One of the blessings of reading Psalms as that they are so compact. We all face pressures—sometimes constant and relentless. The psalms bring us condensed spiritual nourishment drawn from other believers who faced their own trials in the past.
But maybe we’re tempted to make a bad comparison. When you need to eat quickly, you reach for an energy bar or grab a burger. Fast food is great because it’s quick and convenient, but you can’t live on fast food. So, we might reason, “the psalms are great for a quick meal, but don’t expect to find anything deep. You have to go to Romans or Ephesians for that.” What we discover on closer examination, rather, is a feast of rich theological truths.
Consider Psalm 27. The first six verses are confident, joyful, exultant. This is a classic example of the stuff we turn to when we’re discouraged or looking for a quick spiritual mega-pill to get us through the day. David gives two reasons for his confidence—(1) I’ll be fine as long as I stay right beside God and besides, (2) God will protect me in His fortress. It’s like being in a bunker, deep under a mountain, sitting right next to the President. No matter what happens, you’ll be okay.
But the following verses don’t sound like that anymore. If verses 1-6 are the quick meal before your morning commute, the next verses leave us a little confused. “Hear me…” “hide not your face from me…” “cast me not off…” “forsake me not…” Is he really scared that God might do that to him? Is this the same psalm? How can one man be so confident and then so desparate in the next breath? People normally rejoice or struggle, but not usually at the same time.
The contrast between these sections draws you in to ask deeper questions about the psalm. Where did his security go? Is he just confused? He’s writing Scripture, after all. Shouldn’t all of his spiritual struggles already be worked out?
And that’s exactly the point. Anyone who has been through deep waters knows that the struggle is a process. One moment you’re hurting, crying, pleading, searching. Sometimes God answers your need. Moments later you’re rejoicing, hopeful, lifted up and encouraged. And yet the struggles can return just as quickly. Victory doesn’t come all at once. Every day—sometimes every hour, is a fresh struggle with the same questions returning again.
And the psalmist himself models that struggle. The authors of Scripture were hardly perfect. They were people; they struggled too, and God recorded those struggles for our understanding and help. Psalm 27 is not a quick bite in a crinkly wrapper during a morning commute on the way to more important things. This is strong food for the soul.
You may find yourself on either side of Psalm 27 today—joyful and confident in God’s care (v. 1-6) or hurting and scared in the midst of personal crisis (v. 7-12). Either way, it doesn’t matter—the psalm ends with advice for both states. When this life is done you will personally, physically see the rich beauty of God’s goodness (v. 13). So while you’re rejoicing or while you’re hurting, turn to the Lord and wait (v. 14). Only a few short days from now, it will all will give way to the grander, fuller reality—“looking upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Today, in your stewardship of either joy or your stewardship of pain, here’s the counsel:
“Wait for the Lord.
Be strong, let your heart take courage,
and wait for the Lord.”
(You can also download Joel Arnold’s full study of Psalm 27 here. Warning—it has footnotes.)