The Gospel teaches us to love our neighbor and that no one truly loves God who isn’t in a right relationship with others. Yet Psalm 27 talks about the other side of our religion. There are times when you go it alone. It may be that someone, or an organization, is oppressing you. You may be driven out of your home or separated from those you love. I think of a family member who is struggling with a messy divorce and has a broken relationship with one of his teenage daughters. Perhaps distance, illness, or death has separated you the one person that matters most to you. What does this Psalm say to you now?
For in the day of trouble
[The Lord] will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5)
This and other psalm also speak to the individual’s need to seek God for themselves. We go it alone into the wilderness, knowing that the God we find there is sufficient to make our lives whole. Religion is its own reward. Seeking God, purely in order to know him, is enough.
The common book of prayer does an apt thing in the responsive reading of Psalm 27:5, instead of speaking about God’s tabernacle, it says, “He shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling...” How important are the secrets of God to us? It is easy to get the wrong idea about our reason for practicing religion. It’s not like we go to church to buy an insurance policy. Instead, we go to church to learn skills for navigating the wilderness. Then, counter to our intuition or commonly held wisdom, we go to the God-forsaken places, or we are trust into wilderness by trauma, and there we discover the reality of God.
Remember what Job said? At the end of all of his trials. When God finally appeared to him, Job said:
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”