Fear, it has been said, is a primary emotion. That is to say that it is one of the basic and fundamental emotions we feel as humans in response to situations that seem beyond our control and beyond our ability to cope. In December of 2008 we do not have to use our imaginations to conjure up such situations, rather the current condition of the US economy provides the ready example. We may be facing the loss of a job or the potential loss of a job or someone close to us may be facing it. If we have not lost a job, nevertheless, we may be facing a very uncertain future in terms of our financial security and capability. Various things we believed had a certain value such as a home or a retirement plan, now have much less value and it is not clear when or if these things will regain the value they once had. And, the precise meaning of these things for our everyday lives is, once again, uncertain. It is thus not hard to imagine what it means to experience fear.
The subheading that was attached to this Psalm reads, “A Psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” Certainly the psalm shows the insights of a person of faith who has struggled deeply with their sin. This is another one of the penitential psalms, like Psalm 32 which we examined last week. It begins with petition and pleading but also moves to confidence in God’s provision and also encouragement to others. While it strongly reminds us of the failings we have as human beings, it also reminds us of the great hope we have for forgiveness and grace.
In his book on Biblical genres, Leland Ryken the various structures Biblical poetry typically takes including narrative structure, expository structure, and descriptive structure. Psalm 32 would like fall into what he labels psychological structure, where the poetry follows “the very flow of a speaker’s consciousness and jump[s] abruptly from one subject to another,” and where “the point of unity is that it is all happening in the mind and consciousness of the speaker” (p. 209). When we engage the poetry, when it works, we too are drawn more or less into the same consciousness. Perhaps this does not happen every time we read a psalm, like 32, but hopefully more often than not it does.
The psalm has major themes
- Reliance on the Lord (verses Psalm 27: 1-3) “Hope” in the Lord (Psalm 27: 4-6)
- Prayer for mercy, and guidance (verses Psalm 27: 7-12)
- Exhortation to be patient (verses Psalm 27: 13-14)
Theme 1- Reliance on the Lord.
What jumps out at you regarding the language used in verses Psalm 27: 1-3?