A Devotional Exposition of Psalm 27 – Part I: “The Lord Is My Light”
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?
What a wonderful opening volley to this psalm! It has cadence & punch all-to-itself; does it not? David waxed rhapsodically & assuredly concerning a very dark time in his life. And we of Abrahamic ancestry are left with this Davidic diamond of Holy Scripture. Genesis 1-3 may be foundational and Job may be existential profundity at its most existentially profound, but Psalm 27 brings me into the very Presence of God!
We at the Philadelphia Bible Society have a leaflet entitled “God Is Light,” containing four (4) headings: “God is Light,” “The Light of the World,” “Believe in the Light” and “Walk by the Light.” One couldn’t be better served by this schematic, so I’ll utilize it in service to His Kingdom, this exposition and (I trust) our edification.
First; however, a consideration of the very nature of light is helpful. Light, like Augustine’s query concerning time, is both revealing & perplexing. The great saint said of time that he couldn’t define it, but he knew what it was, or words to that effect. The same can be said of light. We can define it by what it is not, or by what it does.
It is not darkness; indeed, it s the direct antithesis or contradiction of darkness. It dispels & drives out darkness. “Darkness was upon the deep” as Genesis 1 so poetically puts it, but God pronounced, “Let there be light, and there was light!” The repercussions, ramifications & reverberations are both breath-taking & mind-boggling!
Light in the very least exposes darkness. It brings things into its purview that would otherwise not wish to be seen. Rats scurry for the shadowy corners & dark lairs when light is cast. Evil does; too. Machinating men confer in the dark, behind closed doors, plotting their schemes. And sinners (at least in a former, more salutary time) sinned behind the signs that read, “Do Not Sin.” Shine a light and all of dirt & dust & devils are to be found, naked & denuded of dark power before the exposure of light.
Light also enlightens & illumines. It casts understanding within the heart & revelation upon context or text as the heart is enlightened & the circumstances are illuminated. Medieval “publishers” offered exquisite tomes known as “illuminated” manuscripts, featuring both written text & clarifying or illuminating pictures of aesthetic finery.
“Lighten up” is a phrase applied to encourage others to take perspective on an otherwise burdensome situation. The accrual of wisdom is the product of light being applied to the amalgam of cold fact & clarifying truth within the context of a conundrum of immediate (i.e. murder investigation or employment prospect) or historical (i.e. Allied Powers’ dilemma as to whether to attack Nazi forces from the West or from the Mediterranean) import. And the performance of discernment is the casting of light before the cloak of darkness in the face of psychologically- or spiritually-motivated realities, such as the recognition that the actions of an angry adult may be resultant of his wounded childhood.
Light establishes mood & enhances purpose. It can create a studious or romantic or utilitarian ambience. Candlelight draws a man and a woman into a more romantic symbiosis of relationship. Sunlight brings forth energy & verve. Strobe light excites, while fluorescent light brings forth a more utilitarian inclination. Overhead lights are stark & stiffening, but lamp lights are subtle & relaxing.
Last; Light highlights & accentuates. Museums apply “accent” lights to display paintings in order to give definition & centrality to a Rembrandt or a Renoir. One’s eyes are drawn to that which is given the emphasis of light’s adornment. And makeup mirrors provide “accent” lights, a commodity by which a woman may fine-tune her makeup in advance of work or an evening out.
God Is Light: Yes; light has many shades & functions, but only one source, which is God – God Is Light, concerning which scripture is our starting place:
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7 NIV).
The apostle has made for an interesting, problematic & necessary dichotomy: God is light; on the one hand, and; on the other, we have the option of walking in the light or in the dark, both of which have direct & profound consequence, for better or worse.
First; God is light. Light is inherent to who He is. Light emanates from His Person. The existence of light as we know it in the world is the direct pronouncement of the creative power that proceeds directly from Him – “Let there be light, and there was light!”
Second; there is absolutely no darkness in God – None! He harbors nothing within Himself that would tolerate any secret thing, other than either details of a plan that has already begun to unfold, a plan that has found embodiment in “the mystery of Christ,” now an “Open Secret.” And there is nothing that requires secrecy by virtue of any illicit quality, sinful proclivity or selfish bent. Certainly; there are depths to God, depths that defy our limitations & finitude as human beings, let alone as sinful human beings, so there is so much that we don’t know, can’t fathom or will require eternity “and a day” to even begin to grasp. Nevertheless; we can appreciate in wondrous & joyful adoration of God who is light and in whom there is no darkness at all – Praise Him always & anon!
Third; we who have dwelt in darkness can continue to walk in darkness or we can begin to walk in the light. Our decision is enormously consequential for our practical existence & our eternal welfare. We can continue to walk in darkness but if we do, the very Word of God identifies us as liars and determines that truth has no place in our lives. It’s a pretty grim picture; to put it mildly, and I; for one, find it grossly distasteful – Not so much to be so accused but to realize that the charge and the conclusion could actually be true, but for the grace of God.
We live in a day during which those of us who run counter to the prevailing “narrative” (a literary word given application of recent vintage to political messages – memes; if you will, expressive of yet another political appropriation of what was once a literary term!) are accused of being liars & of telling lies. It’s arisen seemingly out-of-thin-air, but is actually a propagandistic tool of devilish forces, something to which 20th Century history provides grim & horrific attestation. It is a trend that needs to be utterly defeated.
But our lives, throughout history, from the moment of sin’s advent into the sinful heart & historical picture, have been immersed in spiritual darkness, moved by spiritually-dark motivations, preyed upon by spiritually-dark forces, and facing an eternal darkness of our own determination. If we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.
What must be remembered is that John is not talking about people who are optically-blind in a physical sense, or of those who have darkened minds, having been nurtured & educated by overtly evil people. He is actually confronting those of us who profess to be Christians – If we claim to have fellowship with him, but …”
Christian profession is a beautiful & glorious thing, but also a sober & potentially deadly thing. We have every right to claim Christ’s forgiveness via His shed blood and to acknowledge Almighty God as our loving & heavenly Father through the meritorious conduit of Christ & Christ alone. But we have no right to identify ourselves as Christians if we are not intentional of living lives that endeavor to be replicative of Him. Are we seeking to embody His teachings, witnessing with our lives of the “radiance” of His Being? Or are we content to appropriate God’s grace in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer so aptly described in a way that cheapens rather than honors the value of divine grace? It is blasphemic to do or to live the latter. It will be a very rude awakening on Judgment Day.
Conversely; it is more than possible for us to have fellowship with one another, an existence for which we have been prepared before the earth’s creation, and a relationship, the very prospect of which gave Jesus both encouragement & hope by which He endured the Cross’s stigma & torture – God has called us to be a band of brothers & sisters, a calling that is the product of grace on His part, the product of which is a gift to us.
Fellowship with God’s people is made possible by the shed blood of the Savior: The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. You have heard the old saying that blood is thicker than water? Well; it is, but the blood of Christ is thickest of all! We are family bound by a common blood-line, but not of Welsh or Italian or Greek or Chinese or Mexican or Lebanese blood – Rather; we share the blood of Jesus, a blood that has cleansed us of our sin, a blood that has washed the sin of our lives away! It is this, and not any religious heritage or good intentions or anything else that allows us the God-given gift of humble boasting when we lay claim to the declaration of the Apostle Peter:
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9, 10 NIV).
I viscerally recall a Saturday morning when, while being immersed in God’s Presence and after a season of wrestling with sinful proclivity, the Spirit of the living God came upon me and gave me what I can only describe as the spiritual sensation of feeling as if I were being bathed in the blood of Jesus, the end result of which was a distinct and decided sense that I was not only forgiven & cleansed, but free & consecrated-afresh to my Lord’s service & my life in Him. I will not forget it!
But, for any of us to experience such, however viscerally or faithfully, we are lovingly obligated to walk in the light, as he is in the light. We “walk” in the light when we ensconce ourselves before God, appropriating the full measure of His saving grace to our lives and avoiding (to the extent that we can) sinful expressions and evil influences. One may need to avoid the television, while another may be required to stay away from certain kinds of music, but everyone, if intent upon being Christians, must dwell in God’s Presence wherever He is to be found, which means being attentive to His Word (wherein He speaks), positing oneself in prayer (whereby we commune with Him), having regular and active fellowship (amidst which He finds His home) and discerning and doing His will (being the safest place to be, as it is where He is to be found).
We avoid spiritual back alleys & shadows. We keep the door open, so that light may enter. We never cast our sights where God would not be found. We remain aloof to anything & everything that would derail us and alive to anything & everything that would draw us to God & allow God to be made known to us. We walk in the light because God, who is light, is in the light, both by definition & disposition – We would expect nothing other or less from Him; He expects nothing less or other from us, as it is He Himself who enables us to so walk; praise His Name!
The Light of the World: Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Follow me and you will never walk in the dark, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
He certainly brought light to ancient Israel! His light brought exposure to the darkness of human motivation, religious institutionalism and demonic forces. But He also gave enlightenment to the hearts & minds that were receptive to His love & truth, and who would soon enough receive His Spirit into their lives. And He gave illumination to the way we should live, the path we should walk and the reason we should be so engaged.
The Person of Jesus Christ was definitive in its expression of God Himself. The Work of Jesus Christ was definitive in that our need had been met, both decisively & thoroughly. The “light of life” brought death to our dead spirits. Light has exposed darkness. Darkness has been vanquished by victorious light. We need never fall prey to spiritual forces that would engulf us, and we will ever follow the light that would suffuse our lives – Can we ever stop praising Him?
Believe in the Light: Again; Jesus declares, “Believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light … so the darkness may not overtake you” (John 12:35).
The light is real. Examine the record. Where the Gospel is present, sin is confronted, darkness recedes and human welfare expands. Think of the plight of twins in 19th Century Africa, when prior to the Gospel’s arrival, they would be drowned out of fear of demons (as an identical twin, I thank God for the missionaries who were instrumental in bringing such an insidious practice to an end!).
Consider; too, the trauma inflicted upon young girls in pre-modern China, where their feet would be bound, causing excruciating pain, all so that Chinese men could experience some kind of sadistically-motivated sexual satisfaction (beyond me; I must say, and beyond the poor girls; beyond question!), a perversity that was stopped in large measure by the influence of Christian missionaries and their Gospel.
And let us not forget Indian widows who, upon the death of their husbands, would be burned alive with the bodies of their late husbands, a practice from hell that was stopped by Christians who were guided by the dictate of the Gospel.
The movements of social advance that were launched throughout Great Britain at the tail-end of the 18th and much of the 19th Centuries were the by-product of the Wesleyan Revival, a time in Great Britain during which men & women were coming to Christ & going forth with conviction – Praise God; the entire social spectrum of “merry old England,” a perverse merriment for so long, became healthy living & laughter, as the joy of the Lord suffused countless lives & correspondingly permeated in very constructive and redemptive ways the length and breadth of the island.
It was God’s children who were at the core of all of this, serving as servants and ambassadors before a fallen world, being used of God to bring forth more & more spiritual children, an epoch that culminated with the Welsh Revival at the dawn of the 20th Century, a movement of God’s Spirit that reverberated around the world over subsequent decades, the end result being the expanse of God’s Kingdom and, correspondingly, the increase in the numbers of God’s children across the globe! The light went forth, overtaking the darkness in so many places & lives – Praise God!
Alas; a counter-offensive has wreaked massive destruction over the last 100 years, yet the Gospel explodes across Africa & Asia, bringing increase to the Kingdom: “He has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14).
Walk in the Light: The Psalmist understood, even well before the arrival of Jesus, when he cried out to God: “Reveal your light and your faithfulness. They will lead me and escort me back to your holy hill where you live” (Psalm 43:3).
It’s a two-fold issue. First; we need God Himself to make known to us the way to Him. Second; God will use us to make the light of His truth & love known to others. It is why we must continually seek Him, persistently beseeching His throne of mercy & grace, and always living our lives before Him.
Paul both reminds and exhorts us that “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, o sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’” (Ephesians 5:8-14).
And He will shine through us, with His light being cast upon those around us. Some will hate us for it, as our light will expose the darkness in their lives, but others will love us for it, as they have had too much darkness besetting their lives, and the warmth of Christ’s love will be gladly and even desperately received.
We can never forget who we are – Children of light; therefore the light of the world. My wife & I are mindful to remind one another of who we are when our more fleshly selves risk getting the best of us. Perhaps a waiter or a salesperson is rude (it happens) or, (what easily gets to me) the words “thank you” don’t issue from someone on the receiving end of an act of courtesy – Egads; I’m fit to be tied! But Peggy will quietly remind of me, both of who I am & of what I’m called to be and to do. Paul once again says it best:
“Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. By plainly setting forth the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in God’s sight. Even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of the invisible God. What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).
Christians: Shine forth! Radiate from within & emanate without! Be light – Always to His glory, everything to the furtherance of His Kingdom and the blessing of His people, and all for the salvation of lost souls and the world! Amen & Amen.
Bradley E. Lacey
January 26, 2021