Year C - Lent 2 : Psalm 27 ( Luke 13:31-35; Phil.3:17-4:1 )

I wonder if anyone here can relate to a time when they were under serious, physical attack in a war-like scenario ? Some may be able to remember sheltering from air raids. Others serving in the forces in dangerous locations. For people of my age and younger it is difficult to imagine, even though there have recently been terrorist bombs in the U.K.

David had been set apart by God to be the next King of Israel. The current King Saul was jealous of David and wanted to kill him. David escaped from Saul, then hid in the town of Keilah. God led David to leave this town and Saul pursued him. This is the background to 1 Samuel 23: 14 David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands. 19T he Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, "Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? 20 Now, O king, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for handing him over to the king." 21 Saul replied, "The LORD bless you for your concern for me. 22 Go and make further preparation. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. 23 Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah."

24 So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David. 26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul.

You can imagine David thinking back to this time when he wrote this Psalm. This Psalm is split into four parts :Faith in difficulties, verses 1-3; Faith and worship, verses 4-6; Faith and Prayer, verses 7-12; A Confident faith, verses 13f.

Faith in difficulties, verses 1-3;

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?

Light represents many things : illuminating a path; purity; security; and revelation. Salvation is saving from something that would do us harm. This could include enemies, sickness and death.

Stronghold conveys a protection, security, and preservation

David writes these words from personal experience. He says the Lord is my light, my salvation, my stronghold. He has been called by God to lead His people ( 1 Samuel 16:13 ) and so David can have the confidence that the God who had called and equipped him for a task would also bring that call to fruition.

Saul had an evil spirit ( 1 Samuel 18:10f. ) which resulted in him trying to kill David with a spear. Perhaps this prompted David to write...

2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.

This is a personal declaration of trust by David in the light of God's call. It cannot, therefore, be used as a confident assertion by someone today who is attacked or in a war today. There, are other passages of Scripture that assure us of God's love, care and protection for us.

Faith and worship, verses 4-6;

4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;

at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.

I don't know if you ever watch the golf on the television. If only to listen to Peter Allis' dry wit. But you will sometimes see a golfer getting ready to play his shot and the commentator will say that the right line is to aim for a particular tree, or lady with a big pink hat. David is single minded. He does not focus on his enemies, but his God. he asks for ONE thing, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life. This involves a number of things :

- gazing at the beauty of the Lord - looking to God in wonder and adoration for who he is;

- seeking the Lord in His temple - this does not literally mean going to The Temple in Jerusalem, which may not have been built then. It is about coming into the presence of God to pray, praise, and worship Him. This could be in a place of worship or at home, driving the car, walking in the countryside, waiting at a queue in the supermarket, or anywhere we may find ourselves.

- security: in the presence of God David is safe from his enemies. 5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. During the time of David a fortified city would be built on a hill or large rock. Jerusalem, the city that David captured and called 'The City of David' is an example ( 2 Samuel 5:5-9 ). The rock here symbolizes God, his unfailing strength and his ability to protect like a fortress.

This protection will result in David sacrificing with shouts of joy and singing and making music to the LORD ( verse 6b ). The sacrifice would be a thank offering for the deliverance that God brings.

When we think of what God has done in delivering us from slavery to sin and death into eternal life we, too should be thankful. This should result in the sacrifice of our lives for His service and joyful worship.

Faith and Prayer, verses 7-12;

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.

9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me,

10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.

Many times in the Psalms when the Psalmist is in trouble he will ask God why he has turned his face away. Here David is more confident that God will hear and answer his prayer. This confidence is based on a number of things :

1) 8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.

The heart is seen as the centre of the spirit, the source of thoughts and emotions. The approach of David is that God has made the heart and inspired the desire to seek God. He would not do this without being prepared to answer the prayer.

2) 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.

God has helped David in the past, and David relies upon this to give him confidence that God will continue to help him. It is an encouragement to our faith when we are going through difficult times to look back on God's faithfulness in our lives and to know this will continue.

3) 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.

We are not to think that David's parents abandoned him ! This is a figure of speech to illustrate the great love and acceptance of God. The assumption is that someone would have to do a lot to cause his loving parents to reject him. But that, even if this happened God's love is so much greater than a parent's that he would not reject anyone.

This reminds us of the words of Jesus in John 6:37 'whoever comes to me I will never drive away'

11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 'Straight paths' refers to the right path, rather than an easy path. As we read in Philippians 3:17-4:1 we are to live holy lives, behaving like citizens of heaven, standing firm in the Lord. This means that we should devote our whole lives, our time, our energy, our money and possessions, our abilities, and our worship to God.

The right path, even though it is not the easiest.

A Confident faith, verses 13f.

13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

David is confident that God will answer his prayer, and also patient.

Earlier I read from 1 Samuel 23, and left Saul chasing David round a mountain. This is the conclusion of what happened and shows the Lord's sovereign power in rescuing David...

26b As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27a messenger came to Saul, saying, "Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land." 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth.( which means 'rock of parting' ) 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.

God is a light to walk by, and an invisible protective barrier. David showed his commitment to God's ways whilst in danger. In our gospel reading ( Luke 13:31-35 ) we see Jesus' trust and commitment to God. He was not scared of Herod and would steadfastly continue to follow God's way in the knowledge that this would lead him to Jerusalem, rejection by his own people, and crucifixion.

Today, few of us face physical danger like David or Jesus did. There are, however, parts of the world where Christians are in physical danger because of their faith.

We should pray for them.

The problems people face today are more likely to be redundancy, illness, or bereavement. For ourselves, this week, we think of Valda's recent death an the way this affects us personally and as a church.

What message can we take from today's passages ?

We can trust in God because he loves us, is sovereign, and has shown himself to be trustworthy before.

We should seek his presence with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. To focus on him in our worship and witness. To follow His ways, standing firm in the Lord as citizens of heaven.

We can look forward with confidence to the time that we will be face to face with Jesus, safe from all of the troubles of this world. Philippians 3: 20 And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.