Psalm 27:3
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.







My heart shall not fear.
These are the words of a veteran, not of a raw recruit in the battle of life. A first disaster brings consternation; a ripened experience alone can take calamity calmly. God educates His servants by hard discipline, in conflict with the forces of evil; and He educates the world by calling it to watch the contest.

I. IN THE STRIFE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL, THE GOOD SEEMS TO BE FEARFULLY OVERMATCHED. The host of Midian were as grasshoppers for multitude, but the Israelitish army consisted of three hundred picked men. The Christians in workshops are but a feeble minority. Temples of vice are more crowded and longer open than Christian churches. The Devil's recruits far outnumber those of the Prince of Peace.

II. EVIL EVER APPEARS TO BE HANGING OVER THE HEADS OF THE GODLY. To take a Christian stand is to expose oneself to ridicule and to danger. The struggle seems to be a hopeless one, both against the evil without and the evil within. Many an earnest Christian is fearful at times, lest the evil within should finally overmaster him. There seem to be times when the spirit of the lotos-eaters takes possession of us, and we feel that we must take a rest, and let sin sweep over us. Were it not better to make peace with powerful evils rather than contend longer against them?

III. BUT THE THREAT OF DISASTER IS WORSE THAN THE REALITY. The Devil's bark is more frequent than his bite. Many a dark cloud passes without bursting with the threatening storm. The darkest hour is often that before the dawn. In any case, to treat a threatening evil as an actual one is to suffer needlessly. The coward dies a thousand deaths before he dies once. Courage! Do not yield to evil because the siege is a strait one.

IV. APPARENT ODDS ARE NO TEST OF ULTIMATE VICTORY. He who has not lost courage is master of the future. It is not true to say that "God is on the side of the biggest battalions." What of Gideon's three hundred, and the ten thousand Greeks at Marathon? What, too, of the immense hosts of the Spanish Armada? God's greatest victories have been won by the smallest and apparently most feeble forces.

V. THE SUFFERING OF APPARENT DEFEAT IN THE CAUSE OF RIGHT IS BUT SHARING THE BURDEN OF GOD. The hermit who stopped the gladiatorial contests at the cost of his own life, chose a nobler lot than they did who occupied seats of honour in the amphitheatre; and we all see it now, though few saw it then. We may do more for God's cause by our suffering than we could by our prosperity. "How can man die better?"

VI. THE CALM ENDURANCE OF CALAMITY BRINGS ITS OWN BLESSINGS. A regiment is of but little use in battle until it has been "shot over." The tried man is the blessed man. By such endurance we bring a nobler ideal nearer to men. And we secure the sympathy of the noblest souls for truth and righteousness.

(R. C. Ford, M. A.)

Fortitude is opposed to timidity, irresolution, a feeble and wavering spirit. It is placed, like other virtues, between two extremes: at an equal distance from rashness on the one hand, and pusillanimity on the other.

I. THE HIGH IMPORTANCE OF FORTITUDE.

1. Without some degree of fortitude, there can be no happiness; because, amidst the thousand uncertainties of life, there can be no enjoyment of tranquillity. The man of feeble and timorous spirit lives under perpetual alarms. On the first shock of adversity he desponds. On the other hand, firmness of mind is the parent of tranquillity. It enables one to enjoy the present without disturbance; and to look calmly on dangers that approach, or evils that threaten in future. It suggests good hopes. It supplies resources. It allows a man to retain the full possession of himself, in every situation of fortune.

2. If fortitude be thus essential to the enjoyment of life, it is equally so to the proper discharge of all its most important duties. He who is of a cowardly mind is, and must be, a slave to the world. He fashions his whole conduct according to its hopes and fears. He smiles, and fawns, and betrays, from abject considerations of personal safety. He can neither stand the clamour of the multitude, nor the frowns of the mighty. The wind of popular favour, or the threats of power, are sufficient to shake his most determined purpose.

3. Without this temper of mind, no man can be a thorough Christian. For his profession, as such, requires him to be superior to that fear of man which bringeth a snare; enjoins him, for the sake of a good conscience, to encounter every danger; and to be prepared, if called, even to lay down his life in the cause of religion and truth.

II. THE PROPER FOUNDATIONS OF FORTITUDE.

1. A good conscience. There can be no true courage, no regular persevering constancy, but what is connected with principle, and founded on a consciousness of rectitude of intention. This, and this only, erects that brazen wall which we can oppose to every hostile attack. It clothes us with an armour, on which fortune will spend its shafts in vain. What has he to fear, who not only acts on a plan which his conscience approves, but who knows that every good man, nay, the whole unbiassed world, if they could trace his intentions, would justify and approve his conduct?

2. He knows, at the same time, that he is acting under the immediate eye and protection of the Almighty. The consciousness of such an illustrious spectator invigorates and animates him. He trusts that the eternal Lover of righteousness not only beholds and approves, but will strengthen and assist; will not suffer him to be unjustly oppressed, and will reward his constancy in the end, with glory, honor, and immortality.

III. CONSIDERATIONS WHICH MAY PROVE AUXILIARY TO THE EXERCISE OF VIRTUOUS FORTITUDE IN THE MIDST OF DANGERS.

1. It is of high importance to every one, who wishes to act his part with becoming resolution, to cultivate a religious principle, and to be inspired with trust in God. The more firmly this belief is rooted in the heart, its influence will be more powerful in surmounting the fears which arise from a sense of our own weakness or danger. The records of all nations afford a thousand remarkable instances of the effect of this principle, both on individuals and on bodies of men. Animated by the strong belief of a just cause, and a protecting God, the feeble have waxed strong, and despised dangers, sufferings, death.

2. Let him who would preserve fortitude in difficult situations, fill his mind with a sense of what constitutes the true honour of man. It consists not in the multitude of riches, or the elevation of rank; for experience shows that these may be possessed by the worthless, as well as by the deserving. It consists in being deterred by no danger when duty calls us forth; in fulfilling our allotted part, whatever it may be, with faithfulness, bravery, and constancy of mind. These qualities never fail to stamp distinction on the character.

3. But in order to acquire habits of fortitude, what is of the highest consequence is to have formed a just estimate of the goods and evils of life, and of the value of life itself. For here lies the chief source of our weakness and pusillanimity. We over-value the advantages of fortune; rank and riches, ease and safety.

(H. Blair, D. D.)

A Dutch fleet once drew near to Chatham. Fearing it might effect a landing, the Duke of Albemarle determined to prevent it, and endeavoured to inspire his men with his own dauntless spirit. Calmly he took his position in the front, thus exposing himself to the hottest fire from the hostile ships. An affectionate but over-cautious friend, seeing him in such danger, darted forward, seized him by the arm, and exclaimed, "Retire, I beseech you, from this fierce shower of bullets, or you will be a dead man!" The Duke, releasing himself from his grasp, turned coldly on the man who would tempt him to cowardice in the hour of his country's need, and replied, "Sir, if I had been afraid of bullets I should have given up the profession of a soldier long ago."

(Quiver.)

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