Psalm 27
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
There is no known character and career in Scripture that would correspond to this psalm as well as those of David. And it seems difficult to resist the conclusion that the words in ver. 10 were written about the same time that those in 1 Samuel 22:3 were spoken. The objection of Delitzsch, that David left his father and mother, not they him, is of no weight; for either way his peril and exposure were such that he was left without them; and we are left to wonder why they consented to be sundered from him. But these chequered experiences in life serve to bring out to him more and more fully the wealth of care and love that his God makes over to him. If we were asked whether this psalm is one of those which come directly from God, and so contain a revelation from him, we should reply, "It is one of those records of the experience of an Old Testament saint who could triumph in God as the revealed God of his salvation." What God was to the saints of old, he is to his people still. Therefore the psalm discloses God's revelation of himself to his people of the olden time, and it is one in which believers now may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. And the expositor will have here a rich mine for exploration, as in the light of this psalm he studies God's self-revelation to his saints, and faith's response thereto. Let us study these in order.

I. WE HAVE HERE INDICATED THE FULNESS OF GOD'S SELF-REVELATION TO HIS SAINTS. The revelation of God which is implied in this psalm is one of exceeding tenderness, richness, and glory.

1. God himself had led the way in inviting souls to seek him. (Ver. 8, "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face.") The heart of God desires the friendship and fellowship of man. Our hearts are so made they can rest only in God; God's heart is such that he seeks a rest in us. The fact of his giving an invitation to us to seek him is proof of this (cf. Isaiah 45:19; Iv. 6; 54:6). So also is the complaint of God when men do not seek him (Isaiah 43:23-26). And still more the declared joy of God when souls are at rest in him (Zephaniah 3:17). See this taken over to the New Testament (John 4:23). But the grandest illustration of all is in the fact (Luke 19:10) of which the whole of Luke's fifteenth chapter is the fullest declaration (still further, see Revelation 3:20). In fact, had it not been for this self-manifestation of God's heart, we must all have been agnostics for ever!

2. Wheresoever men open the heart to God's invitation, he proves himself worthy of himself. The student may well luxuriate in the various names which the psalmist delights to apply to God as his God. Note:

(1) The terms themselves.

(a) Light (ver. 1). "There shines on him [the psalmist] a sun that sets not and knows no eclipse. This sublime, infinitely profound name for God, אורִי, is found only in this passage" (Delitzsch, in loc.).

(b) Salvation (ver. 1). Spiritually as well as temporally.

(c) The Fortress of his life (ver. 1), in which he was perpetually hidden.

(d) Guardian (ver. 10). One who would manifest a tenderer care and love than even parents feel, and who, when they are removed from us, will be our Guardian still.

(e) Helper (ver. 9). Coming with timely aid in every emergency. Note:

(2) The individualizing care of God. The word "my should be emphasized in each case: my Light;" "my Salvation," etc. The experience of those who fling themselves on God's care and love is that he manages as beautifully and precisely for them as if he had no one else for whom to care. Hence the prophet's rebuke of the unbelieving suggestion to the contrary (Isaiah 40:27). If God were less than infinite, doubts might creep in. As Faber sings -

"That greatness which is infinite has room
For all things in its lap to lie:
We should be crushed by a magnificence
Short of infinity!"

II. THE RESPONSES OF BELIEVING HEARTS TO GOD'S SELF-MANIFESTATION ARE VARIED AS THE EXPERIENCES OF LIFE. The whole psalm is one of responsive faith; though that response may be sometimes a plea, or a sigh, yea, even a groan, and at other times a shout of song as with trumpet-power. We have all these stages in this very psalm. Listen to the varied phases of the psalmist's words. Here is:

1. Faith seeking. (Ver. 8.) It is an infinite mercy to hear the sweet whisper of God to the heart, "Seek me." It is so wonderful that there should be any such sound from God to the sinful heart - any sound so tender and sweet. And what should the response be but this, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek"? We may well seek the acquaintance of God as our God, to be our Leader, Guide, and Sovereign Lord, even unto death. Note: Let the coming sinner never forget that, if he is seeking God, God has sought him first. We may never lose sight of the Divine order, "We love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

2. Faith rejoicing in Divine companionship. (Ver. 4.) In the Lord's house, his presence was specially manifested; and those who know the Lord know well that there is no home like being by their Saviour's side, in his house. There they see the "beauty" of the Lord; i.e. his grace, his love, his mercy. There their eyes see "the King in his beauty." They "inquire" in his temple for directions for daily life; or they muse on the glories of the temple as the seat of Jehovah's presence. Yea, God's love and care make them so happy that they must give vent to their joy as with trumpet-song. We often long for greater physical power to praise God in shouting; and the use of trumpet and organ gratifies this longing. We praise God, but the organ gives the voice-power (see ver. 6, Hebrew).

3. Faith watching. (Ver. 2; cf. Psalm 92:11, Authorized Version, but leave out the words in italics; Psalm 37:34-47.) It should be no joy to the righteous to see any one in trouble; yet they cannot but praise God when infamous plots are discovered, and the saints of God are delivered.

4. Faith sheltering. (Vers. 1, 5; Psalm 91.) No one - in earth or hell - can ever forge the dart or weapon that can pierce the saints' stronghold. When the Lord is the Fortress of their life, they are in a citadel that can never be invaded.

5. Faith dreading. (Ver. 9.) The thing most to be dreaded is the hiding of God's face, and being cast off by him. And can faith ever dread this? Yes, indeed; for there are moments when the sins of the past do rise up so terribly into the memory, that for a while they seem to eclipse all besides; and then faith heaves a sigh and drops a tear. There may be as clinging a faith when uttering the wail of the first verse of the twenty-second, as when singing the peaceful song of the twenty-third psalm; for even in the darkest hour, faith says, "My God!"

6. Faith hoping. (Ver. 13; literally, "Had I not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living...") The sentence is unfinished. The translators have well supplied the blank. The thought is," What would have become of me?" The trials of life are often so repeated and so keen, that were it not for God, his love sustaining the spirit under the weight of the present, and inspiring the heart with hope for the future, reason would give way, and the man be hopelessly crushed. It is God's love which makes life worth living.

7. Faith triumphing. (Ver. 1.) When we realize the glory of him whom we believe, there is no bound to our delight and exultation; and at such times we can laugh in defiance at our foes; yea, "smile at Satan's rage, and face a frowning world." We can, if need be, cherish something of Luther's daring, and "go to Worms, though there were as many devils as there are tiles on the roofs of the houses;" or, better still, we can say with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." We know that God will not call us to confront an enemy that we cannot lay low, nor to bear a cross which we cannot carry, nor to endure a trial we cannot sustain, nor to do a work which we cannot perform. His grace is sufficient for us. His strength is made perfect in weakness. Hence, in closing the psalm:

8. Faith soliloquizes. (Ver. 14.) It may be supposed to be addressed first to himself, and so, indirectly, to the people of God generally. The words, "He shall strengthen thine heart," are, rather, "Let thine heart be strong;" as if the psalmist would chide himself that he should ever have a moment's misgiving, when he has such a God in whom to trust, and such a stronghold in which to abide (Nahum 1:7). Be it ours to wait upon our God continually! This is the secret of a steady, upward, peaceful, and strong life. What may be before any of us, no human eye can discern, nor where our lot may be cast. But God is all-sufficient. Note:

1. How sinful and, foolish to incur the risks of life ourselves! To each and all of us God says, "Seek ye my face." Let our answer be, "Thy face, Lord, will we seek." And all that God has been to our fathers, he will be to us - our Light, our Salvation, our Helper, our Strength, our All!

2. None need quail before the risks of life, whatever they may be, who put their whole trust in God, and follow him everywhere! "Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?"

3. Never think to gain anything by paltering with duty. If a plain duty is before you, however difficult, go forward in the strength of the Lord, and fear nothing. He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Wherefore we may boldly say, "The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear; what can man do unto me?" Only trust in the Lord, and do right, and one by one you will see your foes stumble and fall, and you will be left in possession of the field, more than conqueror, through him that loveth you."

"Stand but your ground, your ghostly foes will fly,
Hell trembles at a heaven-directed eye;
Choose rather to defend than to assail,
Self-confidence will in the conflict fail.

When you are challenged, you may dangers meet,
True courage is a fixed, not sudden heat;
Is always humble, lives in self-distrust,
And will itself into no danger thrust.

Devote yourself to God, and you will find
God fights the battles of a will resigned.
Love Jesus! love will no base fear endure;
Love Jesus! and of conquest rest secure."

(Bishop Ken.) = - c.

True religion begins with God. It is a call on his part; it is a response on ours (ver. 8). With some religion is a chance, as settled by birth. With others it is a custom - something received by tradition from the fathers. With others it is a convenience, the result of education, a matter of prudence and self-interest, something necessary to respectability and comfort in the world. In all such cases there may be the form, but there cannot be the power, of godliness; there may be certain earthly advantages, but there is no real profit, neither the promise of the life that now is, nor of that which is to come. But with all who are taught of God, religion is a choice - the free, settled, rejoicing choice of the heart. It is God manifesting himself to the soul, and the soul in love and trust uniting and binding itself to God to be his and his only for evermore. True religion is characterized by -

I. PERSONAL TRUST IN GOD, AS THE LORD OUR GOD AND OUR REDEEMER. "When I sit in darkness," says Micah, "the Lord shall be a Light unto me" (Micah 7:8). So says David here (ver. 1). We need "light," from the beginning to the end of our life. God is our Light. All real illumination to the mind, the conscience, and the heart, is from him. Light is revealing. As we draw near to God, the mists and clouds of passion and self-love are driven away, and all things stand out clear and distinct as they really are. There is not only the revelation of ourselves, but the revelation of God. We see ourselves as sinners, guilty and vile; we see God as a Saviour, and we trust him utterly (John 1:5; John 8:12; 1 John 1:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

II. FEARLESS DEVOTION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD, AS THE FREEST, THE RIGHT-FULLEST, AND THE MOST BLESSED OF ALL SERVICES. Religion is more than knowledge, or feeling, or obedience to the moral law. It is a life. It not only implies trust, but love and service. There are difficulties and trials. We look back and remember times of danger (ver. 2). When we were in straits and fears. But God brought us help. As it was with David (1 Samuel 17:37; 1 Samuel 30:6), so it was with us. In thought of what God has done for us, we strengthen our hearts. Confidence comes from experience. Whom we have tried we trust. The friend we have found faithful, we cleave to. The physician, whose remedies we have proved good, we confide in. The commander under whom we have conquered, we follow bravely to other fields. So do we trust in God. Looking to the future, we may imagine greater trials and distresses than we have yet encountered (ver. 3). The psalmist conjures up a terrible scene. As in a picture, we see the mustering of the forces, the proud array of the enemy with tents and banners, the shock and terror of the battle, when host met host in furious strife. But, like the psalmist, let us not flinch or fear. God is with us. "In this will I be confident" (1 Kings 22:19, 2 Kings 6:15; Acts 20:24).

III. INCREASING DELIGHT IN GOD, AS THE SATISFACTION AND JOY OF THE HEART. Religion establishes right relations between the soul and God. Every barrier is removed, and free access and friendly communion have been secured. This is beautifully brought out in the words, "One thing have I desired of the Lord" (ver. 4). One thought has the mastery. One desire gives unity and concentration to all effort. One affection binds the heart and the life into a holy fellowship. God is All and in all. The singleness of purpose branches into two main streams. One is meditation: "To behold the beauty of the Lord;" the other is like unto it, practice: "To inquire in his temple" (ver. 4). This shows the bent of the renewed soul. There is an inward relish for what is good. There is a delight in all that is true and beautiful. Every living soul is an inquirer. Truth is not born with us, nor can it be obtained without our own efforts. It must be sought for its own sake. It must be wooed and won from love, that it may be a possession and a joy for ever. All right inquiry is practical. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." Thus coming to the light, and walking in the light, "we have fellowship with God, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." We have safety and peace (vers. 5, 6).

IV. ABSOLUTE SURRENDER TO GOD, FOR TIME AND FOR ETERNITY. True religion hinds us to God, not only for life, but for ever. This is impressed in the prayer, which implies:

1. Deep humility.

2. Help aspirations.

3. Complete submission.

4. Victorious faith.

Three things are deprecated, rising one above the other in fearfulness. Displeasure (ver. 9); rejection, "Leave me not;" abandonment (ver. 10). But instead of these, we see, by faith, a glorious victory, and we hail its coming with renewed courage and praise (vers. 13, 14). - W.F.


1. His experience of what God had been to Aim. "Light" in the darkest periods of his life. Light is a revealing power - for guidance. Salvation from his greatest dangers, temporal and spiritual "Strength," the power that had upheld his life when falling into weakness and despair. Experience confirmed and rewarded the faith which he had in God. When experience coincides with our faith, then we are at our strongest. But faith must always live above experience.

2. His experience of his enemies. Their most furious and savage onsets had been baffled. This also was of God. And the explanation was - they were wicked, and he was righteous. This thought was fundamental to his faith - that God would not permit the evil to triumph over the good. His experience of this in the past gave him confidence for the future (vers. 2, 3). Our past victories should inspire us for the future.


1. By fellowship with God. Beholding his beauty or goodness, and meditating upon it. The heart and mind must be fed and strengthened by constant converse with God in worship and holy thought.

2. Frequent seclusion is the best way to strengthen ourselves for conflict. (Ver. 5.) "In time of trouble, he shall hide me, and set me up upon a rock;" i.e. shut out from man, and shut in with God, is the way to conquer trouble and prepare for danger.

3. Thankful worship is another help. (Ver. 6.) "Sacrifices of joy," or "shouting," "singing praises," - all mean grateful exercises of the heart towards God, recounting to ourselves what he has done for us in his wonderful goodness. Courage, hopefulness, must be fed with joy, and not with sadness and sorrow. - S.

While strengthening himself in God (in the former part of the psalm), he is, perhaps, seized by some sudden fear lest he should be forsaken, or be overcome by the craft or malice of his enemies. Till now the danger which threatens him is as prominent an object as the salvation and defence were before. He earnestly prays now for that in which he had just boasted. And these are the grounds on which he bases the prayer.

I. HE HAD DIVINE WARRANT. The tenor of God's whole Word to man is, "Seek ye my face;" equivalent to "Come unto me for rest, for protection, for salvation." We are but obeying the Divine voice within and without us when we seek for refuge and an escape from all evil in God. Christ emphasized this truth when he cried, "Come unto me, all ye that labour," etc.

II. BECAUSE THERE WAS AN ABIDING RELATION BETWEEN HIM AND GOD. (Ver. 9.) He was God's servant; God had been his Help. The good Master would not cast the servant away in anger. Masters and servants were knit more closely together in early times than now; and the psalmist pleads this relation between them. Then God had helped him in former troubles, and God was too constant to change suddenly and to cast him away. How strong is our claim upon God in Christi He is our Father for ever, and we his children.

III. BECAUSE GOD DRAWS NEARER WHEN THE DEAREST EARTHLY FRIENDS FORSAKE US. (Ver. 10.) Father and mother had forsaken him, and God had taken him up. Trouble often cools the love of human relations, but only increases the Divine pity, and attracts God the more closely to us. The psalmist knew this as a fact of experience, and he could urge it as a plea now in his present distress. Difference between human love, however strong, and the Divine love. No grain or taint of selfishness in the Divine love, which clings to us steadfastly, through all our sins and sorrows.


1. The cunning and deceitful. More dangerous than open and violent enemies. Just as we are in more danger from those sins which try to look like virtues, than from sins which we know to be sins. Avarice is thought prudence; pride is self-respect; cruelty claims to be justice, etc.

2. Those who employ open violence. This is dangerous, because urged on by unrestrained passion. Our passions, yielded to and indulged, are dangerous enemies. We have need to pray, "Teach me thy way, and lead me in an even path." - S.

Translation, "Oh, if I had not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!" "Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let thine heart take courage; yea, wait on the Lord." The psalmist is speaking to himself, to encourage himself in firmer confidence in God, the believing half of his soul addressing the despondent or weaker half. "I had fainted," or "had perished," is necessary to complete the sense of ver. 13. The passage teaches us how to become strong to meet the dangers, difficulties, temptations, and afflictions of life.

I. FAITH IN THE GOODNESS OF GOD. (Ver. 13.) The psalmist has a firm assurance that God will make his goodness manifest to us in our personal history. "He is good to all, and his tender mercy is over all his works." That he will be good to us rests on the assurance that he will be good to all, and not because we have any superior or peculiar claim. For goodness is kindness or benevolence to those who have not merited or deserved it by their character or conduct. If we cannot see the manifest proofs that God has been as good to all as he has been to us, we must believe that the evidence will come some time; or, if we cannot see the proofs that he will be good to us - delivering and redeeming us according to our need - we must believe that he is doing all that can be done for us, in seen and unseen ways beyond our power of interpretation.

II. WAITING UPON GOD. This may mean one or both of two things.

1. Service to God. There is nothing so strengthening to our whole nature - nothing that so nerves us to meet danger and difficulties - as the doing all that we know to be the will of God - doing all known duty. An educating, developing power, in obedience to duty, which nothing can take the place of.

2. Waiting for God; or, hope in him. God has his own time and method of doing things. "If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it;" "We are saved by hope."

III. BY CULTIVATING COURAGE. Moral courage. As a habit of the mind, and not only upon occasions; gathering up those considerations that foster and nourish a courageous heart.

1. Our past successes should help us to this, and even some of our failures, when we see how they might have been avoided.

2. God is on our side, and will help with the direct aid of his Spirit all who are aiming at the right.

3. Things are possible to courageous minds which are impossible to weak, cowardly hearts. "Let thine heart be strong." "To him that believeth all things are possible" - believeth in God and believeth in himself. - S.

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