Saturday, August 21, 2010

Psalm 91 - Comfort for Christians

all of the quotations are from the 1599 Geneva Bible

Psalm 91 is one of the most uplifting of the psalms. Unlike so many of the others which tell of the apostasy of Israel, and God's judgment of it, this psalm is filled with strength and encouragement.

The psalm begins with "Who so dwelleth in the secret of the most High, shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say unto the Lord, O my hope, and my fortress: he is my God, in him will I trust."

Here we have the claim that the Christian has God as his protector. I think it is important to note a couple of words that are applied to the Christian here. Dwell and Abide. The NIV uses the word rest in place of abide. All three of these words give the same sense of a continual presence in close proximity to the Almighty.

This is not a bad description of a Christian. Not definition, but description. One who spends the majority of their time in close proximity to the Lord. Just as one who only visits your home town for one hour a week could not be said to dwell in your home town, one who only visits the Lord one hour a week on Sunday morning cannot claim to be abiding in him. If a person does not spend the majority of their time dwelling or abiding with the Lord, then they do not fit the Biblical description of a Christian. As such, this psalm does not have much in the way of application for that person.

Now, just to be clear, a person can certainly spend the majority of their time dwelling with and abiding in a false god ....but that would be a whole different subject.

Verse 3 "Surely He will deliver thee from the snare of the hunter, and from the noisome pestilence."

In the New testament, in both 1st Timothy and 2nd Timothy Paul uses the phrase "the snare of the devil."

I think it is pretty easy to put 2+2 together and identify the hunter who the psalm tells us is setting snares for you.

Pestilence is defined as a plague; a disease that is contagious or infectious and is epidemic and fatal. A second meaning is corruption or moral disease destructive to happiness. But for those who, as verse 2 tells us, have cried out to the Lord, placing their trust in him as their fortress, we have the sure promise of deliverance from both the hunter and the pestilence!

Verse 4 begins "He will cover thee under his wings, and thou shalt be sure under his feathers:" That makes us out to be pretty weak and defenseless. Of course that is the plain truth of the matter, we are weak and defenseless, but the verse ends with this "his truth shall be thy shield and buckler." I don't know about you, but as a man, I like this analogy a lot better. Going to war with God's truth as your shield! But as manly as that may make one feel, it is important to remember that in God's sight we are just as little baby birds protected under their father's wings.

Verses 5&6 "Thou shalt not be afraid of the fear of the night: nor of the arrow that flieth by day: Nor of the pestilence that walketh in the darkness: nor of the plague that destroyeth at noon day."

The person who is dwelling in the Lord has no longer has reason to be afraid of the fear of the night, or as some translations put it, the terror of the night. Most of us, as we grew up, got over the fear of the monster in the closet ....or in the attic...or under the bed. But there is still that fear of the unknown. The arrow which is coming at you in the daylight, is something you can see coming, and you know it is aimed at you to do you in. But sometimes just the fear that there may be an arrow coming at you that you cannot even see ....that may be more terrifying than the one you know is coming.

Obviously, these have spiritual application. I think for many, the fear of death may be the primary application. Maybe as far as you know, you are healthy. But that terror in the darkness, is that some disease you don't even know you have will suddenly kill you. Or the plague that destroys at noon day is that disease that you know you have and you know its only a matter of time until it gets you.

But if God is your fortress and your hope, then you will not be afraid. Notice that the Lord does not promise us that we will not fall victim to the arrows or the plagues, because we will. As 1 Corinthians 15:26 tells us, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." We are not there yet. But we need not be afraid!

Verses 7,8&9 "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come near thee. Doubtless with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. For thou hast said, The Lord is mine hope: thou hast set the most High for thy refuge."

This is a reference to judgment. It brings to mind the first Passover as described in the book of Exodus. Thousands of Egyptians perished while the children of Israel who had the mark made by the sacrificial lamb's blood on their door post were spared. The same will be true in the future when the wicked are rewarded for their deeds on judgment day, but those whose hope is in the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, will be spared.

Continuing with verse 10: "There shall none evil come unto thee, neither shall any plague come near thy tabernacle. For he shall give his Angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee in their hands, that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone."

In this section we find a portion of scripture which is quoted in the New Testament. But unless you are familiar with the text, you may not guess who quotes it. In Matthew 4, we find the description of Jesus going into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After Jesus had fasted forty days, the devil presented 3 propositions to him. The second one is described in verses 5-7

"Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him on a pinnacle of the Temple. And said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, that he will give his Angels charge over thee, and with their hands they shall lift thee up, lest at any time thou shouldest dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

We, also would be wise to heed that warning not to tempt the Lord our God.

Back to Psalm 91, verse 13: "Thou shalt walk upon the lion and asp: the young lion, and the dragon shalt thou tread under feet."

It is interesting that in the New Testament, the devil is referred to as a roaring lion, as found in 1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober, and watch: for your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" In the book of Revelation, the devil is identified as "the dragon" (Rev 20:2). Also in Revelation, the devil is referred to as "that old serpent" (Rev 20:2), and whether your text uses the word asp as found here in the Geneva Bible, or adder as found in the English Standard Version, or cobra as found in the NIV, they are all clearly speaking of a snake.

Don't you find it marvelous how the Bible all fits together so well? Here we are looking at a text right here in the middle of the Bible in the book of Psalms, and we find another text that ties in perfectly and helps explain it in the very last book. So now how can we help but at least mention how they both fit perfectly with a text in the very first book of the Bible?

Genesis 3: 14&15. You all know the story of the Garden of Eden. God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of one certain tree. Satan enticed Eve into eating of it, and Adam joined her.

"Then the Lord God said to the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will also put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. He shall break thine head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."

I think it is safe to say that most scholars agree that this is God's promise of a coming Messiah. Christ is the seed of the woman, and as it says, his heel was bruised at the cross by Satan. Jesus suffered a cruel death on the cross paying for our sins, and yet in that very same act in which his heel was bruised, Christ crushed the head of the serpent. It was in that act of redemption that the power of sin was broken.

Back to Psalm 91. By verse 14 it becomes evident that the psalm has switched from being written in the third person to quoting the Lord. In fact, the NIV adds the phrase "says the Lord" which isn't found in the other translations that I looked at.

Verses 14-15 "Because he hath loved me, therefore will I deliver him: I will exalt him because he hath known my Name. He shall call upon me, and I will hear him: I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and glorify him."

In many ways, these last few verses, bring us back to beginning of the psalm. God promises that he will hear us when we call on him, but we call upon him because we are abiding in his shadow, because he is our hope and our fortress. He promises to be with us in trouble and to deliver us because he is our God and we have put our trust in him.

All of these great blessings and promises can be ours if only we would see ourselves as the wretched sinners that we are, and put our faith in Jesus Christ and his payment for our sins as the only means of reconciliation with God.

The psalm ends with this line: "With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation."

In closing here is the footnote on this last verse as found in the 1599 Geneva Bible. "For he is contented with that life that God giveth: for by death the shortness of this life is recompensed with immortality."


infidel0341 said...

Psalm 91 comforted me quit a bit while deployed in Iraq. I wrote it down on my bandanna before shipping out...

St.Lee said...

Thanks for stopping by, and leaving a comment. I can certainly see where these promises would be especially dear to a soldier. Thank you for your service, and God bless you.

Dan said...

Great Post Lee.