By Candice Lucey, Crosswalk.com
Many scholars believe that Psalm 27 was written by David while he was in exile, pursued by King Saul. This context can help us to understand why David wrote, “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Yet, these words are also for the modern reader. Why should we heed David’s exhortation?
Translations of Psalm 27:14
The ESV translates the Hebrew this way: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”
Readers of the NAB are encouraged to “Wait for the LORD, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!”
Here is the NIV: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Or there is the CSB, which exhorts readers to “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the LORD.”
The adjective “good” is not present in the translations above, but the KJV translation uses the following three words: “wait,” “good,” and “courage”.
Three Important Words
1. Wait. This can be an imperative verb; an instruction. One could simply cry out, “wait!” as in, “Stop moving!” But qavah in this context implies that “remain” would offer a better understanding. Automatically, one wants to ask, “Remain where?” or “Remain with whom?”
Psalm 27:14 tells us that the King remained with the Lord. Strong’s Hebrew Concordance shows that qavah can also mean “look eagerly” and was probably the word for “twist, stretch, then of tension of enduring.”
Stillness against the temptation to act can lead to this sort of friction. David could have killed Saul. “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6).
He waited on the Lord — he remained with the Lord — David looked eagerly for the Lord’s direction, not the direction of his men. Imagine the stress of self-restraint coupled with the joy of obedience.
2. Courage. From chazaq “to be or grow firm or strong, strengthen,” the Hebrew combines noun and adjective into one word. “Be firm equals courageous, confident, especially imperative, usually.” Be of confident courage.
3. Good. How did we get from “confident” to “good”? Sixteenth-century English Bible translators understood good to mean "excellent, fine; valuable; desirable, favorable, beneficial; full, entire, complete.”
David was not comparing good, better, or best, or suggesting a moral comparison. His hope was that readers would take their courage from the trustworthiness of God. He is complete; he is beneficial; he is full. He will deal with our enemies completely, so trust him.
David Waited Courageously
David was often frightened, angry, lonely, and confused about his situation. “When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalm 27:2-3).
Without at least some measure of fear, there is no need for courage. Courage is not blind confidence but overcoming fear to do what is necessary. David placed his confidence not in himself but in the God whom he loved and worshiped. He waited on the Lord.
David’s courage was favorable, complete, and valuable. His courage was reasonable and tested. “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — whom should I dread?” (Psalm 27:1).
David turned to the Lord first when he was afraid because, as John Piper explained, “the first thing that waiting on God means is this: before you make one peep of an effort to solve your own problem or hire a human agency, pray. Seek the counsel of God.”
David desired “to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (v.4). He realized that to remain with God and seek his direction was the only way to find courage in the face of an enemy led by his own pride. Saul’s courage was not good courage.
Psalm 27 expresses the inextricable link between courage and waiting on God. This is what makes courage “good” or “complete” and also what makes courage possible.
Any other courage would have failed because it would be rooted in something or someone that does not last and can be shaken.
Why Wait Courageously
We all fight a spiritual battle. King David’s greatest battle was one we can relate to; the war inside of us against temptations both to sin and to dwell on the shame of past sins.
They suck us in like quicksand, distracting us from the finished work of the cross and the victory of Christ’s resurrection. They distract us from our purpose, which is to worship and love God; to share the gospel with joy and hope.
John Piper says that although God created certain things, which everyone benefits from (sunrise and sunset, for example), some of his work benefits only his people. “It’s the investment of all God’s infinite, sovereign power to do everything his people need to have done for their good. And for whom does he do it? He does it for those who wait for him.”
How can we wait on the Lord with good courage today? Piper suggests that we pray, rest, act, and watch God work (Ibid.).
Here are further ideas from Psalm 27 to help us understand what it means to wait on the Lord with good courage today. We can believe, be thankful, surrender, and rejoice.
1. Believe. David’s language indicates his full assurance of who the Lord is and what he will do. “The Lord is my light and my salvation” in the present.
If there is any doubt, we can consider the evidence of his presence, power, and purpose in our own stories and those of believers around us. Certainly, we can rest, as Piper teaches, because we believe God is good and he is in control.
2. Be thankful. When we remember how our Lord is interceding for us while we wait and believe, we are thankful. We can mark our thankfulness by journaling, talking about the ways we saw God’s work in our lives, and creating a personal storehouse of compelling evidence about the goodness and power of God gives us good courage.
3. Surrender. Unchecked fear is a stumbling block, a blinker, and a deceiver. When we are afraid, we ask ourselves, “How can I control this situation?” or “How can I fix it?” We imagine that God needs help making things right.
When we give God our fear, we also submit control to him. We do not become fearless robots, but instead, acknowledge that he is Sovereign (which would be the case whether we admit it or not), and we can trust him in the situation.
We wait to see what he would do with our offering; instead, he shows us what he did with his Son’s sacrifice.
3. Rejoice. David promised to sing and shout for joy when he was delivered from Saul. Our good courage is complete because Christ completed his work by rising from the dead, on the third day no less. He is trustworthy, and he will return.
Good courage sees how we not only wait for that day but recognizes that we can and must remain in Jesus right now. Jesus is close. The presence of Christ is cause for celebration —exuberant, vibrant, joyful celebration — even as life’s trials continue to assail us.
A Good Way to Wait
Fear is a natural response to many of life’s woes. Today, if you are struggling with fear and chaos, seek out a friend to pray with you. Look for fellowship. And if you are apathetic, remember that God walks with you because the battle is real, and Satan wants to take your life.
Resurrect a healthy fear, the kind that drives us to the feet of our Savior and encourages us to take up spiritual arms by remaining with Jesus, certain that he has defeated our enemies.
Courage only takes shape when we realize there is an enemy at the door and is different from blind luck or positive thinking because its source is proven, personal, and present. Remain in that presence and find good courage.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
Jesus’s presence is everywhere, but waiting is still part of prayer. Read more here.
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