Theme: The Soul’s Confidence
In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to confidently wait upon the Lord to answer our prayers.
Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14
Psalm 27 is one of the best known and most comforting psalms in the Psalter. But it is hard to know whether it is chiefly a psalm of confidence, written against the dark background of David’s many enemies, or whether it is chiefly a lament in which David cries out for help against implacable foes. The reason for the confusion is obvious. The first half of the psalm (vv. 1-6) exudes confidence. The second half (vv. 7-14) is a very moving prayer.
It is no surprise to anyone acquainted with the nature of critical scholarship to learn that these two moods, reflected in the two parts of the psalm, have led some writers to argue that these are actually two psalms awkwardly put together. They point to the change in mood, plus some corresponding differences in structure. They explain that in the first part God is referred to in the third person, and in the second he is addressed directly.
But there is another side to this argument. There are links between the psalm’s two halves. The enemies whom David fears in part two are also present in part one (vv. 2, 3), and the desire to dwell in God’s house in order to “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” in the first half (v. 4) finds a natural sequel in the later determination to seek God’s face (v. 8). What is even more significant is that the two chief themes of part one, confidence in God before enemies and the desire to seek God’s face, are also the two chief themes of part two, though they occur there in inverse order: first the desire to seek God’s face, and then confidence. An arrangement like this points, not only to both parts having been composed by the same author but to both halves being parts of a single composition.
What we have here is an unfolding of two closely related moods by the same inspired author, put together like two movements of a symphony.1 And the point is that these two apparently opposing moods are also often in us, frequently at the same time or at nearly the same time. Don’t you find that you are often both confident and anxious, trusting and fearful, or at least that your mood swings easily from one to the other? I do. It is part of what it means to be a weak human being.
Since that is true of us, it should be a comfort to realize that it was also true of David. And we can be instructed by what he did at such times.
The first three verses of Psalm 27 express the soul’s confidence in God on the basis of the psalmist’s previous experience of him. David says that God has been three things to him: his light, his salvation and his stronghold.
1. My light. When any of us thinks of God, perhaps trying to visualize him, the best we can do is to think of light, remembering Paul’s teaching that God “lives in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16). For this reason, it is a bit of a surprise to learn that, although God is often associated with light in the Bible, this verse is the only direct application of the term “light” to God in the Old Testament. Job speaks of heaven as the “abode of light” (Job 38:19). Psalm 104 says that God “wraps himself in light as with a garment” (v. 2). Several verses say that “the LORD turns my darkness into light” (2 Sam. 22:29; cf. Ps. 18:28). Psalm 36:9 declares, “In your light we see light.” However, Psalm 27:1 is the only Old Testament text in which God is actually called light.
From the study, why is it better to see Psalm 27 as having been written by one author, as opposed to some scholars’ suggestion that the psalm is a compilation of two authors?
What are some Old Testament passages that associate light with God? How does Psalm 27:1 differ from them?
Application: Do you ever feel both confident and anxious at the same time, or that your mood has shifted quickly between the two? How can this psalm help you to grow in your faith and trust in the Lord’s providence?
1For further discussion see, Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), pp. 230, 231; and H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), pp. 234, 235.