabernacled – he pitched his tent among us.

If you are going to seek God you will find him in Jesus.  The sunset isn’t enough.  You find God in the person of Jesus, God in the flesh, who died for us in order that he might live life with us.

Faith in Jesus brings makes available to us the “With God” life that gave David such confidence in the midst of crisis.  He knew God was with him.  And if God was with him, who could stand against him.

Dwell with him – gaze upon his beauty and seek Jesus with all our heart.  And we too will be able to live with confidence in the midst of crisis.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Romans 8:31

the answer is – plenty of things can be against us!  But what can prevail?  Nothing.  Not to the one who dwells with, and gazes upon and seeks the God who loved us enough to die for us.

Before I close in prayer – here’s a writing exercise for you, whether you are in crisis or not.  Perhaps sometime today you can take time to write your own version of Psalm 27.

I’d suggest starting with copying verse 1 and make sure verse 4 gets in there too, but – this might sound weird, but perhaps you might include a list of the worst things you can imagine happening to you – even if fill in the blank were to happen to me…

Then ask yourself this question- would God be enough for me even then?  If you can say yes, God is enough for me in even if the world falls apart – then you know you are on the right track to being able to live a life of confident assurance, that

Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;