(part 2 of 3)
David continues to pen profound encouragement through Psalm 91.
Verses 5-6 These verses seem to paint a multi-faceted picture. Like many passages in the Old Testament, these verses have a kind of poetic rhythm which effectively “covers all the bases.” Night, day, darkness, noon. These four can be broken own as this,
- Terror of the night – emotional, invisible
- Arrow that flies by day – physical, visible
- Plague that stalks in darkness – medical, unseen
- Pestilence that ravages at noon – medical, seen
It is a very powerful comfort to know God is aware of the totality of the human experience. He has dominion over the invisible and visible. He is providential over the emotional, physical, medical, and economical sectors of human life. Each of these areas hold the potential to cause fear. Different people will respond to or have apathy toward what may happen to them. The incredible reality is that God is able to dispel any kind of fear from every kind of person. We are not forced to adjust our experience to a static, objective, lifeless God. It is the Most High, Almighty who is willing to personalize His care and compassion.
As a guy who is privileged to serve God by way of vocational ministry, our Care Team learns of new circumstances daily. We are also hearing of the variety of ways people are in physical need. Naturally, this makes us aware of the emotional despair of people in our community, country, and around the world. It brings me great comfort to know God is personal and He is personally meeting every kind of need. He personally fights for everyone who is in battle with panic, anxiety, or fear – no matter their reason, no matter their cause.
Verse 7 J. Gresham Machen was the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929. In his work, Christianity and Liberalism, he makes a profound point about Christianity, “[…] the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words, it was based upon a doctrine.” This message, as hopefully we know, is most potent during the Sermon on The Mount. It was during this message in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 that Jesus very plainly, yet very passionately, teaches us how it is we as His followers are to live. More specifically, how we as His followers are to understand God and how to see others.
Paul would write similar teachings in 2 Corinthians 5. If you have confessed sin and surrender your life to follow Jesus, then the love of Christ should not control you. As it does, God no longer sees you as He once did. And now, you are to no longer see people as you once did. So during a global pandemic like this, we don’t see people through the eyes of our own opinion. We don’t learn of “those who are falling” and conclude they must deserve it. Christ-followers are to see humanity differently when we see people who are sick, unwell, or in dire condition. Christians don’t have the amoral luxury of seeing the experience of citizens as a political opportunity. We are not men and women in a high castle. We must see differently those around us who are suffering. This is one of the most fundamental differences between one whose life has been radically changed by the love of God and one who does not know God’s love. Then, as Paul writes, we should live differently in light of the knowledge of the condition of those around us.
Verse 8 Throughout much of the Bible, it rarely goes well for anyone who makes decisions based on what they see. For example, when Lot and Abraham went their separate ways, the Bible reads, “Lot looked around and saw…” It does not describe a humble man who bent down and prayed. The same can be said of panic, fear, and anxiety. Whenever we choose to allow what we can see to govern our feelings we will naturally forget the facts of our faith. In this regard, David teaches us to be different. He teaches us that though we may see tens of thousands fall, the pestilence will not reach you.
Now, I’m in no position to declare who and who won’t be affected by COVID-19 and why. I’m simply encouraging us to consider the ways and means by which we are consumed with allowing what we see to govern how we feel. God promises we will see effects of sin in this fallen world. But pestilence and that of which we are afraid will not reach us. We have God’s faithfulness as our protective shield. In the event natural sin (death) is a consequence of mortal sin (transgressions), His faithfulness protects us from eternal separation. We must remember that God has never promised we will not be in the midst of calamity. He does promise His presence and His protection. It is up to us to flee the temptation to fear because of what we see. May we find comfort in lyrics from I’m Listening by Chris McClarney, “I trust you Jesus, You can see what I cannot see.” May we commit to move our eyes off of whatever may cause fear and look passionately to Jesus. The song God I Look to You reminds us, “When I look to you, I won’t be overwhelmed.”
Verse 9 This verse is yet again another reminder that our relationship with Jesus is active. Yes, He is our safest dwelling place. But it is still necessary we take mental and emotional action to know Him, our personal shelter. Again, the truth of verse one is that the Most High, Almighty is a refuge and a fortress. But a relationship with Him takes more than only acknowledging this truth. He is protection and He is strong, whether we believe it or not. Yet there remains a call to live your life in such a way that He actually is your refuge and your dwelling place.
I admit, this would be much easier if Jesus were still living on earth. How nice it would be to go to His location and physically sit at the CDC recommended six feet of distance from His feet. But we can’t. But perhaps even more incredible is the truth was have the Holy Spirit living inside us and we have the personal revelation of God to us in His Word, the Bible. So, even better than catching a flight to find Jesus in the Holy Lands, we can make Him our shelter right where we are. May we be found spending time with Him daily, hourly, in the still quiet presence of His Spirit.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.” Panic, fear, and anxiety are strong temptations pulling us away from actively making the Lord our refuge and our dwelling place. More information will rarely, if ever, calm the anxious heart. Jesus died for you to be reconciled to the Father, who created you and loves you. He alone will give you peace and it is He alone in whom we should actively seek refuge.