Praises and Pestilence
As the world around us suddenly alters in ways none of us has experienced in our lifetimes, several people have posted verses from Psalm 91 on social media, “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” (vs. 5-6). But who exactly are those who qualify to be that “you” who shall not experience these fears?
The Psalm opens, “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.’” First, we note that this person dwells in the sheltering presence of Almighty God. When the pestilence and trial arise, this person is secure because they are near to the Almighty. The closer and more connected one is to the Lord, the less they will be rattled by the shifting sand outside of His firm foundation. To dwell there is to find assurance and peace. If we have become distracted and have wandered off a bit, distressing circumstances can send us scurrying back, seeking His loving, secure shelter. But if we have not been dwelling (or abiding) in His presence for a while, confidence, trust, peace, security, and refuge will be far from us.
Secondly, we note in these verses that this secure dweller praises. He reminds himself of who this Almighty (just the use of this name is informative) God is, and he declares it. “I will say of the Lord…” Regularly praising the Lord, declaring who He is, both to ourselves and to others, helps us to keep a proper perspective on what is going on around us. It is especially powerful to praise Him out loud, whether these words are spoken or sung, declared when we are alone, or to others. There is SO much for which to praise Him; SO many ways His greatness speaks into our situations which brings us confidence and peace.
Another thing that stands out in these opening verses is how the Psalmist shifts from a general statement in verse 1 to a personal one in verse 2. “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” The person who will not fear when trouble is afoot is one whose relationship with God is personal. It is one thing to know that God is mighty, and another entirely to know He is mighty on our behalf as an individual. It is one thing to know He is a refuge and another to revel in the fact that He is our refuge, our personal fortress.
As we read deeper into this psalm it becomes even clearer how important this personal aspect is: “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” It is by virtue of this personal connection that we can be confident the Lord will act on our behalf. This can give us such a sense of assurance when the arrows are flying and the darkness seems to be pressing in on us.
In these uncharted days, let us see to it that we are intentionally making the Lord our dwelling place, that we are praising Him continually, and that we are bathing our minds and hearts in the truths of our personal relationship with Him, casting all our cares on Him with the conviction that He cares for us.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
Have questions about this blog? Email the author here.