Psalms 27:1 - Homilies By C. Clemance
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."
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