Sermon on Psalm 27 for Epiphany 3, A, January 26, 2020
- We remember King David as a person who had many ups and downs—I would say extreme ups and downs compared with our lives. He was a shepherd boy, out in the field, tending his flock. Then he killed the giant Goliath, and everyone shouted his name and called him the champion of Israel. What a high point! Then King Saul became insanely jealous of David. Instead of defending Israel and chasing Philistines, he chased David—David was on the run for his life. What a low! Then King Saul died and David became King of Israel. Another high! Then David had to deal with people who were still loyal to Saul. He had to deal with his generals who didn’t want to follow his orders. He had to deal with himself—his affair with Bathsheba and his own cover-up. And later in life he had to deal with his own rebellious children—one of them, Absalom, campaigned for king while his father was still living. He sat near the city gate and said things like “My dad’s a lousy king. He’s not aware of what’s going on. I would listen to the people.” And David was on the run for his life again. When David was on his deathbed, he had everything set up for Solomon to take over when another son, Adonijah, horned his way in, did much the same as Absalom, and tried to take over. Lows, lower lows, extreme lows.
- It was during one of these low times that David wrote Psalm 27. We don’t know exactly when—the title of the psalm doesn’t tell us. The only hint is a mention of family problems. David mentions one low after another. Extreme lows. “Evildoers advance against me to eat my flesh.” “War rises against me.” “False witnesses rise up against me.” “People breathe out violence.” You may have had a rough week, but nothing like that.
I. The Lord Is My Light.
- David begins the psalm with a bright shining truth about God. “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” This is picture language—the proper term for it is In another famous psalm, David says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” God isn’t out in a field, watching sheep—but he does exactly what a shepherd does—tending, protecting and providing. The same principle is here. “The Lord is my light.” God is not a light bulb. God is not an oil lamp—but he does exactly what a light bulb or oil lamp does.
- There are many dangers in the world, and people stumble into many of them. Isaiah wrote about people in his time who were walking in darkness, the nations that didn’t know God. Their idea of enlightenment was to consult fortune tellers and people who claimed to consult the dead. Their search for enlightenment just got them more darkness and frustration—like bumping into things and stepping on things when you’re fumbling around in the dark—only this isn’t just a nighttime trip to the bathroom. This is life.
- We see this now. People still seek enlightenment from fortune tellers. I have seen signs for them in Madison and in West Bend—right on the main streets. People still try to consult the dead. There used to be a show Crossing Over where the host would secretly get information about the dead relatives, and then he would feed the information back to the people and tell them what they wanted to hear. People share silly graphics on Facebook—“One like and share equals one prayer answered!” It’s all superstition and darkness.
- We Christians often flirt with the darkness—we do that anytime we step outside of God’s realm—we do that every time we put our trust for blessings or success in anything but God. Most of the time, our darkness is our trust in ourselves. We become our own idols. We think know it all. We think know the way. We think know our limits. We think know how far we can go. God’s law still stands as our guide for living as his people. Sometimes we throw it aside and say “I’m going to try this.” “I really want to do that.” January 22 was the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that allowed abortion in 1972. Some claim, “This is our freedom.” “This is our choice.” But it’s darkness. It’s death. It’s taking a life God has given. In another psalm, David says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13-18). “The Lord is my light.” He shows us what is right—for his glory and our neighbor’s good. His commands are his will that he wants done—that he wants us to do.
II. The Lord Is My Salvation.
- David says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” “Salvation” is a “churchy” word. We really don’t use it anywhere else. It really means the same as “deliverance” or “rescue.” As a soldier, David knew what it was like to fight a battle and wait for salvation, rescue, deliverance… to wait for the rest of the army to come and help you finish the battle. But David didn’t have to wait. He said, “The Lord is … my salvation.” In his most famous psalm, he said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” In Psalm 16, he says, “Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” There’s more to salvation than just deliverance or rescue. It’s deliverance and rescue when you are absolutely helpless. “Salvation” really means “saving,” and without that saving, we would lose everything. It’s the same root as the word “Savior” (Latin: salvator). He gets us out of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. He gets us out of what we can’t get out of ourselves. Think of the angel’s message to the shepherds on Christmas night: “To you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
- This was King David’s confidence, too. He was not confident because he was optimistic. While that may brighten a person’s outlook, optimism alone doesn’t have much power behind it. David was confident because he had a promise from God. “The Lord himself will make a house for you. 12 When your days are complete and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your seed, who will come from your own body. I will establish his kingdom. 13 He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7). David had the promise that the Savior would come from his family. So David knew that for God to keep that bigger promise, God had to take care of him.
- We are on the other side of that promise. David had a promise. He looked ahead about a thousand years (he didn’t know how long it would be) to a Savior yet to come. We have fulfillment. We look back about two thousand years, and we read, know, celebrate and sing about Jesus our Savior. We know what he did for us as the Lamb of God—the Savior who washed away the sin of the world—he did what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Again, part of our problem is that we try to be our own Savior. We know we can’t fix our messes—and we think all is a loss. You have Jesus. You have reason for confidence—just like David with his wars, enemies, battles—you aren’t in it alone. The Valiant One—your Savior—fights for you.
III. The Lord is my stronghold.
- Then David says, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid.” A stronghold was a fortified city or camp, usually on the top of a flat mountain. Being in the stronghold meant you had the advantage against all your enemies who would have to fight uphill. You were also behind walls, many feet thick—no arrow could get to you. “The Lord is the stronghold of my life.” You are surrounded with his protection wherever you go. Even without a physical fortress, you are still surrounded with the power and love of God. This is why David could say, “In the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” and in this psalm, “even though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” Jesus is our confidence. Even when all earthly hope is gone, we still have him—and with him, we still have heaven. Your Savior says, “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. … I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that you may also be where I am.”