Psalm 91 reflection
Tabitha Rao, curate of Toxteth St Bede with St Clement, responds to Psalm 91.
Psalm 91 is one of my favourite Psalms. This is a psalm that many of my friends have been reciting since the start of the pandemic both as a prayer of safety and a reassurance of God’s promise of protection.
The psalmist begins in a way that is helpful to each one of us. He imagines his life as a life hidden in God and, as such, protected from any danger. The psalm thus gives us an opportunity to reflect on many things, including the way we act in response to the realities of our day. The psalmist used some interesting imageries of danger — hidden traps, deadly pestilence, terrors at night, arrows by day, stones that can make one stumble, lions and snakes. These imageries readily remind us of the contemporary dangers of this world in our day — terrorist attacks, reckless drivers, nuclear bombs and of course, such exotic new diseases like COVID-19.
We live in difficult times, with many people unsettled as a result of the things going on around them. This is why the psalmist’s invitation in this psalm is very relevant today: He invites us to make the Most High our dwelling and to live in the shadow of the Almighty. Indeed, those names by which the psalmist calls God are instructive to us. As the ‘Most High’, God is higher than any terrifying heights this world may threaten us with, and as the ‘Almighty’, He’s got power over anything that we may face on this side of eternity.
As we read through the psalm, we hear the psalmist declaring his own trust in God and in verse 3 he tells that God protects his children. The psalm builds up to a climax when we get to hear the voice of God in the last three verses (vss 14-16) as God emphasizes His promise to protect His people from danger.
In the psalms, God repeatedly invites us to find our hope, salvation, and refuge in Him. It is all about dwelling in safety and security. When we are tired, afraid, or sad, we all want a place to go where we can find rest and peace. When we feel lonely, we need a shelter and we all need our safe places. We can take refuge in the presence of the Lord, knowing that nothing can separate us from God’s love. A refuge is a place of safety and protection and, like the psalmist, we certainly can trust God’s faithfulness.
It is worth noting, however, that God does not promise that His disciples will not go through trouble. Instead, God says that He will be with His people in the midst of their troubles. We can rejoice even amid our difficulties by simply acknowledging the truth that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39). Apostle Paul says: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18).
Charles Spurgeon said about Psalm 91: “In the whole collection there is not a more cheering psalm.” He added, “if you can take this Psalm into your soul, it will cheer you so much, that nothing can pull you down for very long.”
As followers of Christ, even in the midst of bad times and uncertainties, we can constantly feel the joyful presence of God. Corrie ten Boom once said “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” While we continue to see unprecedented things across the nations of the world and get absolutely puzzled by all that is changing at such a rapid pace, we can be of good cheer by remembering that our lives are in God’s hands and He is able both to comfort us in our pains and to deliver us, even unto eternal life.
While the world is in chaos, God is on his throne. And if you are wondering, “Will God really protect us?” . . . perhaps the clue is in the final line of the final verse: “I will show them my salvation”. (verse 16)
Challenge: Whenever you feel anxious and fearful, turn to this Psalm and allow God to be your refuge and shelter. He is a dependable Protector and Comforter.
Psalms Summer Reading Challenge
Join Archdeacon Simon in this year’s Summer Challenge reading the book of Psalms together. Sign up to this course and you will receive weekly emails encouraging you in your reading. The Psalms are the hymnbook and the prayerbook of the Temple, and of the Church. In these 150 songs the Psalmist explores the whole range of human experience, with all its highs and lows, of human life lived in the presence of God, and sometimes the experience of the apparent absence of God too. Find out more about the challenge and how you can get involved.Course 19 PartsTotal current bookmarks 13