Do me a favor and please read Psalm 91.
What do you do when fear strikes you? What do you do when terror sinks into your bones and any sight and sound makes you jump? What do you do when life is throwing everything at you and every corner brings a new terror? If you are the psalmist then you reflect, remember, and tell yourself just how strong and mighty the Lord is. If you’re the psalmist then you remind yourself that there is nothing around that corner that will take you down. There is nothing that is unknown that is not known to God. And ultimately there is nothing that will remove you from his security.
We don’t know much about this psalm except for the simple encouragement they give themselves as they go through terrors. Some attribute this text to Moses while others David, but it’s all speculation. For you and I it simply is what it is. It’s a psalm of encouragement in the midst of life. It’s a psalm that was penned to build up the author as he/she observed and felt terror. It’s a psalm that was written to remind them that God will protect them today, tomorrow, and for eternity to come.
Our psalm is broken up in to 4 different chunks with verses 1-2 being kind of the “theme” or over-all understanding of this text. Verses 3-8 speak of all the harm that COULD happen but due to the Lord’s protection they will not, verses 9-13 speak of just how protected you are in God, and verses 14-16 are the reason why you will not fall to ultimate harm.
As I read this psalm I want to say, “But wait! You MAY die – and eventually you WILL die. People will fall to the ‘fowlers snare’ or pestilence and plague WILL get some! So how does this psalm make sense?” The psalmist declares that God will keep them from all these horrible things but the reality is that people die from these every single day! So how does this psalm ring “true?” God surely does NOT keep all people, especially those who believe, from danger and harm. And last I checked I haven’t heard or read a story of God’s angels being commanded to guard anyone but Christ. So are we supposed to take this psalm as literal? Figurative? What are we supposed to do with this? And let’s be honest here, verse 7 cries that ten thousand people may die next to me but I’m safe…so what if one of those ten thousand people declared the same truth I did? Didn’t they die? This ‘hope’ the psalmist has… is it false because I see holes all over the place!
As with most of the psalms, they are applicable first to the writer and then you and I are encouraged to find the truth and hope in them as well. We need to remember that we can always find holes in things if we are looking for them and wanting to find them (I can punch a hole in anything if I want to). And if you are anything like me you easily can ask “But wait, what about ________?” if you want. That doesn’t mean we should though. This psalm isn’t meant to be an end-all to all things. The psalmist was experiencing fear in their life and needed a reminder of God’s protection. So let’s allow it to be that for them. But let’s also NOT toss it aside either because ultimately there IS truth in this whole text that WE need to be reminded of.
We need to ask OURSELF if this is a text that is speaking of protecting my life right NOW or my ultimate protection for eternity to come?
My answer? Yes…to both.
From our day to day understanding we need to remember that if we trust in the Lord, if we live by his ways and rules and not societies or Satan’s then more often than not we are protected. It is when we live by sin and anger and hatred that we experience those very same things. It’s when we harm others that we are harmed. When we trample upon others and abuse them then we too see wickedness and abuse brought upon us. It is only when we live by God’s Law of love, sacrifice, service, and hope that we are kept from many of the harms that happen when we live lives outside of these things. It is only when we live lives as Christ and dedicated to him and filled by the Holy Spirit that we experience God’s love and guiding protective hand.
Ultimately, as well, when we live Christian lives…when we love God with all our heart and soul and mind and put our trust in him we are rescued, protected, delivered from trouble, and given eternal life with him. It’s the understanding that ULTIMATE protection with him in the New Heaven and New Earth is given unto us. So there is a “daily” protection given by living Godly lives as well as “eternal” protection as well.
The intention of the author is to remind THEMSELVES that God protects them today and tomorrow and for eternity to come. Their intention is not to say that they will never die or that they will never experience any kind of pain and suffering ever – and we see that clearly in verse 15 where they acknowledge that God will be with them in times of trouble. But what they DO intend is to simply be reminded, while in times of trouble, that they are watched over, guided, protected, and cared for. And THAT is our ultimate peace.