The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread? (v.1)
When I was fourteen, I chose this verse for my confirmation graduation. I did not realize it at the time, but as I look back, this verse radically described my life. Elementary school is hard for most kids, but I had a particularly rough time. I spent my grade school years being ruthlessly picked on. My memories of second through eighth grades are miserable, with few exceptions. I remember feeling at the time, that God was my only friend.
As terrible as grade school was, and as mean as some of the kids were, they did not make death threats against me; I did not fear for my life. David faced real threats ~ threats that would have proved fatal had they succeeded. But David knew that the Lord was his light and salvation, he knew with all his heart that God was his defense. His confidence dispelled all fear. Whom shall I fear? is a rhetorical question. God was the defense of his life; nobody could harm him.
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident. (vv.2-3)
The reason David has full confidence in God to protect Him, is that the Lord has proven Himself faithful time and again. He is speaking about those who came against him in the past tense. He is declaring what God had done for him before in defeating his enemies; this fuels his praise and bolsters his conviction. The imminent threat will not move him, he remains confident that even if his enemy broke through the wall and came in, he trusts the Lord without fear. I shall be confident ~ the Hebrew means literally “in this I trust.” 1
One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
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 meditate in His temple. (v.4)
When I read verse four, it causes me to think of a beautiful place, with a gorgeous view, one in which I could gaze for a long time, one that brings me rest and peace. David speaks of God’s sanctuary in this way. The house of the Lord is a place of peace and rest, and is also a place of refuge ~ a place to feel safe. David desires to spend the rest of his days in this beautiful house of peace and safety, and to gaze on the beauty of the Lord. To gaze on the Lord does not mean to catch a glimpse of Him once or twice, but it is rather a steady, sustained focus on the Lord and who He is ~ His person, not His hand; who He is, not what He can give. This is the best antidote for the fears that try to take our eyes off the One True God.
“Note the singleness of purpose (one thing) ~ the best answer to distracting fears (cf. 1-3) ~ and the priorities within that purpose: to behold and to inquire; a preoccupation with God’s Person and will. It is the essence of worship; indeed of discipleship.” 2
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. (vv. 5-6)
The sanctuary is a hiding place; a place of refuge. David knows the Lord will hide him there from the raging chaos of the world; the evil men that come against God’s anointed king. You and I should think of God and His sanctuary in the same way. It is His sanctuary where we gather to praise and worship Him for all He has done for us, and all that He will do in the future. We, too, can trust Him without fear and in full confidence. It is by worshiping the Lord and praising Him for His faithfulness, and coming before Him in awe and wonder at who He is, that we are lifted up on a rock, above our enemies. Those who come against us lose when we approach the sanctuary, offer sacrifices to the Lord, and sing His praises with joy. The tent David speaks of is the Tabernacle of David which he pitched on Mt. Zion ~ it housed only the Ark of the Covenant ~ the place where God’s glory dwells.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up. (vv.7-10)
David began his prayer with confident trust and unswerving faithfulness, even though his life was being threatened by a host of enemies. Something changed in David’s disposition (v.7); he began to pray anxiously that God would not forsake him. Who has not encountered a day like David? One moment we are full of faith, and the next we are crashing on the rocks. I have. But David reaches inside and encourages himself in the Lord in whom he has placed his trust many times. He prays that God not forsake him as his mother and father had. Most scholars agree that David’s mother and father forsaking him is most likely hypothetical. But it speaks to David’s mindset, he truly believes the only refuge he has is the Lord ~ everyone else has left him. How can a mother forget her son? Isaiah’s words come to mind:
Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. (Is. 49:15 NASB)
The Lord will take him up. This promise should encourage you as well. God will not forsake you or forget you. His love is far-reaching and never-ending.
Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see
the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord. (vv. 11-14)
David’s confidence once again surfaced in the face of adversity. He encouraged himself to wait on the Lord. He knows God is faithful ~ and this goodness kept him from fainting under the oppression of the attack. David is not only a worshiper who seeks God’s face, but he is also a committed to following His statutes. He wants to live the way God wants him to, and he prays for the Lord to keep him on the right path.
David holds on to his faith in the Lord. Many of the psalms end with a victory praise, or an answered prayer, but here the psalmist stands in God’s sanctuary with his faith ~ his trust ~ to wait on the Lord. Here David exhibits courageous trust. There are times in life when it seems like all you have to hold on to is your faith; believing and trusting in God’s faithfulness. It takes courage to stand on your faith, and have confidence because you know the Lord and trust that He will not forsake you, even when you face adversity. Be strong and take courage… wait on the Lord.
1 Craig C. Broyles, Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 142.
2 Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008), 138