Psalm 27

Fighting Bears 

We recently spent some time vacationing in the Smokey Mountains. We had a great time, camping next to the Little River and hearing the constant flow of mountain water, swimming in freezing cold mountain water, hiking up chimney tops and getting an amazing view of the mountains, and biking an 11-mile loop through the old farm community of Cades Cove. It was an amazing time. But as we planned the trip and looked into going there, we saw many warnings about bears and what to do if you see one.

One of these read: 

  1. change your direction. 
  2. Raise your arms to appear larger. 
  3. Form a group if you’re with other people to make yourselves look as large as possible.
  4. Yell and throw non-food objects such as rocks or sticks until it leaves the area. Use bear spray when it comes within 20 yards of you.
  5. If it continues, stand your ground. Act aggressively to intimidate.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s site states, “Never run from a bear. If it attacks you, don’t play dead; fight back.”   

It is good to know these things. Sometimes you need to fight back against an opponent. Well, I want to talk about something you need to be fighting back against: Anxiety. Fear.  

Age of Anxiety

You often hear it stated that ours is the age of anxiety. Data appears to back this up. Anxiety problems are the most commonly diagnosed class of mental disorders.   Fear of abandonment. Fear of commitment. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of attention. Fear of isolation.  Fear of missing out. Fear of being included.   

Fear and anxiety are all around. We are taught and trained to fear everything. Avoid hardship. If there is the slightest thing wrong, you have to get it out. We create a storm of anxiety that is greater than the actual thing. Parents, sometimes you need to relax and trust God everything is going to be OK.   

Gen Z has the lowest rate of mental health of any generation. Constantly stressed about many different things. Work, violence, politics, safety. Acute concern for safety. Debilitating.   

Studies show Gen Z struggles with acute anxiety. When a Gen Zer hears about an opportunity to volunteer, he may fear what T. S. Eliot calls the “perpetual possibility” of “what might have been.” Jerry Riendeau has called this the “fear of better options,” a tendency to hedge commitments (or stop making them in the first place) in case something better comes up.  

What Is Anxiety?

But what is anxiety? Unlike fear, which involves the perception of imminent unambiguous danger and the mobilization of immediate action, anxiety is a persistent apprehension regarding potential future threats. While fear is associated with an immediate "fight or flight" response that produces terror, anxiety provokes a “stop, look and listen” response and produces anticipatory worry. In other words, anxiety is what you feel on the night before the big battle. Fear is what you feel during battle. Devon Frye, Psychology Today, “Why are we so Anxious?”  

Psychology will tell you this is a physical problem and simply needs medication or some other therapy. I believe these problems reveal that we are also spiritual beings, and if we are not nourishing our souls and fighting back against wrong thinking we are plagued by them.  

It’s amazing to me that we live in the most affluent country in the world in the most affluent time period ever, and there is more anxiety than ever before.  

I think part of the reason we live in such an anxious age is because we are trying to go through life without God. The world is trying to take that away, and when you have no hope for eternity, no hope for the future, no assurance that things are going to end right, you have anxiety.    Anxiety gets at what is our functional god. Theoretically I believe in God. Theoretically I believe in Jesus Christ. But functionally I live like an atheist. As if the power and protection of God are nowhere to be found.    

God can save and protect us from all things, and trusting that brings a simplifying peace.  

We are reading a psalm today that is about confidence in God. It is about trusting him when life is hard, when adversaries move in. 

Strengthening Faith  

This song points us to a bold confidence in God, and it does that through poetics. I want to talk about the literature of the Psalms. Most read book of the Bible. A psalm for every season.   


All of you who are used to diagnosing spreadsheets and CAD drawings are going to use a different part of your brain. Poetics, the art of writing poetry.    Part of poetry is the descriptive language. Sometimes we don’t appreciate poetry. We are more of a scientific audience. We like facts. My big brother is six feet tall and 200 lbs. and no one can tackle him in football. Those are true descriptions. But what if I go all poetic: My brother is a beast on the basketball court. That is a strong description of your brother. This is what we have in the psalms. We know who God is through this.   Ex: God is our light, our salvation, stronghold. He is our shepherd. Rock. He pulled us up out of the muck and mire. Those are powerful images that help us understand who God is. It is a different way to convey truth.   

Ideas are also conveyed through techniques like Metaphor and simile. Metaphor often has more oomph. Simile is often more reflective and delicate. He runs like a gazelle. He is a gazelle.  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?   One main feature of Hebrew poetry is its parallelism. CS Lewis says parallelism is saying the same thing twice in different words (Lewis. Reflections, 134). This occurs frequently in the Psalms, where the second part of the line qualifies, amplifies, explains the first part.   


Twinkle, twinkle little star,  how I wonder what you are  


That’s one small step for man,  one giant leap for mankind.

The parallel structure is seen in making a statement of God followed by a question. This shows a main theme of the psalm.   

The imagery of this line is light/salvation. Do you know how important light is? Light is what brings life. Light chases the darkness away. If we didn’t have light we wouldn’t be able to see anything. The light delivers us. It saves us.   

The sun is 93 million miles from the earth. The Sun’s diameter is 864,000 miles, or 109 times that of Earth, and weighs about 330,000 times that of Earth. We see things by the light of the sun. If no sun then completely dark. Everything on earth would die. Plummet so no human could live and the earth would freeze over in a couple months. We need its light, its energy, its warmth.   

God is our light

Stronghold. mountain stronghold, place of refuge, fortress. To take refuge in another, to find safety from threats.   

What do you take shelter in? When you need protection and refuge.

I remember when the kids were younger and we would play Nerf gun war in the house. They would show up with a Nerf gun that shoots 100 bullets at one time, comes with a back pack of ammunition, and then they would give me the smallest gun in the house, that shoots one bullet at a time, and doesn’t even shoot straight. My strategy was to hide behind the couch until they unloaded all their ammo. The couch was my stronghold. It was a place where I found shelter.   

God is everlasting, he is all powerful, he is the greatest. So to have him as our shelter means we are hiding behind the most powerful person in the world!  

We could say God is my all in all. That is true, isn’t it? We could say he is God and that means we attribute to him greatness, power, eternality, self-sufficiency, perfection. But a different side is seen when we say he is my light, salvation, and stronghold.   

My—possessive pronoun. Shows ownership. Shows belonging. Amanda is my wife. We made a promise to each other. Allegiance and devotion. Will see there are many who are not serving God, going against his purpose.    After confessing that twice, he asks the question whom should I fear? If God is my light, my salvation, my stronghold whom should I fear? Whom should I fear? I asked that twice. Why did I do that? You said it louder the second time. Repetition. Not needless. Point is he is building a case.   

Why do we need to trust in God? Well, just look at what this psalm is about.  Evildoers assail him (v2). Destroy.  Eat up his flesh. (v2). Evil people are about to eat him like you would eat a slice of pizza. Just for the fun of it.  An army encamps against him. War breaks out against him. If you are a king in the ancient Near East, you have to worry about this. We can use it figuratively. Even his father and mother have forsaken him. Closest relationship there is. This psalm is by David. Scripture does not speak to this event explicitly, but it could have been when he was anointed king but still working as a shepherd, or perhaps when he failed to correct his son and his son tried to take his throne, perhaps they disagreed with a decision.   

It does not appear a major lifelong forsaking, but there are times your parents may disapprove of you. Trust in the Lord. There may be times your parents disapprove of your faith. Be strong. They may be helped by your explaining why you believe that, but you may have to go against them. 

What are you going to have to trust God with?

  • Friends being mean to you? 
  • Someone doesn’t value and respect you? Spouse, child, family? 
  • Bullies saying bad things? 
  • People lying? Don’t think you are better off lying. You are going down the path of the wicked.
  • Pleasing parents, teachers. 
  • When you mess up and do something you shouldn’t have done.  §  Getting old and your body doesn’t work like it used to §  Parents, when you want your kids to be perfect and realize they aren’t.
  • Dad comes home from a rough day at work.  

You say...

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?   

Even more, he is saying even if the worst thing in life happens, he will still trust in God.

Though an army encamp against me,  my heart shall not fear;  though war arise against me,  yet I will be confident.  

If we are going to be healthy, we need to have our trust in something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes life hits us in the face. We trust the Lord but it takes a bit to reorient ourselves. Depression, discouragement, those are not always evidence of a lack of faith. Sometimes the fact that we are admitting it is an expression of a faith that is not content to be in that place. Sometimes we need to be strong enough to admit we need help. I want to be a church where people come, admit their struggles, find healing, find health. *We need to be strong enough to let others in on where we struggle.*

Simplifying Desire  

This psalm also points us to how our desires protect us. If we desire the wrong things it can get us into trouble. If we want everyone to like us we are destined for trouble. Not even Jesus had everyone like him, and he was perfect. If we just keep wanting more and more stuff we will never be satisfied.   

What do you need to get done this week? What are you worried that might or might not happen? What does this one desire have to do with God being a stronghold? Everyone wants something secure to stand on.   

If God is your light, your salvation, your stronghold, you don’t need anything else. The most important thing is knowing and experiencing his presence and power.   

Look at the structure in verses 4-5.

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.   

The thing you most want in life is your God. The thing you most crave is your God. Everyone has a god, for better or worse. It will lead to life or it will lead to death. People who put all their trust in their career, climb the ladder of success and find the ladder the was propped up on the wrong building. Stephen Covey.   

You will never please everyone. You will never have enough money to truly feel secure. Trusting in a God who is a light, who provides salvation, who is a stronghold, is the only way to find peace and security.   

He longs for God and he longs to be in the church so he can see the beauty of God. Look at the way he views the church. He can’t wait to be there. He wants to be in the house of the Lord. He wants to see the beauty of God in the temple.   

The temple of David’s day revealed God’s holiness and his purposes in the world. It is the same today. The church reveals the manifold wisdom of God. It reminds us that he is redeeming people from all nations. It reveals that he is doing something in drawing people to himself, and knitting them together as a family. The way you view the things of God reveals what you think about God. Jesus died for the church; how can we profess to follow him and then look at the church with indifference, or just see the problems? We need eyes to see what God is doing.   

Gospel simplicity. If you could have one thing what would it be? Do you want everyone to like you? Wealth that will sustain a high level of freedom and luxury? For everyone to respect and admire you? Or do you just want to please God?  

Parents, you teach your kids by your words and your actions. What do you say and what do you do? Want to go to church? Want to know God, encounter him? Help others know him.   

When God is our stronghold, when we desire him, it means we can wait with confidence in the midst of attacks. 

Waiting Confidence.   

When I am playing Nerf gun war with my kids, and they come at me, and I hide behind my couch, my stronghold, I just wait for them to empty all of their bullets. I know I am safe, secure. But I have to wait for them to stop.   

Many times we find ourselves in places of waiting to see God act and move. David was a king but he had to wait on God.    In hard times people often waver from confidence to concern, faith to fear. Hope to hopelessness. Trusting, hoping, waiting.   

Waiting may be passive. Waiting may be doing things. Waiting for a new job offer. Waiting and applying seeking after. Waiting for the depression to pass. Waiting and fighting for faith, seeking after God, praying with people, reading the word and fellowshipping over it. I’m pressing in.   

Times in life we want something, but we don’t get it then. Waiting on God is that hard, awkward, and even painful time between what we hope to have and when we actually receive it. Most of the people in the Bible are waiting on God for something.   

Sometimes you have to wait on your parents. Waiting doesn’t mean they aren’t there, or don’t care or can’t help. My kids have emergencies all the time and I’m like, “Let me see what’s in the fridge. It’s going to be OK. He doesn’t know but it is.”  

We wait on God to do things we can’t do. You rest in the confines of his commands. And you wait for him. People get in trouble when they take matters into their own hands. You do everything you can. You don’t disobey him. Don’t start lying, cheating, stealing, hurting others. Make things worse when we go against God’s commands. We show the thing is more important than God.    

We speak to ourselves. This psalm teaches that we can strengthen ourselves and fight anxiety. The light of the world has appeared. The salvation of God has come. He will not abandon us. He will not forsake us. We may have to walk through some hard stuff, but we can rest in him.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does it mean to you to say that Jesus is your light, salvation, stronghold? Name a scenario you could see yourself in this week that you might need to quote verse one loudly to yourself.
  2. What do you most desire in life? How does God uniquely meet that desire?
  3. What is something you are waiting on God for? How can you remain faithful to him while you wait?