Psalm 27 and the Countdown to Yom Teruah

A shofar made from a ram's horn is traditional...
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With Rosh Hashanah fast on its way (Sept. 8, for those who didn’t know), a number of Messianic blogs (like Derek’s) have already delved into Psalm 27, which is traditionally canted during the month of Elul.  The Just Jewish blog actually has links to some songs based on Psalm 27.  Since part of the purpose of this blog is to chronicle the prophetic significance of the yearly cycle of Appointed Times, I would be remiss if I didn’t do the same.

This is one of the many psalms that David composed while he was under attack.  David here follows his usual pattern of presenting his predicament, and simultaneously expressing his trust that the Holy One would rescue and vindicate him.  Given that we are coming out of the brutal time around Tisha b’Av, it shouldn’t surprise us that such Psalms would be sung.  The question that should drive us is why this particular song is given so much emphasis for the whole month leading up to Rosh Hashannah.

The Psalm opens, “Hashem is my light and my salvation.”  The Targums, as they often do, substitute, “The Word of the LORD.”  This seems like an odd substitution, since normally we find Memre, the Word, used to express the aspect of the Holy One that meets with His people, which the rabbis call the Sh’khinah. Why did the translators find the change necessary here?  And is it possible that the Apostle John had this passage, as well as many others similar to it, in mind when he called Yeshua the Word of God?

David goes on to speak of a great host encamping against him (v. 3).  This brings to mind other Day of the Lord passages like Joel 3:14 and Zec. 12:2.  In Zec. 9:9, the prophet speaks of the Holy One appearing over Israel with the sound of a shofar when they went to war with the sons of Greece, and this may be the connection that the rabbis saw between this Psalm and the Day of the Trumpet Call.

Verse 5 is, in my mind, the key to understanding the remez of the passage:

For in the day of trouble He will keep me secretly in His sukkah.
In the secret of His tent He will hide me.
He will lift me up on a rock.

The word translated here “keep me secretly” is yitz’p’neini, which means to protect by hiding away, as when Moses was hidden from Pharaoh’s men by his mother (Exo. 2:2f), while the word sukkah, usually translated “tabernacle” or “booth,” refers to a temporary dwelling.  Thus, David expects deliverance by being hidden from his enemies, but not forever; he desires a temporary sanctuary.

The phrase “secret of His tent He will hide me,” yistireini b’seiter ahla’u, arranges the sentence to place two forms of the Hebrew word seiter together, which in most cases means emphasis; e.g., qadosh haqadoshim means, literally, “the holy of holies,” but is more of the sense of, “the most holy.”  Here, since seiter means a secret, we could understand the sentence to mean, “He will surely secret me away in the most secret part of His tent.”

Normally, this word “secret” has a bad connotation–but not to David.  To David, it meant a place of safety:  “Jonathan told David, saying, ‘Saul my father seeks to kill you. Now therefore, please take care of yourself in the morning, and live in a secret place, and hide yourself.'”

In verse 4, David expressed his desire to dwell in the House of Hashem, to behold His beauty and splendor, and to study and admire His Temple.  Here in verse 5 we see that David is not thinking of the earthly tabernacle, which he had visited–and which in fact many people had visited to worship.  Rather, his desire is to be taken up into the “secret of secrets,” the Holy Tabernacle above which the earthly Holy Place was only a copy of, the grand throne room previously seen only by Moses and (we can safely assume) Enoch.

By calling it a sukkah, David hints at two truths:  First, that the joy of this secret Tabernacle is anticipated by the joy of Sukkot, the Feast of Booths and most joyous of all the Feasts of Israel (cf. Lev. 23:40 and Deu. 16:14, which commands us to rejoice on that Feast).  But second, that this joyous “lifting up” to to the Most Secret Place will be but a temporary refuge in the Day of Trouble.  When that Day is past, then David–and all of us who will be with him–shall return in the company of the Temple not made with hands, our Messiah Yeshua.

As we draw closer to the time of Rosh Hashanah, we would do well to pray with David for the time when we will never leave the Holy One’s House ever again:

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. (Rev. 3:12)

Maranatha, and Shalom.

3 Replies to “Psalm 27 and the Countdown to Yom Teruah”

    1. Honestly, it really depends on the Messianic group. Remember that the term “Messianic” covers everything from anti-rabbi Torah-observant Christians to Orthodox and Hasidic Jews who believe in Yeshua (though the latter often don’t wish to be associated with the label due to the fact that it has such broad usage). The old addage, “Where you have two Jews, you have three opinions” definitely holds true with us.

      Within those who follow traditional Jewish norms, like my own synagogue, women are exempt from the requirement of keeping the mitzvah, but they are not actively discouraged. The reason that women are exempt is that in Judaism, women are exempt from any commandment that has to be done at a certain set time. The reason is simple: Small children are not always conducive to keeping a schedule. In some cases, this has resulted in mitzvot which are considered the sole province of men–like wearing a talit–but in others, like the sukkah, the women are allowed to participate, or not, depending on their situation with no shame or guilt imputed either way.

      We handle it the same way. We don’t expect a woman with a small child to camp out in the sukkah necessarily, but we don’t discourage her from enjoying it either.



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