Fearing God: He Is Our Light
23 July 2017
A study on the proper fear of God by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
Fearing God: He Is Our Light
Fearing God means trusting God. We saw this last time in Psalms 31 and 33 where the writers used fearing God and trusting God interchangeably. They used other words to express this trust: hoping in God, waiting for God, finding refuge in God. Trust is based fully on what God is like, who He is.
Another word picture we looked at last week was that God Himself is our shield. He stands between us and whatever threatens us. He personally protects us. This morning we will look at a Psalm where David uses another word picture for God’s character: God is our light.
As I’ve studied what the Bible says about fear and the fear of God, Ps 27:1 grabbed my attention. I thought it was a curious idea, “Yahweh is my light…whom shall I fear?” To me, “Yahweh is my salvation” is pretty straight forward. The Lord saves us from all sorts of threats, so we do not need to fear. But David is saying that he will not fear because Yahweh is his light. So if the Lord is our light, how does that help us better understand the fear of the Lord? That is our quest today.
This phrase, “The Lord is my light”, sounds right. We probably would all agree that it is true. But if someone asked you to explain what it means, do you think you could? How is God our light? We would probably give a vague answer or just punt.
So I set out to study how Scripture uses the term ‘light’ as it refers to the Lord. Well, studying ‘the light’ did indeed shed a lot of light on the passage for me (yes, pun intended). I hope to enlighten your understanding as well (yes, that pun intended too!). As our light, Yahweh teaches us to trust Him so that we fear nothing else. In Psalm 27, David declares that his confidence is placed in Yahweh and that his confidence comes from discovering more about Yahweh.
David sometimes speaks directly about the fear of the Lord. At other times he speaks indirectly about it by using synonyms. We find that in Ps 27. He uses ‘trust’ as a synonym for fearing God. His ‘trust language’ is always rooted in God’s character. We find that too in Ps 27.
I. David’s confidence is God Himself (Ps 27:1-3).
Notice the trust aspect of fearing God Psalm 27:1-3]. David shows why he doesn’t need to fear anyone. He trusts the Lord. Fear of God builds confidence and trust that are strong enough to meet the terrors of life. This confidence is firmly planted on what he knows to be true about God.
What truth about God gives him strong confidence? He says first that “The Lord is my light”. I found it fascinating that David doesn’t fear anything else because Yahweh is his light. This helps deepen our understanding of how trust is to be firmly built upon God’s character.
So how is Yahweh our light? Picture us in darkness. God Himself draws near. As He does, His presence is the light by which we can now see. The Lord lights up our way. But exactly how does He do that? From my study of how Scripture uses light referring to God, I discovered at least five ways that God as our light helps us to learn to trust in Him and to not fear other things.
A. Yahweh is the true perspective on life. David is honest about how things can knock off our pins, can unsettle us. How we view difficult circumstances, trials and afflictions can affect how we handle them. How we view blessings and gifts can also affect what we do with them. So how does knowing God provide the right perspective? How does that build confident trust? We learn that both difficult and pleasant circumstances fit into His overall plan to build His kingdom. Without God, we live in darkness. But David explained in Ps 18:28 that “Yahweh my God illumines my darkness”. Life can be confusing. So God provides the light to enable him to rightly understand his circumstances.
B. Yahweh reveals His character to us. Last week we saw in Ps 31:19 how David ties God’s goodness to our fear and trust in Him, “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You… for those who take refuge in You”. In Ps 4:6, David prays for God to make His light to shine on us that we may be able to see the good that God is doing. We can rest knowing that God is good.
C. Yahweh is the definition for HOW we are to live. How does this build confident trust? Think back to terror-fear. Because we are sinners, there is an aspect of terror-fear that we experience. Like Isaiah, when we consider the holiness of God, we experience terror because we are sinners (Isa 6). But God graciously reveals Himself to us and calls us to become like Him. As we live consistently with that, terror-fear decreases, leaving room for trust-fear to increase. The writer in Ps 43:3 prays that God’s light will lead him to God’s sanctuary. It is there that he learns how to live.
D. Yahweh reveals to His people what is the overall plan of history. He informs us of where history is headed and the glorious end that He has in store for His people. Such truth helps us to set our lives in that context. It reveals to us the purpose of our lives. We serve in building His kingdom (Ps 89:15; Isa 49:6; Mt 6:33). And in that kingdom we will enjoy Him forever. Life is hard but it will not always be that way. One day, all things will be as they should be in God’s kingdom.
E. Yahweh reveals the way of salvation. Isa 9:2 and 49:6 call Messiah a light to the peoples to reveal the way of salvation. John identifies that Light as Jesus the Messiah (Jn 1:4; 8:12). That takes us back to Ps 27. Yahweh as his light reveals to David the way of salvation. And so it naturally follows that David declares next in Ps 27:1 that Yahweh is his salvation.
While Yahweh delivers him from troubles, from enemies, from sin, what David says is that Yahweh IS his salvation. He doesn’t just provide salvation. Yahweh personifies salvation. Do you see how this helps build our confidence in the face of fears? Our salvation is as sure as God Himself.
David calls Yahweh “my” light and “my” salvation. Why? This possessive personal pronoun expresses the close, personal relationship that David has to the Lord. Light and salvation come through personal faith in God.
David adds that Yahweh is the “stronghold of my life”. Often God is praised in Scripture as the place of refuge for His people. A stronghold protects those who seek refuge there. He not only provides refuge but He IS their refuge. Why is the believer’s refuge such a safe place? God Himself makes up the walls around us that shield us. Our life is safe inside of Yahweh our stronghold. When you need, picture God as forming mighty, impenetrable walls around you. See also Ps 18:2; Ps 28:8; Ps 31:2, 4; Ps 43:2.
Because Yahweh is personally David’s light, salvation and stronghold, David can declare strong confidence using two rhetorical questions: “whom shall I fear?” and “whom shall I dread?” Because of his personal relationship with the Lord, David doesn’t experience panic and dread that unbelievers do.
Let’s now work through the rest of David’s psalm to see how he works out all of this in practice. How do these truths about God help him face life?
God has been faithful to deliver him in the past (Ps 27:2). He can say, “my heart will not fear” (Ps 27:3) even though tough times arise because he possesses this confidence. A change occurred within. It’s not so much that he has grown strong but that his trust in Yahweh has grown. He knows Yahweh is strong.
II. David’s confidence comes from discovering God (Ps 27:4-14).
A. Learning in God’s house (Ps 27:4-6).
In Ps 27:4-6 David desires to be often in God’s house because it is there that he finds refuge. Was the tabernacle a fortress? Not really. What David means is that it is in God’s house that he learns what God has to reveal. He will learn about the beauty of God (God’s character traits that are important to know). And it is there that David is able to meditate so he can learn God’s truth (light).
B. Seeking God’s face (Ps 27:7-10).
In Ps 27:7-10 David recounts what God called him to do, “Seek My face” (v. 8). To that, David responded, “Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek”. God calls believers to seek to know who He is and what He is like. In this way the Lord enlightens us. Indeed, that is precisely what David asks for next. Look at Ps 27:11-14.
C. Sitting under God’s teaching (Ps 27:11-14).
David asks to learn God’s way. He asks God to lead him. This level path helps us picture God’s way as that which is smooth going for our feet, it is straight, it is right. David is of course speaking morally and spiritually. While his foes will seek to trip him, God’s way will not lead him into error. It will lead to living in ways that please God.
In Ps 27:13, David brings out an aspect of God’s character—His goodness. David seeks to lead his readers to a deeper faith in Yahweh by teaching them about God’s character. He is good! This isn’t just pie in the sky. David is convinced that God will do good to him even in this life. This helps to transform our perspective on the difficult things we experience. In God’s good hands, they are all for our good (Rom 8:28).
In Ps 27:14, David shows us that if we wait for Yahweh, that is, if we endure our trials while we rest in Yahweh’s plan and timing, we will be strong in the face of adversity. We will take courage and be changed on the inside—in our heart—and our trust in Yahweh will grow strong.
Trusting God is another way to say ‘fearing God.’ We don’t need to fear anyone or anything else if we fear God. Why is that? Because if we fear Him, it means that we trust Him.