Psalm 27 — Dwelling in Defeat
If you listen to any great leader, when he or she is asked, “How did you do it?” The answer is “I didn’t get here alone. I had a great team.” Truly great men and women recognize that they are very small. // I would be remiss if I didn’t mention St. Patrick today. A missionary to Ireland. He was kidnapped as a child. Escaped from slavery. Was converted. Had a dream calling him to go back to his former captors to share the Gospel of Jesus. Listen to how Patrick talks about his relationship with God:
“I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.”
Do you think he was afraid before boarding the ship to go back to the very people who kidnapped him and enslaved him? Of course! Mark Twain said that “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” But the deeper question is: Why does someone move in spite of fear?
There are a few things everyone has in common as humans. One of those is fear. Everyone in this room is afraid of something. David asks: “Whom shall I fear?”. There are a few other reasons in our passage today, though, that I want us to understand. You see, I am afraid that many in our culture—and especially in our southern Christianity suffer from a debilitating fear of others. We worry what people will think. We are anxious if we will not be in the cool crowd. We are afraid people will think we’re weird. We want so much to be liked and accepted that the biblical call for us to be aliens and strangers in the world passes right by us rather than taking root in our hearts and actions.
A rightly ordered fear. To not be afraid is to understand where we have come from. The Lord is my Light. This calls to mind the first words of Creation: Let there be Light. That is, God created you and me. He owns us. But it also calls to mind the last chapter of Scripture that says: “5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.” We get fearful when we forget we are creatures. Because we put the world on our shoulders. We subtlety think the world revolves around me.
The Lord is my salvation. But it’s not that he simply created us, he opened our eyes to his majestic light and saved us. He gave his own life to give us the light of the Glory of the Gospel.
The Lord is the stronghold of my life. This is military terminology. Why would David use such militaristic language? Remember that David was king of Israel and familiar with people trying to take the city of Jerusalem away from him. From a stronghold, you can see your enemies. From a stronghold you have security while everyone is buzzing about. A stronghold holds you strongly. The Lord himself he holds David in the palm of his hand. In God, David sees his enemies camp around him, but he says he will not fear. For he looks around and sheltered on all sides by the hand of God. Some even in his own army__own family__But is more secure even in the midst of David’s stronghold.
More than a rightly ordered humility, vv.2-3.
An (2) honest assessment of reality.
It’s common when you’re going through difficulty for people to give trite answers. Sometimes the comfort people give is downright wrong. They will say, “It’s not that bad.” The reality of the situation is that there is an actual army encamped against him. Slanderers in his camp.// The reality is that you have a darkness that will not lift. You have a relationship that is too difficult to fix. You have a debilitating fear that keeps you from taking the risks you know God is calling you to take. The reality is, you and I have an Enemy that wants to distract us and devour us!
But David says: “Yet I will be confident.” He looks at his current situation and it is dark. It is hopeless. Yet he will be confident because he knows the Lord is on his side. “They will stumble and fall.”
There is a shift in focus. All around to up. But even if they were to overtake him, there is something more beautiful. What is it that keeps Frodo and Samwise moving forward into the darkness of Mordor? It’s the beauty of home. The fresh, sweet summer strawberries. The faces of those he loves. Why would anyone stare in the face of Hell and move forward deeper into it? Because of love. Because of a Beauty far surpassing the ugliness.
David will not fear because of (3)an all-surpassing beauty. Vv.4-6. There is an intimacy here with God. But did you notice where this intimacy happens? Five Times he mentions it. V.4: In the house of the Lord. To inquire in his temple. Better rendered “palace”. V.5: In his shelter. Under the cover of his tent. V. 6: I will offer sacrifices in his tent.
One of the things that’s not too popular today is church attendance. “I’ll get to it when I can.” It’s optional. Take it or leave it. // I can’t blame people. They’ve been guilted into attending. They’ve been shamed for sleeping in. They’ve been made to feel like less than they are because they have taken “a little break”. Some folks have seen the hypocrisy of those who call themselves Christians just going to church and living like they haven’t been saved. Raising their hands on Sunday while they’re busy sinning on Monday.
But this has too often been an excuse. But it’s an excuse because people haven’t come to terms with the reality that in the midst of our sin, God dwells. God himself is walking the halls of this hospital of sinners. We cannot excuse the hypocrisy! That’s not the answer. Rather, it’s in the confrontation of sin at the church that the cancer of self-righteousness and self-reliance is cut out. Because of humility_B/c of honest assessment of reality—> I must be where God is. I need him!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the sinful Corinthians: “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1Cor 3.16; cf. Eph 2.19-21). // You don’t think there was dust on the Tabernacle? You don’t think there was the smell of dung from the sacrifices? You don’t think there was irritation and frustration as people sacrificed those same animals? But this is where God chose to dwell. As one commentator put it: “Wherever God chooses to reveal himself—palace, tent, temple, wilderness—that is where David wants to be”.
Friends, we are in this together. The beauty of not having people like us in the same church is that those are the very ones that will make us better. In the very rubbing in the wrong way, it sharpens us. We have plenty of clubs of like people. We gravitate toward people like us. We need to press into each other to be all that God created us to be. // One very practical way to make the growth you want to see happen in your life is to simply ask someone: What is a weakness you see in my life? Simple question. And then brace yourself to receive the answer. And then respond: Will you help me?
It is in the Church that God’s beauty can be seen. Can you imagine what it would look like for a group of people who are serious about reflecting God’s glory? Pursuing holiness together!
//Lastly, there’s not just a rightly ordered fear, an honest assessment of reality, and an all-surpassing beauty that will cause him not to be afraid, it is (4) a greater love. In all our talk about God, a lot of times we can forget that we are talking about a person. —Vv.7-14.— David has talked about God and his glory, but here he talks to him. There is an intimacy to this passage that I think gets lost on us sometimes. Your face, LORD, do I seek. // My help. // The LORD will take me in.
Do you find yourself talking a lot about God—your struggles with difficulties in life and what you’re working through—and very little to God. A little tweak to your vocabulary will help tremendously. When you find yourself saying, “This is so difficult.” Why not just add one word: “This is so difficult, God.”
David realizes that even the most intimate of relationships (father and mother) can pass away. But the steadfast love of God will remain forever and ever. Those who he loves, he will by no means cast out. Are you convinced that God loves you tremendously? // The world already thinks you and I are weird. Anyone who believes in something they cannot see with their eyes is not only weird. They are foolish. Have you come to terms with that? That doesn’t give us license to act foolish. No, it means that the very fiber of our being is rooted in a different soil. Embrace that and you will not fear what others think of you.
But then I am led to ask us the question: Why do we seek God? Is it to merely feel good about ourselves? To help us cope? A lot of times we treat God as a means to some other end or purpose. This would sound like: Because it works. It raises obedient children. It keeps me out of trouble. After all, David asks God to teach him his way! Is David merely crying out to God to get something from God—namely deliverance?
No there’s a deeper and more beautiful truth here. David sought God’s face because he loved him. He wanted to be nearer to him than the very heart in his chest. Would that describe you? Do you want more of God? Not just his benefits. But his very soul living and moving and having its being in yours? Deep yearning for God.
The songs we sing and the prayers we pray aren’t just to some nebulous Being. Jesus Christ himself said, “I am the Light of the World.” The Apostle John says in his first chapter that Jesus is that Tabernacle. Jesus said he was the Temple. The reason Paul called the Church the Temple of God is because Jesus dwells among his people. He walks in our midst. He is here now by the power and love of his Spirit.
There’s a Japanese story that was made into a book that was later made into a movie called Hachi. It didn’t make it to the theaters here in the States, but it is worth renting and watching. It’s about a dog, a Japanese Akita, that was rescued by a man, named Parker. Everyday Hachi would follow Parker to the train station to see him off. And everyday at the end of the workday, Hachi would go back to the train station to welcome him home. One day Parker dies suddenly and doesn’t come home although Hachi is at the train station waiting for him. Parker’s children eventually sell the house and take Hachi to their home, but he always goes back to the train station to wait. Everyday for the next 9 years, 9 months, and 15 days Hachi went to see if his Master would return. Do you have this kind of yearning for God?
He loved his Master. He waited. He was strong. Took courage. He waited on his Lord. There was no place he’d rather be than at his side. //
Patrick: “Everyday I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere.”