Today’s Psalm is really special because it is like a convergence point where many theological assumptions move into alignment with one another. Countless world religions look to the Psalms for spiritual refreshment. Perhaps this post will find you weighted down with confusion, a heavy burden, a big question, or sense of disconnection. If so, this is Psalm is for you.
What is amazing is that all divergent perspectives end in the Psalms when our deepest part of our soul runs out of words and descriptors, and simply longs for the experience of divine union. There, we join with the psalmist and countless traditions over thousands of years, and seek the graced awareness that this psalm invites us into.
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?
David is reflecting on how the Lord is his light, his salvation and his stronghold. Let’s double click into these briefly.
A light is the dominant influence and removes all shadow and darkness. A light allows clear seeing, it eliminates doubt. It creates safety.
Salvation for David is not conversion to a religion, it is succeeding through life’s most trying circumstances. It’s finding oneself at the bottom of society and still possessing faith. Salvation is the continuity of trusting and following this inner voice, the deep impulse, this pervasive sense that is imperceivable to most of those around us.
A stronghold is the safest place when surrounded by enemies. When others seek our ruin, a stronghold is our protection. It is an anchor which moors us to solid ground when turbulent seas are moving us about.
Do you need a light, salvation, or a stronghold? These are closer than you think.
For David, this psalm is a song which proves that the unseen world is real and that it bears a tremendous influence into the seen world. When all the facts of the material world point in the direction of Davids demise, he remains focused on the unseen world, he remains steadfast in faith, and the result is victory against all odds.
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
Like many of us, David lives with a sort of target on his back. David’s story reveals a long list of those who seek to kill him, remove his power, and take what is his. Instead of doubling down on his self focus, self preservation, or self promotion, David shows us the path to true peace. The kind of peace which exists in the midst of struggle not that when struggle ceases. David seeks the Lord. David longs for the unseen world where ultimate reality can be experienced, not the dream of a surface level life.
Can you relate to this longing?
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.
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.
The difference between an idol and the Lord is that an idol functions like an empty vending machine. Only a fraction of people who call themselves believers understand what it means to seek the face of the Lord, yet alone even care. Believers who seek the Lord’s hand (hand outs) are no different than the pagan an his or her idols. David knows that the True God is one who is in relationship, potter and clay, intimate union, total transparency with those who seek Him. The proximity and relationship with God is closer and more reliable that any human relationship, and David seeks to see the “unseen” more than anything else…so is that foolishness or wisdom?
What about you? Do you relate to he unseen?
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
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!
for my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
How do we remain optimistic in the face of such hostility against us? How should we find our Center?Clearly the way is not the common path of the world. The way is and always has been counter-intuitive. God’s ways are higher than ours, his thoughts are higher than ours. The way is caught not taught, through a trusting relationship with the invisible world which governs the material world in which we live. We live by trusting the way will be revealed. Like driving at night, we need only the next 100 feet of visibility. The way inspires us to go in a particular direction. We must wait and trust its coming, from our stillness comes our impetus for action. It’s more reliable than our own family. Then we will see the power of the unseen world change the world in which we live. David was a true contemplative.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
We know David’s adversaries surrounded him throughout his life. For most modern people, the biggest adversaries we encounter are within. We are constantly replaying scripts in our own thoughts, we live amidst horrible emotions which criticize us, blame us, condemn us and rise against us constantly from the inside. Our confidence is diminished by the psychological and spiritual assaults which ping off our heads. David reveals how to be free. We are not our pasts. We are not our weakness. We are not our failings, nor our sins or mistakes. These internal accusations are not “who we are”, these are adversaries from whom the Lord can and will deliver us. This is what salvation is. The observer of the thought is not the thinker of the thought. Like David, strength comes from waiting…from looking…and taking courage that we are not alone, even within our minds.
I believe that I shall look upon 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!