I freely admit I have never been through a tragedy that personally affected me. I have lived through tragedies such as school shootings and terrorist attacks, but I was not involved with anyone personally involved in those attacks. So these are my thoughts on this psalm, knowing the promises God gives us... knowing how big his protection is over us... and knowing that no event that happens in this world can separate us from his love.
Things God will do: (action)
- Deliver us from entrapment and from pestilence (v. 3)
- Cover us with protection (v. 4)
- Give his angels charge over us (v. 11)
- Set his love upon me (v. 14)
- Deliver me, answer me, be with me and give me salvation (v. 15, 16)
- Speak of the Lord and trust in him (v. 2)
- Don't be afraid (v. 5)
- Set God on high (v. 14)
Protector, refuge, fortress, deliverer, my shield, my salvation
What should I take away from this?
There is so much to take away from this psalm, and it's certainly fitting, I suppose, to read it the day after such a tragedy in our nation. There are lots of unanswered questions and a lot of people claiming Christians are simply being pious in our prayers for the affected.
God promises over and over again in this psalm and he will be our refuge. A refuge should be our place to hide. He will give us the shadow of himself to hide in (v. 1)... how huge that must be! In verse 2, when God is called our fortress, the original word there actually means "net" or "stronghold". Beautiful! God is our net when we fall. He's there to catch us, dust us off, set us upright again. He's our stronghold when we don't have that strength within ourselves. He will deliver us from those who want to harm us, and he'll cover us with protection. We should not be afraid for anything that might happen to us. We have angels watching over us alongside God. When we love God, God will bring us out of situations. When we call upon him, he will answer us and be with us during troubling times.
A couple of things I really dug into:
We're not supposed to be afraid. There are people now who are scared to send their children to public school. I say that is a valid feeling - I would be lying to say the same thought hadn't crossed my own mind. But the truth is, as Christians, we are not to fear. Verse 10 is one of those sneaky ones that can easily be twisted around by people. It reads: "There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." How easy it is to read that verse literally, and blame bad things on the person, or say it's because they aren't saved that things are happening to them. And how easy for nonbelievers to grab onto that verse and point it out as a contradiction in the Bible. The fact is that God never promised us an easy life. Romans 8:35-39 says "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God didn't promise us a smooth sailing life, but he sure did promise that we would never be able to separate ourselves from his love. I believe that's what this verse in Psalm 91 is saying... when we have Christ dwelling in our hearts, no evil can befall us that has an eternal affect on us. If a terrible tragedy were to happen to my family, it would certainly mean that evil has befallen us. It would definitely affect my life here on earth. But it would not take away my eternal promise, or my relationship with God. Verse 14 and 15 tell us that God will not forsake those who seek them. This doesn't mean everything in our lives will be good, but it means that if we will continue to seek him through the valleys in our life, he won't forsake us. He'll be there for us. And he'll get us through those times.
I also did some digging on verse 3 - "Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence." I didn't know exactly what this meant and I found a great sermon from Charles Spurgeon on this very topic. Forgive me for paraphrasing...
*The old devil is dead, and there is a new devil now. It is the same evil spirit, but there is a different mode of attack. The devil of the old day was a black and grimy thing. He was a persecutor who cast men into the furnace, and put them to death for serving Christ. The devil of this day is a well-spoken gentleman: he does not persecute—he rather attempts to persuade and to beguile. He would only link worldliness with religion; and so he would really make religion void.
I do not think that a Christian is so often betrayed into a sin that is palpable and known, as he is into a sin that is secret. If the devil comes to my door with his horns visible, I will never let him in; but if he comes with his hat on as a respectable gentleman, he is at once admitted. The metaphor may be very quaint, but it is quite true. Many a man has taken in an evil thing, because it has been varnished and glossed over, and not apparently an evil; and he has thought in his heart, there is not much harm in it; so he has let in the little thing, and it has been like the breaking forth of water—the first drop has brought after it a torrent. The beginning has been but the beginning of a fearful end. Take care, Christian, of things that are secret; take care of the common doings of the world, which are well enough for them, perhaps. We would not deny them their pleasures, for they have no others; but they are not good for you, for you have a finer life—a life of a finer texture and order than can exist in the haunts of ungodly persons.
The snare of the fowl is easily adapted. A fowler (who is trying to bait a bird) will adapt his bait based on the bird he wishes to catch. Satan will do the same thing. He will not tempt you all with the same temptation he would tempt me with; nor me with the temptation with which he would naturally assail another. If we be like Achilles, and can not be wounded anywhere but in our heel, then at the heel he will send his dart, and nowhere else. He will find out our easily besetting sin, and there, if he can, he will attempt to work our ruin and our destruction.*
The entire sermon is really incredible if you have the time to read the whole thing. It certainly added to my reading of this psalm today.
I would love to know if you have any thoughts to add to this beautiful scripture! Something I missed? Something I misinterpreted? Something I should take note of?