Hi everyone. I promise to continue our walk through Romans 12 next week, but I have been thinking a lot about Psalm 91. Hope this is encouraging.
Read Psalm 91.
If one were to do a google search for “pandemics in the Bible” it wouldn’t be too long before you were directed to Psalm 91. Different words are used (pestilence, plague, etc.) depending on your translation but they all mean the same thing – deadly disease.
Verse 3 says that God “will deliver you…from the deadly pestilence.”
Verses 5-6 says: “You will not fear the terror of the night…nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness.”
Verse 10 says “no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”
This all sounds like wonderfully reassuring news in the midst of our current situation. Do we just have to read Psalm 91 a few times each morning and poof, like a personal force-field, we are immune to COVID19? Do those who trust in the Lord have access to some secret PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that others do not? Verse 3 also says that those who live in the shelter of the Most High will not get caught in the fowler’s net; which is a nice bonus – you can keep that in your back pocket just in case you find yourself lost in the woods next wild turkey season.
I believe Jesus really did heal people who were sick. And he really did raise people who were dead back to life. And I believe God is fully capable of rescuing and healing people who are sick today and He could end the current pandemic as I type these words or as you read them if He willed it. And we should pray for those things. James instructs us to pray for the healing of the sick (James 5:14). Jesus calls us to pray for God’s kingdom to come and plagues and pestilence and pandemics are not part of God’s kingdom.
I also know that followers of Jesus get sick and that COVID19, cancer, coronaries and all other contagions, contaminates and conditions do not discriminate. I know that suffering is an assumed part of the Christian life. So much so that Paul (Romans 5), Peter (1 Peter 1) and James (James 1) all describe suffering as one of the ways God is shaping us into people of compassion, endurance and hope.
I also know it is Passion Week and our elder brother Jesus was not spared great suffering. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried. And no servant is greater than his master.
So what are we to make of Psalm 91? It is a beautiful Psalm. It is inspired Scripture. But, it is easy to either see it as naive hyperbole, far removed from reality, or to mishandle it and assume it promises what it does not truly promise.
Sheltering in the LORD
Many of us around the world are currently being called to shelter at home. For some that has been a surprisingly refreshing break from an all-too-chaotic lifestyle. For others sheltering at home has only intensified and clamped down pressure on broken relationships, loneliness, challenging children, and financial fragility. For many, home has never been a safe place. Lord, have mercy.
Psalm 91 invites us to a different kind of dwelling place. The Psalm begins “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Verse 9 repeats the same idea, “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge, no evil shall befall you.” Where do you dwell? Home, we believe, is supposed to be our place of comfort, rest and safety. But, that can only be true if he Lord is our home.
What have we learned the last few weeks if not that every other house is made of cards? The distraction of busy lives, the strength of the market, our cultural tendency to sweep the sick and elderly and vulnerable under the rug lest we remember our own mortality, have all begun to wobble or have already toppled.