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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 27

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-14


This psalm has been referred by some to the period of David’s waiting for the kingdom; by others, to the time of Absalom’s rebellion. Hengstenberg says: “All attempts to find out any occasion to which the psalm especially referred have failed, and from this failure; we may infer either that David originally uttered the psalm from the soul of the oppressed righteous man, or that, if he wrote it in reference to a particular occasion, he generalised his own experience.”


(Psalms 27:1-3.)

I. Springs from personal faith in God. “The Lord.” This name inspires hope. Six times it is recited in the first, and seven times in the second part of the psalm. Jehovah is ever the object of true faith.

1. Intelligent. The cry of the earnest soul is, “Light.” To this God responds. He reveals Himself in Christ. He gives His word to quicken and enlighten the soul, and to illumine its pathway up to the gates of heaven (2 Corinthians 4:6; John 8:12; Psalms 18:28; Psalms 36:9; Psalms 84:11). David was called the “Light of Israel” (2 Samuel 21:17), but he himself gives God the glory: “The Lord is my light.” In this word he anticipates the great saying of the New Testament, “God is light” (1 John 1:5).

2. Appropriating. “My” is a little word, but of great significance. Only a person can say, “My.” “My home,” “My wife,” “My child.” Faith is personal. It implies recognition of the glory and preciousness of Jesus, and the receiving and resting upon Him alone for salvation. This faith is contrasted with the faith of devils (James 2:19; 1 John 5:10-12). So also it differs vitally from mere belief in historical Christianity. It is one thing to say, “God is light,” and another to say, “God is my light” It is one thing to cry, “The Lord He is God” (1 Kings 18:39), and an altogether different thing to take hold of Christ for ourselves, saying, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Luther says the marrow of the Gospels is in the pronouns “my” and “our.” Let us not be content till we can say, “The Lord is my light.” Such faith fills the heart with courage and joy (Psalms 18:1-2; Psalms 118:28; Song of Solomon 6:3).

3. Soul-saving. “Salvation” implies all that we need for our safety and good. God not merely gives salvation, but He is salvation. He that by faith has laid hold of God has all covenant blessings made sure to him. “The strength of my life:” God is the stronghold in which the believer’s life is safe (Proverbs 18:10; 2 Corinthians 12:2). “My light,” “My salvation,” “The strength of my life.” Here is combined all that the soul requires,—here, as from behind a triple shield, she can “fight the good fight,”—here, as in an impregnable fortress, she can hoist the banner of the cross and bid defiance to every foe.

II. Strengthened by the remembrance of past deliverances.

Memory can recall and re-live the past. When rightly used, it is a helper to faith. (Psalms 27:2) Here is danger recalled. David in imagination goes back to some time of great peril. His enemies pressed him sore. Strong and fierce as wild beasts, they thirsted for his blood (Job 19:22; Zephaniah 3:3). So believers can recall times when they were in straits. God’s enemies are our enemies. “It is a hopeful sign for us when the wicked hate us: if our foes were godly men, it would be a sore sorrow; but as for the wicked, their hatred is better than their love.”—Spurgeon.

Here is deliverance recorded. David’s enemies came up with haughty confidence. They counted him their sure prey; but discomfiture, strange and unexpected, befell them. “They stumbled and fell.’ These things rise up before him with the freshness of yesterday. It was the doing of the Lord, and the thought strengthens his heart.—So it was in the encounter with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:37). So it was at Ziklag and at other times (1 Samuel 30:6; Psalms 77:10-11). Here is a lesson for us. Confidence comes of experience. The remedy we have proved we readily try again. The friend we have found faithful we trust to death. The commander under whom we have conquered we follow bravely to other fields. So should we act as to God. “The Christian is rich in experiences, which he wears as bracelets and keeps as his richest jewels. He calls one Ebenezer, ‘Hitherto God hath helped;’ another, Naphtali, ‘I have wrestled with God and prevailed;’ another, Gershom, ‘I was a stranger;’ another, Joseph, ‘God will yet add more;’ another, Peniel, ‘I have seen the face of God’s (1 Samuel 7:12; Genesis 30:8; Exodus 2:22; Genesis 30:24; Genesis 32:30). I have been delivered from the lion, therefore from the bear,—from the lion and the bear, therefore from the Philistine,—from the Philistine, therefore from Saul,—from Saul, therefore God will deliver me from every evil work, and preserve me blameless to His heavenly kingdom.”—J. Sheffield.

III. Sufficient for the greatest emergencies. Imagination is a great painter. Here David conjures up a terrible scene (Psalms 27:3). We see the mustering of the forces, we see the proud array of the army with tents and banners, we see the shock and terrors of the battle, and the strife, as if for a kingdom. And all this pictures the danger of his soul. Yet, in such extremity, his eye flinches not and his heart knows no fear. What sustains him? Faith in God. “In this will I be confident” (cf. Psalms 3:6-7). So with the saints. If enemies oppose, they can say with Peter, “We must obey God” (cf. Luther at Worms). If dangers thicken, they can cry with Paul, “None of these things move me.” What terror had Ahab for Micaiah, the man who had seen God? (1 Kings 22:19). What cared Elisha for “the horses and chariots” at Dothan, whose eyes beheld the angels of God ranged in his defence? (2 Kings 6:15). So, what are the hosts of darkness and all the powers of the enemy to the Christian who can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation?” “Whom shall I fear?” The law? It is satisfied. Satan? He is conquered. Afflictions? They are sanctified. Death? It is overcome. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).


(Psalms 27:4-6.)

“In time of trouble.” It may be a storm of conscience or of providence. It may be perils from temptation or from the malice of evil men. The soul flies to God and finds shelter.

I. Earnestly sought (Psalms 27:4). What?That I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” Like the priests, he wished to be wholly devoted to God. Like the children of the family, he desired to dwell constantly in his Father’s house. Communion with God was the life of his heart. Such free, affectionate, confiding intercourse with God is greatly to be coveted, and should be sought not as the privilege of special seasons, but as a daily blessing; not as the pleasure of an hour, but as a joy for ever.

2. Why? “To behold the beauty of the Lord.” Luther interprets this of the services of the sanctuary. But it cannot be thus limited. “Beauty” is loveliness. “Beauty of the Lord” is the loveliness of the Lord, all that makes Him an object of admiration and delight. To sinners, the “Beauty of the Lord” is “His glory as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ” “To inquire in His temple.” The deepest instincts of the soul prompt to inquiry. Truth is not born with us, nor can it be obtained irrespective of our own efforts. It must be sought for its own sake. It must be wooed and won, from love, before it can be enjoyed. All right investigation, whether of God’s works or God’s Word, should be conducted as under the eye of God. His temple is wide as the universe.

3. How? With concentration of heart. “One thing.” With constancy of endeavour. “That will I seek after.” When David fled from Absalom, he left behind him his house, his treasures, and all the glory of his crown; but these things were as nothing compared with the worship of God (Psalms 63:0; 2 Samuel 15:25). It is only when we make God our Alpha and Omega, the supreme object of our delight and study, that we can hope that He will reveal Himself to us. In our day, there are manifold objects to distract our attention. The claims of the world are constant and oppressive. There is the more need, therefore, for watchfulness and prayer. “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.”

II. Graciously enjoyed (Psalms 27:5). Here there is the best shelter in the worst danger. “Pavilion,” “tent,” “rock,” (Leviticus 23:42; 2 Samuel 6:17; Psalms 60:12). This may express sovereign love. It is all of God’s grace. Righteous defence. The sinner does not hide furtively, but is led by the hand of the Prince. The deliverance is not the mere act of power, but is wrought in righteousness. God is a just God, and a Saviour. The sinner flees to Christ, not to hide from God, but to hide with God (Genesis 3:10; Psalms 143:9). Inviolable security. “Immutability, eternity, and infinite power here come to the aid of sovereignty and sacrifice. How blessed is the standing of the man whom God Himself sets on high above his foes upon an impregnable rock, which never can be stormed!”—Spurgeon. “He shall set me up upon a rock.” There may be a reminiscence here of the hour when, from the top of the rock, David reproached Abner for his remissness in guarding Saul (1 Samuel 26:5-16). Rock Rimmon was but a poor retreat. The fugitive may take hold of the horns of the altar, and yet perish (1 Kings 2:29). The manslayer might reach the city of refuge, and after all be condemned. But he that trusts in the Lord shall never be moved. The attributes of God, that were once arrayed against the sinner, are now converted into a canopy for his defence.

III. Exultingly acknowledged (Psalms 27:6). Here is a burst of delight, like the trumpets of jubilee (Numbers 10:10; Numbers 29:1). “Sacrifices of shouting,” a stronger form of expression than the usual “sacrifices of thanksgiving,” and equivalent to “sacrifices accompanied with the loud and glad expression of thankfulness.”—Perowne.


1. Manly confidence. “And now shall my head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me.” “Two things make the head hang down—fear and shame. Hope easeth the Christian’s heart of both these, and so forbids him to give any sign of a desponding mind by a dejected countenance.”—W. Gurnall (cf. Psalms 110:7; Luke 21:28).

2. Devout gratitude. “Therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy.” This indicates the peace-offering, which was expressive of fellowship with God (Leviticus 3:0; Leviticus 7:0). Since the peril was past, since the joy of salvation was restored, he would praise God.

3. Exulting joy. “I will sing; yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.” “Sing and celebrate.” The latter verb intimates the accompaniment of instrumental music in the worship of God. David does not speak of jubilations in his palace or feastings in his banqueting-hall, but of songs of praise in the house of God.


(Psalms 27:7-12.)

There are lights and shadows in the Christian life. We see this here. “The triumphant strain of confidence now gives way to one of sad and earnest entreaty. Is it (as Calvin) that the Psalmist sought in the former part of the psalm to comfort himself with the review of God’s unfailing strength and protection, that he might with the more reason utter his prayer for help? Or is it not rather, that even while he is thus strengthening himself in his God, a sudden blast of temptation sweeps over his soul, freezing the current of his life,—some fear lest he should be forsaken, some thought of the craft and malice of his enemies,—till now the danger which threatens him is as prominent an object as the salvation and defence were before?”—Perowne. This prayer is characterised by—

I. Deep humility and earnestness (Psalms 27:7). Here there is utter self-abandonment. The Psalmist casts himself, sinner as he is, upon the mercy of God. His “cry” finds vent by the “voice.” This gives the more reality and force to the prayer. The craving to be heard is intense. How eagerly do we wait for the reply from a friend to an important letter! So should we watch for God’s answer to our prayers. “Mercy” is the hope of sinners and the joy of saints.

II. Christ-like trust in God’s word (Psalms 27:8). “The words, SEEK YE MY FACE, are the words of God, which the servant of God here, as it were, takes from His mouth, that so laying them before God, he may make his appeal the more irresistible. Thou hast said, Seek ye My face. My heart makes these words its own, and builds upon them its resolve. It takes them up and repeats them, ‘Seek ye my face.’ It first claims thus thine own gracious words, O Lord, and then its echo to those words is, ‘Thy face, Lord, I will seek.’ Such is the soul’s dialogue with itself when it would comfort itself in God.”—Perowne. True obedience is prompt, hearty, and unreserved. Not truer is the answer of chord to chord, not readier is the response of the echo to the voice, than the reply of the heart to the call of God.

III. Grateful recognition of God’s favour (Psalms 27:9). The face of God means His favour (Psalms 31:16; Psalms 119:58). To hide the face indicates disapproval and estrangement (Psalms 55:1; Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 54:2; Jeremiah 33:5). To put away a servant in wrath expresses the highest dissatisfaction and displeasure. David felt that to be thus treated by God would be the most terrible calamity. Hence his earnest prayer. He was God’s servant, and he could not live without the sunshine of His love. The remembrance of past joys and favours made him the more bold. “Thou hast been my help.” One act of mercy engages God to do another. Urgent pleading rises to full confidence. “Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.” God’s people may learn here to deprecate desertion, plead experience, expect deliverance.

IV. Steadfast reliance upon God’s faithfulness amidst the failure of earthly comforts (Psalms 27:10). During the persecution of Saul, David committed his parents to the care of the king of Moab (1 Samuel 22:3-4). We do not hear of them again. Sooner or later, children and parents must be separated. As there is no greater earthly comfort than the love of father and mother, so there is no greater earthly calamity than their loss. (Moses, Exodus 2:6-9; Ishmael, Genesis 21:0; Psalms 88:8, 19.) But in such a crisis, God will not fail (Isaiah 49:15). We may rely upon God in the greatest extremities (Psalms 143:12; 1 Timothy 4:10). Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18).

V. Practical submission to God’s will is the truest safety (Psalms 27:11-12). From weakness within and trials without, we are in constant danger of going astray (Jeremiah 10:23). In dealing with Absalom, David felt that he might err on the side of mildness or of severity. So at other times. God’s way is always the best way. Here it is described, commanded, and sought after. It is right. “Thy way.” It is pleasant. “Plain path.” It is safe. Here it is not the will of the ungodly, but the holy, loving will of God that is regnant (Psalms 27:12).

VI. Encouraging self admonition to hope in God for ever (Psalms 27:13-14) The psalmist communes with himself. The words are the broken utterance of deep feeling (cf. Genesis 31:42; Exodus 32:32). Here we see the weakness of the soul. “I had fainted.” Whenever we lose sight of “the goodness of the Lord,” we grow weak. Faith, hope, and love, are ready to fail. The strength of the soul. “Unless I had believed,”—”a cordial made up of three sovereign ingredients—a hope to see, and to see the goodness of God; and the goodness of God in the land of the living.”—Sir R. Baker. “Look unto me and be ye saved.” Inspired with new courage, the believer consecrates himself afresh to God. “There is no more dignified species of worship to be found than that of exemplifying our faith in the omnipotence and wisdom of God, by humble and joyous perseverance under the greatest difficulties.”—Tholuck The great lesson of the psalm comes out at the close, “Wait, I say, on the Lord.”

“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.”


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 27". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/psalms-27.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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