Psalms Through the Summer #6: A Psalm Over Fear - Psalms 27
Psalms 27 is one of the most cherished in all the book of Psalms.
It certainly has become one of mine for two reasons. First as a pastor I began using it when visiting a member in the hospital. It has a powerful, comforting reassurance beginning in the very first verse.
Psalms 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? That is what you need to hear when they have you strapped down in a hospital bed or they are rolling you down the hallway for an operation over which you have no control.
The second reason it means so much to me is, it that it became my “go to” verse when my heart valve stopped and I almost died. After I had collapsed and everything went black, when I came to and realized that even though I was seeing an angel it was my wife, LeeOra and not Gabriel, and I wasn’t in heaven just yet. Instead I was headed to the hospital and for the next 14 day, I read Psalms and I read Psalm 27 a lot. When they took me to the operating room. I had it written on my arm so when I got into recovery, it would be the first thing I would see. The Lord is the my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Now it turns out that they stick a lot things on your arms and wrist when you are in surgery and when I came out I couldn’t see anything but adhesive tape on my arm, but I knew it was there and more importantly I knew what it said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? I didn’t need to see it on my arm, because it had already been written on my heart.
I think another reason we can related so well to Psalm 27 is because it presents us with a recognizable dichotomy, a sharp contrast between faith, in the first half of the Psalms, and fear in the second half.
It begins with “Whom shall I fear?” but then in vs 9 we hear
the cry of someone in real fear, while going through a tribulation. Psalms 27:9
Hide not thy face far from me;
put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
Now this contrast isn’t a contradiction, it is a contemplation of what our life is often like in situations we all face. As in all the Psalms, the 27th is unflinching in its honesty and in its consideration of the nature of being human and the nature of faith.
Overcome Fear: Know The Lord - Psalms 27:1-3
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
David begins in the only place a child of God can begin when they are facing fear, by focusing not on the fear but on the Lord. David says that through his relationship with God, there are three things, three faith factors that God is to him, and those things are his power to fighting and overcoming the fear.
He says, The Lord God, Jehovah, is my light, He is my salvation, and He is the strength of my life. These are the faith factors that are essential to fighting and overcoming fear.
Fear feeds on darkness and ignorance but the light of the Lord drives back the darkness of fear. Just as darkness cannot overcome the light of a single candle, fear cannot overcome the light of the Lord.
David says the Lord is my salvation, his savior. No matter who or what is attacking or hurting him, David knows that God will save him, so he can boast, “Whom shall I fear?” God is on his side, and there is none greater than God?
David goes on in his boast, his faith focused on the Lord and declares, “the Lord is the strength of my life.” The word translated strength of my life is the Hebrew word מָעֹז ma‘oz; it means a fortified place; a defense, a fortress, a rock. David looks to the Lord and knows that his life is safe, hidden in the Lord. Like a man surrounded by the strong walls and high towers of a fortress. David says, “This is my Lord, this is why I can shout, “Of whom shall I be afraid?” I’m surrounded by the power and love of my Lord.”
In the 18th Psalms, David praised God for delivering him from King Saul, many of the same themes echo in both Psalms. Psalms 18:1-3 I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. v. 28, For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
David finishes this stanza of the Psalms by taking his faith to the extreme. If the wicked should come to and attack him like a pack of wild animals tearing his flesh apart, they will fail. If an entire army should lay siege and make war against him, He emphatically states, “My heart shall not fear! In this will I be confident.” That is boldness, that is faith, that is overcoming fear and it can only come through a trusting, growing relationship with the Lord.
And do you realize, child of God, that the factors that David used to fight fear are even more powerful in you as New Testament believers?
Fortified by Faith
If anything, we as New Testament, New Covenant, believers should have even greater power over fear than David. We not only have the promises of God that were given to David, but even more we have the fulfillment of those promises as our present possession.
Factor 1. David looked to the Lord as his light but we have the light of the Lord in our hearts constantly. In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” We have Jesus, and in Him we have the light that overcomes darkness and fear.
Factor 2. David prophesied of a coming Messiah, but he did not know the Messiah by name but we can call by name to the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus and in His name find salvation. 1 John 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. 2 Timothy 1:10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Factor 3. David’s Lord was his stronghold, his rock of salvation and that same truth is magnified in us as because we follow and obey Jesus our rock. He himself gives us this promise in Luke 6:47-48 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. That Rock is Jesus and that house is our life, our family, our eternity.
Who will I fear? Who will make me afraid? Jesus is my light, my savior and my rock!
The courage of Stephen
When Stephen was taken and tried by the Sanhedrian, he boldly preached repentance an faith in Jesus the Christ, that they had crucified. Even as men surrounded him, their hands filled with stones and their hearts filled with rage, he just kept preaching Jesus. How could he be so bold? The Bible tells us he looked up into heaven, set his eyes on the glory of the throne of God and focused his faith on the light of Jesus, his savior, his stronghold.
We must do the same. Don’t look upon the darkness of fear that surrounds us but instead look upon the face of the Jesus our Lord, our light, our salvation and our strength.
The next stanza in this psalm takes us from David’s courage to David’s desire. A desire that also was vital to overcoming.
Overcome Fear: Desire The Lord - Psalm 27:4-7
One thing have I desired 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 behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
David could overcome fear because overcoming fear was not his greatest desire. David was brave not because he tried to be brave, but because his love of his Lord made him brave.
Listen to what he says, “One thing have I desired 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 behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.”
One thing, one thing above all other things, one that that take precedent over all other things. One thing that leaves no room for fear. That one thing is to behold the beauty of the Lord.
One place that David as an Old Testament believer has us beat it is in phrases like that, to behold the beauty of the Lord. David said if I could live in the house of the Lord everyday of my life, if I could pray at the temple all those days, this is what I would desire, this is what I would pray for to see the beauty of the Lord.
When David was a fugitive, an outlaw and could not go to worship God in the sanctuary he wrote this in Psalms 63:1-4. It has the same heart, that same desire that longs to see God. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.”
Do We Desire God?
If we could but understand what David understood, we would have the bravery of the youth who faced down a giant, overcame a mad king, survived betrayal by his own family and even in the face of his own grievous sin looked not away from God, but he looked to God and his desire for God was greater than all sorrow, sin and loss. Greater than fear.
The Bible says David was a man after God’s own heart, but Jesus was God’s own heart. When they asked Him what is the greatest commandment, His answer was desire the Lord above all things. Mark 12:29-30 Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
When your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength is set upon loving the Lord there won’t be any room for fear. The overwhelming desire for God leaves no room for fear to find a threshold.
Quote: The highest desire that can possess any human heart is a longing to see God. - J. Vernon McGee in Feasting on the Word.
Ignatius Awaiting Death In the Arena
During the Emperor Trajan’s rule he began a terrible persecution of the Christians as a way of giving thanks to the god of Rome that had given victory in a war. One of the martyrs was an old pastor named Ignatius who had been a student of Peter, Paul but especially of John. Ignatius was arrested in Antioch and taken in chains to Rome where he was condemned to die by being torn to pieces by wild beasts, lions, tigers or leopards that were imported from around the world just for such sport. As he waited to die, the soldier who stood next to him ready to march him out into the middle of the arena, could hear Ignatius saying over and over agan, “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu” the Latin name for Jesus. The soldier asked Igatius why he kept repeated that name and this was Iganatius answer, “My dear Jesus, my Saviour, Is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces, the name of Jesus would be found written on every piece.” – Ignatius
His desire for his Lord overcame even the fear of death at the claws of wild animals in front of bloodthirsty people who hated him.
The next stanza brings us to the contrast of this psalm. To this point we hear confidence, boasting and faith, but now we come to fear, forsaking and false witnesses.
Overcome Fear: Seek The Lord – Psalms 27:8-13
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me,
then the LORD will take me up. Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Now David’s confidence in the Lord is confronted by his own fear. He begins with an appeal to God to recognize his love and obedience, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” David had obeyed God with his heart but fear is a persistent and powerful force. And now David fears the one thing he cannot overcome, being alone without God. With God he can face any and all but without God, he cannot stand alone.
He cries out, leave me not, do not forsake me. He goes to an extreme example, “If my father and mother should forsake me, then Lord please pick me up. Do not deliver me to my enemies. This is David’s only real fear, to be forsaken of God, but the last verse tells us that that is exactly what it is, a fear and never a reality.
David says, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” David acknowledges that fear is powerful, even deadly, that there are enemies, death-traps, real dangers out there, and without God he would not have made it. He would have fainted, lost heart and been defeated but because he believed that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, he could stand, he could face the fear, he could overcome.
Faith and Fear
I’ve been alive for 64 years now and preaching for 43 years and sometimes it seems that after all that time there aren’t any more firsts in my life. I always like to take not of the firsts of life. And today in this sermon, right now you and I are going to experience a first. (I know this kind of thing make my wife real nervous.) Today for the first time every in a sermon I am going to quote John Wayne. That right. I’m quoting the Duke because it fits right here in this contrast of David’s psalm, between fear and faith.
Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. - John Wayne
Paul of course said it better, 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
We would be foolish to deny the fear. David, as great a warrior and king as he was, never denied that he was afraid. Fear is the most powerful weapon that Satan has, and he uses it effectively. Just look at what our country and families are going through right now, most of it comes down to fear.
And we must accept that even the children of God can be affected by fear, even of something as impossible as being alone without God.
How do you deal with fear? First by recognizing it for what it is and what it is doing to you, confess it and then in faith put your eyes back on the Lord. Faith in the Lord is the only antidote to fear and faith in Him never fails.
Hebrews 13:5-6 “..he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Conclusion: Overcoming Fear: Wait On The Lord- Psalm 27:14
David’s Final Faith Factor
David brings it a final faith factor, a ultimate fortress of faith in the face of fear,in the last verse. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Wait, be patient, be faithful, be hopeful, be of good courage and the Lord shall without a doubt, without fail, strengthen your fearful heart. Listen carefully, for it is so important that David must repeat it. “Wait, I say, on the Lord!”