Meditations: Psalm 91

Copyright Clarissa Pardue 2014
Copyright Clarissa Pardue 2014

Psalm 91
KJV

 

1He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

This verse is foundational to all that follows in this chapter, so it warrants special attention.

One thing that comes to mind instantly is that this sounds much like Paul’s reference to our lives being “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Where else, after all, would one find the “secret place of the most High”? If we remain in Christ, we must certainly be dwelling in the secret place of the most High.

The condition is clear. Any promise given here is conditional on our choosing to dwell in the secret place of the most High. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the word “dwell” means, among other things, “to abide as a permanent resident, or to inhabit for a time; to live in a place; to have a habitation for some time or permanence.” The point here is definitely permanence; we cannot choose to merely visit the secret place of the most High, to come when it is convenient for us. We also cannot choose to live in the world (or our own flesh), only running to the Secret Place of the Most High when we find ourselves facing adversity. While we do have the option of running to the most High at any time, for this passage to apply to us we must dwell continually in His Secret Place. When we choose to walk away from His Secret Place, we also choose to walk away from all that is found there.

So one who dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High abides, or stays, under the shadow of the Almighty. Again, this is much like the New Testament reference to being “hidden with Christ in God,” of being sheltered and hidden under God’s own shadow, in His Secret Place. I have heard it said that when we are truly IN Christ the devil cannot see us; that all he can see is the Christ we are within. Throughout history God has hidden man from his enemies in a literal, physical sense; it takes little imagination to see that He does the same thing in the spirit realm when we remain where He calls us to be.

 

 

2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

 

Second Corinthians 4:13 says that the spirit of faith believes and speaks. God said “let there be light” and light was. Would light have been if He’d only thought it? Well, in His case, probably so, but in our case, we must speak. So I will say this of the Lord. I will say He is my refuge. I will say He is my fortress. I will say He is my God. I will say I always put my trust in Him.

Sadly, there are many times we say such things and don’t believe them, but science has shown that we will believe our own voices more readily than anyone else’s. This can work to destroy us; when we speak something destructive often enough, we eventually believe it. Yet it can also be what builds us up and strengthens us against all opposition.

The Lord is my refuge. I do have a refuge to run to, a place of solace and safety. There is no need for me to fear that which pursues me because, like the child playing tag, I know that I need only reach that safe place. The difference between me and the child is that, as I run to my refuge, my refuge runs to me. So, in reality, the more appropriate illustration would be a child who runs to the safety of her daddy’s arms.

He is also my fortress. Some may think of a fortress and see a fort of the Wild West. Others may visualize impenetrable stone walls. To each the image is the same – complete safety, a place where one can eat, sleep, and live protected from the dangers of the outside world, a haven into which you can also draw others who are being pursued by the threats outside.

He is my God. I rejoice in being able to say this! He has claimed me and I have claimed Him. I serve Him and Him alone and actively work to ensure that I don’t put any gods ahead of Him. Nothing is more important than Him – not money or my job, not gaining the favor of men, not even my children or husband. He comes first in all things.

Any in my God I will trust. I choose to trust in Him. This is one thing some of us may need to remind ourselves of constantly because, to be honest, it can be hard. How many times have I placed my trust in another person only to see that trust betrayed? Too many. Eventually you may reach a point where the only one you really trust is yourself…and even trusting yourself can be a challenge. So it’s no surprise that man has so much trouble trusting God. Unless we are raised to such trust from childhood, we must first determine in our hearts that we will trust in Him. Like the little engine that chanted, “I think I can. I think I can,” we chant, “I will trust God. I will trust God.” This is a step of faith that we choose to take and I have seen, through more than forty years of actively walking with Him, that it is an act of faith He honors.

 

3Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

“Surely” means “without a doubt.” I can stand in faith, not doubting for a minute that God will deliver me from the traps the enemy lays for me, from the “noisome pestilence” that comes my way. I can know this because I have chosen to live “in Christ,” to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. Of course, I must choose to trust Him in this, to walk in faith in this area. If, instead, I fear the enemy’s traps, then I am walking in fear – not faith – and my own fear limits God’s freedom to protect me.

When I think of the snare of the fowler, the trap the hunter lays to catch the unwary bird, I cannot help but wonder how many times God has already delivered me from such snares without me having a clue. One can only imagine what His angels are doing behind the scenes, but I’m sure they’re being kept busy!

“Noisome pestilence” sounds terrible; definitely something you would want to be delivered from. In the margin of my bible, I’ve made the note “contagious diseases.” When looking at the original words in Strong’s, I find that it means, essentially, “ruinous plague,” which is pretty much the same thing. Later on in this Psalm I am assured again that no plague will come near my dwelling place as long as that dwelling place is the secret place of the Most High. Awesome!

 

4He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust:

Anyone who has seen chicks run to hide under a hen’s wings can appreciate this promise. Think of it from the chick’s point of view. Here you are, huddled up next to your beloved parent. You hear the beat of His heart, smell His unique scent, are comforted as He enfolds you in His embrace. Except for, perhaps, a tiny hint of the outside world, all you can see, hear, and feel is Him. Yes, you will go back out into that world later, but for now you have refuge in the one place that you know beyond doubt will keep you perfectly safe.

 

his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

His truth is the Word. In John 17:17 Jesus says to His Father, “Your word is truth.” The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit, a weapon, but it is also a shield. It is a piece of defensive armor that, if we keep it raised, will stop what the enemy throws at us before it can touch us.

This thought leads, inevitably, to Eph 6:16, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” God’s truth, His Word, and faith are eternally linked and undeniably powerful. It is something we have available for our use now and what we will live by forever.

We must bear one thing in mind; a shield only protects us when we use it and use it properly. Just as a warrior trains for a long time before he goes out to battle, and continually improves his skills even then, so should we be continually improving our ability to use the Word of God. As heavily involved in music as I have been up until recently, one parallel that comes to mind involves a man I know. This tremendous man of God can play every chord on the guitar, but he doesn’t know what to do with the chords. If someone stands beside him, telling him what chords to play and when to play them, he can actually play a song well enough for someone to sing to, but how useful is this ability? Likewise, we can have the entire Bible memorized from front to back, but if we don’t know how to use it, how to hold the shield of faith, how to wield the Sword of the Spirit, our knowledge is of little real use.

 

5Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

The promise here is not that there won’t be any night terrors or arrows flying. It is, instead, that as long as we dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty – as long as we are hid in Christ – we won’t be afraid of them. We will have peace.

I can think of many “terrors by night.” Not surprisingly, terrorism comes to mind first, with things like thieves, rapists and murderers not far behind. The arrows that fly by day might be accidents or people slandering us. Verse six continues with…

6Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

Unknown dangers, early death, violence…these and more are covered by these two verses. Yes, I may know full well that these things are “out there,” but while in my refuge, while trusting in Him, I will not fear them. In today’s world, this is powerful.

 

7A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

8Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

I’m not a huge movie watcher, but when meditating on this verse I envision a classic movie scene in which that one, important person stands in the midst of battle, protected by the valiant heroes that slay the wicked enemy on his or her behalf. We are very important people in God’s eyes, and we are surrounded by just such an army, a band of countless angels. Just as it was with Elisha’s servant when God opened his eyes and let him see the mighty army that was prepared to defend them (2 Kings 6:17), so it would be for us if God were to open our eyes likewise. And even more awesome than this is the truth that the Greater One Himself actually lives on the inside of us. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) We need not fear the wicked armies when they surround us, because we who dwell in the secret place of the Most High will be protected and those wicked ones will receive their reward. I didn’t say it; God did.

 

9Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

Once again, in case we have forgotten, we are reminded that these promises are only ours if we meet the conditions: The Most High must be our dwelling place. If the Most High is where we live, eat, drink and sleep, then we have all of the great gifts offered in this oft-quoted Psalm.

 

10There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Beside the second part of this promise, in my Bible, I have written, “West Nile Virus!” This is a seasonal plague that has threatened my part of the country more than a few times, and the mere thought of it strikes fear in the hearts of many. It is reassuring that, though plagues are not as big of an issue today as they were at other times in history, this tremendous promise remains. No plague, even one that makes the news nightly, can come near my home as long as I dwell in the Secret Place of the Most High.

 

11For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

This truth is my shield at all times. For years, I prayed Psalm 91 (in the present, not future, tense) daily, but I prayed this specific verse even more often. As my son would leave to spend an evening with friends, I’d pray a quick, “Daddy, I thank You for giving Your angels charge over him, to keep him in all his ways.”

Angels are a big deal in the world today, but they’re an even bigger deal in the real world. Cruise the Scriptures and witness the power of the angelic forces that God has assigned to keep you, ask God to help you comprehend how very real they are. Ask that, like Elisha’s servant, your eyes be opened; even if you don’t see them with your physical eyes, seeing them with your spiritual eyes will give you all the reassurance you need.

 

12They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

It was, believe it or not, catching a lizard that made me truly appreciate this verse. I was the only one in the office who was willing to even attempt catching the poor thing. Once I’d caught it (no mean feat!) I carried it ever so cautiously in my hands, both hands, until I was able to release it outside. I had created a sort of cage with my hands, so that it would be unable to get out, so that it would be safe from harming itself by escaping back into our offices where it would most surely have died of hunger. Remembering that, I think of the angels as truly bearing me up in their hands, shielding me in all possible directions and even protecting me from harm I might accidentally do myself. (“lest thou dash thy foot against a stone”) I very much appreciate this care.

 

13Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Now here’s a promise that could set one back a step!

In the Scriptures, the devil is likened to both a snake and a dragon, so I see this as a promise about our authority over Him. The one who treads on a lion or adder without getting harmed truly must be the victor. The one who tramples the young lion and the dragon underfoot has definitely won the war. I am reminded once again that the devil only has as much power in my life as I give him. His natural position is under my feet, but it’s up to me to make sure he stays there.

 

14Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him:

I looked the word “love” up in my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and found that it means “to cling.” How interesting is this? If I love someone like God wants me to love Him here, I cling to them. Again, I picture a child clinging to her beloved father, the one she runs to at all times, for every possible reason. Whether we realize it or not, love isn’t a feeling (something we can fall into and out of), but is rather a verb – something that requires action. Here God reminds us of this truth. We are to set our love on Him. We must actively cling to Him, not letting go for any reason.

 

I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

My former pastor (His son is my pastor now) often reminded us that there are many different ways to know a person. We can know someone on sight, having never really spoken with them. We can know a man by name, having met him once or twice. We can know a woman as a casual friend. We can, we had better, know our spouse intimately. I desire to truly know God, to know Him as intimately as is possible, to understand what pleases Him so that I can be a blessing to Him at all times, to have within me that same heart that loves even the most unlovable.

I find it interesting that He says here that this promise is for the one who knows His name. I suspect that if we truly know His names then we also truly know Him. He has many names, and each one reflects a facet of who He is. He is I Am, which is a tremendous thing, a name that sets Him outside time. (I will later publish notes on John 8:58) He is El Shaddai, All-Sufficient One, Lord God Almighty. He is El Elyon, The Most High God. He is Adonai, Lord, Master. He is Jehovah Nissi, The Lord My Banner, The Lord My Miracle. He is Jehovah-Raah, The Lord My Shepherd. He is Jehovah-Rapha, The Lord That Heals. He is Jehovah Shammah, The Lord Is There. He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, The Lord Our Righteousness. He is Jehovah Mekoddishkem, The Lord Who Sanctifies You, The Lord Who Makes Holy. He is El Olam, The Everlasting God, The God Of Eternity, The God Of The Universe, The God Of Ancient Days. He is Elohim, God, Judge, Creator. He is Qanna, Jealous, Zealous. He is Jehovah Jireh, The Lord Will Provide. He is Jehovah-Shalom, The Lord Is Peace. He is Jehovah Sabaoth, The Lord Of Hosts, The Lord Of Powers. And He is so much more!

 

15He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

I was in the midst of a serious battle when God spoke this as a rhema word to me. I had been searching the Scriptures for reinforcement for my faith and when I read these words God said, “I will deliver you, Tammy. Not only will I deliver you, but I will deliver you and honor you!”

Never before had I noticed that these two words are so close together! So often we settle for, “God, if you would just deliver me…”, but God is not the God of “just.” He is the God of more than enough!

“I will not just deliver you; I will deliver you and honor you!” When we examine the Scriptures, we see that He has a habit of doing this very thing. I recognized it first while reading the book of Esther. Haman had serious plans for the Jews in general and Mordecai in particular, but his plans were doomed to failure. God delivered Mordecai, both from the hangman’s noose and from the day of destruction Haman had planned, but God didn’t stop at simple deliverance. First He caused great honor to be given Mordecai, a public display that was inadvertently planned and carried out by Haman himself. Then, after Haman’s death, Mordecai was honored even more when he was placed second in importance to the king. God delivered him and honored him greatly!

Thumb through the Bible and you see where a boy who was sold as a slave by his own brothers was not only delivered, but honored and raised up by God to become a great deliverer! (Gen 45) You also encounter Daniel, whose complete trust in his God brought him deliverance, brought him honor, and caused a ruler to boldly decree that Daniel’s God must be recognized as the living God. (Dan 6) And then there are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three youths who were thrown into the fiery furnace and came out smelling like roses (figuratively, of course, but they certainly didn’t smell like smoke – Dan 3). And, not coincidentally, every time God brought honor to those He delivered He also brought honor to Himself. To God be the glory indeed!

 

16With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.

I was sitting in church with a brand new Bible in hand (Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers) and got curious about the notes on this verse. The first keyed word, in this Bible, is “long.” The Strong’s number (This Bible uses the Strong’s dictionary) is 753 ôrek, which means “length” or, as the center column notes explain, “length of days.” What really intrigued me when I looked at the definition, however, is that one of this word’s translations is “forever”.

Here is one more reminder that God thinks on a different level than we do. The life we live now is nothing compared to eternity, and in this verse God says of the one who dwells in Him, “with a long life…” or, “with a forever life will I satisfy him.”

“Satisfy wasn’t keyed in this Bible, so I pulled out my Strong’s Concordance later and found that this word is 7646 sâbae or sâbêae, which mean “to sate” or “fill to satisfaction.” I love cats, so my first visual impression on reading this definition was of a cat that has just emptied a bowl of its favorite food, licked its paws, and curled up into a contented ball to take a nap. One who is sated is truly happy and cannot imagine wanting or even being able to contain one more thing.

With a forever life will God completely satisfy you, filling you so that you could not imagine even one more blessing.

The word “show” is keyed in the study Bible I was using. This surprised me, considering the apparent simplicity of the word. In looking it up, however, I saw that the literal meaning is not “show,” but “to see.” I’m sure that in the Hebrew this makes perfect sense and after reading the definition and the list of words and phrases that the translators used when translating this one word, I am inclined to believe that it is something more forceful than “to show,” that its meaning is more along the lines of “to cause to see,” which makes perfect sense when you consider that this is God talking about the one who dwells in His secret place. He would not merely show this special one what He wanted him or her to see, He would ensure that they saw it.

And what is it that He causes us to see? His salvation! This isn’t your run-of-the-mill salvation we’re talking about here; it is HIS salvation. In fact, this Hebrew word, which means “something saved” or “deliverance” is so close in pronunciation to the Hebrew origin for Jesus that I had to go look up the name Jesus to prove to myself that He wasn’t promising to show me Jesus. The greatness of God showing us, causing us to see, HIS salvation, HIS deliverance, is not a thing to be taken lightly. It is, after all, the goal and purpose of all Jesus’ teachings, to deliver us into that perfect, forever life that God has planned for those who choose to dwell in the secret place of the Most High.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

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