THIS psalm is one of those which have been called "composite"; and certainly it falls into two parts which offer the strongest possible contrast the one to the other. Part 1. (Psalms 27:1-6) is altogether joyous and jubilant. It records, as has been said, "the triumph of a warrior's faith." Part 2. (Psalms 27:7-14) is sad and plaintive. It pleads for mercy and forgiveness (Psalms 27:8-10). It complains of desertion (Psalms 27:10), calumny (Psalms 27:12), and imminent danger (Psalms 27:11, Psalms 27:12), It still, indeed, maintains hope, but the hope has only just been saved from sinking into despair by an effort of faith (Psalms 27:13), and a determination to "wait" and see what the end will be (Psalms 27:14). It is thought to "express the sorrows of a martyr to the religious persecutions at the close of the monarchy".
For these reasons the psalm has been supposed to be "composite;" but the question arises—If the two parts, being so entirely unlike, were originally distinct and unconnected, what should have led any arranger or editor to unite them? To this question there seems to be no possible answer; and thus the very diversity of the two parts would seem to show an original union.
According to the statement of the title, the psalm was written by David. It has many characteristics of his style, the sudden transition and change in the tone of thought being one. It is quite conceivable that during the rebellion under Absalom, having obtained some important success, he may have considered it an occasion for thanksgiving; and that, after his thanks were paid, his thoughts may have reverted to the still-continuing difficulties of the situation, the danger which impended (Psalms 27:11, Psalms 27:12), the calumnies to which he was exposed (Psalms 27:12), the desertion of those near and dear to him (Psalms 27:10), the fact that the chastisement had been provoked by his own sin (Psalms 27:9); and so the strain, which began in jubilation, may not unnaturally have ended in a plea for mercy.
The psalm consists of a strophe (Psalms 27:1-6), an antistrophe (Psalms 27:7-12), and a brief epode (Psalms 27:13, Psalms 27:14).
The Lord is my Light (comp. John 1:7-9; John 12:35, John 12:36, John 12:46; 1 John 1:5). The statement does not occur in any other place in the Old Testament, though the idea may be found in Isaiah 60:1, Isaiah 60:20; Micah 7:8; and elsewhere. Light has been well called "this profoundly beautiful name of God" (Delitzsch). And my Salvation (comp. Psalms 18:2; Psalms 62:2, Psalms 62:6). Whom shall I fear? "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). Who can be to be feared? (see Psalms 118:6). Not man certainly; for" what can man do unto us?" Not other gods; for they are nonentities. Not devils; for they can do nothing but by God's permission. The Lord is the Strength of my life; literally, the stronghold (comp. Psalms 28:8; Psalms 31:4; Psalms 71:2; Psalms 144:2). Of whom shall I be afraid? The question is superfluous, but is repeated to complete the balance of the clauses.
When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. A special occasion seems to be intended, so that the LXX. have rightly, ἠσθένησαν καὶ ἔπεσαν. Some unrecorded event in the war with Absalom before the final struggle, is probably alluded to. There is an emphasis on "mine enemies," which implies that the adversaries were not the foes of the country, but David's personal foes.
Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. In the first burst of joy at his recent victory, the 'host" which remains unconquered seems of light account—let them advance—let them "encamp against him"—his heart will not be afraid; but when the joy has had full vent, there is a reaction; the enemies then appear more formidable, and God's aid is besought against them (see Psalms 27:9-12). Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. "In this" may be either "in the fact that the Lord is my Light and my Salvation" (Psalms 27:1), or "in case of such an event as war and attack on the part of the enemy."
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after. A most emphatic introduction of the new topic! Amid all my joy and jubilation, there is still one thing which I need, which I entreat Jehovah to grant—that thing I shall continue to seek after until I obtain it, viz. that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. The psalmist is evidently debarred access to the sanctuary; he feels his exclusion from it a terrible privation; he longs to be there—to "dwell" there (comp. Psalms 26:8); to offer there "sacrifices of joy" (Psalms 27:6); to sing there psalms of thanksgiving. He would fain also behold the beauty of the Lord— τὴν τερηνότητα, LXX.—" all that is engaging and gracious in his revelation of himself" (Kay); "not the outward beauty of the sanctuary, but the gracious attributes which its ritual symbolized" ('Speaker's Commentary'). And to inquire in his temple. It has already appeared, from Psalms 5:7, that the word "temple" or "palace" (heykal) was applied in David's time to the tabernacle.
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me. This is not to be understood literally. David means that his spirit will find a refuge with God in times of trouble, not (as some Jewish expositors argue) that he will actually hide from his enemies inside the tabernacle. From such a sacrilege he would have shrunk. He shall set me up upon a rock (comp. Psalms 18:2; Psalms 61:2). The "Rock" is God himself, who is always David's final Refuge.
And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me. A further and final triumph is confidently anticipated. God will complete his work. He will repulse the "host" by which David is about to be attacked (Psalms 27:3), give him victory over it, bring him back from exile, and grant him once more free access to the sanctuary. Therefore, says the psalmist, will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; or, "sacrifices of joyful sound," accompanied with singing and instrumental music (comp. Psalms 89:15). I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord (comp. Ephesians 5:19).
The strain now entirely changes. The rhythm alters from a jubilant double beat to a slow and mournful cadence. A cry is raised for mercy and pity—the wrath of God is deprecated—rejection and desertion are contemplated and prayed against (Psalms 27:7-10). The danger from the enemy appears great and formidable (Psalms 27:11, Psalms 27:12). With an effort of faith, the writer just saves himself from despair (Psalms 27:14), and then, in brave words, braces himself up for further endurance.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. There is no "when" in the original. The clauses are short, and broken, "Hear, O Lord; with my voice I call; pity me, and answer me."
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. The order of the words in the original is as follows: "To thee said my heart—Seek ye my face—thy face, Lord, will I seek." And the full meaning seems to he, "To thee said my heart—Hast thou said unto men, Seek ye my face? I for one will obey thee—Thy face, Lord, will I seek." The command, "Seek ye my face," had been given by David to the people on the day that he set up the ark upon Mount Zion (1 Chronicles 16:11). It was probably regarded as implied in Deuteronomy 4:29.
Hide not thy face far from me. It would he useless for David to "seek God's face," if God should determine to "hide his face" from him. David felt from time to time as if God's face was hidden from him, as we see in other psalms (Psalms 10:1-18 :l; Psalms 13:1; Psalms 69:17, etc.); and so also did other saints (Psalms 44:24; Psalms 88:14). In most instances, probably, God sends the feeling as a chastisement, that the heart may turn with more sincerity to him. Put not thy servant away in anger; i.e. reject me not—cast me not off. The verb used is very strong and emphatic. Thou hast been my Help. Ever in the past I have had thee for Helper (comp. Psalms 3:3-7; Psalms 4:1; Psalms 6:8-10; Psalms 18:2, etc.). God's goodness to us in the past must ever be our chief ground of confidence in him for the future. Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation (comp. Psalms 94:14).
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. We are not to gather from this that David's father and mother had forsaken him. They were probably dead at the time of his flight from Absalom. What David means is that, even if forsaken by his nearest and dearest, he would not be forsaken by God. The expression is proverbial.
Teach me thy way, O Lord (comp. Psalms 25:3, and the comment ad loc.). And lead me in a plain path; literally, a level path—a path traversing a fiat and smooth country, not one where the ground is rugged and beset with rocks and precipices. Because of mine enemies. David's enemies are ever at hand, to swallow him up (Psalms 56:2). If his way be not plain and smooth, it will be to their advantage and to his detriment.
Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies; literally, the soul of mine enimies; i.e. their desire (see Psalms 35:25; Psalms 41:2), which was no doubt to capture him, and. bring him a prisoner to Jerusalem. For false witnesses are risen up against me. The party which attached itself to Absalom accused David of cruelty to the house of Saul (2 Samuel 16:8), and probably of other crimes and misdemeanours. Absalom himself accused him of a failure in his kingly duties (2 Samuel 15:8). And such as breathe out cruelty; or, violence. To "breathe out" violence, threats, slaughter, malice, etc; is a common metaphor in many languages.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. In the original, by the figure aposiopesis,, the apodosis is omitted, "had I not believed that I should see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living [i.e. in this present world], then … " He shrinks from stating the consequences, He would have fainted, or despaired, or lost all faith in religion (compare, for similar uses of the figure aposiopesis, Genesis 3:22; Genesis 31:41; Genesis 50:15; Exodus 32:32; Daniel 3:15; Zechariah 6:15; Luke 13:9). By an effort of faith, the psalmist saved himself from the despair which threatened to seize upon him, and assured himself that he would yet experience "the goodness of the Lord" in some merciful interposition and deliverance, while he still remained on earth, before he "went whence he should not return—to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job 10:21, Job 10:22).
Wait on the Lord. This is an exhortation, not to others, but to himself (comp. Psalms 62:5; and see also Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11; Psalms 43:5). His stronger self exhorts his weaker self not to despair, but to wait upon God—to tarry, i.e; the Lord's leisure—and, meanwhile to be of good courage; or, be strong (comp. Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:6; 1 Chronicles 22:13), as the phrase is elsewhere generally translated. "Be strong," he says to himself, and he (i.e. God) shall strengthen thine heart. "Aide-tot, le ciel l'aidera." Make an effort to be strong, and the strength will be given thee, as thou makest it. Then in this strength, thus given, continue till waiting—Wait, I say, on the Lord.
The believing heart's obedience to God's command.
"When thou saidst," etc. If we were to translate strictly word for word, we should read this verse, "To thee said my heart—Seek ye my face—thy face, Jehovah,! will seek." Our translators (and Revisers) have wisely preferred plain English to pedantic rigour, and have given as the probable meaning, "When thou saidst," etc. This, says Calvin, is a dialogue between the believing heart and God. He likens the Divine invitation, "Seek ye my face," to the key wherewith faith opens the door for prayer. "Without this prelude, no one shall lead the chorus of prayer." The reply of the heart he likens to the echo sleeping in silence, till the voice calls it forth.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY SEEKING GOD'S FACE?
1. To seek the favour of God; q.d. his pardoning mercy, the smile of his approval, the assurance of his loving-kindness, the happy, peaceful sense of his presence and care. There is a notion in many minds that because God is love, he must love all alike—as he dispenses rain and sunshine to all alike—good and bad, lovely and hateful; and that because he is just, he must treat all alike. Such views can be upheld neither from Scripture nor from common sense. Justice lies not in treating all alike, but in treating each according to character and conduct. Love that can see no fault is as blind as hate that can see no goodness. A face that wears the same bland meaningless smile to every one is intolerable. To suppose that God has no more approval and love for a Christian mother training her child to love him, or a Christian martyr dying for truth, than for a seducer, a thief, an assassin, is to deny God's moral character. It is to substitute an idol of fancy for the living God. The whole gospel hinges on this. God's universal love is shown in the provision whereby each sinner may seek and receive his favour (John 3:16; Romans 5:1, Romans 5:2, Romans 5:10, Romans 5:11).
2. To seek to know God. When we look into one another's faces, we read the soul. Smiles and frowns and tears, the flash of pleasure or of anger, the softening of tender feeling, speak a language which all read intuitively. In its fulness, any such direct knowledge of God is impossible for us (Exodus 33:18, Exodus 33:20). But Jesus is to us as the Face of God (2 Corinthians 4:6; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:18). God's character is revealed; while the Divine glory is veiled and softened to suit our weakness (John 14:9; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Matthew 5:8).
3. To have fellowship with God; personal communion (1 John 1:3). This leads to a second question—
II. HOW Is THIS COMMAND TO BE OBEYED; this invitation accepted; this purpose carried out; this fellowship experienced?
1. By prayer. Looking at Psalms 27:4-6, we may suppose a reference to the temple, with its twofold service of sacrifice and praise. But we must not limit the words to this. They are the language of a heart that waits in secret on God (Matthew 6:6).
2. By the study of God's Word. The whole Bible is the record of God's continuous revelation of himself; partly in words—laws, declarations, predictions, promises; partly in his dealings—with nations, with individuals, with his Church; completely and most gloriously in Christ Jesus—his Person, teaching, atoning death, resurrection, enthronement in glory. If we would gain the knowledge spoken of (2 Peter 3:18), we must observe the condition (Colossians 3:16). They that seek shall find (Isaiah 49:1-26 :49; Jeremiah 29:13).
The reward of diligent search.
"My heart said," etc. "Seek, and ye shall find," is one of the great laws of life. The miner must dig for the precious ore; the fisherman launch out into the deep, and let down his nets for a draught; the husbandman must plough and sow and have long patience, if he is to reap. How is it that in these days the secrets of nature have been laid bare as never before? Because men have sought as they never sought before. And why, in the midst of these discoveries, have so many keen eyes failed to find God? Because they have not sought (Jeremiah 29:13).
I. THE LANGUAGE OF FAITH, LAYING HOLD ON GOD'S PROMISE. Faith is trust. We do not trust God because we believe his Word, but believe his promise because we trust him (Hebrews 11:6). But he has not left us to vague trust (reasonable though that would have been). He has filled the Bible with promises "exceeding great and precious" (Isaiah 4:1, Isaiah 4:6, 7; Jeremiah 29:11-14; Luke 11:9). We need not ask what particular reference lies in "when thou saidst." God is always saying it.
II. THE LANGUAGE OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S COMMAND. The invitation of a king is a command. Every promise carries in its bosom a duty; every duty, a promise.
III. THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE. "My heart said." The utterance of holy desire, longing after communion with God. Prayer is more than simple asking; it is communion of spirit with our Father and our Saviour, by the Holy Ghost (Matthew 6:6; Jud Matthew 1:20).
A double safeguard.
"Lead me in a plain path." This is a wise, humble, comprehensive prayer. Like the entire psalm, it is the language of a heart deeply taught by experience. It asks for a double safeguard—Divine guidance and a plain path. If sure of the one, why ask for the other? Answer:
I. A PATH EASY TO SEE; free from intricacy and obscurity. In the margin, "a way of plainness." The Hebrew word (like our English "plain") signifies "level" (see Isaiah 42:16, "straight"). In a mountainous region the path is winding, often hidden a few yards ahead. On the open plain you see it for miles. As a rule, the straight path in life is the plain path. The same Hebrew word also means "uprightness," "righteousness" (Psalms 45:6). Duty is commonly much more easy to discern than expediency; "What is right?" than "What is polite, worldly wise?" One of the great trials of life is when duty is not plain; duties seem to clash. Then comes in the comfort and strength of thin prayer, "Teach me thy way!" (Psalms 25:5, Psalms 25:8, Psalms 25:9). God's way must be the right way; "and he will make it plain."
II. A SAFE AND EASY PATH; at all events, in comparison with the wrong path. Not climbing the sharp ascent of the Hill Difficulty, nor winding along the slippery edge of temptation, nor descending into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. God cannot always grant this prayer in this sense. Yet Christ teaches us to offer it (Luke 22:40; Matthew 6:13). If, nevertheless, the path by which God sees fit to lead us—either for spiritual discipline and growth, or for greater usefulness—be rough, dark, dangerous; the spirit of this prayer may nevertheless be answered by a larger measure of guidance and strength. "In the mount, the Lord is seen." £ In the furnace is "the Son of God." In Gethsemane, the angel. When "all hope was taken away," God's angel told Paul that all were to be saved for his sake (Acts 27:20, Acts 27:22-24). Be the path what it may, those shall be safe who trust God's leading (Isaiah 35:8; Romans 8:28; Jude 1:24; Proverbs 15:19). This prayer is a prayer against three dangers.
1. Choosing our own way (Proverbs 14:12).
2. Trusting, even in the plainest way, to our own strength and wisdom (Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 3:6; Jeremiah 10:23).
3. Being left to our own weakness; or distrusting, in the darkest path, God's leading (Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:2).
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
Psalms 27:1 -16
Jehovah's self-revelation, and faith's response thereto.
There is no known character and career in Scripture that would correspond to this psalm as well as those of David. And it seems difficult to resist the conclusion that the words in Psalms 27:10 were written about the same time that those in 1 Samuel 22:3 were spoken. The objection of Delitzsch, that David left his father and mother, not they him, is of no weight; for either way his peril and exposure were such that he was left without them; and we are left to wonder why they consented to be sundered from him. But these chequered experiences in life serve to bring out to him more and more fully the wealth of care and love that his God makes over to him. If we were asked whether this psalm is one of those which come directly from God, and so contain a revelation from him, we should reply, "It is one of those records of the experience of an Old Testament saint who could triumph in God as the revealed God of his salvation." What God was to the saints of old, he is to his people still. Therefore the psalm discloses God's revelation of himself to his people of the olden time, and it is one in which believers now may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. And the expositor will have here a rich mine for exploration, as in the light of this psalm he studies God's self-revelation to his saints, and faith's response thereto. Let us study these in order.
I. WE HAVE HERE INDICATED THE FULNESS OF GOD'S SELF-REVELATION TO HIS
SAINTS. The revelation of God which is implied in this psalm is one of exceeding tenderness, richness, and glory.
1. God himself had led the way in inviting souls to seek him. (1 Samuel 22:8, "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face." £) The heart of God desires the friendship and fellowship of man. Our hearts are so made they can rest only in God; God's heart is such that he seeks a rest in us. The fact of his giving an invitation to us to seek him is proof of this (cf. Isaiah 45:19; Iv. 6; Isaiah 54:6). So also is the complaint of God when men do not seek him (Isaiah 43:23-26). And still more the declared joy of God when souls are at rest in him (Zephaniah 3:17). See this taken over to the New Testament (John 4:23). But the grandest illustration of all is in the fact (Luke 19:10) of which the whole of Luke's fifteenth chapter is the fullest declaration (still further, see Revelation 3:20). In fact, had it not been for this self-manifestation of God's heart, we must all have been agnostics for ever!
2. Wheresoever men open the heart to God's invitation, he proves himself worthy of himself. The student may well luxuriate in the various names which the psalmist delights to apply to God as his God. Note:
(a) Light (verse 1). "There shines on him [the psalmist] a sun that sets not and knows no eclipse. This sublime, infinitely profound name for God, אורִי, is found only in this passage" (Delitzsch, in loc.).
(b) Salvation (verse 1). Spiritually as well as temporally.
(c) The Fortress of his life (verse 1), in which he was perpetually hidden.
(d) Guardian (verse 10). One who would manifest a tenderer care and love than even parents feel, and who, when they are removed from us, will be our Guardian £ still.
(e) Helper (verse 9). Coming with timely aid in every emergency. Note:
"That greatness which is infinite has room
For all things in its lap to lie:
We should be crushed by a magnificence
Short of infinity!"
II. THE RESPONSES OF BELIEVING HEARTS TO GOD'S SELF-MANIFESTATION ARE VARIED AS THE EXPERIENCES OF LIFE. The whole psalm is one of responsive faith; though that response may be sometimes a plea, or a sigh, yea, even a groan, and at other times a shout of song as with trumpet-power. We have all these stages in this very psalm. Listen to the varied phases of the psalmist's words. Here is:
1. Faith seeking. (Verse 8.) It is an infinite mercy to hear the sweet whisper of God to the heart, "Seek me." It is so wonderful that there should be any such sound from God to the sinful heart—any sound so tender and sweet. And what should the response be but this, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek"? We may well seek the acquaintance of God as our God, to be our Leader, Guide, and Sovereign Lord, even unto death. Note: Let the coming sinner never forget that, if he is seeking God, God has sought him first. We may never lose sight of the Divine order, "We love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
2. Faith rejoicing in Divine companionship. (Verse 4.) In the Lord's house, his presence was specially manifested; and those who know the Lord know well that there is no home like being by their Saviour's side, in his house. There they see the "beauty" of the Lord; i.e. his grace, his love, his mercy. There their eyes see "the King in his beauty." They "inquire" in his temple for directions for daily life; or they muse on the glories of the temple as the seat of Jehovah's presence. Yea, God's love and care make them so happy that they must give vent to their joy as with trumpet-song. We often long for greater physical power to praise God in shouting; and the use of trumpet and organ gratifies this longing. We praise God, but the organ gives the voice-power (see verse 6, Hebrew).
3. Faith watching. (Verse 2; cf. Psalms 92:11, Authorized Version, but leave out the words in italics; Psalms 37:34 -47.) It should be no joy to the righteous to see any one in trouble; yet they cannot but praise God when infamous plots are discovered, and the saints of God are delivered.
4. Faith sheltering. (Verses 1, 5; Psalms 91:1-16.) No one—in earth or hell—can ever forge the dart or weapon that can pierce the saints' stronghold. When the Lord is the Fortress of their life, they are in a citadel that can never be invaded.
5. Faith dreading. (Verse 9.) The thing most to be dreaded is the hiding of God's face, and being cast off by him. And can faith ever dread this? Yes, indeed; for there are moments when the sins of the past do rise up so terribly into the memory, that for a while they seem to eclipse all besides; and then faith heaves a sigh and drops a tear. There may be as clinging a faith when uttering the wail of the first verse of the twenty-second, as when singing the peaceful song of the twenty-third psalm; for even in the darkest hour, faith says, "My God!"
6. Faith hoping. (Verse 13; literally, "Had I not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living …") The sentence is unfinished. The translators have well supplied the blank. The thought is," What would have become of me?" The trials of life are often so repeated and so keen, that were it not for God, his love sustaining the spirit under the weight of the present, and inspiring the heart with hope for the future, reason would give way, and the man be hopelessly crushed. It is God's love which makes life worth living.
7. Faith triumphing. (Verse 1.) When we realize the glory of him whom we believe, there is no bound to our delight and exultation; and at such times we can laugh in defiance at our foes; yea, "smile at Satan's rage, and face a frowning world." We can, if need be, cherish something of Luther's daring, and "go to Worms, though there were as many devils as there are tiles on the roofs of the houses;" or, better still, we can say with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." We know that God will not call us to confront an enemy that we cannot lay low, nor to bear a cross which we cannot carry, nor to endure a trial we cannot sustain, nor to do a work which we cannot perform. His grace is sufficient for us. His strength is made perfect in weakness. Hence, in closing the psalm:
8. Faith soliloquizes. (Verse 14.) It may be supposed to be addressed first to himself, and so, indirectly, to the people of God generally. The words, "He shall strengthen thine heart," are, rather, "Let thine heart be strong;" as if the psalmist would chide himself that he should ever have a moment's misgiving, when he has such a God in whom to trust, and such a stronghold in which to abide (Nahum 1:7). Be it ours to wait upon our God continually! This is the secret of a steady, upward, peaceful, and strong life. What may be before any of us, no human eye can discern, nor where our lot may be cast. But God is all-sufficient.
1. How sinful and, foolish to incur the risks of life ourselves! To each and all of us God says, "Seek ye my face." Let our answer be, "Thy face, Lord, will we seek." And all that God has been to our fathers, he will be to us—our Light, our Salvation, our Helper, our Strength, our All!
2. None need quail before the risks of life, whatever they may be, who put their whole trust in God, and follow him everywhere! "Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?"
3. Never think to gain anything by paltering with duty. If a plain duty is before you, however difficult, go forward in the strength of the Lord, and fear nothing. He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Wherefore we may boldly say, "The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear; what can man do unto me?" Only trust in the Lord, and do right, and one by one you will see your foes stumble and fall, and you will be left in possession of the field, more than conqueror, through him that loveth you."
"Stand but your ground, your ghostly foes will fly,
Hell trembles at a heaven-directed eye;
Choose rather to defend than to assail,
Self-confidence will in the conflict fail.
When you are challenged, you may dangers meet,
True courage is a fixed, not sudden heat;
Is always humble, lives in self-distrust,
And will itself into no danger thrust.
Devote yourself to God, and you will find
God fights the battles of a will resigned.
Love Jesus! love will no base fear endure;
Love Jesus! and of conquest rest secure."
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
True religion begins with God. It is a call on his part; it is a response on ours (Psalms 27:8). With some religion is a chance, as settled by birth. With others it is a custom—something received by tradition from the fathers. With others it is a convenience, the result of education, a matter of prudence and self-interest, something necessary to respectability and comfort in the world. In all such cases there may be the form, but there cannot be the power, of godliness; there may be certain earthly advantages, but there is no real profit, neither the promise of the life that now is, nor of that which is to come. But with all who are taught of God, religion is a choice—the free, settled, rejoicing choice of the heart. It is God manifesting himself to the soul, and the soul in love and trust uniting and binding itself to God to be his and his only for evermore. True religion is characterized by—
I. PERSONAL TRUST IN GOD, AS THE LORD OUR GOD AND OUR REDEEMER. "When I sit in darkness," says Micah, "the Lord shall be a Light unto me" (Micah 7:8). So says David here (verse 1). We need "light," from the beginning to the end of our life. God is our Light. All real illumination to the mind, the conscience, and the heart, is from him. Light is revealing. As we draw near to God, the mists and clouds of passion and self-love are driven away, and all things stand out clear and distinct as they really are. There is not only the revelation of ourselves, but the revelation of God. We see ourselves as sinners, guilty and vile; we see God as a Saviour, and we trust him utterly (John 1:5; John 8:12; 1 John 1:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
II. FEARLESS DEVOTION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD, AS THE FREEST, THE RIGHT-FULLEST, AND THE MOST BLESSED OF ALL SERVICES. Religion is more than knowledge, or feeling, or obedience to the moral law. It is a life. It not only implies trust, but love and service. There are difficulties and trials. We look back and remember times of danger (verse 2). When we were in straits and fears. But God brought us help. As it was with David (1 Samuel 17:37; 1 Samuel 30:6), so it was with us. In thought of what God has done for us, we strengthen our hearts. Confidence comes from experience. Whom we have tried we trust. The friend we have found faithful, we cleave to. The physician, whose remedies we have proved good, we confide in. The commander under whom we have conquered, we follow bravely to other fields. So do we trust in God. Looking to the future, we may imagine greater trials and distresses than we have yet encountered (verse 3). The psalmist conjures up a terrible scene. As in a picture, we see the mustering of the forces, the proud array of the enemy with tents and banners, the shock and terror of the battle, when host met host in furious strife. But, like the psalmist, let us not flinch or fear. God is with us. "In this will I be confident" (1 Kings 22:19, 2 Kings 6:15; Acts 20:24).
III. INCREASING DELIGHT IN GOD, AS THE SATISFACTION AND JOY OF THE HEART. Religion establishes right relations between the soul and God. Every barrier is removed, and free access and friendly communion have been secured. This is beautifully brought out in the words, "One thing have I desired of the Lord" (verse 4). One thought has the mastery. One desire gives unity and concentration to all effort. One affection binds the heart and the life into a holy fellowship. God is All and in all. The singleness of purpose branches into two main streams. One is meditation: "To behold the beauty of the Lord;" the other is like unto it, practice: "To inquire in his temple" (verse 4). This shows the bent of the renewed soul. There is an inward relish for what is good. There is a delight in all that is true and beautiful. Every living soul is an inquirer. Truth is not born with us, nor can it be obtained without our own efforts. It must be sought for its own sake. It must be wooed and won from love, that it may be a possession and a joy for ever. All right inquiry is practical. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." Thus coming to the light, and walking in the light, "we have fellowship with God, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." We have safety and peace (verses 5, 6).
IV. ABSOLUTE SURRENDER TO GOD, FOR TIME AND FOR ETERNITY. True religion hinds us to God, not only for life, but for ever. This is impressed in the prayer, which implies:
1. Deep humility.
2. Help aspirations.
3. Complete submission.
4. Victorious faith.
Three things are deprecated, rising one above the other in fearfulness. Displeasure (verse 9); rejection, "Leave me not;" abandonment (verse 10). But instead of these, we see, by faith, a glorious victory, and we hail its coming with renewed courage and praise (verses 13, 14).—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
I. THE SECRET OF A FEARLESS COURAGE.
1. His experience of what God had been to Aim. "Light" in the darkest periods of his life. Light is a revealing power—for guidance. Salvation from his greatest dangers, temporal and spiritual "Strength," the power that had upheld his life when falling into weakness and despair. Experience confirmed and rewarded the faith which he had in God. When experience coincides with our faith, then we are at our strongest. But faith must always live above experience.
2. His experience of his enemies. Their most furious and savage onsets had been baffled. This also was of God. And the explanation was—they were wicked, and he was righteous. This thought was fundamental to his faith—that God would not permit the evil to triumph over the good. His experience of this in the past gave him confidence for the future (Psalms 27:2, Psalms 27:3). Our past victories should inspire us for the future.
II. HOW A FEARLESS COURAGE MAY BE FURTHER STRENGTHENED.
1. By fellowship with God. Beholding his beauty or goodness, and meditating upon it. The heart and mind must be fed and strengthened by constant converse with God in worship and holy thought.
2. Frequent seclusion is the best way to strengthen ourselves for conflict. (Psalms 27:5.) "In time of trouble, he shall hide me, and set me up upon a rock;" i.e. shut out from man, and shut in with God, is the way to conquer trouble and prepare for danger.
3. Thankful worship is another help. (Psalms 27:6.) "Sacrifices of joy," or "shouting," "singing praises,"—all mean grateful exercises of the heart towards God, recounting to ourselves what he has done for us in his wonderful goodness. Courage, hopefulness, must be fed with joy, and not with sadness and sorrow.—S.
Strengthened in God.
"While strengthening himself in God (in the former part of the psalm), he is, perhaps, seized by some sudden fear lest he should be forsaken, or be overcome by the craft or malice of his enemies. Till now the danger which threatens him is as prominent an object as the salvation and defence were before." He earnestly prays now for that in which he had just boasted. And these are the grounds on which he bases the prayer.
I. HE HAD DIVINE WARRANT. The tenor of God's whole Word to man is, "Seek ye my face;" equivalent to "Come unto me for rest, for protection, for salvation." We are but obeying the Divine voice within and without us when we seek for refuge and an escape from all evil in God. Christ emphasized this truth when he cried, "Come unto me, all ye that labour," etc.
II. BECAUSE THERE WAS AN ABIDING RELATION BETWEEN HIM AND GOD. (Psalms 27:9.) He was God's servant; God had been his Help. The good Master would not cast the servant away in anger. Masters and servants were knit more closely together in early times than now; and the psalmist pleads this relation between them. Then God had helped him in former troubles, and God was too constant to change suddenly and to cast him away. How strong is our claim upon God in Christi He is our Father for ever, and we his children.
III. BECAUSE GOD DRAWS NEARER WHEN THE DEAREST EARTHLY FRIENDS FORSAKE US. (Psalms 27:10.) Father and mother had forsaken him, and God had taken him up. Trouble often cools the love of human relations, but only increases the Divine pity, and attracts God the more closely to us. The psalmist knew this as a fact of experience, and he could urge it as a plea now in his present distress. Difference between human love, however strong, and the Divine love. No grain or taint of selfishness in the Divine love, which clings to us steadfastly, through all our sins and sorrows.
IV. BECAUSE HE WAS IN DANGER FROM TWO CLASSES OF ENEMIES. (Psalms 27:11, Psalms 27:12.)