“We come against … hatred, oppression, and violence. I come against you in the name of God,” Bree Newsome said, high in the air above the statehouse grounds in Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday.
Newsome was arrested — charged with defacing monuments on state capitol grounds — but only after she had climbed all the way to the top of the 30-foot flagpole and removed the state’s Confederate battle flag, which was affixed there by legislative decree in celebration of the state’s heritage of treason in defense of slavery.
The words Newsome recites as she descends the pole to surrender to the waiting police are from Psalm 27. If you’re a church-going evangelical, you’re probably familiar with the words of this Psalm, which have often been incorporated in praise choruses, hymns and “CCM” worship songs. But forget all of those.
Put those songs out of your head and re-encounter the words of this Psalm afresh through the lens of Newsome’s prophetic sermon and her vivid exegesis and exposition of the text:
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 devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold 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 set me high on a rock.
Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!