Psalm 27 affirms two things about God in its opening line: “the LORD is my light and my salvation.” These characteristics of God have become very personal to the psalmist. While the LORD might be a Light and Savior to every person in this world, the psalmist has experienced God like this for himself. He knows that God is light and salvation from his own life and testifies to that reality in the rest of the psalm.
God’s first gift to this world was light. On the inaugural day of creation, God said, “Let there be light” and the Scriptures record, “There was light” (Gen 1:3). Light began the creation process, dispelling the restrictions of darkness and opening up the way to new life, new vistas and new realities.
We only need to take a walk down a dark alley at night to be reminded of the gift of light. Our steps become guarded in such an environment. Strange sounds suggest danger. Our minds imagine unfriendly guests. What peril might lurk behind the next turn in the road? What hostile force might we encounter? We do not know. We cannot see. Darkness creates angst.
Darkness is no friend to the righteous. It lies to us about our world, while light unveils the truth. Darkness conceals, while light reveals. Darkness disorients, whiles light reorients. In light we feel safety, in darkness fear. In light we become courageous, in darkness we cower. In light we sense we belong, in darkness we feel abandoned. Light brings joy while darkness brings sadness. Light generates hope, darkness despair.
The psalmist knew about such benefits of light as well as the horrors of darkness. He had experienced the light of the LORD in his life. God had removed the disorientation, dislocation, and despair of darkness. So the psalmist had no need to fear (v 1). Perhaps he still felt fear, but he must have known that “courage is only fear that has said its prayers.” He knew the truth that he had no need to fear. In the light of the LORD he could see how safe he really was. He became fully aware of the reality of God in his life. Dimming disorientation had revealed what was true about God: God was there, always had been.
With clearer vision the psalmist could properly identify his location in this world. He discovered that he was dwelling within the security of God’s presence. The LORD was like a “stronghold,” a rocky outcropping that served as a fortress above, away from, and inaccessible to enemies (v 1). Better than the almost impenetrable Masada by the Dead Sea, no legion of armies could ever conquer this Refuge. “In the day of trouble” God is a safe place where God’s faithful can hide (v 5). The psalmist imagines himself experiencing the kind of security a cub might experience within a lion’s den (“shelter”) or that a guest might receive once inside the “tent” of an ancient Israelite (v 5). The norms of hospitality prescribed protection as well as welcome for the visitor in one’s home (see Gen 19 and Judg 19).
In such a place the despair of darkness fades and genuine joy fills the psalmist. The security of God’s presence makes him want to offer sacrifices to the LORD “with shouts of joy” and “sing and make melody to the LORD” (v 6). His heart urges him to seek more of God (v 8). He longs to settle into the safe place God has provided. This is where he wants to remain. He considers himself a subject seeking audience with his King. Seeing the King’s face meant favor has been granted. The worst thing he could imagine is that God might reject him. So he pleads that it may never happen (v 9), while knowing it never will (v 10).
To further describe his experience with God the psalmist adds that LORD is “my salvation” (v 1). This parallels the image of God as light and gives another name to the psalmist’s experience. As the term “salvation” (yasha) connotes, life with God brings people into new and spacious environs. The word david york’s tax service suggests a picture of an open range where fences no longer constrain and cattle roam free. Salvation describes release from the finite constraints of Satan’s ways into the unlimited possibilities of God’s ways. Evil offers nothing new under the sun. Whatever evil people think to do has been done before. But the potential for the goodness still awaits new expressions in this world. The Infinitely Good God opens up infinite possibilities for goodness.
Thus when salvation comes it is like light removing the restrictions of darkness. The binding fear, the uncertain dislocation, and the constraining despair dissipate in the light of God’s salvation. Surely that is why the Holy City coming down out of heaven at the end of time needs no light. “For the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev 21:23). As John testified, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
Such was the experience of the psalmist in Psalm 27. It is God’s gift to those who determinedly seek the LORD. Those who decide that the “one thing” they must do before anything else is “to behold the beauty of the LORD” will be richly rewarded (v 4). They will discover that God is like light that dispels the disorientation, dislocation and despair of darkness and opens up new horizons for the life of faith.