By Rev. Julian Duckworth
Psalm 27: An exuberant declaration of faith
Psalm 27 is a psalm full of exuberant confidence about the Lord’s presence in our lives. It describes various troubles and conflicts throughout, but the speaker understands that the Lord will always protect him and lift him up, just as He has in the past. At the same time, the speaker declares his commitment to be confident in the Lord, to seek the Lord’s way, to sing praises, to believe faithfully, and most of all, to wait upon the Lord.
This psalm also tells us about the inner life of the Lord during His time in this world. The Lord knew the attacks that came upon Him from hell, and He also knew the temptations that came up from within His human self. These hellish influences find echoes in many places throughout the psalm, such as in verses 2 and 3, where the wicked come up against him and an army encamps about him. Juxtaposed with these struggles is a sense of determination to resist and overcome them, as in the words: “my heart shall not fear” (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 1444).
We also hear about the growing union between the divinity and humanity in the Lord, something that grew stronger over the course of His life. Verses 4 to 10 emphasize this point in words such as, “…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (v. 4), and "When You said, ‘Seek my face’, my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, shall I seek’" (v. 8).
This psalm applies to our regeneration in the same way. It is true, of course, that we won’t face anywhere near the same extent of attacks and temptations that the Lord endured and overcame. However, our regeneration works along similar lines to the Lord’s "glorification", or the way He gradually made His human life divine (Arcana Caelestia 3138).
There are several images offered in this psalm that are worth further spiritual explanation:
In verse 2, it says “the wicked… came up against me to eat my flesh”. This means the evils that tempt us aim to destroy our love of what is good, which is the very fabric of our spiritual life (see Swedenborg’s work, Apocalypse Explained 391).
Verse 3 speaks of an encamping army and “war rising up”. Where we would expect to see a fearful reaction, the speaker shows nothing but confidence. The idea here is that our own human - often selfish - thoughts, alongside evil spirits which attack our minds to bolster such thinking, can seem like an army that makes war against our trust in the Lord.
Verse 5 describes the Lord hiding us away in His pavilion and in His tabernacle when we face times of trouble. This means that the Lord protects what we understand (represented by the pavilion) and what we hold dear about doing good (the tabernacle) when we experience periods of temptation. Being “set high upon a rock” represents the way the Lord teaches us, and gives us a firm foundation (Apocalypse Explained 799).
This psalm bears an important message for us to hear whenever we are in conflict or doubt. As with many other psalms, it tells us about the fears we experience, the attacks on our intention to follow the Lord, and our determination to devote ourselves to the Lord’s ways. It is this which joins us with the Lord, and the Lord with us (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Providence 324 326).