Summary: There were numerous occasions in the life of David when all that is expressed in the psalm might have been said by him, just as there are many occasions, in the lives of all of us, to which the sentiments of the psalm would be appropriate.

June 12, 2014

Tom Lowe

Psalm 27 (KJV)

Title: A Changeable Temperament

A psalm of David.

Psalm 27 (KJV)

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.

5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

14Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.


This is believed to be “A Psalm of David,” and there is no reason to think that the caption is not correct. But the occasion on which it was composed is unknown. There is no hint of this in the title, and there is nothing within the body of the psalm which would enable us to determine this. There were numerous occasions in the life of David when all that is expressed in the psalm might have been said by him, just as there are many occasions, in the lives of all of us, to which the sentiments of the psalm would be appropriate. The Septuagint version has the title, “A Psalm of David Before His Anointing,” but there are several opinions concerning which anointing it was. Grotius supposes the occasion to have been the anointing in Hebron when he was first inaugurated king (2 Samuel 2:4). Rosenmuller suggests that it was the last anointing (2 Samuel 5:3). Many of the Jewish expositors assign the psalm to the last days of David when he was delivered from death by the intervention of Abishai (2 Samuel 21:16-17). But there is no evidence within the psalm that it was composed on any of these occasions, and it is now impossible to ascertain the time or the circumstances of its composition.

The general objective of the psalm is to excite in others confidence in God from the experience which the psalmist had of His merciful intercession in times of trouble and danger (v. 14). The author of the psalm had had some striking evidence of the divine favor and protection in times of peril and sorrow (v. 1), and he makes use of his experiences throughout the psalm to lead others to trust in God in similar circumstances. It may have been that at the time of composing the psalm he was still surrounded by enemies, and exposed to danger; but if that’s the case, he expresses the utmost confidence in God, and gratefully refers to His past intersessions on his behalf in similar circumstances as full proof that all would turn out well, and that God would bless him.

The contents of the psalm are:

1. An expression of confidence in God, which was derived from his personal experience of His merciful intervention in times of danger, (Vs. 1-3). He had been in peril at some time in his life, which is not specified, and had been rescued; and from this gracious intervention, he reasons that it would always be safe to trust in God.

2. The expression of a desire to dwell always where God is; to see His beauty there; to learn more about Him; to offer sacrifices, and to praise Him (vs. 4-6). The psalmist had seen so much of God that he desired to see much more; he had experienced so much of his wonderful favor that he wished to always be with Him; he had found so much happiness in God that he believed that all his future happiness was to be found in His presence and in His service.

3. A solemn prayer that God would hear him; that He would grant his requests; that He would save him from all his enemies; that He would lead him along the right path (vs. 7-12). This is based partly on his own past experience, that when God had commanded him to seek His face he had obeyed (v. 8), and it is connected with the fullest assurance that God would protect him, even if he would be forsaken by his father and mother (v. 10).

4. The conclusion—the appeal to wait on the Lord (vs. 13-14). This request is derived from his own experience. He says that he himself would have fainted if he had not confided in God and hoped in His mercy when there was no other hope (v. 13); and, in view of that experience, he encourages all others to put their trust in Him (v. 14).


1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

The Lord is my light

He is my source of light. That is, He guides and leads me, for He is my counselor when I face difficulties, and my comforter and deliverer during times of distress. Darkness is the symbol of distress, trouble, bewilderment, and sorrow; light is the symbol of the opposite of these. God furnished him light that had the capacity to make his troubles disappear, and his way bright and happy.

David’s subjects called him the light of Israel; but his light was like the light which the moon emits, a borrowed light. The light which God communicated to him reflected upon the people of Israel. God is our light, and as light, He shows us the condition we are in due to our sinful nature and practices, but He also reveals to our minds how we may, step by step, be brought by grace to the place of our salvation. As our light, He shows us the obstacles that lie in our way; the difficulties, and those enemies, and conflicts, we will have to encounter, and how He will enable us to overcome them. It is only in His light that we continue on in our Christian course, and it is in His light that we hope to see light forever.

And my salvation

God is my salvation, that is, He saves or delivers me. I am safe in Him, and by Him, I shall be saved. Salvation finds us in the dark, but it does not leave us there, and the Light He provides can never be extinguished by man.

Whom shall I fear?

This clause sounds very much like what Paul said in Romans 8:31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” If God is on our side or is for us, we can have no anxiety or dread of that which lies ahead. He is abundantly able to protect us, and we may confidently trust in Him. No one needs any better security against the objects of fear or dread than the conviction that God is his friend.

“Whom” points to personal adversaries; persecutors and tempters, real or imaginary, seen and unseen. Who can injure or destroy us? Sinners may be against us, and so may the great enemy of our souls—the evil one, but their power to destroy us is taken away. God is mightier than all our foes, and he can defend and save us. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do to me? (Ps. 118:6). This is the proposition advanced in this verse, and Paul proceeds to illustrate this thought in various ways to the end of the chapter.

The question was asked, “Whom shall I fear?” The answer, of course, is no one. Who can be against us? No one can be against us, successfully and safely; they may harm themselves more than us. Emperor Maximilian, admired this sentence so much that he had it written over the table where he used to eat, so that having it often in his eye, he might have it also in his mind.

The Lord is the strength of my life

Let’s look first at what the Lord is not: He is not the strength of his natural life, though He was the God of his life, who had given it to him, and had preserved it, and sustained his soul in it; but He is Lord of his spiritual life. Christ is the author of spiritual life, He implants the principle of it in the hearts of His people, and He, Himself is that life; He lives in them, and He supports their life; He is the tree of life, and the bread of life, by which it is maintained; and He provides life with security; it is all bound up in the bundle of life with Him, it is hidden with Christ in God; and because He lives they live also; and he gives unto them eternal life, so that they have no reason to be afraid that they shall miss heaven and fall short of happiness.

Here is a third glowing epithet, which shows that the writer's hope was fastened with a threefold cord which could not be broken. David described God as His light, His salvation, and now he declares, “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Like David, our life derives all its strength from Him who is the author if it; and if he agrees to make us strong we cannot be weakened by all the scheming and maneuverings of our adversaries.

The Lord is the support of my life: In other words, He keeps me alive. In itself life is feeble, and is easily crushed by the trouble and sorrow that comes to it; but as long as God is its strength, there is nothing to fear. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. In God therefore let us strengthen ourselves, for there is no fortitude like that of faith. If God be for us, who can be against us?

Of whom shall I be afraid?

This bold question looks into the future as well as the present. "If God be for us," who can be against us, either now or in time to come? And they don’t need to fear them that can kill the body and can do no more than that; nor any enemy whatsoever, who cannot reach their spiritual life, or hurt that, or prevent them enjoying eternal life. Their trust is in Him, for He is a stronghold or fortress, and they are safe in Him. If Omnipotence is his guard, he has no reason to fear; if he knows it to be so, he has no disposition to fear. If God is his light, he fears no shades of darkness; if God is his salvation, he fears no dark influences, for he will triumph over his enemies, as sure as if they were already routed.

I have no desire to have a timid, insincere profession of Christ. Such preachers and professors are like a rat playing at hide and seek behind a wall, who puts his head through a hole to see if the coast is clear, and ventures out if nobody is around; but slinks back again if danger appears. We cannot be honest with Christ unless we are bold for Him. He is either worth all we can lose for Him, or He is worth nothing.

2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me

This refers, no doubt, to some particular period of his past life when he was in very great danger; when his enemies planned to attack him, and he was in imminent danger from such a threatened attack, but God intervened to save him. They were wicked men, men with evil spirits (evildoers), who are the enemies and foes, not only of David, but of the people of God, and who hate them with a ruthless hatred and do everything they can to disturb and afflict them. David had such enemies, who were many and mighty; and here he says that they "came upon" him for the purpose of making war with him, or they attacked him in a hostile manner.

To eat up my flesh

To David, it seemed as if they wanted to eat him up. That is, they came upon me like ravening wolves or hungry lions. We are not to suppose that they literally meant to eat up his flesh, or that they were cannibals; for the comparison is one that is taken from the fierceness of wild beasts rushing upon their prey. In Psalm 14:4, David asked, “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not on the LORD.” Perhaps he had in mind the Amalekites at Ziklag (1 Sam, 30:1-6), who wanted to destroy his life, to strip him of his substance, to take away his wives and children.

They stumbled and fell

They were overthrown. They failed to accomplish their purpose. Either they were thrown into a panic by a false fear, or they were overthrown in battle. The language would seem to favor the former as if by some frightening experience they were unnerved and thrown into a state of disarray. Either they had differing opinions and became confused, or God threw obstacles in their way and they were driven back. The general idea is, that God had intervened in some way to prevent the execution of their plans. The Lord may have put stumbling blocks in their way, and retarded their march, and hindered them from executing their battle plans. Thus, they fell into the hands of David, and were captured by him, or died in battle. The psalmist calls these past experiences of divine goodness to mind, in order to keep up his spirit and courage and enliven and strengthen him against the fears of men, of death and hell.

3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

Though an host

By “host,” he has in mind an "army;" that is, any army, or any number of men in battle array. The past intervention by God in similar times of trouble and danger was sufficient security for him, and therefore, he had nothing to fear. The Targum calls them a host of the ungodly, since there seems to be so many of them, even ten thousand of them, as in Psalms 3:6: “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.”

Should encamp against me

A military encampment of forces who oppose David and his forces.

My heart shall not fear

He would not tremble, because he didn’t feel that there was anything of which to be afraid. God had shown Himself superior to the power of hostile armies, and the psalmist felt assured that he might confide in Him. He felt safe, for not only the angels of the Lord encamped about him, as they do about all that fear the Lord; but salvation formed the walls and bulwarks about him; and, the Lord himself was a wall of fire around him, and he was kept as in a fortress by the power of God;

Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. Before the actual battle is engaged, the warrior's heart is kept in suspense and is very liable to become panicked and flustered. The anticipation of the battle and the sight of the encamped enemy often inspires greater dread than the same host arrayed for battle. Someone has said, “Who feel a thousand deaths in fearing one;” and I have heard it said, “A coward dies a thousand times, but a brave man only dies once.” No doubt, the shadow of anticipated trouble is, too frightened minds, a greater source of sorrow than the trouble itself, but faith puts a strengthening covering to the back of courage and throws out of the window the dregs of the cup of trembling.

Though war should rise against me

Though war should be proclaimed, and though all preparation should be made for it, I will not be afraid. Though war should rise against me in all its terrible shapes, in this will I be confident: When it the actual fighting begins, faith's shield will ward off the blows; and if the first brush should be but the beginning of a war, yet faith's banners will wave in spite of the foe. Though battle should succeed battle, and one campaign should be followed by another, the believer will not be dismayed at the length of the conflict, or the fierceness of his foes.

In this will I be confident

David is confident that should a situation arise such as he has just described, or any other extreme emergency, that he would calmly trust in God. He would feel he was in no danger, for he had seen that the Lord could deliver him, for to David He was light, salvation, and strength (v. 1). Saints don’t need to be afraid, though there is a war within them between the flesh and spirit; and though without, they are fighting with Satan and his principalities and powers; since they may be confident of victory, and that they are more than conquerors, through Christ who has loved them.

4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.

One thing have I desired of the Lord

One main objective; one thing that I have especially desired; one thing which I have constantly wished for. The psalmist mentioned this dominant desire of his heart more than once in the previous psalms—“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Ps. 23:6); “LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth” (Ps. 26:8)—and he frequently refers to it in the following psalms. This great desire of his was not to be returned to Saul's court, nor to his own house and family, nor to have an abundance of worldly riches and honors; but to have constant access to the house of the Lord, an opportunity to continually participate in the public worship of God, which was neglected by many, and was boring to others, but was preferred by the psalmist to everything else; since he seems to have been deprived of it at this time.

That will I seek after

“That will I seek after” as the leading object of my life, and the thing which I most earnestly desire. I seek after it through relentless prayer, until it has been obtained; persistence and perseverance in prayer are the way to succeed, as appears from the parable of the widow and unjust judge.

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord

By this, he doesn’t mean Christ's Father's house in heaven, where He dwells, and where the saints will dwell for all eternity; though to be present in the house from heaven is very desirable; but here the place of divine worship seems to be meant, where the Lord granted His presence, and where the psalmist thought he would find the greatest happiness on earth, if he could dwell there. He envied the very sparrows and swallows that built their nests on the altars within it; and he believed a day in it would be better than a thousand elsewhere; and to have the privilege of attending worship there at all opportunities, for as long as he lived, to seek the face of the Lord, to consult him on difficult and important matters, to search after the knowledge of divine things, and to ask for blessings of grace, is the remarkable request he makes here.

All the days of my life

Constantly; to the end. Though engaged in other things, and though there were other objects of interest in the world, yet he felt that it would be supreme happiness on earth to dwell always in the temple of God and to be employed in its sacred services, preparatory to an eternal residence in the temple above. To him the service of God upon earth was not burdensome, nor did he anticipate that he would ever become weary of praising his Maker. How can a man be prepared for eternal heaven who finds the worship of God on earth irksome and tedious?

To behold the beauty of the Lord

The word which has been rendered here as "beauty" means "pleasantness." The reference here is to the beauty or loveliness of the divine character as it was particularly manifested in the public worship of God, or by those symbols which in the ancient worship were designed to make that character known. In the tabernacle and in the temple there was a manifestation of the character of God not seen elsewhere. The whole worship was adapted to set forth His greatness, His glory, and His grace—the priests in their robes, performing their office, the great High Priest (a type of Christ), and the Levites and singers performing their work in melodious strains. Moreover, it was a pleasant sight to a believer in those times to behold the sacrifices of slain beasts, which were symbolic of the better sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; to which may be added other things that were to be seen by priests; such as the ark of the Lord, which had the two tablets in it, typical of Christ, who was the end of the law for righteousness; and the table of shewbread, which pointed to Christ the bread of life, and His perpetual intercession for His people; and the golden candlestick, a type of the church; with many other things, which, with an eye of faith, the saints of those times could look upon with delight and pleasure. Also, the presence of the Lord may be intended by “the beauty of the Lord,” since nothing is more desirable to the people of God than to behold his smiling countenance, to see His face, and enjoy His favor, and to have fellowship with Him, and with one another. Jesus Christ may be the One meant here, represented by the Shekinah, or glory, which filled both the tabernacle and the temple; who being the brightness of his Father's glory, and fairer than the children of men, and altogether lovely and full of grace, is a very desirable object to be beheld by faith. Great truths were brought before the mind, tailored to elevate, to comfort, and to sanctify the soul; and it was in the contemplation of those truths that the psalmist sought to elevate and purify his own mind, and to sustain himself when he must pass through the troubles and bewilderments of life. David spoke of this in Psalm 73:15-17: “If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. 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.”

And to inquire in his temple

The word translated here as “temple” would be applicable to either the temple or tabernacle, which is considered the "palace" or the residence of Yahweh. But, since the temple was not built at this time, the word must be understood to refer to the tabernacle. The meaning of this final clause is that he wished to seek instruction or to obtain light on the great questions pertaining to God and that he looked for this light in the place where God was worshipped.

5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

For in the time of trouble

When I am surrounded by my enemies and in danger, or when I am suffering from hardships or experiencing sickness or in pain from my afflictions.

He shall hide me

The word used here means to hide in secret; and then, to defend or protect. It would be appropriate to apply it to one who had fled from oppression, or from any impending evil, and who would be concealed in a house or cave, and his location kept secret; thus he is rendered safe from pursuers, or from the threatening evil.

In his pavilion

The word “pavilion” means “tent” or “tabernacle.” The Hebrew word is suka^h, which means a booth, hut, or cot formed of interwoven green branches:

• Jonah 4:5—So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.

• Job 27:18— He buildeth his house as a moth, and as a booth that the keeper maketh.

It is applied to tents made of skins:

• Leviticus 23:43—That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

• 2 Samuel 11:11—And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.

It is used here to denote the tabernacle, which was considered the dwelling-place of God on earth, and the meaning here is that God would hide him so to speak in His own dwelling; He would permit him to stay near to Himself; He would protect him as if he were one of His own family; as a man protects those whom he welcomes into his own home.

In the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me

In the most secluded and private part of His dwelling. He would not merely admit him to His residence; not only to the foyer of His house; not only to His backyard, or to the parts of His house frequented by the rest of His family; but He would admit him to the private chamber—the place to which He Himself withdrew to be alone, and where no stranger, and not even one of the family, would venture to intrude. Nothing could more certainly denote friendship; nothing could more certainly assure protection, than to be taken into the private retreat where the master of a family was accustomed to withdraw, in order to be alone; and nothing, therefore, can more beautifully describe the protection which God will give to His friends than the idea of admitting them to the secret haven of His own home.

He shall set me up upon a rock

“A Rock” is the place where I shall be secure; a place inaccessible to my enemies. In the Scriptures, a Rock is often mentioned as a place of safety, and God is said to put someone on the Rock, and then, God and Christ are called a (or “the”) Rock.

• Psalm 18:1-2—I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

• Psalm 61:2—From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

• Psalm 71:3—Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.

The meaning is that he would be safe from all his enemies.

6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

And now shall mine head be lifted up

That is, “Now shall I be exalted.” We say, when a person is suffering misfortune or misery that he bows down his head; but in prosperity, he lifts it up. This verse expresses either the confident expectation that he would be enabled to triumph over all his foes, and, as the result of this there is the firm purpose on his part to offer sacrifices of praise to his great Deliverer; or when brought into the house of the Lord, hid in the secret chamber, and set upon the rock that is Christ, he would then be restored to his former happy and comfortable condition, such as what happened to Joseph in Genesis 40:13: “Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.”

Above mine enemies round about me

Though my enemies surround me, they will not be able to attack; I will subdue them, and my head will be lifted up in victory.

Therefore will I offer in his tabernacle

David is certain he will not fall to his enemies, but instead, he will be victorious in battle due to Divine intervention on his behalf. Therefore, he will worship and offer sacrifices in His tent, His dwelling-place: referring here, undoubtedly, to "the tabernacle" as the place where God was worshipped.

Sacrifices of joy

The Hebrew word used here means "shouting." That is, he would offer sacrifices accompanied by loud sounds of praise and thanksgiving. I don’t believe I need to tell you that there is nothing wrong with shouting for joy when a person is delivered from imminent danger, nothing wrong in doing so when he feels that he is rescued from the danger of eternal damage. I would add that there is nothing wrong with shedding tears of love for the Savior, encouraging the preacher with a hardy “amen” or even with raising your hands as an expression of praise. Dear reader, follow your heart and don’t hold it in when you desire to offer Him “sacrifices of joy,” or you will miss a blessing.

We read that when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem that he danced before it and praised God, unashamedly. David loved to go to His tabernacle, and there, to offer “sacrifices of joy,” accompanied with shouting and sounding of trumpets: an allusion to the blowing of trumpets at the time of sacrifice. We read in Numbers 10:10: “Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.” The reference here is to the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, made with a joyful heart, for mercies received, and offered up publicly in the house of the Lord. The Tabernacle was not a quiet place!

“Sacrifices of joy” is probably a reference to the thank-offerings, because they were brought with songs of rejoicing and praise, and the sound of trumpets and other instruments. The mention of singing and playing which immediately follow shows that the reference is to them.

Musical instruments played an important role in the worship of God in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, as these verses show:

• And with them Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest that were chosen, who were expressed by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever; And with them Heman and Jeduthun with trumpets and cymbals for those that should make a sound , and with musical instruments of God. And the sons of Jeduthun were porters. (1 Chron. 16:41, 42)

• Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. (Ps. 33:3)

I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord

This expression comes from a full heart. He is not content with saying merely that he would “sing.” He repeats the idea; he dwells upon it. With a heart overflowing with gratitude he would go to the Tabernacle and give utterance to his joy. He would repeat it over and over, and dwell upon the language of thanksgiving. “I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord,” to whom it is due, and for whom praise waits in Zion; He is the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort, and the author and giver of all blessings, secular and spiritual.

7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

Beginning at verse 7, the tone of the Psalm changes abruptly to a melancholy and anxious appeal for God to be merciful to him. God seems to be on the point of hiding His face from David. The remainder of the psalm. Verses 7-14, may be divided into four parts:

1. Verses 7-10: Rejection and desertion are contemplated and he prays for God to prevent such a thing from happening.

2. Verses 11 and 12: The danger from the enemy appears great and formidable.

3. Verse 13: His faith is strengthened, because he has seen the goodness of God.

4. Verse 14: With an effort that flows from faith, the psalmist saves himself from despair, but just barely.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice

This is the most that any man can expect from God—to be heard when he prays. But there are multitudes who suppose God will bless them whether they pray or not; and there are many others, who, although they pray lethargically, yet they imagine God must and will hear them! God will answer them that pray earnestly, that is, with sincerity and intensity; those who do not are most likely not going to receive the blessings which they need so much. Pharisees, and there are still those with the Pharisee mindset, don’t care whether the Lord hears them or not, so long as they are heard by men, or stroke their own pride with their flowery prayers; but for a genuine man of God, the Lord's ear is everything. The voice may be profitably used even in private prayer; for though it is unnecessary, it is often helpful, and aids in preventing distractions. Christians often pray audibly, even in secret.

“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice” is referring to audible prayer, as opposed to mental prayer; and the phrase indicates the intensity and passion of it. The request itself is that the Lord would hear it; not simply because he is omniscient and omnipresent, and so, hears the prayers of all, good and bad; but as a God gracious and merciful, who sometimes answers quickly, and sometimes seems to turn a deaf ear, and at other times defers an answer for a little while; yet, sooner or later, he always shows himself to be a God who hears prayer.

As a good soldier, David knew how to handle his weapons, and he found himself very much at home with the weapon of “prayer.” Note his anxiety to be heard. This earnest prayer seems to have been prompted by a returning sense of danger. He had had the assurance of the divine favor. He had found God ready to help him. He did not doubt that He would help him; yet all this did not prevent his calling upon Him for the aid which he needed, but instead, it stimulated him to do it. With all the deep-felt conviction of his heart that God was ready and willing to assist him, he still felt that he had no reason to hope for His aid unless he called upon Him. The phrase "when I cry with my voice" seems to imply that he prayed out loud.

Have mercy also upon me

Mercy is the hope of sinners and the sanctuary of saints. David, like most of us, was both a sinner and a saint, but he understood this, and he prayed that God would show him mercy by delivering him out of his personal distresses, and by forgiving his iniquities. I need His mercy as much as anyone. Even this morning I was reminded that I am a sinner and always will be. I am often disappointed in myself when I do something or say something or think thoughts that are wrong and against God’s teaching. I need mercy from Him, and He has always given me that. Isn’t He wonderful!

And answer me

We may expect answers to prayer, and should not be content without them any more than we should be if we had written a letter to a friend about some important matter, and had not received a reply. David pleaded for an answer to his prayer; that the Lord would speak the words which would command the afflictions he was living under to leave, and for Him to say that his sins were forgiven.

8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

When thou sadist, Seek ye my face

The Lord had communicated with David in some unstipulated manner; but we may suppose that it was either through a vision or a dream where He commanded or invited him to “Seek ye my face”; or, by the Holy Spirit directing and influencing him to do it. One respected commentator has given us this superb rendering: “Unto thee, my heart, he hath said, Seek ye my face. Thy face, O Jehovah, I will seek. O my heart, God hath commanded thee to seek his face."

To seek the face of the Lord means to pay attention to His house and His ordinances; and with this point of view to enjoy his gracious presence, and the light of his countenance, not being content with merely attending worship in His house. It means that we must seek the Lord himself, and communion with Him through Christ, the brightness of His glory, and the Angel of His presence, for the right way of seeking the Lord is in Christ, who is the way of access to Him, and of acceptance by Him and fellowship with Him; and also by prayer and supplication for His sake, and with all the heart and soul. The Lord calls upon his people to do this, in His word, in His providences, and by His Spirit moving upon their hearts, and persuading them to do it.

My heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

The literal translation would be: “To Thee hath said my heart, Seek ye my face; thy face, O Lord, will I seek.” The verse, and indeed the passage, is intended to indicate the state of the mind or the disposition of the psalmist with regard to the commands of God. The command or precept was to seek God. The prompt purpose of the mind or heart of the psalmist was, that he would do it. He "immediately" complied with that command, since it was a principle of his life—one of the steady promptings of his heart—that he would seek God throughout his life, and in every circumstance in which he found himself. Nothing and no one was more important to him. The heart made no excuse, asked for no delay, gave no reason for not complying with the command, and immediately said “yes” to God and resolved to obey. This related undoubtedly at first to prayer, as indicated by the previous verse, but the "principle" is applicable to all the commands of God. The heart of a born again child of God will immediately and always provoke him to obey the voice of God, no matter what He commands, and no matter what sacrifice may be required in obeying it. It is a command with promise, for they that seek Him will surely find Him. They shall find Him, and enjoy His favor, for He never says to anyone, “you seek my face in vain.” It looks as though the Lord had a mind to manifest himself, and grant the favor asked of Him, or why else would He have inclined the hearts of His people to pray to Him for it.

The psalmist could say, “My heart readily and thankfully complied with the proposal, and upon the reassurance of this command, or invitation, I resolved I would do so, and I do so at this time—“Thy face, LORD, will I seek.”

9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

Hide not thy face far from me

“Hide not thy face far from me,” which, in obedience to thy command, I am now seeking. To “hide the face” means to turn it away with displeasure, as if we would not look at one who has offended us. The psalmist seems to be saying, “When I seek thy face, O God, do not hide thy face from me; for what purpose would it serve for me to seek it, if I cannot find it? And what hope of finding it would I have if You were determined to hide it?” The favor of God is often expressed by "lifting the light of his countenance" upon anyone—looking “contentedly” or “pleasingly” upon Him. The expression is found in Psalm 4:6: “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” The reverse of this is expressed by hiding the face, or by turning it away. The word "far," introduced by the translators, does not aid in understanding the clause.

Put not thy servant away in anger

Do not ignore or renounce me because you are angry with me. We don’t admit into our presence those with whom we are displeased. The psalmist prayed that he might have free access to God as a Friend.

To “put away” means either not to cast him away or discard him or withhold your presence from him, because you are angry with him, though there is good reason for doing it; or do not allow him to go away angry, worrying and murmuring. God puts away many in anger for their supposed goodness, but not any at all for their confessed badness. (John Trapp)

He mentions that he is God’s “servant,” which he certainly was; but he was not His servant by creation as a man, and by his office as a king, but by grace which has the power to convert a man; and he says this only to describe himself, and to acknowledge his dependence upon the Lord, and his debt to him; but not as a reason why he should give him consideration, for he knew he was just an unprofitable servant.

It is a blessed and happy thing to be God's true “servant.” Consider what the Queen of Sheba said of Solomon's servants "Happy are these thy servants" (1 Kings 10:8). Now Jesus Christ is greater than Solomon: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42); and so Jesus is a better Master. Though some earthly masters may be Nabals and Labans, yet God will not be so. Good earthly masters will honor good servants, according to Proverbs 27:18: “He that waiteth on his master shall be honored.” And the following verses confirm that principle:

• Proverbs 17:2: “A wise servant shall have a portion, or inheritance, among the brethren.”

• John 12:26: “Where I am, there shall also my servant be.”

• Luke 12:37: “If any man serve me, him will my Father honor.”

• Matthew 25:21: “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” The loyal servants are blessed; their master will make them to sit down to dine, and will serve them.

• Matthew 25:23: “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

Thou hast been my help

One act of mercy by God often leads to another. Men argue like this: “I have showed you kindness already, therefore don’t bother me anymore”; but, because God has shown mercy he is more prepared to show further mercy; His mercy in saving, makes him justify, adopt, and glorify those He has saved. David uses this as a reason for why the Lord should help him; because You have helped me in the past. The fact that He had shown him mercy and treated him as a friend, is given as a reason why He should now hear his prayers and show him mercy.

He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. We accept His promise by faith, and the proof of it is the help He has given us in the past. God will not leave his people destitute of His presence; nor to themselves and the depravities of their hearts, nor to the temptations of Satan; nor will he forsake the work of His hands, the work of grace upon their hearts; and He will not forsake them so that they perish. It is this confidence that the Lord would not leave or forsake him which gave the psalmist good reason to conclude that since he had been his help in times past, a present help in time of trouble; and his arm was not shortened, his power was the same to help as ever, and so were his inclination and willingness to help, that he could also call unto him, as follows: “thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.”

Leave me not

Do not abandon me. This is still a proper ground for pleading with God. We may refer to all His former mercies toward us; we may make mention of those mercies as a reason why He should now intervene and save us. We may, so to speak, "remind" him of His former favors and friendship, and may plead with Him that He will complete what He has begun, and that, having once admitted us to His favor, He will never leave or forsake us.

Neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

“O God of my salvation”; the author both of his earthly, spiritual, and eternal salvation; is there anything we cannot hope to receive from him? Salvation includes all blessings, both for soul and body, for time and eternity. Can you even imagine the great love of God that sent His only Son to suffer in your place and die for your sins? This, dear friend, is my confidence—Now I know He will not “Hide His face far from me,” “put me away in anger,” “leave me” or “forsake me.” O God of my salvation!

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.

When my father and my mother forsake me

David is making a stipulation or establishing an “if” condition concerning the love of his parents. The psalmist supposes it’s possible that this might occur. It does occur, though very rarely; but the psalmist means to say that the love of God is stronger and more certain than even the love of a father or mother, since he will never forsake his people. Though every other tie that binds one heart to another should melt away, this will remain. Though it is not out of the realm of possibility that we could not be sure of the love that naturally springs out of the tenderest earthly relationships, yet we can always speak with confidence of His love, a love that surpasses human understanding.

There is in Isaiah 49:15, an almost identical statement: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Can a woman forget her nursing child? The objective of this verse is as plain as the nose on your face. It is to show that the love which God has for his people is stronger than that which is produced by the tenderest ties created by any natural affiliation. The love of a mother for her infant child is the strongest attachment in nature. The question here implies that it was unusual for a mother to be neglectful of that tie, and to forsake the child that she should nourish and love—that she would not pity and care for it in times of sickness and distress; that she would let it suffer without any attempt to relieve it, and turn away from it, and watch it die alone and unwanted.

She is more likely to forget her child, than God is to forget his afflicted and suffering people. The phrase “When my father and my mother forsake me,” implies that such a thing may occur. In third-world-countries, though the instinct which binds a mother to her offspring is strong, it has not been uncommon for a mother to expose her infant child to the elements, and to leave it to die.

Then the Lord will take me up

The usual meaning of the expression “will take me up,” refers to the hospitable reception of strangers or travelers into one's home:

• Judges 19:15—And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.

• Judges 19:18—And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehemjudah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehem Judah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me to house.

• Joshua 20:4— And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.

The meaning here is that if he should be forsaken by his nearest earthly relatives and friends, and thus become an outcast and a vagrant, so that no one on earth would take him in, the Lord would take him in.

The psalmist can say, “I know the Lord will ‘take me up,’ as a poor lost sheep is taken up into the shepherd’s arms, and saved from perishing. His time to help those that trust in Him is when all other helpers have failed to do so, when it can do the most for His honor and their comfort: with him the fatherless find mercy. This promise has often been fulfilled to the letter. Forsaken orphans have been taken under the special care of Divine Providence, which has raised up relief and friends for them in a way that no one would not have expected. God is a faithful, dependable, and better friend than our earthly parents are, or can be.

11 Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

Teach me thy way, O Lord

The “Lord’s way” is the way of providence, grace, and duty. The plea David makes to the Lord is “Teach me thy way,” that is, what course I should take to please You, and to carry out my duty, and to save myself from decline and eventual ruin. Psalm 25 is ‘chuck full’ of similar requests:

• (v. 4) Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.

• (v. 5) Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

• (v. 9) The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.

• (v.12) What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.

And lead me in a plain path

A “plain path” is a straight or smooth path. In other words, he prayed that he might be enabled to act wisely and honorably; he desired that God would teach him what he should do. The “plain path” is the path of truth, where understanding and knowledge and righteousness are found; and it is the way of holiness, even for those who in other things are fools:

• Proverbs 8:9—They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.

• Isaiah 35:8—And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

• Psalm 23:3—“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” The path of righteousness, in which Christ, the wisdom of God, and shepherd of his people, leads them.

Because of mine enemies

Here “mine enemies” refers to those who would treat him harshly or cruelly; and he prays that God would show him how to act in view of the fact that he was surrounded by such foes. They were harsh and cruel; they sought to overcome him; they laid snares for him. He didn’t know how to escape from them, and therefore, he pleads with God to instruct and guide him. “Because of mine enemies” is rendered by some expositors as “those that observe me”; who eyed him as Saul did [“And Saul eyed David from that day and forward” (1 Sam. 18:9).], and waited for him to do something that they could use against him. David was concerned that he might say or do something that his foes could use against him or his religion, or that he might fall into their hands through some foolish act of his own doing, which would afford them the opportunity to triumph over him:

• (Ps. 5:8) Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.

• (Luke 20:20) And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies

Don’t let them achieve their desires in regard to me; don’t let them be able to carry out their purposes. The word here rendered “will” means “soul,” but it is used here evidently to denote “wish” or “desire.”

• Psalm 35:25—“Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up.” Let them not congratulate themselves on the result; let them not feel that they have triumphed; let them not, under thy rule, come off victorious in doing wrong.

• Psalm 41:2—“The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed on the earth: and you will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.” The idea is, that he would find God to be a defender and a helper when he was attacked by his foes.

The desire of his enemies was no doubt to capture him, and bring him to Jerusalem as a prisoner.

For false witnesses are risen up against me

“False witnesses” are the psalmist’s enemies—literally “oppressors;” people who would make false charges against him, or who would wrongfully accuse him. They charged him with crimes which he never committed, and they persecuted him as if he were guilty of what they alleged he had done. The party which attached itself to Absalom accused David of cruelty to the house of Saul: “The LORD has returned on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead you have reigned; and the LORD has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son: and, behold, you are taken in your mischief, because you are a bloody man” (2 Samuel 16:8); and probably of other crimes and misdemeanors. Absalom himself accused him of a failure in his kingly duties (2 Samuel 15:8). Shimei is the speaker in 2 Samuel 15:8, and he probably charged David with the death of Saul, and Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Melchishua, slain in battle by the Philistines with whom David was in league; of Ish-bosheth, slain in consequence of David's league with Abner; that of Abner himself, which he attributed to David's secret orders; and all the 360 slain in the battle between Joab and Abner (2 Samuel 2:31). Some, too, think that the death of seven men of Saul's immediate family (2 Samuel 21:8) had occurred before David's flight, and was referred to by Shimei.

And such as breathe out cruelty

That is, they contemplate violence or cruel treatment. Saul of Tarsus “breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. . .” (Acts 9:1). It shows that his zeal against the followers of Christ was so outrageous that he could be satisfied with nothing less than their utter destruction. To "breathe out" violence, threats, slaughter, malice, etc., is a common metaphor in many languages. David alleges that this is a characteristic of his enemies; they “breathe out” cruelty; they were both false and cruel, and in both respects hateful to God and men.

There was a man who lived during the time of David, who was said to “breathe out cruelty”; Doeg the Edomite, whose tongue was a sharp razor, and by whose hands four score and five priests were slain, on account of David’s being supplied with bread by Ahimelech. Psalm 52:1 is a denunciation of this man: “Why boast you yourself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endures continually.” Doeg had no good reason for boasting since he had caused the slaughter of a band of defenseless priests. A mighty man indeed to kill men who never touched a sword! He ought to have been ashamed of his cowardice. He had no room for boasting!

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

I had fainted, unless I had believed

The words “I had fainted” are supplied by the translators, but they undoubtedly express the true sense of the verse. The psalmist refers to the state of mind of his enemies which produced their desire to destroy him, as mentioned in verse 12. They were so numerous, mighty, and formidable that he says his only help and encouragement was his faith in God; his belief that he would still be permitted to see the goodness of God upon the earth. In this time of bewilderment and ordeal he had confidence in God, and believed that He would sustain him, and would permit him to see the evidences of His goodness and mercy while he was still living on the earth. He does not say what was the ground of this confidence, but he fully believed that this would be so. He may have had some special assurance of it, or he may have had a deep internal conviction of it, sufficient to calm his mind; but whatever was the source of this confidence, it was sufficient to sustain him. There is a similar feeling indicated in this remarkable passage in Job: “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:25-27). There are few passages in the Holy Scriptures which rise to the level of this one. There is supreme confidence expressed in his Redeemer, the same kind of faith that David had, a man after God’s own heart.

To see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living

That is, that I should "live," and yet see and enjoy the gestures of the divine favor here upon the earth. He was supremely confident that he would one day “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”—By which he means, not only a continuance of the mercy and grace of God to his soul which he already had, and which sustained him in his trials, but that he would outlive his troubles, and would see or enjoy deliverance from them in this life, as well as deliverance from all his enemies, which is implied in the promise of the kingdom which God had given him. By “the land of the living,” he means this world, which, in Scripture, is often given that designation and is the opposite of the grave, which is the place of the dead. And David earnestly desired to have this blessing in this life, not because he placed his trust in these things, but because the truth and glory of God were highly concerned in making good the promise of the kingdom to him. Heaven, however, is still more suitably termed “the land of the living”; where there is no more death; this earth being rather the land of the dying. And nothing is more effective at keeping the soul from “fainting” under the calamities of this present age than the believing hope that rests in the goodness of the Lord in this world; but we can add to that the wonderful anticipation of those glories, and of those pleasures, which heaven will afford us.

14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Wait on the Lord

This summary statement takes in all the instruction in the psalm; it is the main lesson which the psalm is designed to convey. The object is to induce others, from the experience of the psalmist, to trust in the Lord; to rely upon Him; to come to Him in trouble and danger; to wait for His involvement when all other resources fail. That is also the sense of Psalm 25:3: “Indeed, no one who waits on you will be ashamed, but those who offend for no reason will be put to shame.” To "wait on the Lord" is an expression denoting true piety; it indicates our dependence on him, and it implies that we look to Him for the command that is to regulate our conduct and for the grace needed to protect and save us. Compare these lovely verses:

• Isaiah 40:31—“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”

• Isaiah 8:17—“And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.”

• Isaiah 30:18—“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”

This petition is indicative of the wish of the pious heart that none who truly serve God may ever be put to shame; that they may never be overcome by sin; that they may never fall under the power of temptation; that they may not fail to obtain eternal salvation.

Be of good courage

The Hebrew word here means, "Be strong;" that is, do not faint. Do not be dismayed. Still hope and trust in the Lord. The saints have need of courage when you consider the enemies they have to grapple with; the corruption of their own hearts, the enemies of a man’s own house; and the worst of all, Satan, and his principalities and powers. But those “who wait on the Lord” have good reason to “be of good courage,” since God is for them, Christ is the Captain of their salvation, and the Holy Spirit that is in them, and He is greater than he that is in the world; angels encamp around them; they are provided with the whole armor of God; they are engaged in a good cause, are sure of victory, and shall wear the crown of righteousness in heaven.

He shall strengthen thine heart

He will “strengthen;” he will enable you to perform your duties, and to triumph over your enemies. Isaiah 40:31, speaks of the strength which the Lord gives to those who “wait on the Lord,” and rely upon him for strength to bear their burdens:

1. They shall renew their strength; shall grow stronger and stronger in faith, and patience, and fortitude, whereby, they shall be more than conquerors over all their enemies and adversities.

2. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; which have the strength to fly swiftly, and high, out of the reach of all danger.

3. They shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint; they shall be enabled to run or walk as they please, without any weariness.

Wait, I say, on the Lord

He is repeating an idea with which his heart was full; an object lesson resulting from his own rich experiences. He dwells upon it as a lesson which he has stored in the deep recesses of his mind, that in all times of danger and difficulty, instead of despondency, instead of sinking down in despair, instead of giving up, he recalls that lesson and is enabled to go forward in the discharge of his duty, putting his trust solely in the Lord.

“Wait on the Lord”—if you are in distress, wait on the Lord. Take me for an example. I waited on him, and he strengthened my heart; wait on him, and he will strengthen your heart. You cannot be unsuccessful; so fear not. “Wait, I say, on the Lord”; wait for his help in doing his will—hope, believe, work, and fear not.