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Deeper Commentary


Psa 27:1 By David- The references to armies and war being against David (:3) suggest this Psalm was written whilst fleeing Saul or Absalom. David's great longing was for the sanctuary (:4) which he was excluded from, and his desire was to return there. And yet he still feels God's presence with him in exile. These Psalms were therefore understandably used for the exiles in captivity.

Yahweh is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? Yahweh is the strength of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?-
The reference to "light" may be because David so loved seeing the shekinah glory over the ark in the sanctuary: "Yahweh, I love the habitation of Your dwelling place, the place where Your glory dwells" (Ps. 26:8). On the run, he had no access to the sanctuary, and had actually sent the ark back to Zion when he fled from Absalom. And yet he feels that God's "light" is still with him wherever he is. And all those unable to access church meetings and the visible gatherings of God's people can know the same. Likewise David was fleeing away from the "stronghold" of Zion, but felt that God was His strength or stronghold.

Psa 27:2 When evildoers came at me to eat up my flesh, even my adversaries and my foes, they stumbled and fell-
"Came upon me to eat up my flesh" (AV). This is what Ahithophel proposed at the time of Absalom's uprising; to 'come upon' David, as the dew falls (2 Sam. 17:12), aiming to totally destroy David. But they were the ones who were to fall (s.w.). 

Psa 27:3 Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. Though war should rise against me, even then I will be confident-
Perhaps a reference to Ahithophel's advice to surround David with a huge army, at the time of Absalom's rebellion. The conditional "though an army..." is appropriate in that Ahithophel's advice was not actually implemented.

Psa 27:4 One thing I have asked of Yahweh, that I will seek after: That I may dwell in the house of Yahweh all the days of my life, to see Yahweh’s beauty, and to inquire in His temple-
David's simple desire was to be able to again worship God in the sanctuary on Mount Zion. Under inspiration, this is rewritten and reapplied to the exiles and their desire to return to the temple; for there was no temple in David's lifetime.

Often, “desire” is seen by God as prayer (Ps. 10:17; 21:2; 27:4; 59:10; 92:11; 140:8; 145:19; Mt. 18:32; Rom. 10:1; 1 Jn. 5:15). God interprets that inner desire as prayer, even if it is not articulated in specific requests.

Psa 27:5 For in the day of trouble He will keep me secretly in His pavilion, under the shadow of His tabernacle He will hide me. He will lift me up on a rock-
Although David was exiled from the sanctuary (:4), he felt he was within the tabernacle, even under the shadow of the cherubic wings over the ark; with the shekinah glory as it were around him, over the blood of atonement sprinkled upon the mercy seat. Again and again, Old Testament incidents taught that the intensest presence of God was not in fact in the Jerusalem sanctuary, but in the hearts of sincere, exiled believers. And so it has often been in the later Christian experience; spirituality and the most active presence of God has often been experienced in exile from the established, visible sanctuaries. See on Ps. 29:8.


Psa 27:6 Now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tent. I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to Yahweh-
David looked forward to returning to the sanctuary in Zion and praising God for his salvation from his enemies. However when Absalom was slain, his head was not at all lifted up.

Psa 27:7 Hear, Yahweh, when I cry with my voice. Have mercy also on me, and answer me-
"Have mercy" or 'give graciously' is the word of Jacob when seeking to return from exile, yet facing apparently insuperable obstacles (Gen. 33:5,11). Time and again we see the example of taking strength from historical (Biblical) precedents.

Psa 27:8 When You said, Seek my face, my heart said to You, I will seek Your face, Yahweh-
This can be understood as David's plea to be allowed back into the Jerusalem sanctuary to worship / seek God. Hence GNB "When you said, "Come worship me," I answered, "I will come, LORD"". But David appears somewhat manipulative in this argument, because he is experiencing the sanctuary presence of God from far outside it (see on :5).

We are frequently reminded in the prophets that the spiritual way of life is one which is seeking God. We are to seek His face (Ps. 24:6; 27:8)- which it is impossible to behold (Ex. 33:20). Actually finding God in the ultimate sense is therefore unattainable in this life; but our whole mortal life must be lived in this spirit of seeking ultimate perfection. Seeking God is often defined in the prophets as forsaking our sins and desiring to be righteous (Amos 5:5,8,14,15). None of us are completely successful in our seeking of God, and therefore it follows that none of is completely forsakes all our sinfulness.

The historical point when God invited David to seek His face may have been when Samuel anointed David, and gave him the message that he was to be king. And doubtless David was told at the time that he was to seek God's face. When under persecution by Saul, when the promise of kingship seemed so far from fulfilment, David reminds God that he had indeed sought His face as required; and asks God to fulfil the prophetic word about kingship (Ps. 119:58).

Psa 27:9 Don’t hide Your face from me; don’t put Your servant away in anger. You have been my help, don’t abandon me, neither forsake me, God of my salvation-
David feels that his suffering at Absalom's hand is a result of his sin with Bathsheba (which indeed it was), but is making the mistake of assuming that suffering the consequences of sin means that sin hasn't been forgiven. Or we can reflect that Paul can speak in Rom. 7 as if he is two different people; “I myself serve the law of God”, but “my flesh” serves sin. Likewise David asked God not to hide His face from him, David personally, (Ps. 27:9; 69:17; 102:2; 143:7), but to hide His face from David’s sins (Ps. 51:9). And one wonders whether the way the records of the Lord’s temptations are written implies some similar recognition by the Spirit of the two ‘men’ within the Lord.

Psa 27:10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then Yahweh will take me up-
He evidently loved his parents and expected their passing when he wrote this. Perhaps therefore the Psalm had its genesis in David's experience when fleeing from Saul, when he sent his parents to Moab for safety (1 Sam. 22:3). But now he edits the Psalm and develops it with reference to his flight from Absalom. And yet 'forsaking' could imply they turned against him. This would then make David's sufferings the more poignant. David loved his parents, especially caring for their safe keeping in his wilderness years; only to be forsaken by them (the Hebrew means just that), and to be rejected by his brothers and sisters (Ps. 27:10; 38:11; 69:8; 88:18).

This speaks Messianically of the Lord’s sense of being forsaken. The disciples forsook Him (Mt. 26:56), His mother left Him, on John’s arm, and so the words of Ps. 27:9,10 started to come true: "Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God... when my father and my mother forsake me" . All His scaffolding was being removed. He had leaned on His disciples (Lk. 22:28), He had naturally leaned on His mother. Now they had forsaken Him. And now His mother had forsaken Him. And so He pleaded with His true Father not to leave Him. And hence the agony, the deep agony of Mt. 27:46: "My God, my God, Why hast thou (this is where the emphasis should be) forsaken me?".

Psa 27:11 Teach me Your way, Yahweh. Lead me in a straight path, because of my enemies-
When David fled Jerusalem from Absalom, he apparently had no clear game plan. He didn't know quite where to go, as Absalom appeared to have garnered mass popularity. And yet David felt he was being led in a straight path; God likewise would lead the exiles in a straight path if they repented and wished to be truly restored to Zion (s.w. Is. 40:4; 42:16 s.w.).

Psa 27:12 Don’t deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me, such as breathe out cruelty-
So many of the Psalms contain references to Saul's smear campaign against David (Ps. 27:12; 31:13; 109:23 cp. 1 Sam. 26:19). This frequency of reference in itself indicates the weight with which this tragedy rested upon David's mind. And it seems this situation repeated at the time of Absalom's rebellion, to which this psalm was reapplied by David. 


Psa 27:13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living- This appears to be another reference to David's desire to be restored to the sanctuary in Zion, to see the shekinah glory which he saw as the quintessence of God's goodness.

Psa 27:14 Wait for Yahweh, be strong, and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for Yahweh
- Again we see David understanding his experiences as setting a pattern for others. This is the way to use suffering, as 2 Cor. 1:4-7 makes clear. The way David's Psalms were rewritten for use in other contexts is evidence enough that his desire was fulfilled. The hearts or spirits of others were to "take courage". The Greek and Hebrew words translated  'spirit' don't only mean 'power'. They frequently refer to the mind / heart. We read of God giving men a new heart, a new spirit; of Him working on men's hearts to make them do His will. He gives them a new spirit. This doesn't mean that they of their own volition have the power of the Holy Spirit gifts, as, e.g., some in the early church did. God will strengthen the heart / spirit of those who try to be strong (Ps. 27:14; 31:24). He can even, somehow, withhold men from sinning (Gen. 20:6), and keep us from falling (Jude 24). We should therefore have no essential objection to the idea of the Lord granting us His Spirit, in the sense of His thinking, His heart / mind.

We’re familiar with the references to God hardening the heart of Pharaoh (Ex. 14:8 etc.). However, the same Hebrew words occur in a positive context- for God also hardens or strengthens the hearts of the righteous (Ps. 27:14; Is. 35:4). Indeed, Is. 35:4 speaks of how the righteous shouldn’t have a weak or [Heb.] ‘fluid’ heart, but rather a hardened one. Clearly enough, God solidifies human attitudes, one way or the other. This is a sobering thought- for He is prepared to confirm a person in their weak thinking. But on the other hand, even the weakest basic intention towards righteousness is solidified by Him too.