Revised Common Lectionary--2007
For May-Aug, 2007 click here
Easter IV (Apr. 29)
Acts 13:15-16, 26ff.
Psalm 23 (I)
Psalm 23 (II)
Rev. 7:9-17 (I)
Rev. 7:9-17 (II)
Easter III (Apr. 22)
VT Killing Meditation
Acts 9:1-19a (I)
Acts 9:1-19a (II)
Easter II (Apr. 15)
Acts 5:12-32 (I)
Acts 5:12-32 (II)
Easter (Apr. 8)
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18 (I)
John 20:1-18 (II)
Lent VI (Apr. 1)
Psalm 22 (I)
Psalm 22 (II)
Lent V (Mar. 25)
Psalm 126 (I)
Psalm 126 (II)
John 12:1-8 (I)
John 12:1-8 (II)
Lent IV (Mar. 18)
Luke 15:11-32 (I)
Luke 15:11-32 (II)
II Cor. 5:16-21
Lent III (Mar. 11)
I Cor 10:1-13
Lent II (Mar. 4)
Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18
Luke 13:31-35 (I)
Luke 13:31-35 (II)
Lent I (Feb. 25)
Deut 26: 1-11
Luke 4:1-13 (I)
Luke 4:1-13 (II)
Rom 10: 5-13
Epiphany VII (2/18)
Gen. 45:1-15 (I)
Gen. 45:1-15 (II)
I Cor 15:35-38,42ff.
Epiphany VI(Feb 11)
Luke 6:17-26 I
Luke 6:17-26 II
I Cor 15:12-20
Epiphany V (Feb 4)
Is. 6 (The Senses I)
Is. 6 (The Senses II)
Luke 5:1-11 (II)
I Cor 15:1-11
I Cor 15:1-11 (II)
Epiphany IV (Jan 28)
Jer. 1:4-10 (II)
Luke 4:22-30 (I)
Luke 4:22-30 (II)
I Cor 13 (I)
Epiphany III(Jan 21)
I Cor 12:12-31
Epiphany II (Jan 14)
John 2:1-11 (I)
John 2:1-11 (II)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (I)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (II)
Baptism (Jan 7)
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Luke 3 (II)
Lent II--March 4, 2007
Bill Long 2/20/07
Psalm 27; God, Our Light and Salvation
Here is the entire Psalm, in the NRSV:
1 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?
2 When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
6 Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lordin the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
I published my first book in 1993. Entitled Longing for God: Prayer and the Rhythms of Life (InterVarsity), it is an exposition of 30 Psalms for a month of 30 days. It explores themes of longing, distress, trust and praise; all of them rhythms of the spiritual life which need to be recaptured in our day. My point was that the Psalms help us restore good spiritual "rhythms," and that by going through the processes of longing and distress and trust and praise we are restored to a living and real faith. I exposited Ps. 27 in connection with the section on trust. I thought it might be good to present some of my language from 1993 to you today, not only to see how I read the Psalm "back then," but also to see if I have caught some of the timelessness of its message in my exposition. I begin.
"Learning to trust God is, I am convinced, the crucial movement in the spiritual life. It brings us out of distress and into praise. But trusting God is usually a slow process, much like the process of learning. I take a few steps. Is the ground safe? Do I really want to continue the journey? Why not stay in the familiar confines of distress? Yet I know that the key to my life as a Christian is making trust a vital concept in my life. Even more than a concept, it is a practical approach to living that can afect my work and family and all of my relationships.
The focus of Ps. 27 is more on trust as an attitude of life than trust as a series of particular actions that we ought to perform. The attitudes that we will explore in Ps. 27 are trust as unhurried joy and trust as earnest search. These two appear contradictory but are, in fact, compatible. The former emphasizes that trust is basically an attitude of resting or of calm confidence. The latter stresses that trust is a yearning or a longing for God and for instruction in the right path. How can I calmly yearn? How can I longingly rest? I don't know. Yet both are true and essential to a balanced rhythm in my life. I need to emphasize trust as resting so as to avoid the misunderstanding that trust in God can be identified with any particular action. I need to stress trust as searching so as to remove the suscpicion that trust may be synonymous with laziness or indolence. To trust God aright means that we need to practice both restful joy and earnest search.
The opening verse of Ps. 27 resounds with the deep confidence that we see also in the first verses of Ps. 90 and Ps. 46.
"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?"
The rhythm of vv. 1-3 not only heightens the pslamist's joy but also shows us that it flows from a heart that has risen above many of the obstacles that keep us in distress. Notice the repetitions:
"The Lord is...The Lord is (v. 1)
When evildoers assail..my adversaries (v. 2)
Though an army encamp...though war rise (v. 3)"
The repetition gives an air of solemnity and quiet confidence to the first three verses. Evil people may attack, even armies may lay siege to me, yet the Lord is my light and my salvation, the stronghold of my life, so I will not be afriad. The tone of the first three verses is similar to the brinning confidence of Ps. 11:1:
"In the Lord I take refuge. How can you say to me, 'Flee like a bird to your mountain?'"
That is, since the Lord is with us, our battle's are the Lord's and our results are in God's hands. The God who does not permit the sparrow to fall except that God knows it and who does not let one hair of our head fall without his permission, this God will certainly provide light for out path and strength for our battles.
This glowing confidence is the basis of the psalmist's restful joy. Described in vv. 4-7, this consists of enjoying the beauty and safety of God's house and celebrating our victory over the forces of death with shouts of joy. The description of restful joy begins in v. 4:
"One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I see after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple..."
A unified focus results in restful joy: "One thing I ask of the Lord." In a world where we have thousands of options and tens of thousands of choices, joy comes to those who know and who choose one thing. One of the reasons we feel frazzled by life and unable to trust is that our lives have become a haphazard collection of activities with no organizing principle or common rationale. We dash from one thing to another, and even if all of the activities are good and necessary, we still can feel divided and empty....Jesus knew that only one thing was truly important in life:
"Seek first his [God's] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well" (Mt. 6:33).
Paul perceived the importance of only one thing:
"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toard the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).
Can we select the one necessary thing for us? As I look at my typical day, I have classes and meetings and phone calls and reading and some writing. Then, during the day, I switch hats and shop for food, pick up children after school, do laundry, walk the dog, feed the children, give baths, read books to children and spend time with my wife. I must do so many thing that I often put good things on hold because they don't have to be done. But I pray at the beginning of the day and throughout the day, "Lord give me a sense today that I am rooted deeply in you, that all of my activities flow from a heart that longs to be with you. Give me an expectation and sense that grace will come through the demands of life and not only when they subside."
Amid my frenetic activities, I need to learn one thing--that I can live joyfully in God through my activities and not in spite of them. Those whose spiritual rhythms are restored and vibrant are those who live daily from a deep center, from a sense of rootedness in God. Scripture and our experience do not deny that most of our lives we feel like torn and scattered people. Yet, even in those circumstances we can ask God to help us seek one thing: to rest joyfully in God.
Sometimes the greatest truths in life are paradoxical. We have our most creative thoughts when we are not trying to be creative. We do our best when we perform most effortlessly. In Jesus' words, we find our life when we give up our life. Therefore, it should come as no surprise for us to affirm that the key to biblical trust is, at the same time, to rest joyfully and to search earnestly. We rest in God, bask in God's light and luxuriate in God's strength, and thus we discover the deep and unified anchor of our faith. Yet, in Ps. 27:7-14, the stress is on our trust as an earnest search.
"'Come,' my heart says, 'seek his face!' Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me" (vv. 8-9a).
Translators render v. 8 in several different ways. Another is "To you, O my heart, he has said, seek my face" (Anderson, Psalms, vol. 1, p. 224), or "Thou hast said, 'Seek ye my face.'" One translation stresses that God exhorts the psalmist to seek, another that the psalmist exhorts himself to seek God. The uncertainty in the translation nicely captures a spiritual truth: In our search for God we are motivated by ourselves and by God, and sometimes we cannot discern the difference in the voices!
Our earnest search for God is necessary, but it runs the risk of a return to anxiety. Just as resting calmly in God might lead to indolence, so an earnest search for God might rekindle our distress. We feel that we may seek God and not find him. So, as the psalmist seeks God, possible anxieties arise:
"Do not hide your face from me" (v. 9).
The distress, however, is resolved in v. 10:
"If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up."
By the time the author gets to the last two verses of the psalm, his confidence returns fully. Both rest and action, quiet joy and earnest search have been affirmed. So he says:
"I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (v. 13).
What a wonderfully expansive note on which to conclude the psalm. It is tantamount to the great Puritan confidence in approaching the Scriptures, "God has yet more truth to break forth from his Word." It is the same spirit of Habakkuk the prophet when he taught that in times to come, "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (2:14). It is almost as if the psalmist, with renewed trust, is scanning the horizon for evidence that the goodness of God will break forth. Any minute now, signs of God's presence and rule on earth will appear. One need only wait (v. 14). We wait with a joyful heart, a focused mind and longing eyes. Soon the goodness of God will show itself again, and we will joyfully, longingly and restfully claim,
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear" (v. 1).