Sometimes we read the psalms of David and think of how sweet his relationship with God was—and it was—but we often fail to understand that he was often a man running for his life. While some of his psalms were written from a place of security, others were written in an effort to encourage himself in the Lord. In fact, he is blatant about this in Psalm 43:5 when he says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
We see in this one verse:
Faith amidst a fierce battle.
The psalms David wrote reveal the intense emotional roller coaster he experienced. At times he was super confident (“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear.” [Ps. 27:3]) and at other times he was broken (“I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.” [Ps. 88:3).
When you are in a spiritual battle like David, you can feel on top of the world one minute—God is close, in control—and then a few hours later as if God is nowhere to be found, and the world is closing in.
While running from Saul’s murderous threats, the former shepherd pens these oft-quoted words:
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Ps. 27:4)
We can’t know for sure when this was written, but I agree with “most Bible scholars [who] believe David wrote Psalm 27 when he was in exile, with King Saul in hot pursuit.”1 With that in mind, what is David saying? What is he thinking when he writes about God’s presence?
1. It is where everything makes sense.
David knows what it is like to be in God’s presence. Long before he ever thought about being king, he was looking after sheep. There in the field, he loved to worship God. Surely it inspired Psalm 23. When we are in high-stress situations, we need to remember the times of being in God’s presence. In his presence there is no fear, there is no panic. There is peace.
2. It is safe.
God's presence will protect him from Saul, who is seeking his life. He learned long ago not to trust in man—or in Saul’s armor. With the feeblest of armor, he ran toward Goliath and killed him with one smooth stone. It was through God’s presence that he protected the sheep against the lion and the bear.
3. We were made to worship.
David knows that at the end of the day, whether king or shepherd, president or peasant, we are all made in God’s image (Gen. 1:28) to worship God. Who taught David to worship like this? We don’t know. His brother Eliab doesn’t appear to have been raised as a worshiper (1 Sam 17:28). Maybe the same angels that appeared in Bethlehem in Luke 2, announcing to the shepherds the birth of Yeshua, “the son of David” (Matt. 1:1), appeared to David—maybe in the same field!? We know that David loved to worship God. He loved God.
But his worship gets tested in trials. It takes real faith and patience to worship God when everything is going wrong. And those experiences happen to ALL BELIEVERS, no matter how much faith they have. Joseph, too, was a man of great faith who went through horrible trials before fulfilling his destiny. And James tells us that rejoicing in trials is the mark of maturity.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
In a world where politicians will do just about anything to hang on to power, David, who is prophesied to be king, doesn’t ask God to promote him. “One thing I ask from the Lord.” He doesn’t ask for power, fame, or fortune—he asks for greater proximity to the Lord. He wants to be with God “all the days of his life.” He desires to “gaze on the beauty of the Lord.”
Let me encourage you today—be like David. No matter what situation you are in, seek the presence of God. Seek God! Tell him you are not leaving until he shows up. He will show up. Why? Because he loves you…and loves that you love his presence.
1 “What does Psalm chapter 27 mean?”Bible Ref, accessed April 18, 2023, https://www.bibleref.com/Psalms/27/Psalms-chapter-27.html#:~:text=Most%20Bible%20scholars%20believe%20David,and%2028%20are%20good%20examples.