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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:A confession of confidence and yet more confidence
Text:Psalms 27:1-3; 13-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2010
Added:2010-06-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 147:1-3
Psalm 119:40 (after the law)
Psalm 118:1,2
Psalm 27:1,6
Hymn 6

Reading: Matthew 6:25-34
Text: Psalm 27 (read the whole psalm, but focus is on 1-3 and 13-14)
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ Jesus,

 

Someone once said that the most dishonest time in a worship service is during the singing.  When we open our Books of Praise, we take words on our lips that we might never say to God in private, words that we might not even be sure we believe.  Take this Psalm for instance.  We’ve sung this Psalm in church many times.  In our new rhyming , we’ve sung that last line of the first stanza, “I will be confident, I will not fear.” 

 

Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that fear is a big part of who we are, what we do, what we think and what we say.  In many ways, fear grips us; sometimes we don’t even realize it.  Perhaps it’s fear of things that we can’t control.  Perhaps it’s fear of other people.  Maybe it’s fear of failure.  Go further and think of all the different sorts of phobias that exist.  Maybe you fear going to the dentist – that would be odontophobia.  Afraid of heights? – that would make you an acrophobiac.  I have an irrational fear of stickiness, especially sweet stickiness – that’s called myxophobia.  If you look on the Internet there are huge lists of phobias and I’m sure you could find a few to call your own.  There’s a reason why Sir Francis Bacon quipped, “There is a limit to pain, but there is no limit to fear.” 

 

There is a reason why God’s most frequent command in Scripture is “Do not be afraid,” or words to that effect.  You’ll find that in the Bible over 300 times:  “Do not be afraid.”   That tells you something about God:  he knows our fears and is alert to them.  Not only that, but when he says, “Do not fear,” those are not the casual, wishful thinking words of a mere mortal.  Rather, when God says, “Do not fear,” he is the one who can not only speak, but act.  In Jesus Christ he is our Father, the one who loves us deeply.  He is our King, the one who has unlimited power, authority and dominion.  He is generous, giving his children everything they need and doing so out of pleasure and delight.

 

Our generous Father and King comes to us with his Word this morning and leads us into yet greener pastures of his revelation.  We may be people filled with fears, but God gives us Psalm 27 as a prayer, a vision of who we can and will become.  As a prayer or vision, we’ll see that it can indeed be read, sung, and prayed honestly.  While we’ll have an eye to the entire Psalm, we’re going to be especially concentrating on the verses at the beginning and verses at the end.  As we do that, we’ll see that there is a confession here, a confession of confidence and yet more confidence. 

 

We’ll consider:

 

The cornerstone of this confidence

The contours of this confidence

The consequences of this confidence

 

We’re not sure what the historical background to this Psalm might be.  That happens more often in the Psalms and that tells us that God designed many of the Psalms to be directly and universally applicable.  From a Korowai Christian woman in Papua, Indonesia to a French Christian man in France, to a Canadian Christian child, the Psalms speak to God’s people from every culture in every age and place.  God’s people in every era and in every culture have had their fears.  In this particular Psalm the fears have to do with other people, enemies who are literally trying to kill David.  David is facing the fear of these enemies.

 

Faced with that fear, David begins and ends his Psalm with a focus on Yahweh.  Remember that LORD in all capital letters is Yahweh in Hebrew.  David uses God’s personal, covenant name, both at the beginning and end of the Psalm.  Yahweh is literally the first word in the Hebrew and also the last – and this is nicely reflected in our Bible translation.

 

“Yahweh is my light and my salvation.”  What does it mean that Yahweh is our light?  Light means safety and the ability to see what’s really going on around you.  Light is what makes everything clear.  Light prevents or mitigates confusion and chaos.  Enemies prefer to attack under the cover of darkness, enhancing the element of surprise.  Light also means life.  It’s a metaphor for truth.  It means the banishment of all evil.  Yahweh is all those things.  God dwells in unapproachable light, he the one who will not have evil in his presence.  God is the one in whom there is no darkness, he is truth.  God is the source of all life.  Where God is present, there are no surprise attacks.  Where God is present, there is no confusion or chaos.  Yahweh gives safety and he gives the eyes of faith to see that he is in control.  Yahweh is the light of his people. 

 

He is also their salvation.  Here it’s really tempting to say, we all know what that’s about, so let’s just assume it and move forward.  But loved ones, all kinds of mischief happens when we begin to assume the gospel.  So, let’s reflect again and delight again in what it means that God is our salvation.  Let’s take our starting point with David, the human author of this Psalm.  David lived in the Promised Land.  God had promised that land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  In the time of the Exodus, God led his people like a mighty warrior.  Think of Jericho and the mighty walls that came crashing down.  What about the time that Yahweh caused the sun and moon to stand still?  This was the defeat of the Amorites.  Joshua 10:11, “As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD [Yahweh] hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.”  We read that Yahweh heard the prayer of Joshua and lengthened the day till the victory was complete.  Then we read in Joshua 10:14, “There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man.  Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!”  When David wrote that Yahweh was his salvation, these are the sorts of things he had in mind.  God is more powerful than all his enemies put together, no one can stand against him. 

 

And as we read these words, we know that they’re even more meaningful today.  We can rejoice in God’s mighty deeds in battle in the Old Testament, but we can rejoice even more in God’s victories in the New Testament.  Jesus Christ conquered sin and death – Yahweh is our salvation!  Our Lord Jesus has victory over the curse of sin, over Satan, over the world, over our sinful nature.  We see it in the gospels, but elsewhere in the New Testament as well.  In fact, just to take one book, the whole message of the book of Revelation can be summed up in two words:  Jesus wins.    

 

So, Yahweh is David’s (and ours) light and salvation.  He is also the stronghold of his life.  In the ancient world, strongholds were safe places that were relatively easy to defend against attackers.  Strongholds were usually built on high mountains and had thick walls, sometimes up to 15 feet thick.  Strongholds were meant to be impenetrable and intimidating.  And did you know that most of the times that the Bible speaks about strongholds, it’s not about the literal, physical stronghold that men might build, but about God?  This is one of the most common and yet powerful ways that Scripture speaks about God.  God is the unshakable strength that no enemy can ever threaten.  Enemies have to learn that God is not defeatable, they have to learn that God is someone that they should be intimidated by.  Yahweh is the stronghold of the believer’s life.  When we trust in God, we are in his stronghold, in his loving care and protection. 

 

Now all that being the case, we can make David’s prayer or vision our own.  Whom shall we fear?  Of whom shall we be afraid?  We pray that God would make us to realize that we have nothing to fear.  Our vision is that we would become people who can see the big picture and be confident that our Father is always there.  In the midst of our fears, the worst thing that can happen is tunnel vision.  When you have tunnel vision, you can only see one set of facts and you’re fixed on those.  Nothing else exists besides those facts.  Right at the beginning, as we pray and sing this Psalm, we ask God to take the blinders off so that our vision becomes expansive, so that we can see all the facts, most of all the fact that Yahweh is our light, our salvation, our stronghold.  And with that expanded vision comes confidence, the knowledge that sets our souls at ease.  Yahweh is the cornerstone of David’s confidence, as he must be the cornerstone of our confidence. 

 

That confidence takes on more contours as it enters into the concrete world of flesh and blood in verse 2.  David imagines evil men advancing against him with animal-like or perhaps even cannibalistic aggression.  They want to eat his flesh.  He imagines his adversaries getting ready to pile on top of him to crush him.  David says that when they come out, they’re going to stumble and fall.  God will make these fierce soldiers into klutzes. 

 

Years ago there was a sitcom called Hogan’s Heroes.  It was about a group of Allied soldiers during the Second World War who had been captured and imprisoned by the Nazis.  The Germans, especially Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz, were made out to be buffoons – they weren’t to be taken seriously and Hogan and the other Allied characters were definitely not afraid of them.  It’s the same picture that we see here in our Psalm.  The enemies are stumbling about – you can’t take them all that seriously.  They can besiege David, they can make war, but nothing will shake his confidence.

 

He’s supremely confident in who God is and what God will do.  He knows that Yahweh is all those things from verse 1, but here with faith he sees what Yahweh will accomplish.  He has a vision for God’s victory as an essential part of his confidence.  He has a vision for the humiliation and defeat of the enemy.

 

Now what about with us?  Well, consider that if God can be trusted to reduce life-threatening flesh and blood enemies to the ancient equivalent of Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz, then certainly he can be trusted with all the worries and fears that you face day in and day out.  If he can be trusted to take care of physical attackers, you can trust him to take care of your financial future.  You can trust him to do right with your family.  You can trust him to take care of all your daily needs.  You can trust him with all the relatively small stuff. 

 

Taking things further, the gospel teaches us that we can trust God not only to take care of the small stuff and our human enemies, but also the Enemy with a capital ‘E.’  1 Peter 5:8 tells us that the devil is our enemy and he’s like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  He intends to do us harm.  At the cross it appeared that he had the victory.  It appeared that he had destroyed the Son of God.  But just as Haman hung on the gallows he intended for Mordecai in the book of Esther, so also the cross was the undoing of the devil.  God humiliated and defeated Satan.  The cross of Christ was God’s victory, it was Christ’s victory, and it’s our victory too. 

 

It’s not only our victory over Satan, but also the place where we find propitiation, where God’s wrath is turned away, the cross is where God ceases to be our enemy and his favour comes upon us.  It was the Lord Jesus who said in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  The cross dispels the fear of God’s wrath and condemnation and reminds us of what Christ says a couple verses further in Matthew 10, “So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.”

 

In the middle of the Psalm, David works out further what it looks like to have the big picture straight.  The big picture is that the most important thing is to desire God and his presence.  The big picture given here tells us about the beauty of Yahweh – that we should be distracted from our earthly worries and concerns through obsession with God, a longing to gaze upon his beauty, to dwell in intimate fellowship with him.  David could only hope for the opportunity to see God’s beauty, but we can see it everywhere in the New Testament in Christ – and we have his Spirit living in us.  Because we live on this side of the cross, the big picture is even more clear, God is even more beautiful, there is all the more reason to desire him, to have him live close to us. 

 

Then in verses 7 to 12, David addresses Yahweh directly.  Before this he has been speaking with us and himself about Yahweh.  Now he speaks directly to him.  As we pray our prayers each day, Psalm 27 also presents a model or paradigm for us.  How often don’t we just trot out our grocery list when we pray?  I need this, I pray for that.  I ask for this, I plead for him.  To be sure, God wants us to do that.  He wants us to pray for everything we need.  He wants us to intercede for others, also to share with him our fears, worries and anxieties.  But what about taking our starting point in adoration for God, remembering who he is and what he’s done?  That’s a challenge for us, isn’t it?  It becomes a challenge when we’re too worldly and we’ve absorbed the world’s self-centeredness.  It also becomes a challenge when we so easily forget about all that God has done in Scripture and in our lives.  We don’t often meditate on God’s victories in the Old Testament and if we’re not familiar with them, they don’t easily come to mind as we pray.  There are other factors too (too quick?  too lazy?), but whatever they may be, this Psalm is like the Lord’s Prayer.  Like the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 27 challenges us, teaches us to pray differently – to more often self-consciously postpone our requests and intercessions until we’ve remembered the character of our God. 

 

David did that and then he brought his requests before God.  He asked God to hear his voice, he asked God not to hide his face, or to reject him or forsake him.  He asked God to teach him, to lead him in a straight path.  And he asked Yahweh not to turn him over to the desire of his enemies, those who were breathing out violence.

 

Verse 13 is David’s “Amen” to his prayer.  He says that he is still confident that he will see God’s goodness in the land of the living.  He was confident before, but he’s even more confident now.  And that word “confidence” in Hebrew is related to that familiar Hebrew word “Amen.”  “Amen” is a word of faith and confidence that we add at the end of our prayers.  The Catechism gets it right when it says that Amen means that it’s “true and certain.  For God has much more certainly heard my prayer than I feel in my heart that I desire this of him.”  Here in Psalm 27, David says, “I can say my Amen to this:  I will see God’s goodness in the land of the living.”

 

David is confident that God will not only be his light, salvation and stronghold in the hereafter, but also in the here and now.  In the brokenness of daily existence, God is there and he cares.  Even in the messiness of our day-to-day lives, God’s goodness never fails.  We may struggle with believing that.  We may have our doubts and fears.  But notice what God is doing in this Psalm.  He’s holding out a confession that he wants you to be able to make.  He speaks to your fearful heart, your heart that perhaps doubts and questions, wonders whether he is really near and whether he is really good.  He says, “Take these words on your lips, make them your prayer and your vision.  This is the person you want to be.  And if you doubt my goodness, look to Christ and what he did for you at Golgotha.”  Brothers and sisters, the goodness of Yahweh came to the land of the living in the obedient life and in the suffering and death of Jesus.  It didn’t happen in some fairy tale land, in a galaxy far, far away a long time ago.  It happened in the land of the living, a real wooden cross, on a rocky outcrop that’s still there (even if we can’t be sure which one).  There was real, red blood and gore.  It was as real as any news item you might have read in yesterday’s paper.  The goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living.  He really died so that we might eternally enjoy the land of the living in the age to come.

 

At the conclusion of the Psalm, we see King David turning to us and leaving us with some commands.  These are the only direct commands in this Psalm.  He says, “Wait for Yahweh.”  He calls believers to trust God to carry through on what he has promised.  When we’re anxious and worried, we want immediate relief.  We want results sooner rather than later.  But sometimes God might delay.  He’ll do that to give us time to trust him, to grow in faith and dependence on him.  So, we’re called to wait for Yahweh, to remember his promises, and wait in hope for him to act. 

 

That’s one consequence of this confidence.  The other is found in the middle of verse 14, “be strong and take heart.”  Those are familiar Old Testament words.  They’re the words that Moses spoke to Joshua as he handed over the leadership of Israel.  They’re the words that God himself spoke to Joshua in Joshua 1.  They’re the same words that Joshua in turn spoke to the people of Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land.  The Lord Jesus speaks similar words to his disciples when he gives them the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, reminding and assuring them of his presence.  These sorts of words are intertwined with the carrying out of an office and calling.  They remind believers of the great redemptive events of the past.  As we look to the past, especially to what God has done in his Son, that gives encouragement for the future.

 

“Be strong and take heart.”  Those words encourage us in all the offices and callings that we have as believers.  We’re all called to be prophets, priests and kings.  Many of us are called to be parents and grandparents.  And then some of us are also called to the special offices of the church as pastors, elders, and deacons. 

 

These words address all of us, encouraging us to be strong and take heart.  Joshua had an enormous weight placed on his shoulders.  The people of Israel were given an impossible task.  The Canaanites and the Philistines were people to be afraid of.  They had superior firepower and tactical and strategic advantages.  If anybody had a reasonable reason to be afraid and worried, it would be Joshua and the Israelites.  From a strictly human perspective, their fear was not irrational.  They were outgunned, outpositioned and outnumbered.  The command came to them, “Be strong and take heart.”  Believe that and say it with me, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Those are words for office bearers of all sorts in all ages, including special office bearers today. 

 

The Psalm begins with Yahweh and ends with Yahweh.  Wait for Yahweh.  Whatever situations in life we’re faced with, whatever our fears, anxieties and worries, God tells us to wait for him.  Trust that he will bring us out of them.  Yahweh is your light, your salvation, your stronghold.  Look to Christ and you know it’s so.  AMEN.

 

Prayer:

 

Yahweh, our King and Father,

 

We confess you to be our light, our salvation, our stronghold.  You are the God who has lighted the way of your people in ages past.  You are the God who has worked mighty deeds of salvation.  At the Red Sea, you brought water crashing down on the Egyptians who were set on destroying the apple of your eye.  We rejoice in the salvation provided for your people through Samson, the mighty deliverer.  When your Spirit came upon him in power, he killed a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone.  You saved your people Israel from the Philistines and their hero through a shepherd boy, one smooth stone and his slingshot.  Above all, we praise you for the victory of Christ our Saviour.  We adore you for crushing sin, death, Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh.  With you, we are set on a rock of refuge.  Father, indeed with you, we have nothing and no one to fear.  Teach us that truth more and more each day as we face our fears, worries and anxieties.  Help us to be confident that we will see your goodness in the land of the living.  Help us to wait for you in the midst of the trials you give, help us with your Spirit to be strong and to take heart.  We pray with confidence because Jesus Christ is our Saviour and because he promised that you will never deny us anything we ask of you when we pray in his Name.                                       




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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