Wait on the Lord – Psalm 27

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One of the greatest – and most challenging – admonitions in the entire Bible is found in Ps.27.14: “Wait on the LORD. Be of good courage and He will strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD!” There are numerous circumstances scattered along the road of life which test our trust in God. Trial and temptation, death and disease, opposition and oppression, failure and frustration each have their own peculiar impact upon our confidence in God. But few things test us like waiting tests us. Comparatively, many followers of Jesus are more than willing to stand up and contend for what is right, to actively defend our faith, to set our heart and persist in our service when confronted with difficulties. Like Peter in the garden, we’re ready to draw our sword and fight. But it is a much greater challenge to put our sword away and wait for the Lord to accomplish His plans and purposes.

We are not alone in when it comes to the challenge of waiting. Abraham waited twenty-five years for the child of promise. Moses waited four decades before God sent him back to Egypt. Saul failed to wait a full seven days for Samuel to arrive, and who knows how long David waited for God to set him on the throne of Israel. Esau couldn’t wait for supper, and sold his birthright. Job had to endure horrible loss and unfair accusation before God reminded him of His power, and still we do not know that God ever explained to him what had happened. Habakkuk and Zechariah cried to God in their confusion, waiting for answers and resolution. The prodigal son couldn’t wait to leave home. The farmer waits for the early and latter rain (Jas.5.7). The souls under the altar are told to wait for God’s vindication of their unjust death (Rev.6.10-11). Waiting is hard.

Yet, waiting on God is the ultimate expression of trust.

Psalm 27 is somewhat uncommon compared to many of David’s compositions. Most are reflective expressions of emotion, directed toward God in supplication or praise. David’s heart is laid bare in the majority of his psalms. He is crying out in pain, or fear, or confusion, or despair. Or, he is singing the praises and hailing the virtues and glories of the LORD. And, while he occasionally calls upon the reader to join him or engage in some kind of activity, most of his psalms are expressive. Rarely, however, he will offer a psalm that is purely instructive. Psalm 37 is a series of admonitions and imperatives. Similarly, Psalms 33, 34, and 66 have some directive at their heart. I would propose that Psalm 27 is intended to fall into this didactic category, though it is unique in design.

This psalm begins with statements of supreme confidence in God (v.1-6). David sees the LORD as his “light…salvation…strength.” He notes God’s past deliverance when confronted by armies of his enemies. The value of association and intimacy with YAHWEH is clear in his desire to “dwell in the house of the LORD.” He is unwavering in the certainty of God’s victory on his behalf, and that faith is expressed in sacrifice and praise. However, beginning in v.7, many see a change in tone, as David cries out for mercy, assurance, and association. This tone, it is often argued, pervades the psalm through v.13. It is has even been suggested that Ps.27 is a composite, either written by two different authors, or by David in two different circumstances. Please consider an alternative.

What if David has a simple admonition for us? “Wait on the LORD. Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD.” Just how do I get there? We all need this most powerful ability. But waiting is not merely the product of a simple decision. Instead, waiting on the LORD is the product of a well-developed faith. In v.13, David notes that he would have “lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” From whence such conviction? From experience.

Vv.1-3 offer what David had learned from his own past. God had delivered him. We do not know the circumstances that David has in mind, nor do we need to know them. David knew what he had experienced, and was confident in God’s protection. Thus, “the LORD is my light and my salvation…the LORD is the strength of my life” (v.1). Vv.4-6 record the impact of God’s activity upon David. He was utterly devoted to God, and nothing appealed to him more than dwelling in the very presence of YAHWEH. Residing in the tent of God, marveling at God’s glory, rejoicing in God’s wisdom was, to David, the ultimate protection. Moreover, as David looks to the uncertainty of the future, and the almost inevitability of further opposition, he knows that God will continue to hear him and accompany him. Vv.7-12 are not expressions of hesitation and fear, but considerations of temporal uncertainty wherein God will again be the light, the salvation, the strength. Perhaps v.12 notes an enemy at the gates, but David knows that the LORD will “take care of me” and “lead me in a smooth path” (v.10-11), even if his own parents were to desert him. It is this confidence in God that prompts the declaration of v.13, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed…

God calls us to trust…even trust in its most difficult form. When life is hard. When the enemy is near. When all others forsake us. When we can see no end. When defeat seems inevitable. When we do not know what to do. When we realize that there is nothing we can do. Then is when we look back and reflect upon the activity of God in the lives of His saints. God delivers His people, even though we may have to wait…and wait…and wait. Even if our waiting has to transcend this temporal realm. Trust never loses sight of “the goodness of God in the land of the living.

Wait on the LORD.

–Russ Bowman