The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 27

Psa 27:1


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: Not certain: David is denied access to the House of the Lord, God's tabernacle (vv 4,5); there is a hostile army (v 3), and there are those who utter slanders against the psalmist's character. Even David's parents have left him (v 10). So, perhaps 1Sa 22:4, when David brought his parents to sojourn with the king of Moab. (The word "forsake" in v 10 need only mean "leave", without suggesting malicious intent.)

RELATED TO BELIEVERS: What is written for Christ, hated by his enemies, stands true also, in smaller measure, for his despised and rejected disciple. According to circumstances there is much here to help in times of opposition and distress.

THE LORD IS MY LIGHT: Light is one of the great symbols of God: Psa 4:6; 18:28; 36:9; 43:3; Mic 7:8. His presence in Israel was evidenced by the Shekinah light in the Most Holy, and the fiery light in the cloud. Jesus is the further manifestation of that same light (Joh 1:5,14; 8:12), and his disciples may become "sons of light" (Phi 2:12-16; 1Th 4:4-8). True fellowship with the Father and the Son depends on walking in the light (1Jo 1:5). Without God and His truth, men are naturally in darkness (Eph 4:18).

Psa 27:2

OT: See Elisha and the Syrian army at Dothan (2Ki 6:11-19: cp v 3 here: "though a host encamp against me").

NT: Cp Joh 18:6, esp when linked with v 1: "The Lord is my light." (Perhaps it was the Glory of the Lord, such as shone forth from Christ in the Transfiguration -- Mar 9:15; Luk 9:43, RV; 2Pe 1:16 -- which sent his enemies reeling backward to the ground in Gethsemane.) In this context "to eat up my flesh" is clearly symbolic. Therefore "stumbled and fell" must be sym also, describing the ultimate and total failure of all evil plots against Messiah. But the literal fact is recorded in the gospel as an open sign of the relevance of this psalm.

TO DEVOUR MY FLESH: See Psa 14:4; 53:4 and notes there.

Psa 27:3

THOUGH AN ARMY BESIEGE ME: NT: Not lit, but fig of the aggression of Pharisees and Sadducees seeking to expose him as a religious charlatan: eg the contentions of Mat 23.

Psa 27:4

The language of priesthood, with ref to Shekinah Glory and the High Priest's use of Urim and Thummim in response to an inquirer's prayer for guidance. "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luk 2:49, RV): this was the philosophy which guided the whole of his life. (The psalm is filled with allusions to the sanctuary of the Lord: "the beauty of the Lord" = the veil; "to seek the Lord" = Urim and Thummim; "the secret (place) -- shelter -- of his tabernacle" (v 5) = the Holy of Holies; "offer sacrifices of joy" (v 6). So these words were written for a king who is also a priest.) The desire of the young Jesus, to be in his Father's house, is reciprocated by the desire of his disciples -- who "were continually in the temple, praising and glorifying God" (Luk 24:52,53; Act 2:46,47).

ONE THING I ASK: But to which the industrious Martha was for the moment oblivious. But ct Mar 10:35 and its outcome.

"One master passion in the breast,
Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest" (Alexander Pope).

"Ideals are like stars, you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafarers on the desert of waters, you will choose them as your guides, and following them you reach your destiny."

"The tragedy in life consists not in failing to reach your goals, but in having no goals to reach."

Psa 27:5

IN THE DAY OF TROUBLE HE WILL KEEP ME SAFE: That is, in any such trouble (Eph 6:13), but esp in the great time of trouble: Dan 12:1; Isa 26:20. There were times in the experience of Jesus when the reader is left wondering how he escaped from mounting violence: eg Luk 4:29,30; Joh 8:59. But, when it suited the Father's purpose, Jesus was truly the "house built upon a rock" (Mat 7:24-27)!

DWELLING: "Pavilion" (AV): A booth or hut, associated with the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:43), but more generally simply suggestive of a nomadic lifestyle.

"In his pavilion... in the secret (place) of his tabernacle" (AV): And when he faced his greatest trouble, and the waves of death overflowed and engulfed him, then the prayer was truly answered. The Son of God was hidden in the special "pavilion" hewn out of a rock (Mar 16:4,6), wherein was never man yet laid (Joh 19:41). That special resting place became the secret tabernacle of God Himself, where His Son reclined upon a bed of stone (See Song 2:14). And there he rested "until the day break, and the shadows flee away" (Song 2:17). "There is a place by me," God told Moses, where "I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand" (Exo 33:21,22). Now a greater than Moses rested in the crevice of a rock, until the glory of his Father would pass by.

Psa 27:6

THEN MY HEAD WILL BE EXALTED: Cp Luk 21:28. Ct Goliath's head, lifted up off his shoulders(1Sa 17:51,54)! Here also are the two divergent fates of Joseph's fellow-prisoners: Gen 40:13,19.

AT HIS TABERNACLE WILL I SACRIFICE WITH SHOUTS OF JOY: Jesus the High Priest ministering not only the petitions of his people but also their praise and gladness! The key words in this and the previous v -- trouble, hide, lift up -- are used with ref to Jesus and his last hours of trial and crucifixion in Joh 12:27,32,36.

Psa 27:8

SEEK HIS FACE...: Jesus only, among those who are his, truly sought (and seeks) God's face -- for himself, and for others!

"Let us never think we have totally found God. There is always further to go, closer to get, deeper to understand -- and this is the whole joy and beauty and meaning of life. Our life has no value or purpose if we are not continually getting closer to God. The time will come, says Paul, when 'We (the true faithful) shall know as we are known' [1Co 13:12]. But it will never come for us if we are not continually striving with all our might in that direction now. God is not going to force eternal glory upon the lazy and worldly and unspiritual and uninterested. If we are interested in worldly things, we shall perish with them. Eternity is only for those few who realize the infinite value of the Pearl, and who eagerly 'sell all they have' to purchase it" (GVG).

YOUR FACE: Moses, hidden in the rock cleft, was only granted a view of the "after-glow" of God's glory (Exo 33:23) -- as man may see the sunset after the sun is gone. But Jesus came forth from the grave to see the fullness of the Divine glory in the very face of his Father! In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Psalms, God's face.

YOUR FACE, LORD, I WILL SEEK: "Why do some persons 'find' God in a way that others do not? Why does God manifest His Presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience? Of course the will of God is the same for all. He has no favorites within His household. All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us. Pick at random a score of great saints... You will be struck instantly with the fact that the saints were not alike. Sometimes the unlikenesses were so great as to be positively glaring. How different for example was Moses from Isaiah; how different was Elijah from David; how unlike each other were John and Paul... The differences are as wide as human life itself: differences of race, nationality, education, temperament, habit and personal qualities. Yet they all walked, each in his day, upon a high road of spiritual living far above the common way. Their differences must have been incidental and in the eyes of God of no significance. In some vital quality they must have been alike. What was it? I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they had in common was spiritual receptivity. Something in them was open to heaven, something which urged them Godward. Without attempting anything like a profound analysis I shall say simply that they had spiritual awareness and that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives. They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it. They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response. They were not disobedient to the heavenly vision" (AWT).

Psa 27:9

A poignant Gethsemane prayer. "Forsake" (vv 9,10) is sw Psa 22:1.

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark / tabernacle / temple: see VL, Psalms, God's face.

Psa 27:10

THOUGH MY FATHER AND MOTHER FORSAKE ME: Mar 3:21,31-35 tells of how at one time Mary allowed herself to entertain doubts about her Son. And evidently Joseph did, too.

RECEIVE: "Gather" (AV): Do not gather me up with sinners (Psa 26:9), but gather me up with You!

Psa 27:12

FALSE WITNESSES RISE UP AGAINST ME: NT: This very language is used in Mar 14:56,57 to describe the rigged trial of Jesus: see also Psa 35:11-13; Isa 59:3,4.

BREATHING OUT VIOLENCE: "To 'breathe out injustice' would imply that those who do so are full of such malignity, as Saul of Tarsus was before his conversion (Acts 9:1). Those who 'breathe out injustice' wish to be in control of others, for they are not in control of themselves. Our Lord was in total control of himself, and he only ever breathed out the Spirit of 'wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD' (Isa 11:2). What spirit do we breathe out? Are we in control of ourselves? Or do we seek to control others by issuing and supporting edicts designed to this end:- that by controlling others, rather than ourselves, we retain the power?" (CY).

Psa 27:13

"I had fainted unless I believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (AV): These words speak of Christ's touch-and-go experience in Gethsemane, and of a reviving conviction in his own resurrection to the land of the living.

Psa 27:14

To whom is the Lord Jesus giving such counsel? Perhaps Luk 22:43 (his words to the thief on the cross) supplies the answer.

WAIT FOR THE LORD: See Lesson, Waiting.

"It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier learns not without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier to God's warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No, but simply wait. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the case before Him; tell Him your difficulty, and plead His promise of aid. In dilemmas between one duty and another, it is sweet to be humble as a child, and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord. It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our own folly, and are heartily willing to be guided by the will of God. But wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in Him; for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is but an insult to the Lord. Believe that if He keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet He will come at the right time; the vision shall come and shall not tarry. Wait in quiet patience, not rebelling because you are under the affliction, but blessing your God for it" (CHS).

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