David’s Remedy for Fear (Psalm 27:1-3)
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? [2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.] —Psalm 27:1-3
Have you ever visited a glass overhang like the Willis Tower’s glass “Ledge” in Chicago (1,353 feet high) or the Grand Canyon Skywalk (4,000 feet high) and experienced gut-wrenching fear and exhilaration as you take in the view? Because the architects have all but eliminated any visual signs of support, the queasiness is hard to shake. Many visitors attempt to overcome their fear by mentally assuring themselves of the solid construction that surely will keep them safe: like the Ledge’s strong rivets, 1,500-pound glass panels, and 10,000-pound weight capacity.
In this week’s verse, we see David doing a similar kind of mental tallying to battle his fear. David reminds himself that his fear is unfounded, and recites to himself why he is completely secure. In Psalm 27:1-3, David teaches us to battle fear in life’s circumstances by extolling three aspects of God’s superior protection: God as light, salvation, and a stronghold. With each of these elements, David encourages the reader by contrasting the LORD’s attributes against the futile and inferior qualities of his enemies.
It is worth first noting that David chooses to refer to God with the name “LORD” which is Yahweh—God’s specific personal name (often transliterated to “Jehovah”)—rather than a more generic name for God (like Elohim or El). Why is this important? Yahweh means “I am” and conveys that God is self-existent, never gets used up, never wears out, needs no help, had no beginning, and has no ending. He absolutely is and no enemy of God can claim the same. He exists. He rules. He is unchanging. Yahweh is the name that God used for Himself when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush before sending Moses on a seemingly impossible mission against the most powerful nation on earth (Exodus 3:14). So in Psalm 27:1, when David tell us that this is the one we can turn to in times of trouble, God’s mere name offers assurance. This LORD, Yahweh, is a better choice than any substitute balm for our souls when we are afraid.
So let’s return to David’s three areas of anti-fear focus, starting with the LORD as light (Psalm 27:1). It is easy and natural to fear the darkness because things are hidden or lurking. Satan, our ultimate enemy, is even characterized by darkness. But God is characterized by light, which reveals all things. Light is also pervasive; it doesn’t stick to one spot, it travels at a mind-boggling speed of 670 million mph. By definition, light literally drives out darkness. Immediately. There is no need to fear the dark when the one who IS light is on our side. And like the glass overhang example, when God is our light, He enables us to enjoy the journey, the glorious view, no matter where we are standing in life.
David tells us that God is also our salvation. He delivers Christians from sin and its consequence—death. Along the way, believers face trials, but in the end, God always wins. Knowing and reminding ourselves of this truth should drive all fear from our hearts. Even when our enemy is like a wild animal set on devouring (“to eat up my flesh”), we know that they will fail—they will “stumble and fall” (Proverbs 17:2). In our earlier example of standing on a glass floor high above a precipice, we can stem our fears by remembering the truth that there is strength beneath our feet. In the same way, David reminds himself that the LORD is his salvation and therefore he will not fear.
The LORD is also David’s stronghold in Psalm 27:1. This word in Hebrew, “maowz”, signifies strength and a means or place of safety and protection. In verse 3, David characterizes his enemies in the strongest terms—as if they were an “army” or “war” itself. But isn’t it comforting to know that they are no match for the impenetrable fortress that God is to the believer?
The State of Our Heart
Psalm 27:3 ends with an appropriate summary word: confidence. Against the seemingly impossible ‘odds’ of one man against a warring army, David’s heart is not just unafraid, but confident in God’s ability to bring hope, salvation, and protection. When the LORD is our foundation, His presence, help, and promises give us confidence in any trial to look toward our future hope—the day that we will be resurrected and be with him.
What trial are you going through that tempts you to fear?
Name specifically what you are afraid of and then ask yourself how God is light, salvation, and a stronghold against those fears.
Even if you are not in the middle of a trial, set your mind on a few promises from God’s Word that can lend fuel to your confidence during trials. Look up these verses and record how the promise offers hope: