1The 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?
2When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
4One 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.
5For 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.
6Now 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.
7Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
8‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9Do 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!
10If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.
11Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
12Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Text ©The New Revised Standard Version, alt, Used with permission.
Depending on the denomination you associate with, there are various selections of verses from this psalm, so I have chosen to take the whole of it, which is actually according to the Roman Catholic lectionary. I think the reasons will become obvious.
This psalm appears to be two separate songs put together, with verses 1-6 being a celebration of the relationship between the writer and God, and verses 7-14 being an appeal to God for intervention, but I think these are deliberately together, either put there by the writer or by the editors of the texts when they were finally put in written form.
As a Christian I’m quite happy to declare that “The Lord is my light and my salvation” because my trust in the Lord has allowed me to see many things that I wouldn’t have seen, and be saved from situations in which I would descend into depression or self-pity, or allow my life to be dictated by bad things that have happened. Instead, I quite often see, in my own life and in those of others, that God can take something bad and turn it into something good. In that context what, and who, do I have to fear? There is nothing that should cause me to be disheartened for more than a short time.
As the psalmist puts it “when evil doers assail me … they shall stumble and fall.” So, even if the evil which I encounter is perpetrated on a continuing basis, I can be confident that God will win in the end, and the strength that I gain from my relationship with Him will keep me going in the meantime. The concept of an army encamping around me shouldn’t be taken as a military force, armed with weapons of mass destruction, but any group of people who don’t agree with me, or don’t like my presence. As a meteorologist with many years’ experience, I get frustrated by people dclaring that human influence on our climate is too insignificant to have any serious impact, when I see the reality as a straw that breaks a camel’s back, or a snowflake that breaks a limb of a tree. Even then, I am confident that God will save us from the self-destruction which awaits us if we try to save the economy at the expense of the environment in which we live.
How often do we Christians speak words such as “I will seek to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” and then do plenty of things which take us away from the Lord? God isn’t asking us to give up our work and spend every moment of the day in church, but to use our time in the outside world to take ‘the house of the Lord’ to other people. We should live as if God matters to us, not as those who turn up to church on a Sunday and leave as soon as they’ve been seen to be attending. With our heads lifted high with confidence in our relationship with God we can sing praises and make melody (and preferably harmony) to the Lord.
Having sung of our love of God, the importance of that relationship, and the strength we gain from it, we turn to the reality of the world around us. It’s very easy to despair when things appear not to be going well, and not seeing any action on God’s part. It’s also very easy for us to think a particular approach is the best solution, when God thinks otherwise and so does not support it.
On the cross, Jesus cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If Christ’s humanity reduced him to a cry of being forsaken, how much easier is it for us, without the knowledge of what is to happen, to feel abandoned in a time of need? This is why what appears to be two songs are together. We have declared our allegiance to God, and our confidence that we will be protected, so we can face those daunting times knowing that God is still looking after us. We have to tackle the problems which are put before us, confident that good will prevail in the face of evil, and accepting that God’s timing is not ours.
Let us, then, “wait for the Lord” and let our hearts take courage that the Lord will prevail. That, however, doesn’t mean we should be sitting idle as we wait. There is work to be done, and God is calling us to do that work as part of providing salvation.