On what or in whom is your faith based? As Christians we can become easily mixed up in the object of our faith. I recall as a youngish teenager having no trouble in believing that there was a God, that I could not be God’s child unless I accepted God’s offer of forgiveness and that God had acted in my life. But, I was concerned that there was another narrative in the world, that intelligent people said that there was no God, and that we are simply a product of time and chance operating on matter. I felt that I needed to have something that I could be certain of that would sustain when doubts arose – which I believe they do for all Christians.
This Psalm of David, goes from confidence in God, to a distinct lack of confidence – to a place of doubt and fear. We will think abut what caused David’s confidence to wane and what he learned in his journey of faith.
1.1 Confidence in God.
David begins his Psalm with a wonderful statement of his confidence in God – The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
David begins by a recognition that it is in God that we have light and in God that we have strength. If you want to be strong, be enlightened by God – seems to be what David is saying. We are seeing the results in our society of a deliberate removal of the light-bulbs of Christianity. It seems that most of the policy decisions by our Government across the political spectrum are now informed by assumptions that there is no God, that we are products of time and chance on matter and that there is no ultimate right or wrong. We are seeing the fruit of this thinking on a daily basis.
David and Israel had been given specific promises by God. These promises related to the land in which they lived. God had promised Abraham that he would give this land to Israel forever – if the people remained faithful, they would have success, if they were unfaithful they would experience curses. It is in this context that David could have confidence in victory over the enemies who sought to drive them out of the land. Interestingly there are nations who still want to drive Israel out of their land! 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. Why could David have this confidence? Because he had faith in what God had said – he had faith in God’s promises.
As David contemplated his confidence in God, he recognized within himself a desire to spend time with God and to recognize who he is – David had a place where he could meet God in the Tabernacle, a focal point for his worship. As Joshua set up the nation when they entered the land that God had promised them, cities of refuge were set up. Someone who was accused of manslaughter could seek refuge in one of these cities and he would come under the formal protection of the leaders of that city. David likens turning to God for refuge from his enemies – God was a place of safety for him.
As David contemplates what it is to live with God as his light his experience is one of joy and singing.
1.2 From confidence to fear of rejection
The first 6 verses of Psalm 27 stand in stark contrast to the following 6 verses. David goes from a high to a low! He feels that God is not responding to his calls for help, he “seeks God’s face” but fears that God hides his face and dismisses David. He feels rejected and forsaken. He is now fearful of his enemies.
This is often our experience too. At times we have confidence in God, and at other times it seems that faith utterly fails and we are filled with doubts and fears.
This raises and important question. What causes David (and us) to descend from confidence to doubt, from joy to despair, from courage to fear?
1.3 What now?
I believe that David identifies the cause in the final verse of the Psalm: ‘wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’
There is certainly a chronological aspect to David’s solution. He wanted everything to be fixed in an instant. We live in times of instant gratification. Amazon have been developing a delivery system that from order to receipt is designed to have your order in your hands within 30 minutes – delivered by drone. We want everything now!
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, it is part of the character of God! David learned that sometimes, God delivers in his own timing – when we understand this, and when we develop this character, we live with less doubt, fear and despair.
I believe that in learning to work to God’s time, we are doing something much more however than just being patient. We are learning to develop our faith in substance rather than froth. I’ve met quite a few Christians who see evidence of God’s activity in a way that I believe undermines true faith. You know the sort of thing, you are in a hurry and you need a space to park the car or else you will be late for an appointment. Suddenly around the corner is a parking space and you think God for looking after you. Seems fine. But what about the next time when there is no space? Has God forgotten you? Is there a God at all? This sort of thing I fear is more akin to Aladin and a genie than faith in God!
So what is it to wait on God? It seems that when David was enlightened by God, by the concreteness of his person and work that his faith was strong: ‘the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear!’ when he focused on circumstances his faith grew weak. Peter and the disciples spent 3 years with Jesus, he made them fishers of men. But when Jesus was crucified, when circumstances got difficult, they quit fishing for men and went back to fishing for fish! But history tells us that they ended their days as great men of faith, fearless and speaking truth to power. Why the difference? They learned that faith was not dependent on circumstances, but it is based on truth. If you are relying on God being your instant genie in a bottle prepare for failure and disappointment. Rather base your faith on the facts of God and the light that knowledge of him brings and you will learn to wait and be strong.