Psalm 27 is a well-loved psalm with some features in its structure that actually seem to speak to the hearts of pilgrims who are on that long, hard, rocky path with their Shepherd.
Some commentators rightly point out that Psalm 27 is hard to categorize, is it a psalm of confidence with a backdrop of David’s enemies? Or, is it a psalm of lament when David cries out for help against his foes? Some have even wondered if these were once two psalms because of the change in structure and mood of David’s words.
The first half (verses 1-6) of the psalm seem to point clearly to a psalm of confidence. You could say that David exudes in confidence.
The second half however (verses 7-14) is very much a deep, moving prayer to God.
Confidence and crying out to God.
Traits that we usually don’t think go together, yet isn’t this exactly the life of disciples and pilgrims of Jesus?
Trust and desperation. Both exist in pilgrims who are way over their heads in a world of turmoil and trouble.
Some key features from the two halves of Psalm 27…
- In the first half, God is referred to in the third person
- In the second half, God is addressed by David directly
- In the first half, David is confident
- In the second half, David is desperate for God to not cast him off
- In the first half, the enemies are stumbling and falling
- In the second, David is asking God to help him to not fall
- The enemies are in both parts of the psalm
- The desire to be with God, to seek him, is also in both parts
- In the first half, David starts with confidence and moves to his desire to seek God’s face
- In the second half, these two are reversed, David cries out to seek God’s face and then ends in confidence
In reading David’s words today, I am encouraged to see that these two “moods” (confidence and crying out to God) are in David simultaneously. Don’t we all find that we are often both confident and anxious, trusting and fearful? I do. It is part of what it means to be a weak human being.
Since that is true of us, it should be a comfort to realize that it was also true of David. We can be instructed by what he did at such times.
For David, his confidence came because God was his light, his salvation, and his stronghold (confidence from the first half).
Also for David, we see that his deep desire was to “dwell I the house of the Lord all the days of his life.” David entreats God, cries out to God, seeks God (even asks him to not cast him off), even though he was confident. The two “moods” are in sync according to scripture.
So like David, we seek acceptance from God in our troubles, we seek to be heard, we seek guidance, and we seek protection (the second half of the psalm).
Then comes the key. David does not know when help will come from the Lord. He really doesn’t know how or what kind of help will actual come. It might be like in the past, but it doesn’t have to be. God is God, he will do what he sees is best for his own glory.
So David resolves to wait. He knows that God’s goodness will shine through, but he resolves to wait it out.
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:13-14
We wait. With confidence we can wait.