He who dwells in the shadow of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress'
my God, in whom I trust."
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling -
even the LORD who is my refuge -
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
It mentions "pestilence" or "plague" three times and promises protection therefrom and many Christians find comfort in this in response to the fear caused by Covid-19. But why should we? In what way is it valid to do so? What about those Christians who do catch Covid19 (one of my friends who really trusts Jesus has done so, 8 April 2020), and especially those who die?
I don't want to be academic about this, but these are valid questions that even Scripture urges us to ask.
I understand Psalm 91 applying, not willy-nilly to everyone who wants comfort, nor even Christians who want comfort, but especially to those who those who make Yahweh God ("the LORD") their refuge, who "dwell" in Yahweh.
This is not merely some wish for comfort nor a prayer recited, not even using these words, but something deeper. It is a deliberate giving-over of oneself to Yahweh in trust that is an exercise of will and yet a submission of will. Those who lean on God will find God can be leant on. Those who lean on themselves have yet to do so. Generations and generations of God's people have discovered that - because God is Real.
Those in whom all three dimensions of salvation are operative are ones I would expect to fulfil that. So let us go ahead in trust. "He who called you is faithful, and will do what he promised" (I Thessalonians 5:24).
The three dimensions of salvation are all found in Romans 8: those who have turned to Christ as their Saviour and Lord and thus are justified, who let the Holy Spirit challenge and cleanse every aspect of their lives and grow His fruit, let Christ have full control and believe for the Father's power, and who, as mature 'sons' of God (either sex) image God fully to the rest of Creation. The first dimension was rediscovered via the Reformation, the second in the Holiness and Pentecostal movements, and the third today as we are faced with climate and environmental responsibility like never before. Those people are the ones who most fully represent God among the peoples of the world.
It is especially to those people who represent God, to whom Psalm 91 offers protection. It is not for their own sake but because it is through them that God works in all three dimensions of Salvation. And, at God's own sovereign discretion, God's representatives might go through suffering (persecution but also even pestilence), but they will usually feel peace and joy.
What about "A thousand may fall at your side"? Isn't that a bit harsh of God, a bit elitist and uncaring? I think that the Psalmist is expressing something more nuanced than that. In this interconnected world, where humanity turns continually to evil, and "destroys the earth" [Revelation 11:18] as well as being uncaring in their affluence and arrogance [Ezekiel 16:49], everything we do has repercussions. That is what is going on here. God allows it for a purpose: to warn us to face up to reality, to repent and rewire our very mindset, as individuals and society. God acts with what seems punishment but in in fact mercy and healing (see God's 'Punishments'). Only when human beings respond by rethinking, repenting and rewiring (or letting the Holy Spirit rewire us) - only then is God's reassurance relevant and promised.
God's protection is promised to those who have taken God seriously, repented and are letting the Holy Spirit rewire them. Not only is protection promised to those people, but also provision, pardon and much else. Do we wonder where our resources will come from? "Your heavenly Father knows you need these things before you ask them" (Matthew 6:8, 25-34). Have we done wrong and worry that we are cut off from God or His plans? We have pardon through the death of Christ. I remember hearing of one person who came to her pastor after having sinned in a fairly major way, and he was given the words to tell her, "God can still use you." That is the greatest joy a human being can experience.
This page, "http://abxn.org/psalm91.html" is part of Andrew Basden's abxn.org pages - pages that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective. Written on the Amiga with Protext, in the style of classic HTML.
Comments, queries welcome.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all dates below. But you may use this material subject to certain easy conditions.
Created: 8 April 2020 Last updated: