Psalm 27: “Wait for the Lord and be strong. Take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Mar 13, 2022

Sermon 3-13-22
Second Sunday in Lent
Text: Psalm 27
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
     Welcome to week number two of our Lent focus on the Psalms. How did memorizing the Psalm verse from last week go for you? Don’t worry, I’m not going to call on anyone. For those who were not here last Sunday, I encouraged our beginning to build a library of memorized Psalm verses to draw on, especially in troubling times. Last week’s verse was: God says, “I will deliver those who cling to me. I will uphold them, because they know my name.” Psalm 91:14 (Just a hint about memorizing, I find it easier to do when I focus on the verbs. In this case, deliver, cling, uphold and know.)
     Since the Kinship Café is re-opening, the first person I approach (not who approaches me), who can say the verse, will be rewarded with this very un-Lent-like reward (large candy bar). Everyone else will get a sticker. Who knows what next week’s reward might be?
     As you contemplate that, let’s move on to Psalm 27, which is assigned in the lectionary for the Second Sunday in Lent. It is a beautiful Psalm, but somewhat confusing too as it describes the highs and lows of the writer’s relationship with God.
     Before we go there, though, let’s, do some more Psalm background. Last week we learned that the book of Psalms was the hymnal of ancient Israel. The 150 Psalms were written between 1000-450 BCE in Hebrew. And, because they were sung in worship, the words penetrated the worshippers’ hearts and minds, and the psalms were a well-known part of scripture for both Jews and Christians.
     Our friend Martin Luther was particularly drawn to the Psalms. The first class he taught at the University of Wittenberg (Germany) in 1513 was on the Psalms and the first book he published in 1517 focused on seven Psalms of confession. When he translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into German, which was the first modern language translation to survive and be used, he wrote in the preface to the Book of Psalms that it is the Spirit’s summary of the whole Bible.
     In a later edition, he focused on the Psalms’ purpose being to teach people how to pray. One of his comments was that upon using the Psalms as a guide to prayer, a person would, “very soon bid the other pious prayers adieu and say, ‘Ah, they have not the sap, the strength, the heart, the fire, that I find in the Psalter; they are too cold, to hard for my taste.’” (1)
     So, let’s look at Psalm 27 as a prayer. As I alluded to earlier, it is composed of two completely different parts. Commentator Stan Mast points out, “The one is an unshakable confession of the unshakable trust in God. ‘The Lord is my light and may salvation, who shall I fear….’ The other part is a fearful prayer of lament. ‘Do not hide your face from me….’” (2)
     It is a reminder of the way life is – at times we feel bold and confident and not much later we are overwhelmed by life’s troubles. One moment we trust in God, and the next we are afraid that God has turned against us. As Professor Mast points out, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have the confidence of verses 1-6 when we are walking in the darkness of verses 7-12, so that we can say verses 13-14? ‘I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord and be strong. Take heart and wait for the Lord.’ (3)
      C.S. Lewis once said that our prayer life is our autobiography. “Who we are, where we’ve been, the situations we’ve face, the fears that nag us, and not a few of the core characteristics of who we are as individuals: all of it can be, and really should be, detectable and on display in the way we pray,” writes commentator Scott Hoezee. (4)
      If that’s the case for the writer of this Psalm, the ups and downs of his life are obvious. During the “up” times, the Lord is his stronghold, so there is no reason to be afraid. Even if his enemies are in sight, and war rises up against him, he will not be shaken. The one thing he wants is to seek God in the temple, offer sacrifices of rejoicing and sing to the Lord. Now, that is an impressive proclamation of trust!
     But then all is turned upside down. The Psalmist expresses fear of not being heard by God, even though he seeks God’s face. He asks not to be rejected and forsaken, and not to be subjected to the will of his violent foes. His prayer has turned from trust to anxiety; what happened?
     There is no way to know, although those who attribute the Psalm to King David have made some historical guesses. Maybe it is best that we do not know the specifics because then we can apply this to our own times of going from security to fear. That situation is on full display for us via television and social media.
     A Ukrainian woman on the news Monday went from the excitement of expecting a baby, to the anxiety of welcoming the little one in January, weeks early, to the joy of watching the child improve, to the fear of sitting in a basement with her still-hospitalized newborn and other anxious parents with sick children, as the bombs exploded around them. She never imagined that war would rise up against her country, and that the most vulnerable would be at risk.
     So, she had decided to take a risk; there she was at the train station, with her tiny one, a bundle in her arms, headed for a safer place, hoping that all would be well for her “child of war.” I am going to remember her when I’m paying more than $4 per gallon for gas.
     Both the Psalmist and that mother could find hope in the final verse of today’s Psalm: “Wait for the Lord and be strong. Take heart and wait for the Lord.” That’s a different tone, isn’t it, than confidence or fear? To wait points to patience, perseverance, trust because although life is imperfect and unpredictable, God’s presence will become clearer as we wait.
     Or as the Psalm writer said: “I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” That is, in the place without threat, where lives thrive. In that, there is hope.
     For that reason, verse 14 will be our memory verse again. Last week it was verse 14 of Psalm 91. Today it is verse 14 of Psalm 27: “Wait for the Lord and be strong. Take heart and wait for the Lord.” Please say it with me, “Wait for the Lord and be strong. Take heart and wait for the Lord.” AMEN
(1)“Martin Luther and the Psalms” by Benjamin Kandt, October 31, 2017,
(2)Sermon Commentary on Psalm 27 by Stan Mast, February 21, 2016,
(3)Same as #2
(4)Sermon Commentary on Psalm 27 by Scott Hoezee, March 13, 2022,