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Psalm 27

In the eye of the storm

A David psalm.

Yahveh is my light and my salvation.
Who should I fear?
Yahveh is my rock-solid fortress.
Who should I dread?

2 When vicious thugs close in on me
teeth bared for the kill
it’s my enemies, my foes
who trip and fall flat.
3 Even if a whole army deploys against me
my heart won’t give way to fear.
Though war breaks out against me
my course remains steady.

4 One thing I’ve asked of Yahveh—
I seek it above all else.
To live in Yahveh’s house
every day of my life
to gaze on his matchless beauty
and learn all his gracious intentions toward me.
5 For when I’m in trouble
he shelters me under his roof
hides me inside his tent
lifts me safely onto a crag.
6 Now with my head held high
above everyone trying to destroy me
I offer sacrifices to Yahveh
and fill his tent with music
triumphant shouts and songs of praise.

7 So, hear my voice, Yahveh
as I cry out to you.
Be gracious and answer me.
8 My heart says of you
“Come, seek my face.”
I do seek your face, Yahveh.
9 Don’t hide your face from me
or angrily push your servant aside
you who have been my help.
Don’t abandon, don’t desert me
my God who saves me!
10 Even if my mom and dad abandon me
Yahveh will take me in his arms.
11 Teach me how to live life to the full, Yahveh
and lead me on a level path
for many are just watching and waiting
for me to slip and fall.
12 Don’t turn me over to my enemies
for them to do whatever they want with me—
those who witness falsely against me
maliciously seeking my blood.

13 I firmly believe I will yet see
Yahveh’s goodness poured out on me
here in this life.
14 Wait for Yahveh to come through!
Be strong and take heart!
Wait for Yahveh to come through!

David’s radiant confidence in verses 1-6 makes it hard to imagine he’s in trouble now. But his urgent pleas in verses 7-11 tell us the dangers he previously mentioned—e.g., an army on his doorstep—weren’t just hyperbole, but rather suggested his vulnerability in the moment. David doesn’t just have a huge capacity to laugh danger off. Instead, he’s made an existential choice to trust Yahveh, who has always proven faithful.[a] That choice—and trust’s proximity to fear in the midst of the storm—is what holds the psalm’s two halves together.[b]

Which of David’s images should we take literally? Perhaps the line between literal and figurative doesn’t matter so much here. Either way, the concreteness of his images makes them applicable to life’s many diverse situations.[c]

At the psalm’s center is David’s deep longing to know God and engage with him daily (v. 4), a longing intensified by David’s desperation. He seeks this relationship because only God is absolutely reliable.[d] Everyone else fails us at some point (v. 10). This makes David confident God will come through for him. So, like Moses and Joshua, he charges us to be strong and courageous in obeying God and waiting for him to do what he alone can do.[e]

Lord, you’re my shelter in the storm, the true center of all that is. Help me to seek you with all my heart, to prize you above all else and cherish your every word to me. Light my way and empower me with your strength. Make me bold always to trust, obey and wait for you. Amen.



[a] Goldingay (2006) 393.

[b] Trust and plea are complementary in crisis. Jacobson (2014) 265, 272. Faith’s ability to thrive in the midst of a storm holds the psalm’s two halves in tension.

[c] Jacobson (2014) 265. We see episodes where literal armies bore down on David (e.g., 1 Sam. 24). But it may be immaterial whether he wanted to “live” in the temple—in the language of love (v. 4)—or was literally lifted onto a crag, above danger—in the language of elation (v. 5). His descriptions are like Van Gogh’s swirling brush strokes in “Starry Night,” which go beyond the purely literal to make what he depicts live and pulse for us.

[d] Jacobson (2014) 269.

[e] Deut. 31:7-8; Josh. 1:6, 9, 18. David also includes these words in his charge to Solomon about building the temple (1 Chron. 22:13, 28:20). Since all the verbs in verse 14 are singular, David seems, in fact, to be charging himself. Goldingay (2006) 400.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.