Friday, February 17, 2017

Psalm 91

Psalm 91

Tomorrow we begin our new Bible study on the book of Esther. I ran short of free time this week to finish collecting all my study materials, so yesterday and today we are looking at a couple of my favorite Psalms before we begin the book of Esther on Saturday morning. I apologize for the delay, but maybe someone needs the comforting words of Psalm 91 today. I've needed them many times myself.

No author is ascribed to Psalm 91. Some scholars believe Moses wrote it, on account of the tradition of attributing authorship of untitled psalms to the person who wrote the previous one. It cannot be dated with any certainty and this leaves its authorship in question. That's fine with me, because I think Psalm 91 is a psalm for everyone, and we can pray it with the same positive and unwavering faith as its author. It doesn't matter who wrote it because this psalm is for anyone who wants to abide in the shelter of the Most High.

I want us first to take a look at the meaning of the word "abide" (or "dwell" as some translations put it). It means to "reside, inhabit, continue, nest, occupy, remain, rest, settle, stay, tarry, establish oneself, make one's home, to live or continue in a given condition or state, to linger over or ponder in thought, to keep the attention directed upon." We are promised great and mighty things in today's psalm if we commit to abiding in the shelter of the Most High. The psalmist doesn't have just a casual relationship with God but a continual and ongoing communion with the Lord. Like the psalmist, when we abide in the Lord we are living in a constant state of connection with God, with our hearts and minds unwaveringly fixed on Him. It involves living with the sense of His presence at all times, living in a way that honors Him, and putting Him at the forefront of all things.

When we abide in the shelter of the Most High, spiritually speaking it's as if we are living full time in His temple. We are established in Him. We make our perpetual home in His presence. We keep Him in our thoughts and we meditate on His holy word.

This psalm doesn't promise us freedom from all the troubles of this life but it does promise us God's care and provision. It would be easy to misinterpret the writer's words and think that if we live a righteous life no harm will ever fall upon us. But the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect Son of God, suffered in this life and we too will will be confronted with hardship. I think the psalmist is promising us freedom from the fear of trouble. I think he assures us of victory over our trials and over our enemy the devil. He professes peace during the storm, just as baby chicks have peace during the storm while they sleep snugly under theirs mother's wings.

Have any of you ever suffered from panic attacks? Has worry ever attacked you during the midnight hour? Don't our problems and fears seem so much worse in the long dark hours of night? I have read this psalm out loud during long nights of distress. In verse 5 the author will say, "You will not fear the terror of night." This is a beautiful verse to speak out loud to our fears in the night. No lie can stand before the word of God! Fear is a lie, the product of our own mortal minds and an assault from our enemy the devil. But fears are like cockroaches: when we turn the light of truth on them they run away. When we resist Satan he has to flee. (James 4:7) When we hear our own voice speak the word of the living God we can't help but feel strengthened in our hearts. We find the strength to keep fighting the battle. As verse 13 encourages us, "You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent".

Our true enemy is a fallen angel who who hates us, but the scripture promises us, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." (Romans 16:20a) In the Bible we find the devil called both a lion and a serpent. Peter says about him, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". (1 Peter 5:8b) And we see Satan taking the form of a serpent in the garden of Eden, where he fired the first battle shot at mankind. But this doesn't mean we have to live in fear of our enemy. We have victory over him in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord! We aren't resisting him in our own power but by the blood of Christ and the glory and holiness of His name. Jesus said to the disciples in Luke 10:19, "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." The Lord isn't promising that no bodily harm will ever come upon the disciples, for we know many of them were martyred for their faith. But He promises no enemy can overcome their faith, their courage, their peace, their confidence or assurance. Jesus purchased us with the immeasurable worth of His blood and we are precious to Him. No enemy can have the final victory over the children of the Most High.

If fear finds you in those dark hours of the night, take your Bible and read Psalm 91 out loud. Speak these words of your loving Father to your weary soul. Darkness has to flee before the light. Lies have to flee before the truth. Tell your anxiety that in the name of Jesus Christ and through the power of His blood you will not fear the terror of night. Abide in the shelter of the Most High. Fix your heart and mind on Him.

Let's nest underneath the wings of Almighty God. Baby birds sleep through thunderstorms and lightning underneath their mother's wings, without a care in the world, held close to her heart. The feathers dampen the sound of the wind so it isn't so loud. The warmth of her feathers soothes the baby chicks to sleep. This is how God wants to hold us. He dearly desires to enfold us in His wings and comfort us. Outside the shelter of His wings, the storm may continue to rage. He may not completely still the sound of the thunder or the rain. But our Lord will shield us with His feathers the whole time. Protected and secure as He holds us close to His heart, we can say with assurance, "I will not fear the terror of night, nor the danger during the day, nor the threat that comes against me at noon. I will tread the roaring lion and the deceiving serpent under my feet. I will grind my enemy into the dust, for the Lord Jesus Christ has won the victory over him. Through Christ I have victory over all my fears. I will abide in the shelter of the Most High and find my rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

This is all our Lord asks of us in troubled times: to abide and rest. He is going to take care of everything else.

Psalm 91

The one who abides in the shelter of the Most High
Will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of my Lord, "He is my refuge and fortress,
My God, and I trust in Him."
He will surely save you
From the hidden snare
And from the deadly plague.
He will shield you under His feathers,
And you will find refuge under His wings;
His trustworthiness will be your shield and defense.
You will not fear the terror in the night,
Nor the arrow shot during the day,
Nor the the threat that stalks at noontime.
A thousand may fall all around you,
Ten thousand even,
But it will not come near you.
You will witness with your eyes
As it takes down the wicked.
If you confess, "The Lord alone is my refuge,"
And you make the Most High your habitation,
No misfortune can overcome you,
No adversity will bring down your confidence.
For God will command His angels regarding you
To guard every step you take;
They will lift you in their hands,

So that no calamity overpowers you.
You will tread underfoot the devourer and the deceiver;
You will trample them underfoot like dust.
"Because this one loves me," says the Lord, "I will come to the rescue;
I will be the Protector, for this one acknowledges My name.
I will answer when My children call;
I will be right there beside them in troubled times,
I will be the Deliverer.
I will grant an abundant and satisfying life
And show salvation to My children.

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