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Finding Confidence in the Midst of Fear Part 1 (Ps. 27:1-6)

Intro

We are now going into Part 2a of Pastor Robin’s Favorite Psalms Series. Today is Psalm 27:1-6. I originally wanted to do this entire psalm today, but there is so much packed into it, I decided to break it up. So next week, we will cover Ps. 27:7-14.  I really do love the Psalms. I think whenever we are in-between series, we should go over a Psalm. I think we enjoy the Psalms a lot because they hit the heart. They deal with real followers with real struggles and helps us find a sense of solidarity. This is probably why we run to it after we fail in our New Year’s Resolutions to go through the Bible. Well, I wanted to do a quick overview of the Psalms before we look at another one of my favorite Psalms.

  1. The Hebrew title is literally, “The book of praises.” 1/3rd of the Bible is poetry.
  2. Largest and most widely used book of the Bible.
  3. Organized into five books, imitating the first 5 books of the Bible, the Pentateuch.
  4. Various authors over a span of 1000 years.
  5. Most often quoted Book of the Bible.
  6. Purpose: How to talk and sing to God. The psalms were used in the two temples and some were part of the liturgical service. They also served as an individual and communal devotional guide.[2]
  7. It is poetry. We have rhymes (“Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you”). They have thought lines.
  8. Thought lines are called “parallelism.” When you read and interpret a Psalm, you need to decide what kind of parallelism is going on there. Some examples:

a)    Synonymous: The second line is repeated in different words from the first line (Ps. 2:4).

b)   Contrastive: The second line is contrasted with the first line (Ps. 1:6).

c)    Developmental: The second line explains and expands the first line (Ps. 121:3)

d)   Illustrative: The second line illustrates the first line with a symbol (Ps. 140:7)

  1. Various types of Psalms:

a)    Individual or Corporate Lament—usually for a rescue or defending.

b)   Individual or Corporate Thanksgiving—acknowledging God’s activity with praise.

c)    General or Descriptive Praise—about who God is

d)   Royal—Yahweh’s sovereign rule and/or the rule of the earthly king.

e)    Pilgrimage— Also known as Songs of Zion, these psalms were sung by pilgrims traveling up to Jerusalem for the three annual religious feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. [4]

f)    Wisdom—instructed or exhorted in the way of righteousness

g)    Imprecatory—Psalmist asks God to show justice and vengeance upon His enemies.

h)   Messianic—specifically anticipate the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. How do you know if it is messianic? Ans: Is it quoted in the NT?

With that overview, let’s dig into Psalm 27. Have you ever been really afraid of something? From the moment of birth, we grow up with all kinds of fear. As a child, we fear the boogeyman hiding in the closet. We fear of heights, spiders, lobsters, of the dark and falling in the dark on top of lobsters!  No matter what age you are or who you are or where you are, fear is a part of us. In fact, people give names to your fears or phobias. Common phobias include, as mentioned before, arachnophobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (fear of heights), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), fear of the boogeyman (bogyphobia) and aerophobia (fear of flying—John Madden, football commentator has this). Did you know some people have the weirdest phobias? In doing some research on this, I found some interesting ones:

  1. Arachibutyrophobia :fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth
  2. Ablutophobia: fear of washing or bathing—I think I had a roommate in college with this
  3. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: fear of long words
  4. Kathisophobia: Fear of sitting down
  5. Basophobia: Fear of walking

Can you believe these phobias exist? Incredible to believe! Most of us will probably not deal with those ever, but we all deal with fear. Some of us are being strangled by it even today. Some of us may lie awake at night replaying the same video over and over again in our minds about some worry we are facing; perhaps about circumstances or the future. It kills our joy, leads to physical side effects like irritability, depression, insomnia, fatigue, upset stomach and weakened immune system. It kicks God out of the picture. Fear is destructive in every way. As Michael Pritchard says, “Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.”[5] In the Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape (a picture of Satan) tells Wormwood, his nephew, “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy.”[6](The Enemy here represents God).

The media makes it worse. They exaggerate our fears and make a profit out of it. Look at the news. The most shocking and unusual stories are the top stories of the day to get you to watch. Marketers profit of our fear too. They like to tap into “our major fears of failure, loneliness, sickness, death as well as our minor fears of being shunned, experiencing discomfort, being out of fashion or being overweight or underdeveloped. The list of possible fears is endless, as are the possible remedies – all available to those with money to spend.”[7] Politicians tell us to fear other nations and governments. Media says, “Fear everything around you.” Doctors say, “Take this pill to kill your fear.”

Well, what does God say? Perhaps you have often heard it said that “Fear Not” is mentioned 365 times in Scripture—once for every day. Actually in another place I read that it is found 366 times, for one a day for the entire year, including a leap year! I do not know who came up with that, because it is not true! “Do not fear” came up 32x in the OT and 8x in the NT. A similar phrase, “Be not afraid” came up 4x in the OT. “Fear not” came up 29x in the OT and 7x in the NT. So any way you slice it, it is short of 365. Nevertheless, God says it a lot. Why do you think God says it so much? Have you ever noticed that whenever an angel visits someone, the first thing they say is “Fear Not”? Why do they say that? Perhaps it is because people are freaked out by seeing the angel or maybe it is because when you are gripped by fear, you cannot hear what God has to say to you?

In Psalm 27, we find David honestly struggling with finding his confidence in the Lord the midst of fear. We are not completely sure of what exactly David was going through. Some versions say this psalm was written before David was anointed King. It may be during the time he was exiled from home and hunted by Saul and his men. In this Psalm we find that sometimes he has that confidence, sometimes he’s praying for it, sometimes he’s totally consumed by fear instead. Isn’t that all of us? Today I want to look at three fears David faced in Psalm 27 and how he found confidence in the Lord in the midst of them.

First of all,

I.  When I fear my circumstances, I find my confidence in the Lord (Ps. 27:1-6).

It is easy to say, “Find your confidence in the Lord” when people are struggling with fear. David is not simply closing his eyes to the real problems around him. He has reason to be confident. Here he gives us several:

a)   Because of a personal relationship (Ps. 27:1)

David opens the Psalm with a bold assertion. He says Yahweh, which is the personal name for God, has brought David into a covenant relationship with him and is his light and salvation and stronghold. This first verse seems to be showing developmental parallelism.  Notice the personal nature of David’s assertion. Yahweh is “my” light and “my” salvation. David is speaking from personal experience. Blessed are those who can speak from personal experience of God’s care for them.

David is using military imagery here to describe how God protects him. This is the only place Yahweh is called “light” in the Old Testament. His enemies were like the darkness that came seem to engulf him, but God is His light that dispels the darkness. God does not give him light, He is the light. His confidence is in God. “Salvation” is another word for “deliverance.” The word “stronghold” or “refuge” is another word for security and protection.

He brings up two questions: “whom shall I fear?” and “whom shall I be afraid?” Shall I fear the enemies of darkness, when He is my light which dispels them? Shall I fear being taken away in bondage, when He is my deliverance? Shall I fear being alone, when I have a place to run to? Shall I fear being weak, when I have a stronghold in the Lord? John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian denomination said, “One with God is a majority.” When Cromwell was asked why he did not fear anyone, he said, “I have learned that if you fear God, you have no one else to fear.”[8]The point here is that David finds His protection in the Lord. He does not have a light, he does not know how to deliver himself and he cannot find safety in himself.  It is all because he has found a relationship with Yahweh.

We can be confident because He has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7) or a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear (Rom. 8:15). Since we have the Spirit of God living in us, we continually have access to His power to help us overcome fear. As a result, just as water should not be filled into a gas tank of a car and a virus does not belong in a computer, we are not built for fear and worry.

Notice Ps. 27:2-3. David gives another reason why he is so confident:

b)   Because of past victories (Ps. 27:2-3)

In verse 2, he says a source of his confidence is because Yahweh has given him victory in the past. The tense of the verbs in Hebrew indicate events in the past. In Ps. 27:3, he is looking into the future.  David is not pretending everything is great. These attacks are very real and vary in size and number. Notice “evildoers,” “an army,” and “war.” The attack in Ps. 27:2 is a sudden attack. An invasion he was not expecting. His enemies do not want to just make him suffer, but completely destroy him and tear him up from limb to limb. The same will happen to us once we let worry and fear be the gods we bow down to. In Ps. 27:3a it is a settled attack. They’ve been planning very carefully and eventually camping out on his doorstep. Which one would you rather prefer: a sudden invasion or a settled attack? Probably neither huh?

There’s a third kind of attack described in Ps. 27:3: a sustained war. Some problems come all of a sudden like an invasion you were not expecting. There is the phone call from the doctor, the accident on the highway, the bill in the mail you didn’t expect, etc. Other times like a settled attack, it’s a problem that doesn’t go away. It’s always there lurking in every corner. You can’t get away from it. You try to move on with life, but always nagging in the back of your mind is this problem. Lord, am I going to be single forever? Lord, will my financial situation ever change? It is not directly hitting you, but it is always there. If it’s not a sudden invasion or settled attack, it might be a sustained war. You are under attack with this problem directly. It is that co-worker or boss you see every day. It might be the settled attack that turns into war. Maybe it came as a sudden invasion, stayed as settled attack and eventually turned into war.

Here’s the thing with any and all attacks: You will always face them. We have no control over them. There will be people problems, financial struggles, burdens at home, difficulties with children, or a crisis waiting to ring your doorbell. I am a perfectionist and I am tempted to think that as I long as I work hard enough and keep my home organized enough and pay all my bills, I can avoid problems. But I cannot. No one can. Either the storm is coming, we are in the storm or we just got out of one. Everyone is in one of those three stages…all the time!

Illus: The founder of the China Inland Mission (now the Overseas Missionary Fellowship), J. Hudson Taylor, used to hang in his home a plaque with two Hebrew words on it: “Ebenezer” and “Jehovah-Jireh.” They mean: “Hitherto hath [Thus far] the Lord helped us” (1 Sam. 7:12) and “The Lord will see to it.” Whether he looked back or ahead, Hudson Taylor knew the Lord was at work, and he had nothing to fear.[9] Looking at the past victories of the Lord always reminded Him of who was in control!

We can find our confidence in the Lord because of a relationship we have with Him and the past victories He has shown on our behalf. Another reason to put our confidence in the Lord is:

c)   Because of His presence (Ps. 27:4)

When we read Ps. 27:1-3, we may be impressed with David’s fearless confidence in the Lord. However, but as we read on, we find him running desperately into the presence of God for confidence. This is because we are leaky buckets. We are always so needy. One minute we may stand confidently, only to find ourselves on our knees the next minute. Actually when fear becomes habitual and settles in our hearts, we become worriers. Worry is a form of fear.

We are not be discouraged by this. The more we recognize our weakness, the more we can experience His strength. The more I lean on His almighty arms, the more I know how strong He really is. Here in Ps. 27:4, we see that David’s public confidence in the Lord comes because of his private communion with the Lord. It is not that he is never afraid or that he never worries. In fact, in the midst of them, he draws his strength from communing with the Lord.

Here is one of the most single-minded statements of purpose to found in all of Scripture. David has an all-consuming passion for God’s presence. He wants to live where God lives. He just wants to be in His presence forever. Folks, if there was ever a prayer that guaranteed to be in the will of God, there it is! But how will he get it?

Well first of all, he is focused. “One thing,” he says is all that matters. He does not want to be distracted. Fear and its cousin worry often comes because we are distracted from the Lord. In fact, “The word worry comes from the Old English term wyrgan, which means ‘to choke’ or ‘strangle.’ That’s appropriate since worry strangles the mind, which is the seat of our emotions. The word even fits the notion of a panic attack.”[10] Remember Jesus was having a meal with his disciples at Mary and Martha’s house (Luke 10:38-42)? The text says that Martha was “distracted” (Luke 10:40), which is a word that means literally, to “be pulled or dragged from all around.”[11] Later Jesus said, “One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (italics mine,Luke 10:42). Some of us have too many things pulling at us. We are choked by demands at home, at work, at school, from our parents, from our in-laws, etc. They pull at us from all directions.

Notice where he gets the “one thing”: from the Lord. He is not going to get it from reading books or listening to a sermon or from the internet or from a film or tv show. The Lord is the well from which he will dip his bucket, the door to knock at and the bank to draw resources from.  Thirdly, it is fervent: “that will I seek after.” He is not going to let it sit for another week. It is not simply a “it would be nice to one day have this” kind of desire. It is earnest, “I need to get on this right now” kind of desire.

Here is the request: “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” Now Solomon’s temple was not built yet and David was probably in the wilderness somewhere, but he found that he can turn any place into a house of God wherever he is. His desire is not for a one- -time deal, but a frequent desire: “All the days of my life.” Some synonymous parallelism here with “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” and “inquire in his temple.” The word “gaze” or “behold” could be translated as, “‘to look at with awe’ or to look at and say ‘that is marvelous.’ Line 4d can sometimes be expressed ‘to look at God’s beauty and say ‘Isn’t it wonderful!’ ”[12]

The word “beauty” is found “only here and in [Ps] 90.17, in Psalms…The word means grace, favor, kindness, goodness.”[13] In other words, David is taking time to think about the wonders of God’s grace. If he knew the hymn Amazing Grace, he would have sung in God’s presence, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come! T’was grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home!” Many times we dwell in God’s house, but fail to look at His beauty. We need to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord Jesus in prayer. Like the songwriter says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim…in the light of His glory and grace!”

In God’s presence, He finds confidence. When he was pulled in many directions, in God’s presence, he found one who would wrap His arms around him and cut the strings off that attached him to this world.

Illus: The story is told of businessman Allen Emery of when was in the wool business, he once spent an evening with a shepherd on the Texas prairie. During the night, the long wail of coyotes pierced the air. The shepherd’s dogs growled and peered into the darkness. The sheep, which had been sleeping, lumbered to their feet, alarmed, bleating pitifully. The shepherd tossed more logs onto the fire, and the flames shot up. In the glow, Allen looked out and saw thousands of little lights. He realized those were reflections of the fire in the eyes of the sheep. “In the midst of danger,” he observed, “the sheep were not looking out into the darkness but were keeping their eyes set in the direction of their safety, looking toward the shepherd. I couldn’t help but think of Hebrews 12:2 ‘looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.…’ ”[14]

We can spend time either being consumed by fear and looking at the darkness or look even harder at our Great Shepherd. Why is David so passionate and adamant about being God’s presence? Because he knows that unless he is consumed by the Lord, fear will consume him. As fears pressed in all around him, he didn’t back away or lean away or slow down, but accelerated and leaned in and followed hard after the Lord.

David found confidence in his relationship with God, because of past victories from God, because of being in the presence of God and lastly,

d)   Because of His promises (Ps. 27:5-6)

David is a leaky bucket, like all of us. But he has found that though his bucket is leaky, there flows a fountain that never runs dry. There is a river which he can be carried by. He had run to God in his darkness. There in the darkness, God makes Him look up. “Look up David! My promises are like the stars. The darker the night, the brighter they shine!
Grab a hold of my promises!”

So he emerges from God’s presence in Ps. 27:5-6, with a rock beneath his feet and seeing above and beyond his circumstances to victory. He finds in God the best of shelter in the worst of times. The idea is that in God’s presence (“his shelter” and “his tent”), David finds safety and security. He is even looking forward to the day he’s going to testify about God’s goodness to him in worship.

Today we can find our confidence in the Lord because of His promises.

Illus: Do you know how many promises there are in the Bible? Well, one guy actually says he counted them. Hopefully this is not the same guy who said there were 366 “Fear Not’s” in the Bible!

Dr. Everek R. Storms of Ontario spent a vast amount of time studying the promises of Scripture. Writing in ContactMagazine, he said:

“The Holy Scriptures contain a grand total of 8,810 promises. How do I know? I counted them…I do not guarantee my count to be perfect, but it is the most accurate I know of.”
Dr. Storms’ has found 7,487 promises from God to man (about 85 percent of all the Bible’s promises). Other findings:

·         There are 991 instances of one person making a promise to another person.

·         There are 290 promises from man to God.

·         There are promises made by the angels, most of them found in Luke.

·         There are nine promises made by “that old liar, the devil.” (For example, his promise to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and worship him.)

·         Two promises are made by an evil spirit.

·         Two are made by God the Father to God the Son.

Dr. Storms additionally found that one book of the Bible contains no promise at all—Titus. Ephesians has only six promises. On the other hand, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel have over 1,000 promises each. What section of Scripture most impressed Dr. Storms? He wrote, “The most outstanding chapter as far as promises are concerned in Psalm 37. Practically every verse is a most wonderful promise.”[15]

Conclusion

There are two more fears to look at in Psalm 27: fear of failure and fear of the future. We will cover them next time, Lord willing. Beloved, the cure for anxiety, fear and worry is trust. Trust is not an emotion, but an act of my will to give my burdens to God. It’s like a muscle—as you exercise it, trust gets stronger. It is a process, choosing to go forward moment by moment, rolling our burdens to the Lord over and over again. When we sense that we are taking the burden back to ourselves, we get back on our knees and give it back to God. I usually have a three part process that usually goes like this (ARM):

  • Admit Weakness. Lord, save me! I can’t do this on my own. Rescue me. I am totally clueless and totally lost. I don’t know what to pray. I don’t know what to do. As long you think you can do this on your own, Jesus will not move. But as soon you admit weakness, Jesus hushes every harp in Heaven to hear you.
  • Recall His promises. Lord, I know what I can’t do. I know what I can’t change. But you said… Ex. Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you will glorify me (Ps. 50:15). I will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Fear Not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Is. 41:10).
  • Make the decision to trust. Lord, I know these burdens belong to You. Name your burdens, one by one. You never said I could or should carry these. I trust you instead.

Remember you may have it do this over and over, strengthening your trust muscle each time you exercise it.

 

 

 

 

 

 
—-

[1]Wilkinson, B., & Boa, K. (1983). Talk thru the Bible (152). Nashville: T Nelson.

[2] Ibid.153.

[3] Writers. The writers of about two-thirds of the psalms are identified in the superscriptions. David leads the way with 73 psalms. He was Israel’s “beloved singer of songs” (2 Sam. 23:1, niv) and the man who organized the temple ministry, including the singers (1 Chron. 15:1616:725:1). The sons of Korah, who served as musicians in the temple (1 Chron. 6:31ff15:17ff2 Chron. 20:19), wrote 11 psalms (42–49, 84, 85, 87), Asaph 12 psalms, King Solomon two (Pss. 72 and 127), Ethan wrote one (Ps. 89), and Moses one (Ps. 90). Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be Worshipful (1st ed.) (8). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Communications Ministries.

[4]Wilkinson, 157.

[5]Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes (electronic ed.) (294). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6]Ibid.

[7]http://www.theocentric.com/spirituality/christian_living/fighting_fear_365_days_a_year.html accessed 15 January, 2009.

[8] McGee, J. V. (1997, c1981). Thru the Bible Commentary. Based on the Thru the Bible radio program. (electronic ed.) (2:718-719). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1991). Be Obedient (Ge 22:15). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[10]MacArthur, J. (1996, c1993). Anxiety Attacked. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[11]Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4:  Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker’s Greek New Testament library (310). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

[12]Bratcher, R. G., & Reyburn, W. D. (1991). A Translator’s Handbook on the book of Psalms. Helps for translators (263). New York: United Bible Societies.

[13]Ibid.

[14]Morgan, R. J. (297).

[15]Morgan, R. J. (645).

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