COVID-19 • Psalm 91 (3/3)

(part 3 of 3)

Verse 11-13 Here in the state of Arkansas our Governor hosts a daily briefing every afternoon. In similar fashion, it looks as though our President hosts a news conference every day as well. I commit to watching the briefing for our state more regularly than I do the national broadcast. My interest is of curiosity, not criticism. In a movie my wife and I watched recently, the lead character said, “In a perfect world we make perfect choices. In the real world, we make real choices.” Being a public servant in a position of leadership is not easy during this moment in history. I’m very grateful for every step of protection and provision the leaders of our state provide for citizens. But it is God alone who gives to a personal, heart-felt depth. While state and local officials do the absolute best they can, the provisions created by way of bills and packages are in the best interest of the most people possible. Whenever you read verses 11-13 you see God providing for you. “You” or “your” are referenced eight times in three verses. God does not parachute a plan from heaven and hopes it helps as many people as it can. God intentionally gives His angels orders specifically regarding you personally. Your needs. Your wants. He cares for you and provides for you in unique and wonderful ways that other humans beings simply cannot do.

Not only are these provisions personal, they are powerful. Is there a more beautiful picture than that of angels supporting you? Angels preventing you from being hurt. Angels giving you the power to conquer lions and serpents?! In the same way God is not only a refuge, but a strong fortress – God not only provides for you personally, but He provides for you powerfully. There is comfort and peace in this truth. There is research suggesting the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. In God’s sovereignty, He knows this. In His providential power He will protect you. Such good news that our God knows your personal needs and provides His power to support and empower you.

Verse 14 It may be difficult to accept, but the scriptures make clear that though God’s love is unconditional, His favor is to those who are lovingly devoted to Him. This is articulated throughout the Psalms, but specifically in places like Psalm 5, “For you bless the righteous, O LORD, you cover him with favor…” and Psalm 84, “the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” The Beatitudes is another example of Jesus explaining that there is an attitude and action that glorifies and honors God, which in turn, is blessed by the Father.

As has been a theme in Psalm 91, we are called to a devotion to God even when – perhaps especially when – things are most difficult. During the 1990’s it was easy to be a Chicago Bulls fan. Michael Jordan led the team to six NBA Championships. Every night the team was a highlight reel. There was little doubt whose shoes I had on my feet and which team’s hat I had on my head. But many basketball fans would argue something changed in the 2000’s. Player-to-team loyalty all but disappeared. In the current NBA culture, many of the biggest names in the league are guilty of “ring chasing.” A player will do whatever it takes (cut in salary, upset a fanbase, switch teams mid-season, etc.) to be signed with whichever team stands the best chance of winning a ring. Baseball can seem the same way; I swear some teammates meet for the first time when they’re spraying champagne all over the locker room at the end of the year! It is human nature for us to treat God in much the same way. The temptation is for your devotion to be only as strong as you perceive God’s blessing. Though we may not say it out loud, our motivation to love, trust, and obey God is driven by His willingness to give us peace, blessings, and comfort. Here, David teaches God’s provision during a time of anxiety is especially abundant to the one who is “lovingly devoted.”

Verse 14-16 Psalm 91 ends with a beautiful and awesome set of “I will” statements. But these are not the kind of “I wills” that you and I declare. Because when I say, “I will unload the dishwasher,” there’s always a chance I will procrastinate and forget. Whenever I say, “I will never let you down,” there’s always a chance I will still disappoint my wife. God’s “I wills” are everlasting and never changing.

I will deliver him. No matter what comes of a global pandemic like COVID-19, those who are unified with Christ can rest in the truth that we are redeemed. We have been delivered by God the Son, reconciled to God the Father. Jesus teaches in John 10:10, that because of Him, we can have abundant life now and eternal life when we die. Our greatest fear, an eternity separated from the presence and love of the Father, is no longer ours to fear. We will be delivered.

I will protect him. God’s strength is unmatched. As previously discussed, He is powerful over the seen and the unseen. He has authority over the material and the immaterial. In Mark 4, the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus rebukes the wind. The Greek word for “rebuke” in verse 39 is epetimēsen. It is the same word Jesus used to command evil spirits to flee when He healed the demon possessed man in Capernaum in Mark 1. He has power and authority over the supernatural and over nature.

I will answer him. We all know that one person who is the King/Queen of Screen. You could bet $100 that when you call, they won’t answer. God is not this king. Psalm 18:6 assures us, “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried out for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” Consider the most incredible act of power and love which is known to man, the act of saving a man’s soul by grace through faith. If God is willing and able to hear and save any who confess with their mouth and believe with their hearts, He is willing and able to hear your every prayer. You are not ignored. You are heard. You are loved. He did not save you to ignore you.

I will be with him. Not sure how “holy” you think we pastors are, but I will confess I wish for all the world Jesus could be with me in human form. If He had a phone number or an email address – if He could meet me at the local Starbucks for a quick Americano, Christianity would be so much easier. But the truth is, He is always with me. He hears me and He is with me. God’s original design for mankind was to walk with him during the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Because of sin, we separated ourselves from that peace (shalom) in presence with God. So as we are reconciled to the Father, it is His pleasure, His desire, His original intent fulfilled for us to be with Him. While we believe by faith that He is with us, according to the Revelation 21 promise, there is coming a glorious day when we will be with Him by sight!

I will rescue him and give him honor. Whenever my wife and I were brand new parents, those early days were not easy. We were tired. Neither of us knew exactly what to do. Some days we had more questions than answers. We stood puzzled over our baby boy’s crib so many times we were afraid he would grow up thinking his name was, “Google it.” During those days it was also easy to be short tempered and unkind. One night we had a sincere heart-to-heart and re-committed to being Christ-like toward one another. But we also acknowledged we needed to give each other an abundance of grace – then about the time our son turns one month, we will look back and apologize for all the things we said when we were exhausted! This story comes to mind when I read this verse. In the midst of calamity, anxiety, and uncertainly you will likely say and do things you regret. But God is a god of grace. Not only will He rescue you from present danger, He will restore you by giving honor. He will lift you from your circumstances and place you on the pedestal of victory; not by any work you have done, but by the work of His Son on the cross. I had a seminary professor who pointed out that in 2 Timothy 4:8, when Paul writes of a crown laid up for him, waiting for him in heaven, he uses the Greek word, stephanos, instead of the word diadema. This could mean, and I agree, in Paul’s final days he still had his persecution (Acts 7) of Stephen (Greek translated from stephanos) on his mind. The man who is arguable the greatest Christ-follower of all time, needs, like us, the honor of glorification.

I will satisfy him with long life and show him My salvation. The original Greek word for long, here, does not indicate everyone who is a Christian will live many, quantitative years on earth. Praise God, those who trust in Him have an eternal security which provides long life in this human experience, which includes life after death. For those unified in Christ, death is not the end of life. Salvation, being “born again,” is the beginning of new life as a new creation. This verse brings to mind perhaps my favorite Christmas lyric, “Born that men no more may die!” We are to be satisfied with life because of Jesus’s death. Not just any life. But satisfied in the life we now have in Christ. We experience now and will see in full the culmination of God’s amazing grace. This, perhaps unlike anything else, is our greatest hope during anxious days.