Psalm 91:1-4 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.” Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and protective wall.
Psalm 91 is pure gold and, in the Holy Spirit’s hands, has brought strength to the Lord’s people since Old Testament times. Psalm 91 is a companion of Psalm 90, the oldest Psalm, written by Moses. Both expand upon Deuteronomy 33:27—”The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are His everlasting arms.” Both Psalms assure us of our absolute security in fellowship with God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) through Jesus our Mediator. Paul says: “You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”1 We cannot be safer than that!
In these days of panic and confusion over COVID-19, my friend Mike Kelly began reading Psalm 91 every day and I am now doing that also. Here are some thoughts on parts of this Psalm of Christ.
Psalm 91 opens with a declaration of our trust in the Lord and closes (v. 14-16) with God’s declaration of His faithfulness to us. We trust the Lord because He is steadfast, trustworthy, and truthful. We face many dangers, trials, and snares as we travel through this pilgrim life. So God’s protection comes to us in countless ways. Whatever our trouble, Jesus has a matching deliverance. Notice how He heaps up these ideas and images to assure us of His care for us:
Christ’s followers dwell in the shelter of the Most High
We rest in the shadow of the Almighty
He is our refuge, our fortress, and our God
The Lord saves us from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence
He will cover us with His feathers (like a mother bird)
And under His wings we will find refuge
His faithfulness will be our shield (armor) and rampart (protection)
Meditating on These Truths
Each phrase above is great for meditation, repeating it over and over to our self and to others. In troubling times, we need reminding and re-reminding of the truest truths, more than new ideas. And the Scriptures need to be internalized and written on our souls to do us good and keep us from grieving God. Psalm 119:11 asserts: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Dr. Ed Clowney told of Rabbi Perida who had his pupils rehearse a Scripture four hundred times to learn it. One day the rabbi was called away for an emergency, but before he left he assigned the class a lesson to be recited the usual four hundred times. One pupil failed to learn it and excused himself saying, “My mind was preoccupied with your absence.” Rabbi Perida said, “Well, let’s begin again.” And the student repeated the lesson a second four hundred times.2
Jesus warns against meaningless, mechanical, empty, or useless repetition, so I’m not suggesting that.3 Our Heavenly Father is not impressed with word count or mantras. He desires His truth to be formed in our innermost being.4 But heart-felt, prayerful repetition (out of love for the Lord) works well because it helps our brain to solidify connections that are used to recall truths and put them into practice.
We see or hear an advertisement many times before we buy the product or service. It needs to be repeated often until it gets drummed into us. And that’s true of Scripture truth, especially in days of danger and dread. The Apostle Paul said, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”5
Aspects of Christian Meditation
1. Jesus exemplified meditation and prayer. He often withdrew to solitary places and prayed.6 People crowded around the Son of God to hear Him and receive His help and healing. But Christ was fully God and fully human in one person, so He made time for communing with His Father to get direction and strength for serving God and people. Here on earth, Jesus was the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief, sickness, suffering, and pain, so He needed to and wanted to connect with His Heavenly Father. If Christ needed that, how much more do we need that, especially in these hard times.
2. Meditation connects us with our infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God. “You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made and preserve the earth and the seas and everything in them….Our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”7 So nothing is too hard for Him. He can do anything except fail. In our ever changing world, we find stability and security only in fellowship with God through Jesus, His Son and our Savior.
3. Meditation involves willingness to obey the Lord’s written word. We need to meditate on it day and night, asking the Spirit to make us careful to do what Christ commands. Then we will be prosperous and successful as the Lord defines it.8 Because God’s plan for us and His world is stable and trustworthy, we are safe when we trust, obey, follow, and enjoy Him rather than waste time and energy trying to figure Him out.
4. Meditation, with the Holy Spirit’s blessing, brings us God’s peace (shalom). “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”9 Psalm 91 says that the Lord cares for and protects us and assures us of His presence, His provision, His pardon, and His peace. The Biblical concept of peace is deep, rich, and sweet. It is not just the absence of conflict, war, or trouble, but God’s all-embracing completeness and wholeness. Shalom is expressed in Jesus’ statement, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”10 The Spirit gives Christ’s followers overflowing fullness of joy, peace, and strength for our mind, emotions, body, and soul. He gives us safety, security, health, healing, and calmness even in hard times. He gives us contentment in Him, His friendship, and peace with God and other people. The Holy Spirit gives us all these blessings that encourage us to give ourselves back to God and to our neighbors. When Christians greet each other or say goodbye saying, “Shalom”, we mean, “May the Lord fill you with His well-being, health, and prosperity.”
Isn’t that what we need most of all right now? Why not begin today, taking a verse or verses from Psalm 91 or any Scripture portion and try to put these ideas on meditation into practice. “There is no place like the feet of Jesus for resolving the problems that perplex our hearts.”11
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 1 Cor 3:23. 2 Maurice H. Harris, Translations from The Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, 1901, Eiruvin, folio 54b. 3 Matt 6:7. 4 Psalm 51:6. 5 Colossians 3:16. 6 Luke 5:16. 7 Neh 9:6; Psalm 124:8. 8 Josh 1:8. 9 Isaiah 26:3. 10 John 10:10. 11 Pastor George Baillie Duncan (1912-1997).