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In one of the recent updates to our community, I quoted Psalm 91 as a psalm full of and rich with meaning. It has become one of my favourite Psalms. It is cheerful and comforting, it expresses the happy expectation of a psalmist and an expectation of God’s protection, comfort, and care for His people. Please read the Psalm for yourself. The author of this Psalm is unknown (guesses are Moses or David). Psalm 91 is very pertinent for the times we live in, particularly as it mentions pestilences, diseases which may lead to death, in verses 3 and 6. And currently, one such disease just seems to occupy everyone’s mind and actions as we try to adjust – in the workplace, the news, in the shops and at school. We sense fear. Fear of the effects of the disease itself, fear of financial instability, fear of social contact and the lack thereof, fear of doing or saying the wrong thing and being caught out. And then we read Psalm 91. It starts with: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
The promise of this Psalm is that God will keep you safe. We find images of being at home with Him, so close to God that His shadow falls over you, gentle as a mother bird, strong as a warrior. We feel trust, security, significance. So, we hear these words, we say it and we also want to believe it, but how do we live them? What does it look like to us through highs, but more so during the lows, and what can be hindrances? At least 3 things come to mind:
- Unreliable resources: Satan wants you to understand Psalm 91 the way he (mis)quotes verses 11-12 to Jesus during His time in the wilderness (Luke 4). Satan knows Scripture well and will sight it for his purposes! So, he reckons Jesus should be able to escape pain and suffering. Satan also wants us to believe that if God really loves us, terrible things should not happen to us. If we believe his lie, he gets his way, as we will pull back from God. If you spend some time on social media, you may see this kind of reaction frequently, “If there were a God then why do we have COVID/poverty/disasters?” But, even by indirectly blaming the God many don’t believe in, they also do not have the answers or solutions for the issues we face (and so governments need to be the rescuers). St Augustine rightfully said, “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.” Put your faith in God, He alone is fully trustworthy.
- Not seeing the bigger picture: Maybe we need a wider perspective when dealing with day-to-day issues. How? Well, Scripture explains Scripture, so for example, Romans 8:28 comes to mind. While it doesn’t say only good things will happen to us, it says that eventually good will come from any circumstances we find ourselves in. And Romans 5:3-5 states, “… suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” These are only two of many examples where we can find purpose regardless of circumstances. God will protect and rescue us not only in our circumstances, but also because of them, as we draw closer to Him.
- Having our priorities wrong: No-one or nothing should be more important to us than God, otherwise the bottom will fall out if something unforeseen happens to whatever the object of our affection may be. He is our only certainty.
Does this mean we don’t or can’t struggle or grieve when calamity hits? No of course not, and this is exactly where the comfort lies in this Psalm. It is not whether afflictions will come our way, it is what we do while we are in it. God is our shelter, believe it and run to Him! No power is out of His control. He has placed his angels around us to protect us, and he has given us people around us to encourage us and pray for us. One morning this week I received a text message from a dear parent who asked, “How can I pray for you today”? I was touched, not only because someone else thought of me, but because this person knew exactly where to go with the issues I may have faced that morning – straight to the throne of God, our Rescuer and Saviour! Psalm 91 does not give absolute promises for every believer in every circumstance, but beautiful promises of God’s protection, comfort, and care that are received and applied in the believer by the Holy Spirit. The Psalm ends in the first person as God speaks promise and blessing over those who love Him. It repeats and confirms every promise in this psalm, and this time from God Himself. What a comfort and blessing to be in relationship with a God who will ultimately wipe every tear from our eyes.
Sons of Korah sings a beautiful version of Psalm 91, it’s goosebump stuff. Listen to it by clicking on this link and be blessed!