George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 27

1. Structure

1- 6.
Confidence in God
Confidence renewed

2. Historical background

In this psalm there is not enough specific detail to make iron-clad identification of any phase of David’s experience. However, it is at a time when 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). This last clue, along with the more general points above, seem to pinpoint 1 Samuel 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.)

3. Messianic reference

The entire psalm should be read as a prophecy of the trials and faith of Jesus in the days of his flesh. Certain details are outstanding:

When the wicked, even mine enemies (vv. 11,12) and my foes, came upon me....they stumbled and fell. The connection with John 18:6 is unmistakable, especially 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 — Mark 9:15; Luke 9:43, RV; 2 Pet. 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 symbolic 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.
False witnesses are risen up against me. This very language is used in Mark 14:56,57 to describe the rigged trial of Jesus: see also Psa. 35:11-13; Isa. 59:3,4.
I had fainted unless I believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 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.

Other details to be considered in this light are these:

The Lord is my light. Compare Mic. 7:8, in a quite magnificent Messianic prophecy. Mark the strong emphasis throughout the psalm on me, my, mine, as though what is written here is specially and uniquely true of one individual.
Though war should rise against me. Not literally, but as a figure of the aggression of Pharisees and Sadducees seeking to expose him as a religious charlatan: e.g. the contentions of Matt. 23.
The house of the Lord....the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. This is the language of priesthood, with reference 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?” (Luke 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 enquire of the Lord = Urim and Thummim; the secret (place) of his tabernacle = the Holy of Holies; offer sacrifices of joy. 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” (Luke 24:52,53; Acts 2:46,47).
In the time of trouble he shall hide me. There were times in the experience of Jesus when the reader is left wondering how he escaped from mounting violence: e.g. Luke 4:29,30; John 8:59. But, when it suited the Father’s purpose, Jesus was truly the “house built upon a rock” (Matt. 7:24-27)!

In his the secret (place) of his tabernacle. 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 (Mark 16:4,6), wherein was never man yet laid (John 19:41). That special resting place became the secret tabernacle of God Himself, where His Son reclined upon a bed of stone.

“O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs” (Song 2:14).

And there he rested “until the day break, and the shadows flee away” (v. 17). “There is a place by me,” God told Moses, where “I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand” (Exod. 33:21,22). Now a greater than Moses rested in the crevice of a rock, until the glory of his Father would pass by.
Therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy. Another allusion to 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 verse — trouble, hide, lift up — are used with reference to Jesus and his last hours of trial and crucifixion in John 12:27,32,36.
When I cry....answer me, as in Luke 22:43 — in Gethsemane.
Seek ye my face....Thy face, Lord, will I seek. “Ye” is the only plural pronoun in the psalm. But Jesus only, among those who are his, truly sought (and seeks) God’s face — for himself, and for others!

Thy face. Moses, hidden in the rock cleft, was only granted a view of the “after-glow” of God’s glory (Exod. 33:23) — as man may see the sunset after the sun is gone. But Jesus came forth from the grave to see the fulness of the Divine glory in the very face of his Father!
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. A poignant Gethsemane prayer. “Forsake” (vv. 9,10) is s.w. 22:1.
When my father and my mother forsake me. Mark 3:21,31-35 tells of how at one time Mary allowed herself to entertain doubts about her Son. And evidently Joseph did, too.
Such as breathe out cruelty. Compare Acts 9:1,4: Saul the persecutor, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter”.
The goodness of the Lord is yet one more way of describing the Davidic covenant promises (2 Sam. 7:28).
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. To whom is the Lord Jesus giving such counsel? Perhaps Luke 22:43 (his words to the thief on the cross) supplies the answer.

4. A psalm for the persecuted believer

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.

5. Other details

The Lord is my light. Light is one of the great symbols of God: 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 (John 1:5,14; 8:12), and his disciples may become “sons of light” (Phil. 2:12-16; 1 Thes. 4:4-8). True fellowship with the Father and the Son depends on walking in the light (1 John 1:5). Without God and His truth, men are naturally in darkness (Eph. 4:18).
When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. This verse is splendidly illustrated by the incident of Elisha and the Syrian army at Dothan (2 Kings 6:11-19: cp. v. 3 here: “though an host encamp against me”).

To eat up my flesh. See 14:4/53:4 and notes there.
One thing have I desired. Compare Luke 10:42: here is the “one thing” which Mary desired — but to which the industrious Martha was for the moment oblivious. But contrast Mark 10:35 and its outcome.

        “One master passion in the breast,
        Like Aaron’s serpent, swallows up the rest”
                (Alexander Pope).
The time of trouble, i.e. any such (Eph. 6:13), but especially in the great time of trouble: Dan. 12:1; Isa. 26:20.

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

He shall set me up upon a rock: Exod. 17:12 (and v. 3 here).
And now shall mine head be lifted up. Compare Luke 21:28:

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”

Contrast Goliath’s head, lifted up off his shoulders(1 Sam. 17:51,54)! Here also are the two divergent fates of Joseph’s fellow-prisoners: Gen. 40:13,19.
Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. The words are echoed by Solomon in 1 Kings 8:57; and v. 10: gather me = Isa. 40:11 (contrast Psa. 26:9).
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. Do not gather me up with sinners (26:9), but gather me up (mg.) with Thee!
Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. 25:4; 26:12.
Compare 1 Sam. 23:7-12: Does this suit the historical context?
Psa. 84:2; 142:7.

6. Waiting on the Lord

We have ample instruction that we must be diligent and redeem the time, but in many situations waiting on the Lord is the best solution. God is in complete control: we are merely servants. We have many specific duties and responsibilities, but even in the discharge of these, waiting on the Lord plays no small part.

Who shall roll away the stone?” Who will help.....? ..... or, Who can do....this or that, or whatever may seem to be required? These questions often occasion needless concern to Christ’s disciples. Much of such worry arises from our failure to recognize our own actual insignificance in the overall purpose of God. If we have any place in that purpose at all, it is merely as instruments in the hands of God. As far as we are concerned, the meaning of every circumstance lies principally in our own reaction to it. God is testing us, not coming to us for help. He who holds the earth in the hollow of His hands has no problems or worries, but simply an unalterable and irresistible purpose. We can safely leave all the planning and engineering to Him. Our simple task is confined to reacting to each new circumstance as it comes, in the way most in harmony with His revealed will.

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage” (Psa. 27:14). Waiting provides one of the greatest calls upon courage, and one of the severest tests of it. But circumstances that require courage, like circumstances that require wisdom, are simply arranged by God to give us practical training and experience in seeking these things from Him. They are to impress us with our natural ignorance and impotence, no matter what the external situation that confronts us.

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