Not long ago, we all have experienced two major earthquakes. There has been loss of property, life, and hopes. I am sure; some of you might have even lost your dear ones. There are others who might have been struggling with chronic diseases, financial problems and many more. What is faith for them? How do we understand the maturity of our faith? How do we see the growth of our faith? How is your faith in your joy and in your crisis? How to conduct our faith in joy and in pain? We will try to understand this phenomenon looking in to the Scripture. It is a fact that the life oscillates between good times and bad times. So does our faith. This phenomenon is reflected in Psalm 27. The first part of the Psalm talks about our confidence in God’s presence (Vv. 1-6) and the second part talks about crisis in God’s presence (Vv. 7-14). Keeping this in mind, I would like to entitle my sermon as “The two sides of faith: Confidence and Crisis.”
Let me lay out the context for you. We do not know for sure what the exact context of this Psalm is. However, there are two possible contexts. One is from David’s own struggle to escape from Saul’s attempts to murder him. Second one is it is a prayer of a king who is going to the battle.
This Psalm is a combination of confidence in God’s presence and a plea for God’s presence in one’s own crisis. In the same manner, our faith also experiences confidence in God and at the same time we do experience His presence in our crisis. So, faith is the power that enables us to experience God’s goodness and also His presence in joy as well as in pain. This phenomenon was beautifully illustrated by David in Psalm 27.
Confidence in God’s Presence vv. 1-6
Fearlessness and Security vv. 1-3
Fearlessness and security are the results of God’s presence in our lives. It is because of God’s presence we, need not to fear anything. This confidence in V. 1 is expressed in three metaphors or words—“light,” “salvation,” and “stronghold.” Firstly, light banishes darkness. Salvation is a victory that God gifts to His people. Stronghold is a place of safety and protection that God provides. Now darkness in this context means threat from David’s enemies. However, it could be a chronic disease, financial problem, unemployment, sin, addiction, oppression by the evil spirits and many more. But through it all God’s light will shine forth in our “darkest hour” thereby giving us victory and protection.
Verses 2-3 explains then manner in which the Psalmist experienced God’s presence. It is because God is our “light,” “salvation,” and “stronghold” we are to be confident even though bad people try to oppress us or insult us. If we see the word “devour” in Hebrew is “אכל”—which in this context expresses the aspect of oppression, and verbal insults. However, the three kinds of people who were mentioned i.e., “evildoers,” “adversaries,” and “foes” have already made to stumble and fall. The last part of V. 2 in NRSV, NIV and Nepali versions is translated in future tense, however, in the original language, it is past tense. Here we need to notice that the failure of these evil people is not going to be in a distant future but it has already taken place. Verse 3 reiterates what has been explained in v. 2 to emphasize on the absolute certainty in the presence of the LORD.
Prayer for God’s Presence vv. 4-6
In these verses Psalmist expresses his ultimate desire to be in the presence of the LORD and also he explains the consequences of living under the presence of God. In v. 4, we see, Psalmist praying for one ultimate thing i.e., “to dwell in the house of LORD.” The verb “seek” in Hebrew is בקשׁ which means “to seek, pursue, and visit or to choose.” In this context this word means to “pursue”— a strong determination to ‘pursue’ the will of the LORD at all costs. This will of the LORD for him and his own desire—is a permanent residence in the presence of the LORD. The Psalmist prayer is not only to pursue the will of Yahweh but also to “behold” the beauty of the LORD. The word “behold” in Hebrew is חזה which may mean “to look, see, behold.” In this context it means constantly looking at the beauty of the LORD. In other words it is ‘gazing’ at the beauty of the LORD. The “beauty” here does not mean physical beauty. The Hebrew word for “beauty” is “נֹעַם.” It is the delightfulness, pleasantness, and gracefulness of the LORD in His dealing with the Psalmist.
Vv. 5-6 expresses the consequences of such pursuit. Firstly, you can always inquire the LORD. You can always ask for guidance from the LORD. Secondly, you will experience divine protection. Lastly, since you experience the above two, we end up worshipping the LORD in adoration and thanksgiving.
Crisis in God’s Presence vv. 7-14
In these verses you see a change in mood. The confidence and trust in the first section now turns to cry for help. Now, Psalmist’s is in crisis. In vv. 1-6, David referred God in the third person when he was very confident but in crisis; he refers to God in first person “my God, my Salvation.” In other words, we talk about God when we are confident but as we face crisis, we talk to God. Now, let us turn to see how Psalmist expresses his crisis in God’s presence.
Prayer for divine protection vv. 7-10
In verses 7-10, Psalmist cries out for help. He prays for divine protection. Let us compare V. 8 with V. 4. In both the verses there is a “seeking the face of the LORD” but in different circumstances. In v. 4, Psalmist was confident in seeking and beholding the beauty of the LORD but in V. 8, his own heart cries out to him to seek God’ s face as he is going to face the “dark” days ahead . In all this, in v. 10, Psalmist still expresses his confidence in God’s love even at the prospect of his own family abandoning him. There are times a father and a mother may abandon their children. We live in a world where baby girls are being killed in the wombs only. However, Psalmist says even though our earthly parents reject us, our heavenly parent will never reject, but he will “take us up.” In other words, He will never abandon us. We need to notice one thing, even in the hopeless situation; Psalmist was able to express his confidence not because he has ability to be confident but because he experienced God’s “light,” “salvation” and his divine protection.
Prayer for divine guidance vv. 11-12
Here Psalmist is praying for God’s divine guidance along with divine protection. In v.11, we need to notice two things. One is God “teaches or instructs” in which way we must go. Second one is God himself will lead us alongside with us in the right or level path. In other words, God personally involves in leading us in to the right path just like a good shepherd...
Believe! and Wait! vv. 13-14
These last two verses expresses believing and waiting upon the LORD. NRSV, Nepali, and NIV translations read V. 13 as “I believe that I shall see…” However, in Hebrew, if it is accurately translated, it reads “unless I believe in seeing the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living.” It may mean that “believing” is important to “see” the goodness of Yahweh. In other words, believing is prerequisite to faith. Only when you believe, then there is a place for faith.
This “believing” will be translated into faith and faith expresses itself— in patiently looking to the LORD in the adverse or difficult situations. Verse 14, is a self-reminder to look to the LORD in hope for strength and courage. It is only when we look to the LORD in hope we will be strengthen by His light that shuns “darkness” in our lives thereby giving us victory over our adverse situations.
We need to notice one thing here. God’s divine presence with us does not mean a problem free life and God never gives us ‘ready-made’ solutions to all our problems. Rather, He would walk with us in our problems and help us to find solutions or let me say He would calm our hearts to help us to see the big picture.
I don’t know how many of you know the story behind this hymn “It is well with my soul.” This hymn has been a blessing to so many in their trails and temptations. It was penned down by Horatio Spafford who is into ministry. He is close friend of D. L. Moody. Spafford was a wealthy lawyer in Chicago. He has big estate, beautiful wife Anna, four daughters and a son. At the height of his professional success they lost their son. Very shortly after that his estate was burned in a fire accident. Still he wanted to involve in ministry with Moody and others in Chicago but decided to send his wife and daughters to Europe to recover from the loss. He sends his wife and four daughters in a ship only to know after few days that the ship met with an accident and only his wife survived. With a heavy heart Spafford boarded a boat to meet his grieving wife who is in Europe. It was at that time He wrote this song-
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul…
My dear church, this is the kind of faith we need to display in our crisis. Many a times we tend to doubt God’s existence in our difficult situation but we are called to put our trust and faith in Him in those times. This trust and faith will be evident only when you and I truly believe in God and in the power of Christ’s resurrection. The earthquake might have taken my life and my family’s life but I strongly believe that I would be ventured into the very presence of the King—LORD Jesus Christ. Indeed, I have nothing to fear, even death and so also I commend you as well not to fear death or be scared of your crisis, rather put your trust in God as He is the ground of our confidence, security and trust.
As I close my sermon, let me make a statement and give you an illustration. Sometimes God comes to us calming storms in our lives and at other times He calms us in the midst of storms.
Let me tell you the story of one of my heroes of faith. This is a true story of a young pastor. He loved God so immensely. His hope was very strong. He reflected that light and glory of God in everything he did and said. He contracted cancer. He and his wife were told that he had only few months to live. But they have not shown any sign of pain or anxiety. In his last Sunday sermon he said, “Our Lord suffered and died for our sins. Why should I not share in his sufferings? After this he sang this beautiful song which made everyone to cry. Hear these words that he sang:
Must Jesus bear the Cross alone,
And all the world go free,
No, there is a Cross for everyone,
And there’s a Cross for me
How happy are the saints above,
Who once went sorr’wing here,
But now they taste unmingled love,
And joy without fear
The consecrated Cross I bear
Till death shall set me free,
And then go home my crown to wear,
For there is a crown for me.
My dear Church, look at the maturity of faith this Pastor has displayed. He showed a confident faith in his crisis. He saw life beyond the grave i.e., the power of Christ’s resurrection. My dear church, to have such an exemplary faith, we need to believe in God and trust in Him all the predicaments of our life. Only then, we will experience God’s light of salvation in our darkest hours. May the LORD help us to grow in faith in our joy and pain.