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 reminds me of the true story of Elisha and his assistant in 2 Kings 6:8-23. They got up and went out early one morning and the enemy army had surrounded their city of Dothan with horses and chariots. The assistant asked, “Oh no, sir! What shall we do?” Then Elisha answered, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes to see God’s horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha to keep him safe. God’s invisible protection was made visible to encourage the assistant’s faith. Now he suddenly saw the Lord’s powerful heavenly army protecting them, with enough muscle to defeat any enemy. By God’s mighty hand the enemies were struck blind, captured, shown mercy, and then sent back to their own country. It’s a unique deliverance, but it reminds us that Jesus has many ways to guard and rescue us from disaster.
How has Jesus delivered, healed, preserved, and saved you so far in your life? Things went wrong with your relationships, work, finances, health, or other situations and God intervened to help you. Why not write down those ways so that you don’t forget them? Let us appreciate what the Lord has done for us already. And let’s thank Him.
More on Christ Our Rescuer
King David testified that the Lord saved him from the cords of the grave and from the snares of death.1 Christ spared David from lions, and bears, and Goliath the giant.2 God extended David’s life many times and the Lord has already done the same for us more often than we realize. Maybe He delivered us in extraordinary ways or by “ordinary miracles” of His grace. God really does show up in everyday ways. “Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.”
We are not promised endless life on earth, but something better—everlasting safety in Jesus. He pledged:
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day….They shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand….or out of my Father’s hand.3
The Lord preserves us all through our earthly life, however long that is, then He take His followers home. Jesus told of a God-following man named Lazarus. He was poor, hungry, humiliated, and his body was covered with sores. His rich neighbor (who is not named in the Bible) had everything he ever wanted but no compassion for Lazarus. When Lazarus died, Christ did not fail him. God’s angels carried the soul of Lazarus straight to heaven.4 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.
Psalm 91:3 says that Jesus can save us from the deadly pestilence. This means that He can prevent a pandemic from touching us, or He can save us from its killing power, or He can use the virus to take us home to Him in paradise where there is no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. Salvation Army members call this “promotion to glory.” That’s what Lazarus received. The Lord can care for us any of those ways and He does not tell us ahead of time what His plan is for us. We have to trust Him.
Zwingli’s Plague Hymn
Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) was saved by God from a deadly pestilence. He was a pastor and leader of the Swiss Reformation. In 1519, Zürich was hit by an outbreak of the plague (the Black Death) when at least 25% of the population died. Wealthier people left the city, but Zwingli stayed to serve Christ’s people as their chaplain. Zwingli caught the disease and nearly died and wrote a poem preparing for his own death. Here is part of it:
Help me, O Lord, My strength and rock; Lo, at the door I hear death’s knock.
Uplift thine arm, Once pierced for me, That conquered death, And set me free.
Yet, if thy voice, In life’s midday, Recalls my soul, Then I obey.
In faith and hope, Earth I resign, Secure of heaven, For I am thine.5
By God’s mercy Zwingli was healed from the plague illness, but he reminded us not to fear death, because Jesus has overcome it. If we live, it will be for Christ, and if we die, we will gain even more. If we go on living in the body, this means fruitful labor for us, serving Jesus. Or maybe we depart to be with Christ, which is better by far.6 Either way, live or die, our lives are safe in the Lord’s hands. That’s what Psalm 91 and the whole Bible teaches. And that’s where we must place our hope. Zwingli said, “Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good. There is no self-confidence to compare with this….The Christian life, then, is a battle, so sharp and full of danger that effort can nowhere be relaxed without loss.”
Zwingli considered himself first of all a soldier in Christ’s spiritual army and secondly a defender of his country. The plague did not kill Zwingli but he was killed at the Battle of Kappel in 1531 at the age of 47. Jesus’ Bible meant everything to Ulrich Zwingli and the sword meant more to him than it probably should have.7 Christ said, “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”8 Zwingli was promoted to glory and his work in Zurich was continued by his son-in-law, Heinrich Bullinger.
What’s the Lesson?
In times of personal hardships (physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual) or times of a global pandemic and the related economic fallout, our response must be the same. We must trust and obey Jesus, for there’s no other way to be happy, holy, joyful, peaceful, and contented but in Him. Kicking against adversity, affliction, difficulty, suffering, financial reversals, and job losses will only make us miserable. Let us say with the Psalmist: “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”9 That’s how the Bible characters handled hardship, how believers trusted God since Bible times, and how we must live by faith in Christ now.
Prayer: Lord, help us to trust you, because even our faith on you is the Holy Spirit’s gift to us. We are distracted and diverted by the current circumstances around us. Cover us with your feathers, and give us refuge under your wings. Make your faithfulness our shield and protection. You are trustworthy, so we re-commit to trusting you, even when we don’t fully understand you. Hear us, help us, and have mercy upon us and our neighbors. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 Psalm 18:4-5. 2 1 Sam 17:34-37. 3 John 6:40; 10:28-29. 4 Luke 16:19-31. 5 This version from www.frankganz.com. 6 Phil 1:21-23. 7 The One Year Christian History by E. Michael Rusten and Sharon O. Rusten, p. 688. 8 Matthew 26:52. 9 Psalm 13:5.