On a recent afternoon, finding myself wrestling with issues that are oppressing my spirit, I decide to take a walk outside. It has been a beautiful day, and the waning sun is still shedding light and a pleasant warmth. The thought occurs to me that reciting Scripture would be a good way to battle the oppression of my thoughts, and Psalm 27 immediately comes to mind. I had memorized the psalm a few years ago but am now a bit rusty, so I pull up the Bible memory app on my phone to prompt me as I start saying it aloud.
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?
David must have been up against a challenging situation that tempted him to fear. So he starts out strong, reminding himself of God’s nature with powerful words and images: Light, Salvation, Stronghold. In a previous blog I talked about the importance of training our thought patterns and changing the way we speak to ourselves (see Dealing With Depression: Part 3). We see David practicing this principle here, as he talks to his own negative thoughts and questions their validity in the face of God’s power.
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 will I be confident.
Step, step, step. One foot in front of the other, advancing my progress through the neighborhood and reminding me of other advances in the spiritual world. I may not have flesh-and-blood enemies attacking me, but there seems to be no shortage of the enemy’s evil plans advancing against me, or of the “foes” in my own mind.
Being besieged, and finding that war has broken out at your very gates, are pretty overwhelming circumstances. Let the imagery of those scenarios that David describes just sit with you for a minute. Panic and hopelessness are two possible reactions that immediately come to mind!
Sometimes it feels like all of us, collectively, have been sitting in a “besieged city” throughout much of 2020. Yet as I proclaim these verses over and over again, I begin to take on David’s assured certainty that the attacks of the enemy WILL ultimately fail. Suddenly it seems possible that, like David, I too can have the very real option of saying, “even then my heart will not fear…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 dwelling place.”
What did David mean by this? Obviously he was not a priest, and he did not literally “dwell” in God’s house. He was a king, who dwelt in a palace. Yet the longing of his heart is expressed in wanting to be in God’s presence, in intimate communion with Him, all the days of his life. The meaning of the word “gaze” is described by one commentator as a “clinging, lingering, chained gaze” (Keil and Delitzch). This then, is the source of David’s confidence. Rather than fixing his eyes upon the besieging army or the evil plans being advanced against him, he deliberately chooses to fix his eyes—the “eyes” of his heart and mind—on the beauty and power of God.
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.
I reach the little neighborhood market at the end of my street and pull my face mask out of my pocket, going inside to take a break in its welcoming shelter. I look around for my favorite homemade cookies by the register (sold out, unfortunately) and browse the other baked goods. Thankfully it remains a beautiful day outside, but if a sudden storm were to crop up, this little market would be a safe and enjoyable place to hide.
Far better than any brick-and-mortar building, however, is the shelter provided by the Lord of all Creation for His beloved children. David has no doubt whatsoever that when trouble hits, God is his safe place. So secure does he feel that he describes it like being on the pinnacle of a high rock while his enemies grovel at the base, unable to reach him. And David’s response to this divine protection? Worship.
I’m challenged by the anticipatory determination of David’s words. “I will sacrifice…I will sing.” The scenario of deliverance hasn’t actually happened yet; notice that he says his enemies still surround him. Nevertheless, David fully expects that God will come to his aid, and he prepares to rejoice in God even in the presence of his enemies (this is a familiar theme for David; see Psalm 23:5).
I leave the corner market and head for home, my heart considerable lighter as I recite again these newly-remembered verses. David faced much greater challenges than I;
nation-shaking crises that often threatened his very life and the lives of his people.
I decide that if David could be fully confident in His God, I can too.
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.