The collection of Psalms that we see in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) number 150 strong. These songs of praise, worship, lament, and even war are a constant reminder of the dependence the Hebrew people had on their Lord and the dependence we need to have on Him daily. When looking to a particular Psalm for guidance from God, we must understand that particular song’s purpose, genre, and context. Let’s dive into Psalm 27.
This is certainly one of my favorite psalms. And it is a highly valuable text for our current culture and context. This psalm pushes us to one of the basic reasons for spirituality and religion. What or who in this world can we trust and rely upon? We can and must trust God.
Psalm 27:1 reads,
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?
Although the text is straightforward and at first glance doesn’t seem to require any explanation at all, it is important to know a few exciting and insightful things about this particular psalm. First, this is the first verse of the prayer psalm which often assumes the teaching and truth of the entire psalm. So these 26 words carry with them the truth of the entire psalm. And with that, there are some specific things covered.
We can trust God when the “wicked advance against” us (vs. 2). We can be confident when “war break out against me,” (vs. 3). When I face a “day of trouble he will keep me safe” (vs. 5). Even though those close to us like “father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (vs. 10).
The truths of this text are universal, practical, and so very helpful. Let’s think about these truths for today. How many specific thoughts can you put together concerning the application of this text?
According to the US Census Bureau, 23% of American children live with only one parent in the home. And 8% of American children live without either parent in the home. Although there are certainly many reasons for this reality, there is no doubt that there are many children who sense a struggle of either perceived or real abandonment from a parent. We need this kind of faith in God the Father who will always “receive us” (vs. 10).
We also live in a highly polarized society where most issues from politics to religion seem to divide people into one of two extremes. Trust for government oversight, regardless of which side of the aisle you are on, is very low. Tension and anger over political issues are very high. Social media is filled with argument, lacks a good sense of listening, and tends to promote sensationalized stories.
All of this leads to a season in American history that needs to read, sing, memorize, and celebrate the type of relationship between God and mankind highlighted in Psalm 27:1. This is a verse with meaning that everyone can bond with and enjoy.
Whom do you trust and in whom can you find hope?
This is the key to understanding and appreciating Psalm 27. The text begins with a grand declaration. It involves three descriptions of God and two rhetorical questions about God. He not only provides these things, but He “is” my “light… salvation… [and] the stronghold of my life.” Because of these realities, “whom shall I fear… and of whom shall I be afraid?” The obvious resounding answer is no one and no thing!
We don’t have to be afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t have to live in fear. Regardless of the terrifying things that currently exist in our culture, fear does not have to be our state of being.
When we approach life with this confidence which comes from our faith in God, we can also live out the rest of the psalm. We can bring our petitions to God. We can ask Him to hear us and help us.
In this particular psalm, there are four petitions, each with a reason for the request listed. In summary, he brings these concerns to the Lord because he knows God’s devotion to his people and he knows God’s devotion to him as an individual. He can seek God when attacked by foreign enemies because he knows of God’s love for his people. He can seek God’s protection when he is alone because he knows God will be there for him personally.
Approach this text with confidence in God’s goodness in your life. As you teach this text, remind those under your care of God’s great trustworthiness. Remember God’s devotion to the church and to His followers. With the truth in this text, you can learn to live a life of celebration and certainty regardless of the circumstances you face.
Dr. Brad Henson has served as a church planter in Kentucky. He is also a very thankful husband and father; he and his wife of 26 years, Stephanie, have two teenage sons, Bradon and Jackson.