The text for our consideration this morning is the 27th Psalm – entitled, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Since we haven’t heard this text yet this morning, let’s read it together from your hymnal, turn to page 27. Let’s read it responsively – I’ll read the odd verses, you read the even.
1 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?
2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
4 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.
5 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.
6 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.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 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!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.
It seemed good to me to set aside the assigned texts for today to consider how we ought to think about and respond to the recent, tragic events that have occurred. The ‘natural disasters’ from three hurricanes in September were responsible for 102 death and massive destruction and property loss and the ‘unnatural, man-made disaster’ of mass murder and bloodshed responsible for 59 deaths and 507 injured.
How are the baptized to think about these things and respond to them in ways formed and shaped by faith in the one, true God whom we confess is the creator and ruler and redeemer and the savior of this world? How do we find, not only comfort for ourselves in the “day of trouble” when it comes, but also the ‘defiant hope’ to that is able to, as Paul says, to “comfort others with the comfort that we have received from God”? (2 Cor.1:4)
The 27th Psalm is one of a great number of Psalms that gives us direction to our thoughts and even the words to use that we often have a hard time finding on our own in “the day of trouble.” It also shows us how the children of God respond ‘in faith’ “when evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh.” (vs.2)
In his, “day of trouble,” the first move that the Psalmist makes is to his Lord. “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Of whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (vs.1)
It may seem so simple that we may miss the significance of this, but in “the day of trouble” the faithful turn to God and to His Word for their help and comfort and guidance. This, in itself, is what distinguishes the one who lives by faith in the one true God and the one who does not. The faithful turn to their Lord, in whom they trust can and will keep them safe and deliver them.
Just as it was ‘in the beginning’ when everything was in darkness and God said, “let there be light, and there was light,” so the Psalmist reminds himself of what he already knows, “the Lord is my light” who comes into my darkness and delivers me out of it – He is my “salvation.”
When it seems as though the world and his life is coming apart at the seams with all of the worries and fears that go along with it, he thinks and reminds himself that “the Lord is the stronghold of my life.” And then asks himself the ridiculously rhetorical question, “of whom shall I be afraid?”
It doesn’t matter how outnumbered he is or how overwhelming the evil is, he knows his Lord is able to bring him through. “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” (vs.3)
“My heart shall not fear” and “I will be confident.” Isn’t this how we would all like to be in our own “day of trouble” whether the trouble is of national proportions or very personal and individual? When it seems like the tragedies and disasters are happening more and more frequently and who knows where or when the next shooter will open fire or the next catastrophe will hit – we’d like to hope we could say, “my heart shall not fear…” “Yet I will be confident.”
It’s right here that the Psalmist turns his attention from the “evildoers who assail me” and “my adversaries and foes,” to “the house of the Lord.” Rather than focus on all the evil in world or the reasons for why this is all happening getting angry about who’s to blame, rather than focusing on questions like, ‘where was God,’ or ‘why would God let this happen,’ the Psalmist chooses to focus his attention on “the beauty of the Lord.” And it is a conscience choice that he makes in doing so.
“One thing that 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 inquire in his temple.”
The Psalmist thinks of the “house of the Lord” as a peaceful place of safety in the midst of a chaotic and dangerous world. It’s the place where the Lord Himself is present and visible – upon whom he may “gaze.” All “gazing upon the Lord” is done, not with the eyes but with the EARS since no one can see God, but all who are willing can HEAR God who speaks to us through His Word, and His Word is “beautiful” to behold.
His “gazing upon the beauty of the Lord” leads him to “inquiry.” It’s not hard for us guess that his “inquiry of the Lord” must be something along the order of, “will you protect even me?” “Will deliver even me from “the evildoers who assail me” and from “my adversaries and foes”?
In answer to his “inquiry,” he is directed to think of his Lord as a “shelter” and a “tent” in which he is “hidden” and “covered.” “He will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent…” In another Psalm, the same Psalmist prays, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)
When it comes to hurricanes and terrible storms, no one has ever been through worse than Noah and his family. When the greatest hurricane the world has ever seen came upon Noah, God told him to seek shelter in the ark where God “hid” Noah and his family in their “day of trouble.”
As long as Noah and his family ‘rode out the storm’ in this floating “shelter,” they were safe and secure. God didn’t remove them from the storm. In fact, Noah was right in the middle of it all. But as long as he was hidden in the shelter, he was “fearless” and “confident” in his “day of trouble.”
When David is under attract from those who want to take his life he heads to the “house of the Lord” and ‘takes cover’ in “the shelter” and “the tent.”
Only later do we learn that this “house of the Lord” is not a building or a place – but a person. The “house of the Lord” is none other than our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself. It is in Jesus Christ, “the word made flesh,” that we ‘gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” as terrible a beauty as Christ and Him crucified is.
It is the same Jesus Christ of whom we “inquire,” knowing that when we do, we are inquiring of God Himself, for it is in His Son that the Father has opened Himself up for “inquiry.” And whoever “inquires” of the Lord through Jesus Christ, is always met with the same response, “Fear not. You are mine. I love you and I will deliver you. Trust me.”
So Jesus Christ Himself is the “the shelter” in which we are “hidden,” and the “tent” in which we are “covered.”
It was in the midst of the terrible flood of our baptism, in which we were sacramentally drown, that our God “hid” us in His Son, our Savior. All of the baptized are “hidden” in Christ. He is our ark who brings us through the “day of trouble.” And as long as we remain “hidden” in the shelter of our baptism, we too may weather the storm that surrounds us on every side – “without fear” and “confident.”
It is in the Holy Supper that the same Lord “conceals us under the cover of his tent.” His “tent” is made of ‘skin’ just as the ‘tabernacle’ in the wilderness was a ‘skin tent.’ When the Psalmist went to the “house of the Lord,” he went to the ‘skin tent’ and inside the ‘skin,’ he found shelter and safety.
As we “take and eat” His very body and “take and drink” His very blood, we enter into Jesus Christ who covers us with “his skin tent” and we are “concealed” from the “evildoers, adversaries and foes” that surround us.
This is the “house of the Lord” that we long to dwell in “all the days of our life.” In this divine tent, we can be “fearless” and “confident,” not only in the face of the terrible trouble that COMES UPON US, but also from the terrible trouble that COMES FROM WITHIN US. “Covered” in this “tent,” even our own sins and the guilt that has either directly or indirectly contributed to the evil in this world, is “hidden” from God and cannot harm us.
The apostle Paul reminds the Colossians that they too are “hidden with Christ in God.” In the midst of any crisis, whether it be large or small, national or very personal and individual, the believer is reminded and remembers that by our Baptism and in the Supper, we are “hidden with Christ in God.” And in our “inquiry” of Him in His Word, we are directed to “set our minds on things above…where Christ is seated at the right hand of God,” knowing that we “will appear with Him in glory.” (Col. 3:1-3)
To be covered and hidden in Christ in the ‘day of trouble’ as we have been describing could easily be misunderstood as the way of ‘escape’ from this world where the events that take place never really effect or even much bother the baptized. This would be a serious misunderstanding and misuse of the Psalmist’s word. Rather, it is in this ‘covering’ where we are ‘hidden’ in our Lord, that we engage this world and the frightened and wounded and mournful people in it – especially our own brothers and sisters in Christ.
We do not remain detached from the battle, but we enter into it with the ‘fearless’ ‘confidence’ of knowing that not only are we hidden in Christ, but God is with us and through us, God is at work in this world and the lives of all whom we reach out to with help and comfort and loving care.
In his “day of trouble” the Psalmist is ‘DEFIANTLY HOPEFUL.’ Surrounded by death and dying as he is – and we are – he says, “I believe that I shall look upon the Lord in the land of the living.”
This is not because he is an idealistic person or an optimistic person who never sees things the way they really are. In fact, the believer may the greatest realist and pessimist of all people. He knows the cruel reality of sin and its terribly destructive effects. But his hope is in the Lord who has dealt with the root of all evil – by taking the SIN OF THE WORLD upon Himself and crucifying it in His body on the cross at the hands “evildoers,” His “adversaries and foes.”
The closing words of the Psalmist are a reminder to himself and to us – that by faith, we “wait for the Lord; be strong, let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Or as the final stanza of the hymn we sang put it:
“Through long grief-darkened days help us, dear Lord,
To trust Your grace for courage to endure,
To rest our souls in your supporting love,
And find our hope within your mercy sure.” LSB #764:5