'It's you and me against the world'- confidence in the ability of a relationship to overcome anything. Based upon the persons involved and on the quality of the relationship between them.
1. David is confident because of his relationship with God [v1-3]
Verse one states twice the formula upon which David's confidence rests:
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?
The LORD, Yahweh, the one true, living and almighty God, the creator of the universe and the redeemer of Israel
David's light and his salvation, the stronghold of David's life
David fear no one. Because of his personal relationship with God, David is not afraid he is confident. So David goes on to boldly proclaim in v3:
3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
Even if things get as bad as David can possibly imagine; if he was trapped by a besieging army, even if war were to break out David's heart will not fear, he will be confident.
These are remarkable verses, one of the most confident assertions of faith that we find anywhere in scripture. It's not quite 'come an have a go if you think you're hard enough' but it's close. David's confidence is bullish. Where does this confidence come from? Well we've already seen the formula for David's confidence in v1. David is confident because of his relationship with God. Looking more closely we can see that David's confidence relies on two things: who God is and the quality of David's relationship with this God.
1 Firstly, who God is. David addresses God as LORD, Yahweh. In fact David uses the term 13 times in this psalm. By calling God Yahweh he isn't just using the most respectful term he can think of, he is in shorthand, reminding us of God's identity. David's relationship is with the God of Israel, the covenant making and keeping God. The God who created the heaven, who led Israel out of Egypt. It's this all-faithful and all-powerful God that is behind David's confidence.
My mum isn't very good with heights. I can remember being on the top of a tall building looking over the wall whilst my mum stood as far away from the edge as it was physically possible to be warning me not to lean on the wall as it might fall down. Now perhaps on some buildings that may have been good advice but this was the top of Durham cathedral. It's walls are made of stone a couple of feet thick and have stood there for nearly a thousand years so I was pretty confident in their ability to withstand me placing my hands on top of them.
David is confident in God, in his strength and in his faithfulness. God is strong enough to defeat any enemy and trustworthy enough for David to be able to rely upon him to do so. So David's confidence is built on who God is.
2 Secondly, David's confidence rests on how this God has related to him. David calls God his light and salvation, the stronghold of his life and he does so from personal experience. It's suggested that v1 and 2 should be thought of as being in the past tense. They perhaps refer back to an unlikely military victory which David has recently won and which he is now reviewing. As David looks back on and celebrates his victory he is quick to recognise God's hand in it. God, David reasons, is responsible.
David's past personal experience of God's rescue and help allow him to call Yahweh HIS personal light and salvation. It's this track record which David will look back on and which will cause him to live without fear even when faced with the most extreme circumstances like those of v3. God has been David's God and so he claims God's faithfulness and his power as things which he has access to.
If we were to go back to the top of Durham cathedral it's a bit like me being able to say to my mum; not only are the characteristics of these walls confidence inspiring but I've been coming up here regularly all my life and leaning on them, they've never allowed me to fall.
The first thing we learn from this Psalm then is this; we need a personal relationship with God. David is bullishly confident because of his relationship with God. The flipside of that is though, that without God we can have no real confidence. David despite, his brave leadership and his military skill is under no illusion that his strength will ultimately save him. We must know God. We must know this God; the God who saves, who is powerful and loving and trustworthy.
Secondly, we must trust in God. David's bullish confidence is simply the rational result of seeing God as he really is. We should trust in him. The opening verses of this Psalm gives us a model for developing that confidence. Notice that David's trust in God rises as he looks back over how God has previously intervened in his life. David is able to perceive God's goodness in his life as he looks back with hindsight. The same is true for us as we look back over our own lives we can see how God has been at work. Journals and prayer diaries and notes from sermons years ago found tucked inside a well worn bible can be precious reminders of God's grace to us. Hindsight really is a wonderful thing.
We ought to look at who God is, at what he has done and be confident. If we don't we have to ask ourselves which side of the equation is missing? Do we doubt God's sovereignty? Or do we doubt that we are cared for and loved at all times by that same God? Which ever side we fall on the answer to our doubts is found at the cross. There God shows both his power (over sin, death, shame and the devil) and his passionate desire to relate to broken sinners is shines brightest. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.
That's point one David's confidence is based on his relationship with God.
2. David's desire is for a deeper relationship with God [v4-6]
David's confidence is built on his relationship with God and this relationship is also David's greatest delight and desire. Look at v4:
4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: 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 seek him in his temple.
There is one thing on David's heart: God. David uses rich temple imagery but it isn't a job as a priest in the temple that he is after it is God himself. David is desperate to be with God, to live in his presence. David's primary interest is not what God can give him but God himself. As it has been said: he wants God more than his gifts. David longs to know God, to see more of him and this desire is reflected now as David seeks God in prayer 'One thing I ask... this is what I seek' to:
'dwell in the house of the LORD' - he wants to be where God's presence is.
'all the days of my life' - David wants to be nowhere else.
'to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD' - he wants to see and enjoy God's glory.
The things that we ask God for in prayer reveal what our hearts really seek. For example when Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants in Mark 10 he answers: 'Rabbi, I want to see.' The disciples when asked the same question just a few verses earlier answer: 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in glory'. Two differing answers which reveal very different hearts.
David's prayer reveals his heart's desire which is to be with God, this is his all consuming goal. David sounds well, lovestruck? I'm not sure that's quite the right term when we are love struck it can be beautiful but it can also be naive, it can tempt us to be selfish in its pursuit, it can be unrequited and therefore painful and finally it can be idolatrous. None of which can be said about David's desire to be in God's presence.
However, lovestruck does convey something of the intensity of David's feelings. He doesn't just think God is good, or helpful idea, or the best way of explaining the world, he longs for him. Like a bride longs for her husband. And with God there are no nasty secrets to be naive about and no possibility of idolatry for he deserves every ounce of praise and adoration we could ever give him and more.
The reason for David's passionate pursuit of God's presence becomes clear as we read on in David's prayer look at v5:
5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. 6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.
God's presence is David's refuge, it is here where David is truly safe. God's presence is here
he comes to sacrifice and sing with great joy.
'That our only business was to love and delight ourselves in GOD.'
Brother Lawrence, Practising the presence of God
Do we desire God?
Is that desire reflected in our prayers? Is it reflecting in where we pour our energy?
What ambition do we have for our faith?
Do we seek to 'quicken' our trust in God?
3. David's prayer is that God would be with him [v7-14]
David calls out again to God in v7:
7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Saviour. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
David's request is again to know God's presence, David's heart cries out 'seek his face' and David responds. David's words now echoing God's promise in Deuteronomy 4 that if:
'... you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.'
David seeks God with all his heart and soul. He begs him to be merciful, not to turn away but to answer his prayers. God's presence is all that David is concerned about he says in v10 that even his father and mother may forsake him. That is not meant as a slight on his parents rather it's an admission that there will be times when they cannot help, where placing his confidence in them will be pointless. David asks God to intervene in his life, v11:
11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not hand me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.
David recognises that as well as a threats to his physical life he faces moral and spiritual threats as well. He asks God to lead him, to protect him from his enemies desires.
As David approaches God and seeks his blessing we see his confidence rising. In v9 he remembers how God has been his helper in the past, in v10 he is convinced that even when the closest family ties cannot help, God will receive him. And so, by the time we reach the end of the psalm we are back to where we started, David boldly proclaiming his confidence in God, despite facing enemies who breathe out violence v13:
13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
David runs to God amidst trouble and finds himself convinced again by his trustworthiness, by his ability to fulfill his promises. So David resolves to wait, to trust in God, to be confident in God, to not be afraid even if enemies besiege him or war breaks out. David preaches to his own heart: be strong, take heart, God is coming.
David approaches God and asks that he would hear him according to his mercy. David seeks God's presence with all his heart trusting in God's word which promises that he would find him if he did.HE asks God to intervene convinced of God's goodness, convinced of his power to save. And so David is confident, confident in who God is and confident in his relationship with that God.
But friends we have reason to be much more confident than David. In God's word we are consistently presented with God's trustworthiness, with his power to save and with his willingness to do so. But most supremely these things are shown to us in Jesus and so Paul writing along similar lines to David in Romans 8 says this:
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
If God is for us (and he must be for he has already given us what is most precious to him - Jesus) no one can be against us.
What's more God's presence is guaranteed for us. Read again from our first bible reading. John 14.16:
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you.
God's presence is assured for us by his Spirit. Such that Jesus can say in v20 that one day we will 'realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you'. The most incredibly intimate access to God's presence will be given to us.
If we know these realities that God who did not spare his own Son for us, but gave him up is now present in us by his spirit at work in our hearts and lives then surely we will be confident. If it is us and God against the world then we can be full of bold confidence and overwhelming joy.