"Trust in the Lord!"Dr. James M. Pitts Psalm 27 Year C – Second Sunday in Lent
The phrase “In God We Trust” appeared on US coins and currency beginning in 1855. A hundred years later on July 30, 1956, “In God We Trust” became the national motto of the United States.
In recent years the motto “In God We Trust” has been challenged. The challenge was rejected by the federal courts, and the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review the case. With increasing cultural diversity and political divisions, we are assured this debate will continue.
While symbolic sentiment is important, of greater importance is the reality of our everyday actions and attitudes. God is not counting the coins in our pockets or impressed by the currency in our wallets. God is looking at our character and values, the content of our hearts, and how faith, hope and love are expressed in our personal life and our life together.
Amidst the noise of contemporary life and our frenzied behavior, the Psalms connect us to ancient wisdom. They invite us to be quiet, to be still, to take a deep breath, listen and learn.
Offering an antidote to inexperienced optimism; the Psalms connect with human heartaches and sorrows. Like a rainbow after the storm, they remind and assure us anew that God is our protector and provider.
God is our protector.
He makes peace. He is a tender shepherd and a gracious host. Like an eagle’s protecting wings, God hides those who trust in him. He is their shield against pestilence and destruction, and their fortress when refuge is sought. As a keeper and guardian, he never sleeps but constantly watches over his own. God is the shade that protects his own, both from the sun by day (sunstroke) and moon by night (insanity).
God is our provider.
He gives length and joy to life. Like a life-giving river, he sustains the besieged city. In fact, he is the giver of all good gifts. As we are reminded in Psalm 23, God meets the needs of his people. With the Lord as our shepherd, as his sheep we will not lack nourishment, rest, restoration, guidance and security.
Psalm 27 is a psalm of faith and courage with refrains of joy and confidence, as well as a petition to God for assistance and protection from enemies. Possibly the two major divisions of Psalm 27; verses 1-6, 7-14, indicate that we have two earlier independent psalms that have been joined together as one. We have first an expression of confidence in the Lord and then a cry for deliverance.
Confidence in the Lord – Psalm 27:1-6.
The Lord is My Light – vs. 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 devour my flesh– my adversaries and foes– they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamps against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.”
“In God’s company there is no fear” is the title given Psalm 27 in the Jerusalem Bible. In a world fueled by fear, filled with mindless escape and “acting out” aggression, there is a calming and reconciling relationship offering protection and guidance. God is our sure defense offering the light of leadership and showing us the right paths. The gift of light illuminates the shadowy and scary places.
Ultimately within the scripture we will hear Christ claim to be the light of the world. The Lord’s my light and saving health” is the praise offered in Scotland on Communion Sundays. Saving health for salvation is evidence of healthy Christian vitality.
Whom shall, I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid? What are the causes of fear? Temptation, disease, death, material and relational losses are some of our greatest fears. However, the New Testament affirms that “perfect love cast out fear” – John 4:18,
The Joy of the Sanctuary – vs. 4-6.
One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. 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 set me high on a rock. Now my head is 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.
Thanks to the guidance and protection of God, the Psalmist’s hope is to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek God’s guidance for all aspects of life. The reference to God’s protective shelter reminds of the time, when the people of God during their exodus from Egyptian bondage lived in tents. To be set high on a rock is to be placed in safe, stronghold, which offers an allusion to the Rock of Israel.
You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.(Isaiah 30:29)
With genuine joy and thanksgiving, the Psalmist promises to offer sacrifices with shouts and songs of praise
Then beginning with verse 7 the tone shifts to the cry of poor soul in trouble. He is in dire straits and the outlook is dark and bleak.
A Cry for Deliverance – Psalm 27:7-14
Plea for Help – vs. 7-12.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, LORD, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up. Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
In his panicked and pitiful outpouring, we hear a pitiful plea …
Hear, O Lord, my voice as I cry to thee;
Be gracious to me and answer me,
O my God, for heart is bitter;
Thy face, O Lord, I see; hide not thy face.
Apart from God there is no source of help. All of his family…father and mother, brothers and sisters, all of his kin, his natural allies, have denied him help. It is like they crossed out his name in the family Bible. They have driven him out of the land of the living. Because of the testimony of false witnesses, he is expelled to the wilderness. Yet, though all may disown him and disregard his perilous plight, he is sure that God will adopt him and take him into his care. The Psalmist prays that God will lead him on a level path away from trouble and out of harm’s way.
Courage fueled by Faith – vs. 13-14
I believe that I shall see 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!
He would have fainted and died, unless he believed that he would see God and experience his forgiveness. Out of faith springs forth patience; and the ability to wait …to wait … to patiently wait for the Lord.
You have heard the people shout in time of crisis. “Don’t just stand there, do something.” Maybe, the counsel is also true in reverse. In a time of crisis, don’t do something, stand there and wait . . . wait on the Lord … wait for the Lord. Waiting for the Lord is something very important to do.
While we were vacationing in Sarasota, Florida, a friend encouraged us to visit her mother. Upon arriving at her residence on the causeway leading to Saint Armands Circle and Lido Key, we were surprised to see that she lived in a high-rise condominium tower.
We rang her up and soon the elevator whisked us up to a top floor penthouse. After casual conversation about her days and family back in Greenville, she asked if we would like to go out on the balcony to see the view.
It was sunset. Looking east we could see the city of Sarasota, To the west was Saint Armands’ Circle, famous for its gourmet dining and boutique shopping. In the glow of the setting sun were the Lido Key’s sweeping beaches along the Gulf. Before us Sarasota Bay glistened in the twilight. It was a glorious and spectacular scene.
With a twinkle in her eye and smile on her face, she asked, “Do you know what they call this place?” I responded, “Yes, Plymouth Harbor!” “Well that’s true,” my elderly hostess said, “however most folks here call it God’s waiting room!”
In her own affluent way and with humor, she underscored her advancing years and comfortably affirmed that she was living in the twilight zone and waiting on the Lord. Together we laughed and acknowledged our shared mortality and finitude.
The Psalmist exclaimed . . . Wait for the Lord. And waiting for the Lord is something very important to do.
So, whether we are on a penthouse house high or in a basement low, living in luxury or poverty – wait!
In the midst of our hurt, brokenness, disappointment and despair – wait!
As we are confronted by the crazy and crude, greedy and angry, demeaning and destructive forces of the world; wait!
WAIT . . .
for in waiting we might learn more about what is to come.
for in waiting our focus is clearer, our energy is renewed.
for in waiting we remind ourselves of our dependency upon God.
Wait for the LORD; be strong,
and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
Our trust is not in currency and coins, but in God. Maybe it is time for people of faith to move beyond engraving “In God we Trust” – on silver or gold, and having it printed on currency. It’s time that our conduct courageously conveys who we are, as well as in all that we do and say, “Trust in the Lord.”
The Apostle Paul tells young Timothy, “We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men (“all” meaning without distinction of race, gender, social status, wealth, etc.) Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God” (I Tim. 4:10; 6:17).
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart,
This is God’s gracious command;
In all thy ways acknowledge Him,
So shalt thou dwell in the land.
Trust in the Lord, O troubled soul,
Rest in the arms of His care;
Whatever thy lot, it matters not,
For nothing can trouble thee there;
Trust in the Lord, O troubled soul,
Nothing can trouble thee there.
Trust in the Lord—His eye will guide
All through the pathway ahead,
He hath redeemed and He will keep,
Trust Him and be not afraid!
About the Writer:
Dr. James M. Pitts is university chaplain [retired] and professor of religion emeritus, Furman University. A native of Washington, DC, Jim is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, SC, Southeastern Seminary at Wake Forest, NC, and Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY.
An experienced pastoral counselor, he has worked in both congregational and hospital settings. His professional expertise includes crisis counseling, substance abuse intervention, and career guidance for persons in ministry.
His sermons and essays on biblical and pastoral themes are published in books, magazines and on NextSunday.com. One of the founders of Smyth & Helwys, Jim has served as Chairman of the Board for the past 28 years.
In addition to serving as the editor of www.NextSundayWorship.com, he is the principal photographer and editor of www.NextSundayGallery.com an educational resource with a comprehensive collection of high quality photos illustrating the geography and archaeology of the Biblical world.
Jim and his wife Nancy are the parents of two sons and two daughters-in-law: Stewart (deceased) and his wife Kelley, and Jonathan and his wife Jackie. They are the proud grandparents of three grandsons, Will, Jon Walker and Colton, and a granddaughter, Lilli.
Scripture and Music:
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17-21, 4:1
Lead On, O King Eternal
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Breathe On Me Breath of God
O Love, How Deep
A Reflection of Christ (David Schwoebel)
I m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger (arr. Lee Kjelson)
Psalm 86 (Carl Nygard)
Salvation Is Created (Chesnokov)
Cast Thy Burden Upon the Lord (Mendelssohn or Claude Bass)
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts (Claude Bass)
The Lord Is My Light (Frances Allitsen)
El Shaddai (Grant)
He Who Began a Good Work in You
Calvary s Love (Jon Mohr)