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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Psalms 27

Verse 1

Psalms 27:1

These words claim a close relation to God. They profess an entire allegiance to God. They involve the corresponding fealty to God that, howsoever His light may come to the soul, it will admit that light, and joy in it, and be faithful to it.

I. These words are the keynote of a belief the direct contradictory of that system of "non-intervention" which, in order not to be atheistic, admits a First Cause of all created things, but would have it that, having once made this our beautiful world and our own intelligences, He keeps Himself apart from all lives, like the gods of Epicurus, in an eternal repose, and leaves His creation to the regular development of unchanging laws, Himself no more concerned with it than that He pressed those laws upon it.

II. Human nature, even apart from God's word, still bears witness to the fact that human as well as Divine wisdom comes to us continually supplied by God. The wonderful instincts of genius look like inspirations of the Creator revealing to His creatures the mysteries of His creation.

III. Nor is it only chiefly in intellect that the agency of God shows itself. Who, of all the many millions of mankind, ever succeeded in finding rest out of God? God evidences His working alike in that universal drawing, that varied restlessness, until the heart have found that as universal rest when it has found God.

IV. It is part of the peculiar attractiveness of the Old Testament that God lifts the veil and shows His continued relation to His creatures. Apart from His supernatural workings, it exhibits God in His manifold ways, of acting to us, collectively or independently, in the ordinary doings of His providence.

With God to be is to act. In all eternity He beheld unchangeably all that He would do. In all eternity then He beheld thee. In all eternity He willed to create thee, the object of His boundless love. Now, in this life, is the time of growth in the capacity of receiving that love of God.

E. B. Pusey, Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford, p. 32.

"The Lord is my light." Here only does David, in all his psalms, so speak of the Lord; and, indeed, this exact expression occurs only twice in the Old Testament. "When I sit in darkness," says the prophet Micah, "the Lord shall be a light unto me."

I. "The Lord is my light." David's was a life of great vicissitudes. His temperament, too, was of a kind which alternates between periods of great exhilaration and great depression. The Lord was his light, the light by which he saw things as they really were when the mists of passion and of self-love would fain have hidden them.

II. Jesus Christ was "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." He is light because He is what He is: absolute perfection in respect of intellectual truth; absolute perfection in respect of moral beauty. Hence those momentous words, "I am the Light of the world," and hence that confession of the Christian creed, "God of God, Light of Light."

III. "The Lord is my light." Here is a motto for the Church of Christ. In the darkest times of the Church the darkness has never been universal, the sap never dried up; the tradition of light and warmth has been handed on to happier times, when her members could again say with something like truthful accord, "The Lord is my light."

IV. Here, too, is a motto for Christian education. One kind of education only is safe, one only deserves the name, and its governing principle is from age to age, "The Lord is my light."

V. This is the motto of individual Christians. In precisely the sense in which we can truthfully say these words, we are loyal to our Lord Jesus Christ.

H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 24.

References: Psalms 27:1 . J. Baldwin Brown, The Higher Life, p. 114; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 168.

Verse 4

Psalms 27:4

Moral effects of communion with God.

I. What is prayer? It is conversing with God. We converse with our fellow-men, and then we use familiar language, because they are our fellows. We converse with God, and then we use the lowliest, awfullest, calmest, concisest language we can, because He is God. Prayer then is Divine converse, differing from human as God differs from man. Prayers and praises are the mode of the Christian's intercourse with the next world, as the conduct of business or recreation is the mode in which this world is carried on in all its separate courses. He who does not pray does not claim his citizenship with heaven, but lives, though an heir of the kingdom, as if he were a child of earth.

II. Now it is not surprising if that duty or privilege which is the characteristic token of our heavenly inheritance should also have a special influence upon our fitness for claiming it. He who does not pray not only suspends the enjoyment, but is in a way to lose the possession, of his Divine citizenship. The case is like that of a language or style of speaking of this world; we know well a foreigner from a native. Prayer has a natural effect in spiritualising and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before: gradually, imperceptibly to himself, he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles. He is as one coming from the King's courts, with a grace, a delicacy, a dignity, a propriety, a freshness of thought and taste, a clearness and firmness of principle, all his own. As speech is the organ of human society and the means of human civilisation, so is prayer the instrument of Divine fellowship and Divine training.

III. We know how men feel and act when they come to die; they discharge their worldly affairs from their mind, and try to realise the unseen state. They are leaving their goods, their deeds, their sayings, their writings, their names, behind them; and they care not for them, for they wait for Christ. To one thing alone they are alive: His coming; they watch against it, if so be they may then be found without shame. Such is the conduct of dying men. And what all but the very hardened do at the last, if the senses fail not and their powers hold, that does the true Christian all his life long; and therefore day by day he unlearns the love of this world and the desire of its praise: he can bear to belong to the nameless family of God, and to seem to the world strange in it and out of place, for so he is.

J. H. Newman, Selection from the "Parochial and Plain Sermons " 1878, p. 349 (see also vol. iv., p. 226).

I. The believer's confidence is simple and sincere. " One thing have I desired of the Lord." One thought has the mastery in his soul over all other thoughts; one aim gives unity and concentration to all his efforts; one affection draws all other impulses and desires into its swift current. The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways, but this singleness of heart gives the life a clear and steadfast aim, binds all its parts into harmonious consistency, inspires it with continuous hope, braces and invigorates it with celestial strength.

II. This confidence is essentially of a spiritual character. The "one thing" which the Psalmist desired was that he "might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life." Well David knew that a very different lot was appointed him than in the peaceful and cloistered retirement of the Temple; that it would be his one day to sit on the throne of Israel, to go forth as their leader to battle, to do judgment and justice, as the father of his people, in the gate. Set there and thus, he might be as closely encircled by the sense of the Divine presence, and as consciously drawing strength, and happiness, and peace from inward communion with his God, as if he had been keeping perpetual vigil before the altar.

III. This confidence in God was calm and joyous. It enabled him to say that in the time of trouble God would hide him in His pavilion, and set his feet upon a rock. When things are at the darkest, the believer has a bright outlook into the future, and may be assured that nothing can reach or affect the sources of his confidence. Within the circle of the Divine protection, his life is unassailable. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee."

J. D. Burns, Family Treasury, April, 1863

I. Beauty at first was conceived of as physical. Probably the earliest admiration of it as a moral quality was in the conception of courage. Then men learned, at a later stage, not only that courage is beautiful, but that suffering and self-sacrifice are beautiful. Everybody understands that love is beautiful. And so, step by step, moral qualities come to be considered beautiful. In general, as beauty rises, it rises from the material towards the spiritual, and in the spiritual it is appreciated in the proportion in which men are themselves developed so as to recognise, to love, to revere, that which is spiritual.

II. The Old Testament was, in the first place, full of a rapturous admiration of God as presented in nature. Then comes the long period of the development of physical ideas of beauty into spiritual ideas; and this the whole New Testament borrows clear down to the last book. Then comes Revelation and again lifts up the old standard, and fills its mighty chambers with the glory and beauty borrowed from the heaven, from the earth, from time, and from imagined eternity. When at last we are purged from sense and flesh, and rise to behold God as He is, then the beautifulness of God, as well as His graciousness, love, and tender mercy, will fill the soul with admiration for ever and for ever.

H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1882-3, p. 221.

I. Notice David's singleness of purpose in worship. The idea of worship was a ruling thought that kept every other thought of his mind in subjection to itself; it was a central thought around which every other object revolved. (1) Mark the intensity of David's desire: "That will I seek after." Genuinely earnest desires are living seeds that germinate and bring forth precious fruit in good works. The earnest soul should not rest until it realises its spiritual aspirations. (2) Observe the source from whence the Psalmist hoped to obtain his object: "One thing have I desired of the Lord."

II. Notice the particular place where he desired to worship: "That I may dwell in the house of the Lord." He desired, above all things, that his life should be spiritual decidedly and supremely spiritual. (1) Observe that David had a particular object in view in going into the house of the Lord. He entered it "to behold the beauty of the Lord." The beauty of the Lord is His holiness. David desired to behold it that he might be changed into the same image. (2) Observe the inquisitiveness of the Psalmist's spirit in the house of God: "To inquire in His temple" He entered the house of the Lord to learn.

III. Notice David's determination to persevere in the worship of the true God: "That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. " If the soul is to be carefully nourished, it must have assiduous and constant attention all the days of our life. The Psalmist desired to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life (1) because it gave him a sense of safety; (2) because it gave him a sweet sense of rest.

D. Rhys Jenkins, The Eternal Life, p. 88.

References: Psalms 27:4 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 113, and vol. xxiv., p. 163; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 106; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 251; A. Watson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 3rd series, p. 304; S. Cox, The Bird's Nest, p. 328; J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages of the Psalms, p. 28. Psalms 27:5 . Ibid., pp. 39, 46.

Verse 8

Psalms 27:8

The text divides itself into two parts. We have (1) God's address to man; (2) man's reply to God.

I. God's address to man: "Thou saidst, Seek ye My face." (1) Here we have the origin of all true religion. It begins with God. All who know anything about quarrels among men know that, as a rule, the offended party is generally the first to seek a reconciliation. This is gloriously true of the great quarrel between God and man. Man had sinned, and God was angry with man. Did He wait for man to come and Confess his ingratitude and sinfulness? We know He did not. "Because He delighteth in mercy," He spoke first. The first day of man's sin was the first day of God's revelation of mercy. (2) God also speaks first to each individual. He is ever ready to receive us, and the moment the sinner draws back the bars and bolts which have kept the door shut in His face "the King of glory will come in." (3) The text also shows us the nature of religion: "Seek ye My face." This means "Come to Me." When God says this, do not the words imply that ( a ) we are at a distance from Him, ( b ) that there is a possibility of coming to Him? Sin is put away as the legal obstacle to man's salvation. This then is religion, the heart coming back to God.

II. We have man's reply to God: "Thy face, Lord, will I seek." (1) The answer was personal. There is great danger in this age of companies of our losing ourselves in the form of humanity. Our spiritual affairs must all be done individually. (2) The answer was prompt: " When Thou saidst." (3) It was decided: "Thy face, Lord, will I seek." (4) It was explicit. David means just what God means. (5) The answer came from the right place: "My heart said unto Thee." What the heart says God always hears.

C. Garrett, Catholic Sermons, vol. ii., p. 37.

Everything which is really good in this world is the reflection of a great, original, perfect good, which lies far away out of sight: our happiness of its happiness, our holiness of its holiness, our love of its love. All the beautiful objects in nature are only visible transcripts of some beautiful ideas which lay from all eternity in the mind of God. So that when God called creation forth into existence, it was only His own thoughts taking form and coming back again to Himself. Our acceptances are only the echo of God's invitations.

I. If you would make a call effectual, you must receive it into the innermost recesses of your soul and recognise and feel the nature of the claim which He who speaks has upon the things He calls. Remember that it is the right of an absolute Sovereign. Even according to earthly rules a royal invitation is an invitation indeed, but it is also a command, and it may not be refused. But it is not in sovereignty only, it is in love, He has called you. All you have to do is to let yourselves be placed within those majestic influences of His powerful affection, that you may be drawn in and towards the centre.

II. Another most important part of the right reception of the call lies in the quickness, the instantaneousness, of the obedience: "When Thou saidst." The appeal and the reply are coeval. There is a "Now or never" in God's calls. God's calls and invitations are not always such things as we should have expected. They often fall strangely. Upon our faithfulness to each one in succession depend the vividness and the power with which the other will fall.

III. There is one thing which appears to characterise every call; i.e., a call to action. There is always something to be done, and to do the act is to accept the call.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 93.

The law of creation and the law of salvation are one law, one thing. The sun says to the planets, "Children, seek ye my face." The planets reply, "We will; thy face will we seek. We are cold, dreary, bloomless, and barren; we are fruitless and hopeless; we will seek thy face." And forthwith the planets climb and climb, a six months' climb, from January to June, to the zenith, to the meeting face to face. What then? All that summer and harvest mean follows: light, heat, blossom, love, song; the whole earth is quickened and filled with beauty and good fruits. Infinitely greater is the summer which results from the direct relationship of the spirit-face of God and the spirit-face of man, the all-giving face of our infinite Creator, Lover, Father, Saviour, and the receiving faces of His sons and daughters.

I. The light of God's face, called also the light of His glory, is not what we mean by substance, and yet it works in all substance, and all the beauty in the universe comes from it. It is marvellous because it transcends natural life; it is marvellous because it is God in the soul; it is marvellous because there is an endlessness of life and joy in it: it is life unspeakable, purer and nobler than nature knows anything about.

II. Think of Christ then as the light of God's face, not as a name, not as a historical Person simply, but as the light of God's face for ever and ever, and therefore the light of the soul as the Opener of heaven's boundlessness in the soul. The illuminating, the regenerating, transcendent, transfiguring element of every human spirit that is what we mean by Christ.

III. In the light of the world you never know yourselves, you never can value yourselves. You will value yourselves ten thousandfold more than you ever did when you see yourselves in the light of God's face. Your hope will rise then, and set no more for ever.

IV. When does God say, "Seek ye My face"? He says it especially in the way and at the time that our heart is most disposed to hear it. In your first real trouble His heart begins to touch your heart in a secret way, and His living presence is pleading, "Seek ye My face." The world cannot help you and comfort you. The deeper instincts of your heart spring up in the day of trouble towards God, and God sees it, for you are palpitating within yourself to meet His face.

J. Pulsford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 193.

References: Psalms 27:8 . J. P. Chown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 1; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2213; C. Garrett, Loving Counsels, p. 81; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 767; G. Forbes, The Voice of God in the Psalms, p. 198. Psalms 27:8 , Psalms 27:9 . A. Maclaren, Old Testament Outlines, p. 105; see also Sunday Magazine, 1881, p. 458; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 7. Psalms 27:9 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1144.

Verse 11

Psalms 27:11

The map of life is a network of roads; and the broadest and those that present themselves most readily to the eye are not generally the best, and the narrow ones are very hard to find, while every heart is naturally bent to its own way wayward.

I. Notice, first, the Teacher. And here we find at once the Three Persons in the Trinity, all uniting to make the one office of Teacher. David, addressing the Father, says, " Teach me to do Thy will;" of Christ Nicodemus bare witness, "We know that Thou art a Teacher come from God;" and of the Holy Ghost Christ Himself foretold it as His blessed office, "He shall teach you all things." So the teaching enshrines itself in Trinity.

II. The expression is not "Show me Thy way," but "Teach me Thy way." Showing may be an instantaneous act, but teaching is a process. We learn gradually; we learn by study; we learn by effort; we learn by discipline. It is no little thing you ask, and it is no little submission and work and faith that you commit yourself to, when you say to God, "Teach me Thy way."

III. One of the most difficult things in life, and a difficulty often repeating itself, is a distinction between a leading providence and a temptation. Never accept anything as a providence till you have asked God to throw light upon it, to show whether it be indeed of Him. You may, through the not seeing or through the not using all the answers which God will assuredly give you, make mistakes in life; but if you are diligent in the use of this little prayer, you may say, with David, "I shall not greatly err."

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 11th series, p. 5.

Verse 13

Psalms 27:13

The text puts before us:

I. A future experience embraced or anticipated by faith. It indicates the sustaining power of such anticipation. (1) The goodness of God is His kindness. Of the kindness of God we may remark: ( a ) it is natural; ( b ) it is infinite; ( c ) it is eternal; ( d ) it is perfect in quality; ( e ) it is the goodness which creates goodness. (2) The knowledge David had of the goodness of God was derived from three sources: ( a ) the history of its manifestation to man from his creation; ( b ) the story of its expression to David's own people and nation; ( c ) his own experience of it from his childhood. (3) David's faith rested ( a ) on the promises of God; ( b ) on the character of God; ( c ) on the uniform conduct of God as requiring that which is past; ( d ) his past and present experience.

II. See how David's faith wrought. (1) It occupied his thoughts pleasantly and profitably. (2) It saved him from the misery of despondency and despair. (3) It gave him courage in danger. (4) It made him patient. (5) It was his shield against many fiery darts and heavy thrusts. (6) It kept him from accounting life a burden and death an object of eager desire. (7) It checked any tendency to yield himself to his circumstances and to do "evil that good might come."

S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 20.

References: Psalms 27:13 . Spurgeon, vol. xiii., No. 766; W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 82.

Verse 14

Psalms 27:14

No state is more dreary than that of the repentant sinner when first he understands where he is and begins to turn his thoughts towards the Great Master whom He has offended. A man finds that he has a great work to do, and does not know how to do it, or even what it is; and his impatience and restlessness are as great as his conscious ignorance; indeed, he is restless because he is ignorant. There is great danger of his taking wrong steps, inasmuch as he is anxious to move and does not know whither.

I. Repentant sinners are often impatient to put themselves upon some new line of action or to adopt some particular rule of life. It commonly happens that God does not disclose His will to them at once, and for that will they ought to wait, whereas they are impatient; and when God's will does not clearly appear, they try to persuade themselves that they have ascertained it when they have not. St. Paul should be the pattern of the true penitent here.

II. Next, I would say to such persons as I have described, Be on your guard, not only against becoming committed to some certain mode of life or object of exertion, but guard against excess in such penitential observances as have an immediate claim upon you and are private in their exercise. All things are done by degrees. All things, through God's grace, may come in time, but not at once. As well might a child think to grow at once into a man as the incipient penitent become suddenly like St. Paul the aged.

III. When persons are in acute distress about their sins, they are sometimes tempted to make rash promises and to take on them professions without counting the cost. Perhaps they have even been imprudent enough to make their engagement in the shape of a vow, and this greatly increases their difficulty. This shows how very wrong it is to make private vows. It is safer and more expedient to make it a point ever to pray God for that gift or that state which they covet.

IV. When men are in the first fervour of penitence, they should be careful not to act on their own private judgment and without proper advice. Not only in forming lasting engagements, but in all that they do, they need a calmer guidance than their own. As no one would ever dream of being his own lawyer or his own physician, so we must take it for granted, if we would serve God comfortably, that we cannot be our own divines and our own casuists.

J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 41.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 27". "Sermon Bible Commentary".