This is another psalm by David, Israel’s great king. He calls upon the LORD for help in a time of trouble and adversity. Enemies are against him, but he trusts in the LORD for his help. Thank God that we can trust Him when we too are in times of trouble!
1. The LORD is my light and my salvation;
First, David speaks of the LORD as His light. The light helps us see and makes our way clear through the darkness. So the LORD lights our paths in times of trouble. Then, David exalts the LORD as his salvation. We too can be thankful that we have a Savior in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Whom shall I fear?
With the LORD as his guiding light and his salvation in times of trouble, what did David have to fear? He knew that the LORD would be his help. We can see that he had good reason to be confident, for we know from the record of David’s life that the LORD kept him safe through all dangers. Though we have no such guarantee of protection through all this world’s evils in this dispensation of grace, yet we know that none of this world’s terrors can truly take away what we have from the LORD, which is our promise of a new, eternal life in His world to come.
The LORD is the strength of my life;
The LORD is the One Who gives David strength in his life. We too receive strength from Him for all life’s trials.
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Again David repeats this question, and again the answer is no one. With the LORD on his side, he need be afraid of none.
2. When the wicked came against me
David remembers a time in his past (or maybe many times in his past!) when the wicked came against him.
To eat up my flesh,
Of course, they did not literally plan to eat him, but David speaks poetically of their desire to kill him.
My enemies and foes,
These wicked were the enemies and foes that came against David many times in the Scripture record.
They stumbled and fell.
David testifies that all such that came against him stumbled and fell. By this, he poetically means that they did not succeed in their desire to kill him. Of course, it could be literally that the LORD stymied their desire by causing them to stumble and fall down. Certainly, that would not be inconsistent with His protection of David. Yet there is no reason to take this quite so literally. The point is that the LORD did not allow them to accomplish their objective.
3. Though an army may encamp against me,
We know again from the Biblical record that this happened many times. Often the armies were large enough to destroy any small force David had at his command. And yet the LORD brought him safe through all these trials!
My heart shall not fear;
David’s confidence in the LORD would not be shaken, army encamping against him or no. His heart does not fear because he trusts in his God.
Though war may rise against me,
Again we know that David faced war many times in his life and service for the LORD.
In this I will be confident.
This does not mean that he was confident in the war, of course, but rather that he was confident in the LORD, his light, salvation, and strength, as he said back in verse 1.
4. One thing I have desired of the LORD,
This was not the only thing David ever desired of the LORD, of course, but this speaks of this one thing as the primary or most important thing he had asked of Him.
That will I seek:
This thing that David desired of the LORD is the thing he seeks above all others.
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
David’s desire was to dwell in the house of the LORD. Many would like to jump in here and make this to be heaven. And yet that is not what David meant, for we see down in the last part of the verse that what he meant was the temple. That is the “house of the LORD,” not heaven.
Of course, we know that David never lived in the house of the LORD at any time in the past. Though he no doubt visited the tabernacle and the ark of the LORD many times in his life, the LORD never allowed him to build the temple, promising instead that his son would build it. Yet we know that this was promised to David as his future portion. This is confirmed in the book of Ezekiel. There, we read, in Ezekiel 34:23-24, that David has a future over Israel. “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.”
David will be called a “prince” at that time, as is affirmed by Ezekiel 34:24-25. “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.”
And we read later in Ezekiel that the prince will have a portion in God’s holy district at that time. We read of this in Ezekiel 45:6. “The prince shall have a section on one side and the other of the holy district and the city’s property; and bordering on the holy district and the city’s property, extending westward on the west side and eastward on the east side, the length shall be side by side with one of the tribal portions, from the west border to the east border.”
Some have tried to explain this away, claiming that this speaks of Jesus Christ as “David,” since He is David’s Son and Heir. Yet do such fail to believe in resurrection? For David will be raised to life once again as surely as God’s Word is true, and why then could he not dwell on earth again, living in the house of the LORD?
All the days of my life,
Again, this is future. David dwelt in his own house in Jerusalem, not in the temple or even the tabernacle. Yet in the resurrection, he will dwell there all the days of his life!
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
Often God’s temple is spoken of as His “beauty.” The temple in the past was a very beautiful building. One historical writer is noted to have said that you have not seen a beautiful building until you have seen the temple in Jerusalem, and he was writing of Ezra’s temple, not Solomon’s. How much more beautiful will the temple be when it is built again in God’s future Kingdom!
And to inquire in His temple.
This confirms that the temple is meant, not heaven. The word is more akin to palace, but is often used of the temple, and even of the holy place. That David will have a service to perform in God’s future temple is also confirmed by Ezekiel 45:16-17. “All the people of the land shall give this offering for the prince in Israel. Then it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, and at all the appointed seasons of the house of Israel. He shall prepare the sin offering, the grain offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.”
The following verses in chapters 45 and 46 give more instructions as to how David, the prince, is to bring these offerings. So David will have the right to inquire of the LORD in the temple in that future time. The LORD granted his one great desire. We too should desire to serve the LORD, not necessarily in the temple, but in the place He has for us to fill in the future.
5. For in the time of trouble
In that future day comes the time of trouble. This is the time also known as “Jacob’s trouble” or the tribulation.
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
At that time David will have been raised from the dead, and the LORD will hide him from trouble in His pavilion. What the exact circumstances will be in which the LORD will thus hide him we do not know. But certainly we never read of David hiding out in the tabernacle in times past.
In the secret place of His tabernacle
His tabernacle at that time will have a secret place. This would be a place where no stranger would be allowed to enter. There David will be hidden in this time of trouble.
He shall hide me;
David is hidden because the LORD hides him, not because this place is impossible to find otherwise. No one can find a place the LORD does not wish him to find!
He shall set me high upon a rock.
After hiding David, the LORD puts him in an easily defensible place, described here as “high upon a rock.” The LORD will bring David safely through that future time of trouble. It is not necessary to leave the earth to be kept safe at that time!
6. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
David seems to revert from that future day to the then present, when he knows that, just as in the future, he will be protected from all his enemies all around him. His head being lifted up speaks figuratively of his safety and protection from the danger they offer him.
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
Because he has been kept safe from trouble, David joyfully offers sacrifices to the LORD in His tabernacle. Of course, in the past David personally did not offer such sacrifices, but rather paid for them and had the priests offer them. In the future, though, when he is saved from trouble, David himself will be able to offer such joyful sacrifices, since sacrificing will be his privilege, according to Ezekiel.
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
His sacrifices are accompanied by songs of praise to the LORD. What great psalms and songs may David compose and sing in that future day when he again walks the earth! The book of Psalms we have recorded for us may only be the beginning.
7. Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice!
David returns from his joyful expectation of deliverance in the future, to his present situation, where he is still in danger and such deliverance has not yet occurred. Now, he calls upon the LORD to hear him when he cries to Him with his voice. He wants more than just that the LORD would hear and process the sounds that he made. He wishes for the LORD to accept his request and act upon it.
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
David knows he does not deserve the LORD’s help. No sinful man does. Yet David calls upon the LORD through His mercy or grace, and it is because of that grace, that love and favor to the undeserving, that David seeks an answer.
8. When You said, “Seek My face,”
The LORD’s face is put for His whole being. This was the LORD’s command to David. He wanted David to seek after Him.
My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
David’s heart was ready to do as the LORD said. If what He wanted was for David to seek His face, then David would seek His face. How good would it be if we would respond to the LORD’s commands to us the same way! I know that the LORD has said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I say to that, “Lord, I believe in Your only begotten Son.” In Romans 10:9, the LORD says, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” To that I say, “I do confess the Lord Jesus with my mouth, and I do believe in my heart that God has raised Him from the dead.” May we all respond to God’s words as David did, believing what He tells us to believe, and seeking after Him as He wants us to. May we all seek His face, even as David did, and may we seek it through the Lord Jesus Christ.
9. Do not hide Your face from me;
Now David calls upon God not to refuse his request, using this vivid description of God hiding His face from David as He refuses to hear his words.
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
David knows that he has done things that deserve God’s anger. Yet here he calls upon the LORD to graciously withhold His anger and not to turn him away because of it. Again, turning David away is put symbolically for refusing his request.
You have been my help;
David speaks as if to remind the LORD of the fact that He has helped him in times past now as he asks the LORD to help him once again.
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
Again David calls upon the LORD to bear with him through this trouble.
O God of my salvation.
This is a wonderful descriptive term of God: the God of my salvation. He was the God Who was David’s salvation, and He is the God of my salvation today as well. It is through Him that my sins are forgiven, that I am given eternal life, and that I am seated with His Son among the heavenly seats. Praise the LORD that He is the God of our salvation!
10. When my father and my mother forsake me,
David is not speaking as if this had happened, but speaking theoretically.
Then the LORD will take care of me.
We might say this, “Even if my father and mother forsook me, the LORD would still take care of me.” David could speak in confidence of this. Do we have the same confidence he did? Do we know that His grace will never abandon us, no matter what?
11. Teach me Your way, O LORD,
This should be the cry of each of our hearts as we study the Word of God. Teach us Your way, O LORD! Let us know the paths that we should walk in! For His ways are right, and His paths are truth.
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
David desires to walk in a smooth path. This would have been the wisest and best course that he could follow. He asks this because of his enemies. They were ever observing him and looking for him to trip up in some way so that they could accuse him. We see the same thing in the life of Jesus Christ, when His enemies gathered together to seek to trap Him in His words. And the same thing is true of us today, if we seek to live godly in Christ Jesus. There will be those around us who will watch our walks to see if there is anything at all that they can accuse us of.
12. Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
David calls upon the LORD to keep him from being delivered to the will of his adversaries. That is what will happen to him if they can find anything blameworthy in the way he walks.
For false witnesses have risen against me,
When they cannot find anything real in David’s walk to blame, they instead accuse him falsely. Again we can see this pointing ahead to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who also was falsely accused when His enemies could not find anything legitimate to blame Him for.
And such as breathe out violence.
This pictures these false accusers breathing out their desires for violence against him. In their enmity they wanted to take David’s life, even as the Lord’s enemies sought His.
13. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
This opposition against him would have caused David to lose heart, were it not for his faith. Indeed, it is faith that helps all of us to stand up to the violent opposition of the enemy!
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
Though he sees evil all around him, David believes that someday he will see the LORD’s goodness in its place.
In the land of the living.
This speaks of God’s future Kingdom, when this world, so marked and characterized by death, is replaced by a world where life and resurrection hold sway. It is there, in God’s Kingdom, that David knew he would see the full goodness of the LORD being acted out, and it was his faith in that time to come that upheld him when he faced the opposition of his enemies.
14. Wait on the LORD;
David reminds himself and his readers to wait on the LORD. Often when we are in bad situations, we seek to change them for the better. This is good, and is what we should do. Yet sooner or later we will realize that there are many things we can never really fix. We might scoop out a few grains of sand, but we can never hope to clear the beach. Yet we should not be discouraged, for we know that the LORD can truly do what we cannot. He can fix EVERYTHING, and make it all good and right. We wait anxiously for that day to come, yet we should not wait impatiently. We are to wait on the LORD, knowing that He will bring this about in His time.
Be of good courage,
It is hard to wait, and taxing upon our courage as we face the sheer weight of wickedness that holds this world in sway. Yet we are to be of good courage nevertheless, having confidence in the fact that the LORD will set all these things to rights.
And He shall strengthen your heart;
When we wait on the LORD and get our courage from Him, then He strengthens our hearts to face the trials we encounter every day.
Wait, I say, on the LORD!
David closes this psalm by calling upon us once more to wait on the LORD. Though the time is long, we can know that He will have the victory at the end of it!