Welcome to this Psalm 27 Commentary. Please turn to Psalm 27.
The theme of Psalm 27 is Confidence in God’s Protection from Enemies.
So, let’s examine this psalm.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 1
Read our Psalm 27 1 Meaning Article.
And then come back and read the rest!
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 2
Next, David moves on in verse 2 to give an example of a time he was tempted to fear – but then the Lord provided this protective ministry to David.
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,
So, David recounts a time when he was attacked. This is likely speaking of a time he was being pursued by Saul and his army.
And David describes them as wicked, enemies, and foes.
That first word designates those who generally practice evil. While the second and third descriptors speak of how these people applied their evil toward David – by being his adversaries and those who would oppose and be hostile to him.
Came upon me to eat up my flesh,
And what David says they did to him can be rather shocking if you’re paying attention. He says that they came to eat his flesh.
And if we’re reading this poetry in a mechanical fashion then we start thinking that perhaps David’s attackers were literal cannibals.
But we have no reason to believe that that was the case. Poetry like this is full of picturesque images that convey truth. But the truth is not in the literal picture. The truth is in applying the picture to real life.
So, here when David says that his enemies came to eat his flesh he’s painting a picture for us of these men – again, probably Saul’s army – coming against him like a hungry predatory animal would. That’s the kind of creature that will literally eat your flesh! A lion or bear, etc.
Picture a lion coming after his prey – an ox or a hippopotamus. What can that prey do but run? And what is often the result? The prey often does not escape. And if that prey doesn’t escape, then the result is what David is speaking of here – his flesh is eaten by this hungry predator.
And that’s how David felt. He felt as if he were a helpless prey being stalked by these hungry predators. And if they got their hands on him, he would be a dead man.
They stumbled and fell.
But what actually happened when these men pursued David?
They stumbled and fell.
Ha! Not at all what those enemies expected, I’m sure.
Because, again, if we’re speaking of Saul’s army then when an entire army of men are pursuing one single person, what is most often the result?
I’d say the result is most often that the solitary fugitive is caught and destroyed.
But in David’s case, his enemies miraculously never harmed him.
Picture again the lion in pursuit of his prey. Oftentimes the only way that prey will escape is if his predator stumbles – if the prey darts one way and the predator loses his footing. And certainly, if the predator completely falls on his face, the prey is sure to escape.
And again, bring that back to David’s situation, and what he’s communicating is that God has protected him from some really life-threatening danger.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 3
And so, based upon God’s past deliverance, David expresses confidence that God will continue to protect him in verse 3.
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 should encamp against me,
We’re told in I Samuel 26:2 that Saul at one point brought 3,000 men of his army to hunt for David.
Imagine that. 3,000 against 1.
Those aren’t very encouraging odds.
My heart shall not fear:
And yet, based upon what God had already done for David, he expresses a commitment to not fear these odds.
I’m not sure who developed this quote – because I’ve seen several names associated with it – but it’s true that “You plus God make a majority.”
That’s what David is expressing here. He can face a whole camp of enemies without fear.
Because of what we’ve seen already – that God guides and protects and delivers.
Though war should rise against me,
Then David follows up with that parallel statement concerning war rising again him. War here is personified as if it can physically rise up like a man ready to attack someone.
In this will I be confident.
And yet, even if this were to happen, David is confident “in this” or in this situation – the situation of a host encamping against David or of war rising against him. In these situations as David scans them through his mind, he will be confident.
Literally in Hebrew, “I will trust.” That’s the source of his confidence – he’s trusting in the Lord – this one who is his light and his salvation.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 4
And those thoughts of trust and confidence in the Lord lead David to express his great desire to be in the Lord’s presence in verse 4.
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.
It’s interesting to note that though God was giving David protection from his enemies – that’s not really what David wanted. He greatly appreciated and needed protection from the Lord – but ultimately he wanted the Lord himself – not just the protection he provided.
And, by the way, when David speaks of God’s “temple” he’s still speaking of the tabernacle – because the Temple in Jerusalem had not yet been built. I suppose he’s using the term “temple” to refer generally to the place where God’s presence was specially manifested. And at that point this would have been wherever the ark of the covenant was.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 5
And yet, even though David ultimately wants the Lord and not just the protection he offers, David does enjoy the protection that the Lord provides. And so in verse 5 he expresses confidence yet again in God’s protection.
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.
David pictures himself as being hidden in the Lord’s tent – his pavilion, his tabernacle. David feels as though he is set on high upon a rock that is inaccessible. No one can touch him.
He feels God’s protection.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 6
And because of this wonderful protection from the Lord, David praises him in verse 6.
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.
The concept of having one’s head lifted above his enemies would be one of being exalted above those others. And because God would vindicate and protect David in that way he was going to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving – as Hebrews says – the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 7
But then verse 7 seems to wrench us back to uncertainty and fear. David once again petitions God for help.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice:
have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 8
But then verse 8 brings us right back to contentment with the Lord and seeking his face.
8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face;
my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
What is it to seek God’s face? It’s a poetic way of speaking of prayer. Of asking God for help, like we saw David doing in verse 7. When David asks the Lord to hear him and to answers him and to be merciful to him, what David is doing in seeking God’s face.
The picture is getting the attention of the Lord. As if he were a man who was distracted with other things – but you need him to pay attention to you. And the way to do that is to get his face – to have him look at and pay attention to you. That’s what you need.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 9
And so with God’s face in David’s mind – in terms of seeking it – David asks that God would not hide that face of his from David.
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.
So, the Lord in verse 8 commanded David to seek his face and David willingly sought God’s face. He sought God’s attention to his troubling situations.
But we all know that getting someone’s attention one time is no guarantee that he will keep his attention fixed on you. So, David here asks that God would not hide his face. As David was seeking God’s face, the unbearable thought comes to him – “What if God were to make himself inaccessible to me? What if he were to hide, as it were, his face?”
And so David pitifully pleads with the Lord that this would not be the case. That God would not hide his face. That God would not be angry with David and put him away in anger. That he wouldn’t leave or forsake David.
And David reminds the Lord of what he is to him. The Lord is David’s help and the God of his salvation.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 10
And then David comes back from that request to not hide from him to express more confidence in the Lord in verse 10.
10 When my father and my mother forsake me,
then the LORD will take me up.
In other words, even when the dearest and most relied-upon people in your life abandon you, you can count on this – that the Lord will not abandon you.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 11
Then David petitions the Lord to teach him how to live in light of his enemies in verse 11.
11 Teach me thy way, O LORD,
and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
It’s as if in David’s mind, those enemies are on either side of the path waiting to get him. And so, David asks that the Lord would keep him on that path and not let him get off that safe path.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 12
And with David’s enemies in his mind, he continues to petition the Lord concerning them in verse 12.
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.
So, these enemies are rising against David to harm him. They’re lying about David.
And that word cruelty is actually the Hebrew chamas. There’s a terror organization in Israel today that goes by that name or something close to it. The word means “violence.” These enemies of David’s breathe out violence toward him.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 13
And that leads David to express in verse 13 his utter hopelessness…unless the Lord protects him.
13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Psalm 27 Commentary Verse 14
And then David finishes this psalm where he’s been extolling and asking for God’s protection with a note of confidence in God’s help.
14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the LORD.
David turns to us now – the audience – and exhorts us to do exactly what he’s been learning himself in the psalm. Based on God’s protection from enemies, he has learned to wait on the Lord. He wants us to do the same thing.
You might be discouraged. Your heart might be cast down. But he tells us that we have reason to be of good courage. And if we wait on the Lord – wait patiently for his help and not be discouraged then the promise is that he shall strengthen our heart.
And he knows this isn’t easy and that we need constant encouragement toward this kind of waiting on the Lord. And so David ends by repeating what he just said – wait, I say, on the Lord!
So, may the Lord help us to wait patiently as we seek him to protect us from our enemies.