# 38 Psalms of Thanksgiving (#6) Psalm 91 absolute security, living in “absolute dependence, absolute trust, absolute surrender”

According to Psalm 91:1 the safest place in the world to be is in a “shadow”! That’s what the psalmist suggests when he says:   “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Not only is the imagery of “feathers” and “wings” (see previous post) used describing our “secret hiding place” in God (Psalm 32:7), but also a “shadow”, and that being “the shadow of the Almighty”.

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If you have lived in a hot place, you will understand how important shade is. In the height of summer when you turn into the shopping centre carpark what do you search for? A parking spot under the shade of a tree, if possible. The sun, as wonderful as it is, can be very painful at times and we need to be protected from it by going into the shade – the shadow of another object. Like shade on a very hot day, is the shadow of the Almighty in times of trouble.

How much closer to someone can you get than their shadow? And that’s the point, I think. To be up close and personal with God (i.e. as close as under his shadow) is to be safe. My shadow wouldn’t bring anyone much comfort or shade, but God’s is different!

So, how is this possible? What is it about our relationship with God that can result in such incredible intimacy with the Creator of the universe and then mean we are under his protection no matter what comes our way? Well let’s see what the psalmist suggests.

  • Desire

 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High     will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

If you … make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you…
Firstly, we need to have an attitude and desire to be close to God. In fact, a desire to “dwell” with God, to be at “rest” in his presence.

Other psalms express this deep longing to be in God’s presence, such as Psalm 42, where the psalmist says:

As the deer pants for streams of water,     so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.     When can I go and meet with God?

Do we have such a deep longing for our Father? If not, ask God to give you such a desire.

  • Faith.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,     my God, in whom I trust.”

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”     …10 no harm will overtake you,

Faith/trust is involved. Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Do we really trust God in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in today?

  1. Love
  1. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him…”

Jesus said the greatest commandment was: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)

John in his first letter spoke of love. He said, “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God…This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…God is love…This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…”    (1 John 3:1, 16; 4:8, 10)

Have we any reason to not love such an amazing Saviour God?

  • Acknowledgment

14 I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

Considering that:

…God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place     and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,     in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,     to the glory of God the Father

then acknowledging His name above all other names seems like pretty good advice!

  1. Prayer 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;

Breuggemann speaks of this promise as “the most striking formula [revealing God’s] profound commitment [to us]…’When he calls to me, I will answer him’.”

He continues, “The initiative of trust and petition belongs with the [psalmist]. But Yahweh is resolved to answer and is very sure…none will prevail against [our] God.” (see references # 2)

Jesus taught and lived a life of prayer and there is little doubt that he desires that we also should live this way

And, so the promise of God to us is that:

I will be with him in trouble,     I will deliver him and honour him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him     and show him my salvation.”

But you may ask, how is all this possible? In myself I have so little desire for God, so little love, so weak a faith! The answer ultimately is “Christ in you”.

In “The Believer’s Secret of the Master’s Indwelling” by Andrew Murray, he quotes Colossians 3:4 which says, “Christ, who is our life”. He speaks of the relationship and source “of [the life of Jesus, the Son] before God [the Father].” He says, “It was a life of absolute dependence, absolute trust, absolute surrender” and this was the very “principle of His life” which we need to understand” and apply as we seek to live the Christian life. This is what the indwelling Christ in us, as believers, desires to teach us and live through us. Are you willing?

And then as we live “in Christ” we will begin to understand just how secure we are resting in the “shadow of the Almighty”.

# 37 Psalms of Thanksgiving (#5) Psalm 91 “matchless love … divine tenderness”

I went for a walk to our College farm today and when I came across the scene below I was reminded of the following verse in Psalm 91:4 that reads. The Lord “will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”

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As mentioned before, the poetry of the Psalms often uses imagery to get the point across and this is one of those occasions.

Some other psalms that also use this same imagery are:

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (17:8)

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (36:7)

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (57:1)

“I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” (61:4)

“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” (63:7)

I like what C.H. Spurgeon had to say about this imagery in his commentary on the Psalms (first published in 1870):

“…’He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.’ A wonderful expression! Had it been invented by an uninspired man it would have verged on blasphemy, for who would dare to apply such words to the Infinite God? But as He himself authorized, yea, dictated the language, we have here a transcendent condescension, such as it becomes us to admire and adore. Does the Lord speak of his feathers, as though he likened himself to a bird? Who will not see herein a matchless love, a divine tenderness, which should both woo and win our confidence? Even as a hen covers her chickens [or a duck her ducklings] so does the Lord protect [those] who dwell in him; [so] let us [shelter] down beneath him for comfort and for safety. Hawks in the sky and snares in the field are equally harmless when we nestle so near the Lord.” (see references # 28)

No wonder the psalmist can say, “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!” and then, that his people “take refuge in the shadow of [his] wings.” (36:7)

James encourages us to “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8)

It seems that sometimes ducklings are smarter than us human beings. They knew exactly where to be today when this dangerous looking creature with his camera was standing above them!

# 36 Psalms of Thanksgiving (#4) Psalm 91 Have you ever felt vulnerable?

Psalm 91 is considered to fall into the category of Psalms of Thanksgiving, but it is quite different to Psalm 30. I seem to have heard many times from missionaries (and others) who have mentioned how God used this psalm to encourage them in their lives at a particularly difficult time. One example was my sister-in-law, Grace, who worked as a medical missionary in Africa for many years. The particular country she served in has often been politically unstable and this occasionally has resulted in civil war. And in the midst of one of these wars, when there was a very real risk of injury or death to missionaries and others, some remained. Grace was one of those who stayed and I remember her relating later how Psalm 91 had been such a comfort to her during those uncertain and dangerous days. Not surprisingly when we spend time considering its content:

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter 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 say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”    (NIV)

So, this psalm raises a question. And that is, have you ever felt vulnerable? I certainly have and have no doubt about you! In fact, that’s ok and life begins that way. The day we leave the relative safety of our mother’s uterus we are incredibly vulnerable to so many possible “enemies”, whether physical (disease, injury, abuse) or spiritual (“spiritual forces of evil.” Eph 6:13). The psalmists understood this vulnerability very well.

Living in the relative safety and peace of Australia ( a “haven” compared to so many unstable nations around the world in these days), it is not always easy to appreciate this aspect of the psalms. But leave Australia for a while and one begins to realize the reality for most people on earth. Having lived in Pakistan for a decade gave me a new understanding of what it means to feel vulnerable. I remember one occasion (and there were a number) driving home with my family and turning a corner only to discover we had driven into a riot of two fighting factions throwing stones at each other. When they saw us, they decided to also include us as one of their “enemies” and some of their rocks starting heading in our direction. Not a comfortable feeling, particularly being in a car with one’s wife and young children. Fortunately we escaped with little damage and no injury on that occasion, praise God.

Matthew Jacoby, in his book on the Psalms, also speaks of this “vulnerability” that people experienced in the days when the Psalms were written. He says, for example, “they lived in constant vulnerability to military invasion and banditry”. Not really much different to many people living in the Middle East in our day. He suggests that “there is a lot that can go wrong in life, and your imagination will no doubt have represented every possible scenario to you. The fear associated with vulnerability is the fear of being overpowered, of losing control. This for any person is the root of all fear.”

But then we come to the Psalms, and Psalm 91 is a perfect example, and there we find something quite incredible, in fact “one of the most remarkable experiences portrayed in the psalms is the experience of invulnerability.” In the psalms this is expressed in the use of a number of words and phrases used of God. For example God is called, “my refuge”, “my fortress”, “my strong tower”, “my hiding place”, “my rock”, just to name a few. The word “refuge” is used 98 times in the Bible and 45 of these are in the psalms.

But as Jacoby suggests, “The psalmists did not feel invulnerable because they believed nothing bad would ever happen to them. Their lack of fear was the result of an act of renunciation.” He continues, “Trusting God is much more than trusting God for something. It is the will to be overpowered by God, to entrust one’s life to God and thereby renounce the right to set the agendas for one’s own life.

By allowing themselves to be overpowered by God, the psalmists put themselves into a bigger picture. They stepped into the purpose of God, which cannot be thwarted. So whatever happened, even if they suffered loss for a time, they did not feel vulnerable or afraid because they recognized that they were in God’s purpose and God was sovereign over their circumstances. The safest place in the world is in the will of God.”

He continues that the psalmist’s, as they walked in the “paths of righteousness”, even if it was through “the valley of the shadow of death” recognized that “they were not in charge, and therefore they weren’t vulnerable. They were encased in God’s purpose, and they knew that was a sure thing.” (see reference # 8)

And so to the wonder of Psalm 91 which has been described as “the most impressive testimony in the Psalter to the strength that springs from trust in God.” (see references #  27)

“You will not fear…” says this poet of old.