A Triumphant Faith
Topic: English Passage: Psalm 27:1-14
David, as you might expect, is the most commonly listed author in Psalms. His name is attached to 73 of them, and there are two more psalms which the New Testament attributes to David as well. That brings the total to 75 which is half of the 150 collected for us.
Obviously, we could say that David was gifted to write psalms. He was a skilled musician. He was a wise man with a variety of experiences that led him to write. But we also need to recognize that these songs he wrote didn’t primarily come from his musical skill, or from the circumstances of his life. His musical skill helped him write and perform these songs, and his life circumstances provided a background for what he wrote, but these songs primarily flowed out of his relationship with God.
He wasn’t writing down some kind of creative expression. He wasn’t primarily writing about his own life. He wasn’t writing about His God. And having that intimate relationship with God was expressed in every season of his life.
Psalm 27 is a psalm about trusting God even when danger is close. Some psalms have a very somber tone to them, and it seems like faith is barely hanging on. Psalm 27 is not one of those psalms. This is a triumphant song. It’s a psalm of victory. For those who really know God, this is how we can respond to any trial or any danger.
What does triumphant faith look like? That’s the questions we’re going to be answering as we look at Psalm 27, and what we’re going to see are four characteristics of it. I hope God moves us in this direction as we study and meditate on His word. What does triumphant faith look like?
The first attribute we see is this: Confidence in the face of enemies. Confidence in the face of enemies. This is what we see in verses 1-3. Let’s read that one more time. Verse 1-3.
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?
When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
If you are familiar with David’s life, you’ll know that attacks on his life were not simply a possibility; they were a certainty. As a young man, King Saul wanted him dead. And later, once he became king, rival kings wanted him dead as well. He was even driven out at one point by his son Absalom. But even in those times, David demonstrated a profound, godly confidence.
Godly confidence is different than recklessness because recklessness ignores human wisdom. If you go through life like a reckless child, assuming your father is going to protect you, that’s not godly confidence. That’s foolishness. That’s not how David lived. He didn’t presume on God’s grace.
He also didn’t have a prideful arrogance. Prideful arrogance is the assumption that either danger won’t come, or, if it does, you will be able to handle it on your own. In other words, you don’t need help. You can take care of it. You can protect yourself. That’s the confidence of this world.
Godly confidence, on the other hand, is the recognition that I am overpowered. I am in over my head. I am not strong enough to battle against what’s coming. But I don’t have to be. My God is watching over me. I trust in Him.
That is David’s heart as this psalm begins. He says, “Yahweh is my light and my salvation.” In times of darkness, He leads me. In times of danger, He saves me. He is my stronghold. He is my refuge. He protects me.
This doesn’t mean David didn’t feel the natural response of concern about what is going to happen. But He recognized that the God who watches over him is greater than whatever is coming after him. He knows it theologically, and he knows it experientially. He has seen it in his life from the time he was a boy and he has rehearsed that truth in worship. He knows God is the one behind every salvation he’s ever experienced, whether it was a lion or a bear or a Philistine giant or a rival king. So, he’s not fearful. He’s not afraid. He is confident in the God who watches over him.
David uses strong and vivid language to describe what he’s up against. Verse 2 says evildoers are approaching him to eat up his flesh. That is hunting language, like how a lion eats the flesh of a gazelle. David is being hunted. His life is at risk because of these adversaries.
In verse 3, David uses the imagery of an army at war. He’s outnumbered. Later on, this psalm indicates that David doesn’t deserve what’s happening to him. Verse 12 says his enemies are false witnesses. They are slandering him. They are making up accusations and calling for violence against him. But no matter how many enemies there are, no matter how mighty they may be, David trusts that God will give him the victory. When they come chasing after him, verse 2 says, it is they who stumble and fall.
From the opening words of this psalm, you see David’s confidence in the face of his enemies. That’s the point of the rhetorical questions inverse 1. Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid? The answer is: “No one, because God watches over me?” Verse 3 says: Even is an army is going to war against me, my heart shall not fear. I will be confident.
Can you say that in your own life? If you know Christ, you can. Maybe the better question is: Do you say that? Do you face this life and all its potential and actual dangers with this kind of confidence? If not, how do you do that? How do you grow in confidence?
You don’t get godly confidence by ignoring the danger. You don’t get godly confidence by relying on your own intellect or power. Godly confidence comes from understanding and rehearsing the power of God and the plan of God. Those are the major factors, and they are two of the major themes of the psalms: the power of God and the plan of God.
You need to meditate, you need to remind yourself, of God’s power. He created this world. He is greater than anything you could ever face. But you can’t just stop there. Knowing God’s power alone isn’t enough. You need to understand His plan. Is this God on your side, or isn’t He?
All of us come into this life with sin. And our sin separates us from God. By ourselves, we are His enemies. But by God’s grace, through our repentance from sin and our trust in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, God declares us to be His friends. We are reconciled to Him. He adopts us as His children. And now, God is on our side, and He has a plan for us.
Romans 8 asks: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
In the plan of God, we have been united to Him and He watches over us.
In David’s case, God’s plan was to make him the next king. So, he knew that God would sustain his life. That was a tremendous source of confidence.
You have a similar confidence in Acts with Paul. In chapter 18, after facing severe persecution in Corinth, God says to Paul, “Don’t be afraid. Keep preaching because I am with you. No one here is going to harm you.” So, Paul kept on doing what he was doing.
Later, in Acts 27, Paul is on a boat that is caught in a horrific storm, and God sends Paul another message: “Don’t be afraid. You will stand before Caesar, and no one else on the ship is going to lose their life.” And Paul encouraged the rest of the men with that message.
So, David and Paul, in the examples I just gave had promises from God for their physical protection for a time. Do you and I have that kind of promise from God? Physically speaking, we don’t. God is not revealing to us that none of us are going to get hit by a car, or be put in jail, or die of some disease or in some form of persecution. There’s no guarantee that we’ll be spared from that. But we do know God’s plan for us spiritually, right? We know where this is all headed.
That’s a major part of what we have seen and will continue to see when we get back to First Peter next week, Lord willing. We have an eternal, glorious inheritance waiting for us. We are protected by the power of God. Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you, and I will take you to Myself.” And nothing will thwart those plans. One day, you and I are going to see and experience the infinite glory of Jesus Christ firsthand. He has guaranteed it for all who belong to Him.
And this joyful expectation leads us to a second characteristic of triumphant faith. Verses 1-3 show us a confidence in the face of enemies. Verses 4-6 give us a second characteristic: Gladness in the presence of God. Confidence in the face of enemies and gladness in the presence of God.
David isn’t just relieved that God will protect Him; he loves God. He wants to be near God. That’s real, triumphant faith. It’s a relational faith. It’s not being saved by some stranger. It’s being rescued by your heavenly Father who adopts you into His joyful household.
As we look at verse 4, notice how focused David is now, not on his salvation, but on His relationship with God. Here’s what it says:
One thing have I asked 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 gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
One of the key words there is “beauty.” David isn’t just grateful for God’s protection; He is delighted by God’s presence. He longs to be with God. That’s what he seeks.
What are you chasing after? What is it that you pursue with your life?
There’s a difference between what you spend your time doing and what you pursue. The majority of your day might be spent working, but that doesn’t mean your heart is in it. A lot of people work because they have to, but what they’re looking forward to is clocking out. And they look forward to vacation and to retirement.
When you’re done doing whatever it is you have to do, what do you want? Where do you go? You go to something that is beautiful.
To say that something is beautiful means that it’s attractive. There is some kind of pleasure in this thing, and you want more of it. Can you say that about God? Is that true in your life? Is this a relationship that matters to you? Or is God simply some ticket to get out of hell or to feel better about yourself? If that’s all He is to you, you don’t have real faith.
Psalm 27 helps us see that there is a connection between our confidence in God and our delight in him. In Psalm 16, David says: You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
When David talks about God’s beauty, he’s not talking about how God looks, because David had never seen God with his physical eyes. He is talking about the goodness of God. He’s talking about His character. David longs to know God better, so he is dedicated to getting to know Him.
That’s what happens in human relationships, isn’t it? At least, that’s how it should be. My wife and I aren’t content simply with seeing pictures of one another. We want an ongoing relationship. We want to keep getting to know one another. And that’s what David wants with God.
Verse 5 describes God as the source of David’s confidence, and verse 6 is David making plans to worship Him for his protection.
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 lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be 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.
David is anticipating God’s salvation in this circumstance, and he is anticipating praising God for it in corporate worship. He's saying, “Take me back to the Tabernacle, so that I can personally express my gratitude with sacrifices and with joyful singing!”
Corporate worship is not about rituals. It’s not about checking some box that says you came to church. I hope you know that. It’s about us drawing near to God in prayer and in worship and in song. And God draws near to us as we hear Him speak from His word. God wants us to delight in a relationship with Him.
Like David, God wants you to be glad in Him. God wants you to seek Him. The more you know God—the more you delight in Him—the more you will experience godly confidence. That’s what God wants for you. He wants triumphant faith.
Now, in light of all that we’ve seen, this third characteristic is very important. It’s not the opposite of confidence; it’s parallel to it, even if it doesn’t seem that way. Characteristic number 1 was confidence in the face of enemies. Characteristic number 2 was gladness in the presence of God. Characteristic number 3 is dependence on the grace of God. Dependence on the grace of God.
Dependence is the opposite of independence. God doesn’t zap you with some kind of ability to handle life on your own. Jesus, who promised His disciples they would be cared for, also said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
Confidence and dependence are not mutually exclusive. It’s not just one or the other. They go together. There needs to be humility in our relationship with God. We can’t stop going to Him. We can never stop acknowledging our need. Even though we know God is faithful, even though we know His promises, we need to go to Him in dependent prayer. That’s what David models for us in verses 7-12. And remember, this kind of desperation is not incompatible with godly confidence. They go hand-in-hand.
Starting in verse 7 what you get is a string of desperate pleas for salvation. Verse 7—Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!
Doesn’t David know that God will hear Him? Yes, He does. But He doesn’t presume on God’s grace. The grace of the King does not remove our reverence for His majesty. David knows God is under no external obligation to hear him. And that’s the same for us. We know God hears us because He has obligated Himself to do so. He has committed Himself in love to do so. But it’s all an act of grace. We don’t deserve it.
In verse 8, David is saying, “Father, you have called us to come before You in times of need, and that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m coming before you with my requests.”
Verse 8—You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek."
And then, in verses 9-12, we get more specific requests.
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.
Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
Do your prayers ever sound like that? Do you go before the throne of your God with that kind of desperation? You’re supposed to.
Desperation in prayer is not the opposite of godly confidence. It’s the natural result of it. If you’re not praying desperately before the Lord, you don’t have godly confidence. You have self-confidence. You have an arrogant heart.
One of the tragedies of our nation is how little we suffer. And that comfortable life saps away our desperation for God. That’s why Jesus said, “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” The pleasures and the comforts of this world suck away our desperation. But when you dwell on God’s majesty. When you realize the kind of life God is calling you to live—in loving your wife, in responding to the sins of others, in being patient with your children—you will go to Him begging for grace.
Like David says in verse 11, you’re gonna say, “O God, teach me Your way. Help me walk in righteousness and truth.”
Even if you don’t have earthly enemies at the moment, you will be aware of your spiritual enemies. Satan is a lion seeking someone to devour. His demons are luring us away from Christ. They distract us with their lies. We are in a war every single day. And so we can pray verse 12, “Please don’t give me up to the will of my adversaries.”
We’ve said this before from Psalm 34, but this is a good time to say it again. Our Lord is near to the brokenhearted. He saves the crushed in spirit.
Don’t buy into the lie that we are supposed to face each day, or come to church, saying, “Everything is fine. I’m good. I’m going to have a great day.” You and I are in a war every single day. And it’s draining. It’s tiring. We need help. We need one another. And we need to go to God in desperate prayer. We need to depend on Him.
When I was younger, I remember that there was this sense of people responding to religion by saying, “Religion is a crutch. I don’t need that.” The proper response to that is not to prove that we don’t need a crutch in life. The proper response to that is to tell someone, “Look, it’s worse than you think. In Jesus Christ, we live and move and have our being. He’s holding this entire universe together, let alone my own life. And you can either submit to Him and be saved, or rebel against Him and face His judgment.”
That’s the Christian message. We are absolutely dependent on God physically and spiritually. And that dependence is not an absence of faith. It is the fruit of it.
There’s one final characteristic of triumphant faith, and it comes to us in the final two verses. Number 1, there was a confidence in the face of enemies. Number 2, a gladness in the presence of God. Number 3, a dependence on the grace of God, and number 4, a perseverance in a world of danger. Perseverance in a world of danger.
Confidence and gladness and dependence are all good. But not if they only last a day, right? We need to keep running the race. We need to keep fighting the fight.
I was able to go see Ryan wrestle a few weeks back, and I was reminded that the Apostle Paul used wrestling language in the New Testament. We wrestle against spiritual forces. We labor. We strive. We fight. Those were terms used for the Olympic games. They are words that mean to work to the point of exhaustion.
If you’ve ever wrestled, you know how taxing it is on the body. You don’t get a break. If you think you can rest for 5 seconds while you’re in the middle of a match, it’s over. You can’t drop your guard. What you need is perseverance.
That’s how David closes this psalm. He demonstrates his own perseverance, and he calls us to do the same. Let’s read verses 13 and 14.
I believe that I shall look upon
the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
What’s the key word in that final verse? What’s the command that gets repeated? … Wait. Wait.
For those of you who know Spanish, you recognize the connection between waiting and hoping, right? It’s the same word. Esperar.
This is not describing a passive waiting where you’re just waiting for enough time to pass. This is describing a hopeful expectancy. This is something you know will happen and you have made decisions in light of it.
This is like the person who spends their income tax refund before it arrives. I’m not saying that’s a wise thing to do, I’m just making a comparison. If you don’t get a tax return, don’t feel bad; it’s just an analogy. You can come up with your own.
If your income tax statement says you’re gonna get $1,000 back, maybe you play it safe and wait. Or maybe you decide to use your credit card and buy your family something nice. If that’s the case, you make that purchase counting on the fact that the refund will be coming.
That future certainty affected your present decisions. And then it affects your current attitude. Your waiting for Uncle Same to come through with his end of the bargain. You’re checking your bank statement to see if it’s been deposited already. If you it’s coming in the mail, you’re checking the mail. There is an eager expectation.
Well, according to the plan of God, we are waiting for something much more glorious and impressive than a check. We are waiting for our eternal reward. And Paul said that the sufferings of this life will never measure up to the glory of the next. It isn’t even close! We’re banking on the certainty of God’s promises.
That’s David’s heart in verse 13. I believe! I believe! Do you believe? Do you believe that God works all things out for His glory and for the good for those that love Him? Do you believe that God is working out His perfect plan?
If so, then you keep hanging on. Wait for the Lord. Persevere in your faith. Be strong, and let your heart take courage! Wait for the Lord!
David is an amazing example to us of a man with triumphant faith. And this past week, I was thinking about other examples in church history of men with triumphant faith. One of them was Martin Luther of the Reformation. The Catholic Church was trying to find him so they could kill him. They were trying to stop his translation of the Bible into the common language of the people. He could feel the power of Satan seeking to end his life, and he wrote a hymn. It's called "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Here's what it says:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He
The Lord of hosts His name, from age to age the same
And He must win the battle
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him
That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever
That was the confidence of Martin Luther, and that has been the confidence of the church ever since Christ established it.
You had a chance to read another example of triumphant faith this week if you are studying the book of Acts with your home group. You saw it in Stephen. It's a sad story to say that he died, but as you read it, you see that it's a triumphant story.
Stephen was surrounded by enemies. The mob hated him, but that didn’t change anything in his heart. He saw the glory of God. He saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he was dying, his faith never wavered. He said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He knew God’s plan for His life. He knew God’s heart for the Jews. And so, his final words were, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.” And God took him into His presence.
Like David and like Stephen, whether the Lord saves our lives or decides to take us ot Himself, we pray He sustains us with triumphant faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.