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- [00' 21"] Psalm 27 (NIV)
- [03' 08"] David flees from Saul
- [05' 32"] What is the thing you fear most?
- [10' 08"] If you could only ask one thing of God, what would it be?
Thank you, Gill.
So, we’re continuing our series of summer Psalms with Psalm 27 but I think, with the recent weather, possibly soggy Psalms would be a better title.
So, let’s read Psalm 27. I’m reading from the New International Version.
The LORD is my lights and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
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 seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
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,
O God my Saviour.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not hand me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
So, Psalm 27 is attributed to being of David. It’s not exactly clear when it was written. Biblical scholars can’t agree at what point in David’s life this was created. The most plausible possibility is that he wrote it when he was being pursued by King Saul.
David flees from Saul
This moment in David’s life is covered in the book of 1 Samuel. At this point he had already been anointed as the next king but Saul was still king. Saul had not followed God’s commands so his time as King was running out.
David had been on several campaigns for Saul and, as a result of his successes, his popularity was growing. People began to sing songs celebrating David’s victories.
Here is what 1 Samuel 21:10 to 12 says about David:
That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:
‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”
David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he feigned insanity in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
Achish said to his servants, “Look at this man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come to my house?”
Verse 22:1 says,
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
So clearly David is fearing for his life. Saul is literally out to kill him. First he flees to the safety of the cave and then he goes to hide in a forest. Fleeing from danger is a natural human reaction. When we are fearful of something our desire to take flight is very powerful.
What is the thing you fear most?
Today I’d like to ask you to reflect on two main questions. The first: what is the thing you fear most?
I’m not looking for an answer but let’s just consider that in silence for a moment.
see, we are here in this place as followers of Jesus. A fellowship of Christians who believe in God’s grace. Why are we fearful of anything?
When I was growing up my favourite character in L Frank Baum’s book The Wizard of Oz was the lion. Desperately wanting the courage he feels he should have, but which totally evades him. He has been consumed by fear and is so afraid he struggles to face up to any of the challenges that he and the others encounter on the yellow brick road on the way to Oz. Only the Wizard can give him the courage he needs to face his fears.
The truth is, we all struggle with fear to some extent, even as Christians. We worry about the future, world events, jobs, health, money, loved ones, what ifs and maybes. But if left to take over, our fear can take away our sleep, our appetite, our friendships, even our relationships. We can literally make ourselves sick with worry.
Fear is a real emotion, but the things we are so convinced are going to hurt us may not be. That is the neat trick that fear can play on our minds. Fear feeds on powerlessness and weakness.
For me, the lesson I take from Psalm 27 is that it addresses the problem of fear and how to find ways of feeling it without letting it destroy us. We see the back and forth emotions in this psalm. David switching between expressions of confident faith and the fear that we all feel at times.
In verse one we hear David’ statement of faith in God as light, safety and stronghold. Around this time David was literally in the darkness of the cave. Probably fearful to give any sign of life to those trying to find and kill him.
I don’t know if you’ve experienced the sensation of true pitch black where you can’t see your own hand in front of your face. In circumstances like that any speck of light, the tiniest speck of light, becomes intensified in brightness and power and your eyes cannot avoid it.
In David’s time darkness meant uncertainty, danger, threat from enemies, predators, unseen obstacles. When the sun went down light was in short supply. Light brings certainty and safety.
When we fear the dark what do we do? We turn on a light. In the same way when we’re preparing to go to bed we make our house the best fortress it can be to protect us while we sleep. We lock the doors, we set the intruder, alarm we probably fitted smoke alarms; all to keep us safe.
For David in Psalm 27, certainty and safety comes from the light of God. God is the citadel that will protect him in his hour of need. David is confident and assured that, despite his precarious situation, when balanced against his trust in God’s faithfulness to him and God’s merciful care of him, he will prevail.
In verses two and three we read the list of very real threats that David is facing. He is under no illusions about the odds of him getting through this situation unscathed. However, he confidently asserts to himself that, with God’s protection, it is they that will be defeated and not him.
In verse four, David expresses his singular desire to dwell in the house of the Lord in order to worship him, to behold His beauty and meditate on His word (27:4).
If you could only ask one thing of God, what would it be?
Which brings me to my second question: if you could only ask one thing of God, what would it be?
Let’s reflect on that for a moment. The one thing you would ask God for.
If you could look back at all the times you have prayed and what it was you were asking for, what would be the common themes? Would your prayer be as simple, as focussed, as David’s?
When I consider his one request it seems so blindingly obvious and yet so totally appropriate. Here we have a man facing extreme adversity, beseeching his God to save him, to protect him, and let him to well with him for all eternity.
For is the Lord not our salvation, too? When we are fearful, does the strength of our Christian faith not serve to protect us? Just like David, we cannot save ourselves. We need salvation through grace from our sin. Do we not only need to build our relationship with God on a daily basis but also do everything we can to strengthen it?
When compared with David, we have it easy. He had to go to the Tabernacle to read the Word of God. We only need to reach for a Bible and open it and there it is in full Technicolour and high definition.
We have the certainty of knowing that Jesus was sent to live among us and was crucified and rose again to fulfil the Scriptures, to allow us to be free from sin.
David’s faith was based on much less certainty of salvation. But there is no doubting the strength of his belief and faith when faced with that extreme adversity.
I wonder how many of us would crumble if we were subject to the daily attacks and threats facing our fellow believers in places like Iraq, Syria and other countries that persecute Christians?
In verse seven we see the sincere desire of David not only to pray but for his prayers to be heard. This is not prayer being heard in the terms of a Pharisee praying eloquently for the benefit of being heard by others but rather the heartfelt plea of a person in genuine need of God’s intervention in his life.
We see the uncertainty and fear of the future in David’s cry not to be rejected but to be taken in and educated in the ways of the Lord. But we also see the certainty of David’s belief that God will act in support of him.
I said earlier we have it easy in terms of our ability to access and reflect upon New Testament Scriptures and the life of Jesus to give us that certainty about the character of God. David did not have the benefit of that information. But he did have the knowledge of how God’s track record had influenced his own life up to that point: slaying Goliath in faith, waging successful campaigns, being anointed as King. He can draw on this personal experience to trust in the Lord and know that God is there for those who trust in him and wait on his answer.
Believing in Jesus, trusting in God, can strengthen us as we face our enemies and those who seek to harm us. Having confidence in our relationship with God means that we can feel fear, because we are human, but experience the divine substance to overcome and prevail.
As I was working on this message I found myself meditating on the word faith, F – A – I –
T – H. And the thing that kept going around in my head was
For Always I’ll Trust Him.
So I offer it as we close today as a short meditation, if you find it useful as you go about your daily lives.
Thank you. Amen.
[Gill Morgan]Thank you, Neil, that was very helpful.
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Scripture quotations marked NIV on this page and within the talk are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.