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In the land of the living

We all seem to complain about what a mess the world is, but how often to we proclaim how great our God is?  How often to we look for his goodness in the land of the living?
We all seem to complain about what a mess the world is, but how often to we proclaim how great our God is? How often to we look for his goodness in the land of the living?
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Read Psalm 27

Our 21st Century is filled with graphics and video and tag lines and catch phrases. Our movies mix real life footage with computer generated imagery to produce special effects.

Even our commercials have effects. Our kids growing up may never know that geckos don’t really talk, at least not with a distinguished accent. Cars don’t jump onto trains and dads don’t run after their kids eating triangular shaped nachos.

We have so much information to digest via radio, television, and the internet that many don’t even read the newspaper any more.

And sometimes we forget the beauty and simplicity of the carefully crafted communication that we call poetry.

The verse that comes not only with a message but with rhythm and sometimes rhyme that speaks to us in a special way—that’s poetry. We try to slice and dice poetry into pairings and quatrains and other technical terms, but poetry speaks to the heart.

Within the Bible, we have a compilation of 150 special poems that we know as the Psalms. There is other poetry in the Bible, but the Psalms are a unique collection.

There are psalms of thanksgiving and praise and psalms that foretell of a Messiah who will come for the salvation of all. There are psalms of wisdom and of repentance. There are psalms written for the music director to accompany with some sort of music or choral response.

There are psalms written to be sung on the way to the temple, sometimes in antiphonal harmony.

And there are psalms that are new to so many Christians simply because we forget to tune into these special messages.

My satellite radio has 150-200 stations, but I listen to fewer than 10 on a regular basis. If I loan my truck to someone, occasionally I hear another channel when they bring it back.

My television receives a few hundred channels and I don’t even subscribe to the premium packages, but I watch maybe a dozen channels in the course of a month.

And so it is with the Psalms. We have a selection of 150 and maybe read 2 or 3 in the course of a year.

While I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything on the radio or television; I do think that we cheat ourselves out of some soul soothing, heartwarming, mind stretching experiences when we overlook the Psalms.

So now we are engaged by this 27th Psalm. Let us feel and understand the poetic truth revealed by the author.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
I will fear no one.
The Lord protects me from all danger;

I will never be afraid.

How many of us can truly say that?

I know that some have matured in their faith to the point that fear has no place in their lives. We begin with the fear of the Lord and in so doing receive his wisdom but we arrive at a place where perfect love casts out fear.

We never lose our reverence for God but our fear of anything in this world melts away. Fear of divine punishment is gone.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?

Today, we would put all of the information on a projected screen. It would read:

The Lord—

· Is my light

· Is my salvation

· Protects me from danger

Me—

· I am not afraid

But how much more powerful is a verse that we can carry in our heart as well as our mind?

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?

The translations vary a little but the music and poetry of the psalms transcend the translation and speak to our heart.

And the psalmist—probably David—continues with this thought of not fearing anyone or anything in the world, but he makes sure that we know that he is not just talking about the good times.

When evil people attack me and try to kill me,
they stumble and fall.
Even if a whole army surrounds me,

I will not be afraid;
even if enemies attack me,

I will still trust God.

Not that’s an affirmation.

Sometimes we think that we as Christians are the victims of the world. We think that the world will trample upon us and all of our rewards lies in the hereafter.

But that is just not good thinking.

We may be persecuted or even killed for our faith. We might lose a leg or our life in a vehicle accident. We might lose our job or our insurance. There are so many things that might happene to us that sometimes they do happen to us.

But we should take heart from the worlds of the psalmist. It doesn’t matter what the world throws at me; I will trust in God and I will not be afraid.

I will trust in God and I will not be afraid.

I will trust in God and I will not be afraid.

Is this being brash or boastful?

It would be if we said that we trusted in our own wherewithal and will not be afraid; or if we said, I trust in my skill set and force of personality and will not be afraid.

Those are the pride goes before destruction thoughts that will make fools of us.

But to trust in God and not be afraid is to proclaim God’s glory and to claim the assurance that comes in that benefit package.

Then the psalmist says that he did ask the Lord for one thing.

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
one thing only do I want:
to live in the Lord's house all my life,

to marvel there at his goodness,
and to ask for his guidance.
In times of trouble he will shelter me;

he will keep me safe in his Temple
and make me secure on a high rock.
So I will triumph over my enemies around me.

With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple;
I will sing, I will praise the Lord.

The psalmist sings of what he knows and he knows that he wants to dwell in the house of the Lord and be safe in his temple.

Today, we sing “Thy will be done” and desire that God lives in our temple.

Both bring us to shout and sing for joy, joy that comes from the Lord.

We desire to live in the fullness of the relationship that have with God through Christ Jesus and walk with his Spirit everywhere that we go.

Then we see the bold psalmist remember his own humanity.

Hear me, Lord, when I call to you!
Be merciful and answer me!
When you said, “Come worship me,”
I answered, “I will come, Lord.”
Don't hide yourself from me!

Don't be angry with me;
don't turn your servant away.
You have been my help;

don't leave me, don't abandon me,
O God, my savior.
My father and mother may abandon me,

but the Lord will take care of me.

The psalmist has not lost faith but found his own imperfection. He knows that he does not rate the blessings he so desires. He is not entitled to special treatment. Many of his life choices should have resulted in God responding with anger instead of protection and blessings.

But this human condition is not what determines God’s actions and so what is revealed here is less about our vulnerable condition and more about the assurance that we know in the Lord.

Our own parents might abandon us. Many today could not imagine that, but many others have lived through that exact situation.

But God will not abandon us.

God will not disown us.

The Lord will take care of me.

The Lord will take care of us.

So just what is our part? What can we who trust in God and do not fear do? Well, what does the Psalmist say?

Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do,
and lead me along a safe path,
because I have many enemies.
Don't abandon me to my enemies,

who attack me with lies and threats.

The psalmist says, “I have a teachable spirit.”

The psalmist says, “I am ready to follow you where you go.”

The psalmist says, “Lead me along that narrow path for I have seen the one that leads to destruction.”

And so we come to the psalmist’s final affirmation and proclamation.

I know that I will live to see
the Lord's goodness in this present life.
Trust in the Lord.

Have faith, do not despair.
Trust in the Lord.

He doesn’t say that he knows he will see the Messiah.

He doesn’t say that he knows he won’t have any trials or tribulations.

He doesn’t say that I know the Lord will make my car payment each month or make sure that my kids get scholarships.

He simply says that he is certain that he will see the Lord’s goodness in this life.

This is his personal affirmation but he follows it with some rather imperative directions.

· Trust the Lord

· Have faith

· Don’t despair

And just for good measure, he repeats, Trust in the Lord.

Have you ever noticed that the really good songs get remade time and time again by different artists in different generations?

Today, let’s conclude with the 27th Psalm in a different translation.

Light, space, zest—
that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing.

When vandal hordes ride down
ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
fall flat on their faces.

When besieged,
I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
I’m collected and cool.

I’m asking God for one thing,
only one thing:
To live with him in his house
my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
I’ll study at his feet.

That’s the only quiet, secure place
in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
far from the buzz of traffic.

God holds me head and shoulders
above all who try to pull me down.
I’m headed for his place to offer anthems
that will raise the roof!
Already I’m singing God-songs;
I’m making music to God.

Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
“Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
Don’t hide from me now!

You’ve always been right there for me;
don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
but God took me in.

Point me down your highway, God;
direct me along a well-lighted street;
show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs,
those liars who are out to get me,
filling the air with their threats.

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God.

Psalm 27 (The Message)

Among other believers we should testify to God’s goodness in the land of the living. We should bear witness to the good that God is doing in our lives.

Our conversations with other believers should be more about how God is at work in our lives and less about the basketball scores.

We should share more and more about God’s goodness in the here and now until it just comes naturally.

Testifying as to what God is doing in the land of the living won’t be our second nature, but our first.

Sometime this week, open your Bible to a Psalm and read it aloud.

Enjoy the poetry.

Feel poet’s joy or sorrow or struggle.

Find the affirmation that the Lord of the earth will do right.

Find an affirmation that will carry you through the day.

For this day, go into the world with part of this psalm in your heart and on your lips.

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?

Go into the world this day with the Lord as your everything, unafraid of anything, and go testifying as to what God is doing in your life.

Share with those you meet today just what God is doing in the land of the living.

Amen.