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?
Walter Brueggemann says this stated premise of Psalm 27 insists that “nothing … is severe enough to shake confidence in Yahweh who is light, salvation, and stronghold.”
We Christians will hear in the background the similar confidence of St. Paul: “… nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Do you see the couplets and the parallelisms in this psalm?
This way of repeating and reinforcing an idea demonstrates a major characteristic of poetry and we especially can see it in the poetry of the psalms.
The repetition offers a bold message of deep confidence. This psalmist has been besieged by troubles before and has experienced the unfailing faithfulness of Yahweh.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
Here again is God’s Great “Nevertheless.”
Even though disasters are looming; even though real danger threatens; even though life may be collapsing all around me … Yet. Nevertheless … I trust.
See how Psalm 27 hearkens back to Psalm 23: “…and I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (or “forever” in the King James Version).
One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
This phrase doesn’t suggest life after death as much as it connotes a life immersed in God’s own life. A life lived constantly and consistently within the Presence of the Holy.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.
The psalmist shapes his request in light of the ancient blessing found in Numbers 6: The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Thus you shall bless the Israelites. You shall say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
This beautiful and familiar benediction is more than wishful thinking, rather blessings such as this serve as “performative language” creating the reality of which they speak.
And so our psalmist, trusting in this stated reality, places his plea at the center of his praise.
His confidence is real but evidently so is some new trouble; therefore this pray-er bends God’s ear and expects God to hear, listen, attend, answer, resolve this problem as God has in the past.
But the psalmist also knows (as we all must come to realize) – God is not our puppet.
God is not our personal butler jumping to meet our every need in order to rescue us from any discomfort.
No, Creator/Redeemer/Sustainer God knows what we truly need and knows when we truly need it. The Lord will respond in God’s own way in God’s own good time.
Our job is to trust.
Thus the poet of Psalm 27 concludes with a call to hope and courage:
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Walter Brueggemann. The Message of the Psalms. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press), 1984.