Meditation on Psalm 27
S. Pope, Swansea
Many correspondence schools for writers offer what are called "starters" for plots and articles. These consist of suggestive outlines or arresting ideas which are designed to "start" a writer and lead to his developing an interesting piece of writing. As far as the Christian is concerned, there is no more provocative "starter" for meditation than the Bible. Hymns and addresses have their place, but both prayer and preaching are the most fruitful in their results when they proceed from a study of the Scriptures. The Psalms, in particular, have always been great stimulants to Christian thought. It is inevitable that certain Psalms help us more than others in our meditation. For example, Martin Luther is said to have had four "favourite" Psalms, and of these Psalm 130 was "the best".
In the view of the writer, Psalm 27 is a Psalm which contains in a relatively small compass a number of highly evocative thoughts which can be developed in a number of ways. For the sake of convenience, these are expressed in the form of an alliterative analysis. In Psalm 27, we may see:
The Worship of God, vv. 4-5. The Withdrawal of God, w. 7-9. The Ways of God, v. 11. The Waiting upon God, v. 14.
The Worship of God, vv. 4-5. This is a subject of infinite scope, but briefly in these verses we see:
Worship is an Antidote to the Ugliness of Life, "the beauty of the Lord". Not only are physical conditions and surroundings ugly; very often characters and situations may be described legitimately in this way. "The Lord" always corrects this ill-balance of life; one has written, "the weight of all this unintelligible world is lightened".
Worship is an Answer to the Problems of Life, "to inquire in his temple". Some questions await an answer only when we see Him face to face. Others assume their real importance -or insignificance - when we visit "the house of the Lord": "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end", Psa. 73. 16-17. In another sense, true worship leads us to ask questions about the reality of life and death; one has written, "... not as in the hour of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes the still sad music of humanity".
Worship is a Refuge from the Dangers of Life, "he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me". Engaged in this service in the presence of the Lord, the true worshipper is protected from the materialism of life, from the selfishness of life, and from the narrowness of outlook of the earthbound man whose sights are set upon "this world".
A modern educator, Niblett, has written of spirituality as "the lost dimension". Man has ventured up into space and down into the bowels of the earth, but he has lost the dimension of breadth in that he has lost his spiritual conception of the meaning of life.
The Withdrawal of God, w. 7-9. Despite the reality of his worship, the Psalmist afterwards lost his sense of God's presence. In the Old Testament, the word "face" stands for "presence", since the Hebrew word may be translated either "presence" or "face". For example, "Let us come before his presence (or face) with thanksgiving", Psa. 95. 2; see also Psa. 100.2. In this connection, Genesis 32. 20 is very interesting j Jacob says, "I will appease him (lit., cover his face)... and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me (lit., lift up my face)". The word "face" or "presence" indicates:
The Personality and Power of God. God said to Moses, "My presence (face) shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he (Moses) said unto him, If thy presence (face) go not with me, carry us not up hence", Exod. 33. 14,15.
The Revelation of God's Character. "I will behold thy face in righteousness", Psa. 17. 15.
The Fellowship of God. Psalm 27. 9 speaks of a broken communion when the sense of God's presence (face) is withdrawn. Thus Cain said, "from thy face shall I be hid", Gen. 4. 14. Again, Absalom is said to have dwelt two whole years in Jerusalem and yet never to have seen "the king's face", 2 Sam. 14. 28. It is still possible today to be frequenters of the courts of the Lord, and yet to miss the nearness of His presence because of unconfessed sin.
The Ways of God, v. 11. The Old Testament has a wealth of teaching about the ways of God. These are often inscrutable for God often "moves in a mysterious way". He had to tell Israel that His thoughts were not their thoughts nor His ways their ways, Isa. 55. 8. Often God's ways are indiscoverable, for His ways sometimes lie in the trackless depths of the restless sea, the dustless road that leaves no tracks of footprints. Verse 11 is a prayer asking for revelation of God's guidance on the road of life. It requests:
Divine Direction. "I will instruct thee and teach thee . . .
I will guide thee with mine eye" is the answer in Psalm 32. 8 to the prayer in this verse. His guidance is not the issue of a route map, but a protecting hand on the reins of our progress.
Divine Descent, "a plain (level) path". In Bunyan's words, "He that is low need fear no fall", for God always leads His dejected saints by the lowland road before they scale the heights of the Delectable Mountains. These lines are ever true: Low at the feet of Jesus, that is the place for me, There I have learned deep lessons, truths that have made me free, J.n.d.
Divine Deliverance, "because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over . . .". The salvation of deliverance in the New Testament is known as "a way" or "the way of life". As such it implies both progress and purpose. Because it carries with it the idea of progress, it is argued by some that the new paths to God are required in modern days. To them, the words of Jeremiah are needful, "Stand ye in the ways . .. ask for the old paths . . . and ye shall find rest for your souls", Jer. 6. 16. A sticker on a car reads, "Wales greatest need - new roads". This is a facile statement, for it is the old paths of worship and righteousness that constitute the country's most urgent need in the face of modern problems.
The Waiting upon God, v. 14. A common sign today indicates "No waiting" upon the roads of our land, yet life itself is a waiting-room for eternity for us all. The malaise of constant movement and ceaseless activity is not peculiar to the worldling, because many Christians are unhappy with waiting as they confuse this state with stagnation. Waiting is a fruitful exercise when it has as its motive closer communion with, and transmission of clearer marching orders from, God. We wait in different directions, such as:
Psalms 62. 1; 65. 1 (marg.) speak of silent waiting.
Job 32. 4 tells us to wait purposefully.
Job 14. 14 advises us to wait in hope.
1 Chron. 6. 32 suggests steadfast waiting.
Job 15. 22 counsels vigilant waiting.
Psalm 37. 9 assures us of expectant waiting.
Luke 2.25; 12. 36 show us people who waited in hope. Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest, Finding as He promised perfect peace and rest.