Light and Salvation

Psalm 27.

It is not Christian experience, as every instructed believer knows, that we find in the Psalms, for the simple reason that the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus had not yet come, and was not yet glorified. But it is true, notwithstanding, that the Christian may learn most blessed lessons from the various exercises, whether prophetic or otherwise, which the Psalms record. The Psalm before us contains certain feelings and experiences, which will mark God's elect remnant from among the Jews in a future day, before they look upon Him whom they have pierced, and before, therefore, they are brought in the grace of God to recognize that the once lowly Jesus of Nazareth is their glorious Messiah. Subjects of the workings of the Spirit (doubtless shadowed forth in the personal history of David, the writer of the Psalm) they turn to Jehovah as their only resource, and they discover in Him, and in Him alone, the answer to all their need in the sorrowful circumstances in which they are found. We do not further pursue this primary application, as our object is a practical one - to gather lessons of edification for ourselves.

Before proceeding, however, to these, it will be helpful to call attention to the structure of the Psalm. It will be at once perceived that the first six verses go together, and also the next six, and the last two are the lessons drawn from the whole subject. It may also be pointed out that in the first part we have the confidence of the psalmist (the vessel of the Spirit, it will be remembered, to tell out the experiences of the elect remnant) in the presence of his enemies; while the second part gives us his deep exercises in the presence of God. It has often been remarked that we might have been tempted to change the order, to put the psalmist's confidence in the second part, and his fear and distress in the first. But a deeper acquaintance with the inner life will justify the way of the Spirit of God. We have, indeed, an illustration of it in the life of our blessed Lord Himself. In Gethsemane, while not forgetting the special character of His "strong crying and tears," when He bowed there with His face to the ground, we behold Him in His "agony" crying to the Father; and, on the other hand, we see Him in perfect calm and confidence in the presence of all the raging enmity of His persecutors. We may surely conclude, therefore, that the same order will be reproduced in Christians in similar circumstances.

It is very profitable to notice that the ground of the psalmist's confidence, at the commencement of the psalm, is laid in what Jehovah is, as known by the soul: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (v. 1.) God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all; but the kingdom of Satan is characterised by darkness. In Colossians, therefore, after we are said to be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, we are described as being delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. And if we take salvation in the Psalm in its evident sense of deliverance, we see how largely the psalmist had anticipated the truth of Christianity; for Jehovah had become his light - in a region outside of Satan's kingdom and power - and hence also his deliverance. Moreover, Jehovah was the strength of his life, and thus the One on whom he could lean in the sense of his own utter weakness, and the One on whom he could confidently count, whatever the forces arrayed against him. Well, therefore, might he cry out, Whom shall I fear? And again, Of whom shall I be afraid? So will it be with all who enter, in any measure, into what God is for us as revealed in Christ; for if God be for us, who can be against us?

The next two verses contain a fact and an anticipation, or an experience and an expressed confidence. David had been surrounded by wicked enemies; they had come upon him like wild beasts of prey, to eat up his flesh, but they stumbled and fell. Outcast as he was, and as the remnant will be whom he represents, and with all the power of the kingdom of his enemy against him, he was yet safe under the protection of his Light and his Deliverer. Again and again Saul determined to destroy David; but all his efforts were frustrated; and that without a blow being struck by David for his own preservation. The more completely the believer leaves himself in the hands of the Lord, whatever the apparent hopelessness of his situation, the more fully he will realize the Lord's succour and deliverance. And David's past experience, recalled by present faith, led him to survey fearlessly the possibilities of the future: "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident." We cannot live upon past experiences, but faith argues that God is ever the same, and that as He has delivered, He will continue to deliver. (Compare 2 Cor. 1:10.) It is very blessed, therefore, to learn what God is for us from His past dealings, and from His interventions on our behalf.

Indeed, it is clear from this psalm, that the more we learn of God, and the more we meditate upon the manifestations of His love, the more we desire to know of Him. It was so with David, for after telling us what Jehovah was to him, how He had succoured him, and his confidence in view of future dangers, his whole heart flows out in the next verse, as he says, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple." (v. 4.) Little can be done beyond giving an outline of what is here involved; but we earnestly press the reader to ponder upon it until his whole soul is possessed with the desire and purpose which governed and formed the heart of David. Remark, first of all, that he not only had desired this thing of the Lord (which surely was a true beginning), but that it was also the purpose of his heart to follow after it. And what was it that David so ardently longed for? It was to dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of his life, that there he might contemplate the display of His glory and His beauty, and learn His mind, for it was in the temple that Jehovah communicated His thoughts to them that waited upon Him. (Compare Psalm 73:17, etc.) Is not David in this an example to all believers? For to know Christ, and to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, should ever be the supreme object of our hearts. Let us, then, learn that to attain this we must constantly live in spirit where Christ is. Nowhere else can we behold His glory, or hear His voice.

The connection with the following two verses is very beautiful. When Christ becomes everything to the soul, everything is secured - fear and anxiety are all dispelled, and faith, confidence, and joy possess the heart. The psalmist thus continues, "For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock." Dwelling in the house of Jehovah, and engrossed (may we not say entranced?) with His beauty, he is really in a region outside of all trouble; and if it were possible for it to penetrate into that divine circle of light and blessing, there is the action of Jehovah in concealing the one who has been drawn into His presence; He will hide him even in the secret, in the innermost recesses, of His tabernacle, and keep his soul in the undisturbed tranquility of His own peace. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Yea, more; "He shall set me up upon a rock" - upon an immutable foundation, one therefore which will ensure security and stability for ever. This blessed assurance overflows, in the next place, in confidence and praise. On such a rock, his head should be lifted up above his enemies round about him, and he would offer sacrifices of praise to Jehovah. Delivered from all fear of his enemies, yea, assured of final victory over them all, and dwelling in the house of Jehovah, he becomes a worshipper. He has reached the climax of his blessedness.

In the second part of the Psalm, as already observed, the tone is changed. It is not now the note of confidence and praise, but that of entreaty and supplication; for what we have here is the exercise of the soul before God, while waiting for His succour and deliverance. There is confidence indeed, because, in being before God, the soul had responded to His own invitation. "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek." Still, with the consciousness of deserved chastisement, and with no desire to conceal it, he cries, in lowly self-abasement, "Hide not Thy face far from me; put not Thy servant away in anger: Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation." (v. 9.) Only one who had known the Lord could have uttered such a cry. It was, indeed, because the Lord had been his help that he pours out in his distress this agonizing supplication. Ah! it is the recollection of past enjoyments in the Lord's presence that fills the soul with such poignant sorrow when, through failure or sin, the need of self-judgment has arisen.

But it is most instructive to notice that relief is experienced as soon as the burden of his complaint is laid down before the Lord. Exercised souls will understand this. They know that the heart is eased and strengthened the moment the sorrow is told out into the ear of God. (See Philippians 4:6-7.) It is so with David; for no sooner has he implored the God of his salvation not to forsake him, than he turns round to declare his unshaken trust in the Lord: "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." If all who are nearest and dearest (those upon whom he had the claim of the most intimate natural ties) should turn away from him, when thus utterly alone, the Lord would seize the opportunity of manifesting His favour. This is the Lord's way, as we see in the blind man in John's gospel. Cast out by all alike - in complete isolation - the Lord drew near, and revealed Himself to him as the Son of God. Blessed Lord! Thou lovest to comfort those who are cast down, and to display Thy love to those of Thine own, who, because of faithfulness to Thee, are rejected on every hand. (Compare Psalm 142:3). Two prayers follow - the first concerning the Lord's way, with a desire to be led in a plain path because of his enemies, who were watching, in the hope that he might go astray; and the second for deliverance from his enemies, because false witnesses had already risen up against him, and such as breathed out cruelty. (See Psalm 62:2-4.)

Two lessons, drawn from what he had passed through, conclude the Psalm. It will be seen that the words "I had fainted" have been added, to make out the sense of verse 13. The verse is really an exclamation, and runs thus: "If I had not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!" That is, believing he would see this goodness had been his stay and support. And then he tells us, from his own experience, that the only resource for the soul, tried and in adversities, is to wait on the Lord. "Be," moreover, he exhorts, "of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart"; and, lastly, he repeats, as containing the sum of all he has to say, "Wait, I say, on the Lord." And Jehovah Himself has said, "They shall not be ashamed that wait for Me." (Isaiah 49:23.)