I was about 15 or 16 when the Church we attended had a guest speaker by the name of Sammy Oppenheim. He was an “evangelist” in the denomination, with a focus on the youth. And I remember spending one day with him and a few others, going to what was then the largest indoor mall in America – MidTown Mall, to pass out tracts and engage others regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I remember especially talking with one guy I knew from school. Being sort of forced into that public manner of witness was frightening, and also liberating. I will always be grateful for the experience.
Later that week, in an evening service, Sammy (as he was called then) asked me stand up. And he said words to the effect that “I want to give a passage of Scripture to you.” In a Pentecostal church, this was not out of place at all. In retrospect, while I cannot embrace the more popular theology or practice of many of my Charismatic or Pentecostal brothers and sisters in Christ getting “a word from the Lord” (that sadly has been a fountain of countless woes and foolishness however well meaning) – I do believe that a species of the “verbal gifts” of the Spirit remain today. I am convinced they function not to reveal any new truth or doctrine, but rather to shine a spotlight on extant Biblical truth at a specific time in a specific place or context as the Spirit sees fit. Anyone who is a serious preacher of the Word knows well that at times the Spirit stirs their souls with unusual warmth to speak on a certain passage, or find it uniquely energized in their soul and mind at a particular time.
That said, Sammy, at that moment read the following passage out loud to me – and prayed. It was a portion of Psalm 27 – specifically, Psalm 27:1–5 (ESV): “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 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. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”
I cannot tell you how many times over the years, I have come back to that passage and found it profoundly comforting and meaningful in a very special way. It does not apply to me alone, but to all the saints. It was not then, nor is it now a revelation of new truth. It was simply the truth of the Word impressed upon a young man at a particular point in history (I will not go on to reveal the context of why my time in High School then was of such excruciating pain). And I am forever grateful that Sammy was impressed to press that portion on me at that moment. He had no idea what I was facing at the time. Nor how many times it would be powerfully used by the Spirit to be reiterated to my soul. And it leads me to wonder if we might not be equally wise to deliver up to others in the Body of Christ – portions of the Word, in context and rightly understood – as unique reminders of The “Word” to us, to run back to especially.
In coming across Ps. 27 yesterday in my regular reading – all of these memories came flooding back. And it stirred the following in me.
The Lord, The Lord, He alone is all my light
The Light that saves from sin’s black night
The Lord, The Lord, protects my life
That I might live through all the strife
The Lord, The Lord, removes all fear
When evil, violent men appear
The Lord, The Lord, gives confidence
For He all all my soul’s defense
The Lord, The Lord, whose arm’s not slack
When adversaries rise and attack
The Lord, The Lord, will thwart their war
What e’re the trial, His grace is more
The Lord, The Lord, grants new desire
To yearn for what in Christ is higher
The Lord, The Lord, spurs want to see
The splendor of His own majesty
The Lord, The Lord, will shelter me
In the home He has prepared for me
The Lord, The Lord, will hide me there
In His own bosom, far from care
The Lord, The Lord, accepts my praise
Tho these unworthy hands I raise
The Lord, The Lord, will fill my mouth
With all the praise of triumph’s shout
The Lord, The Lord, will make me sing
When to His throne, this wretch He’ll bring
The Lord, The Lord, hears every cry
When to His throne in prayer I fly
The Lord, The Lord, He bids me pray
To be my only hope and stay
The Lord, The Lord, will take me in
Though all forsake me in their sin
The Lord, The Lord, says “Come, rely”
“Come, wait on Me”, my soul – reply!
Oh Lord, The Lord, be true, my all
On Thee I cast my whole, my all