Psalm 91 has a special place in my heart. My father and mother helped us five children memorize it when we were young. It was our longest “memory verse,” and memorizing it took a while. Then dad would take us to elder care homes and invite us to share it from memory with the residents. I still remember the faith in God and feeling of confidence I felt as I recited this psalm, and the smiles of appreciation from staff and clients.
Psalm 91 is a psalm for times of trouble and especially applies to the final Time of Trouble before Jesus’ return (Dan. 12:1). It lists various kinds of trouble God will help us in, including “pestilences” (v. 5) like the COVID-19 pandemic. It promises God’s special care and protection to those who trust and follow Him. In times of trouble in my life, this psalm has been very precious. It comforted me in tragedy and loss.
In beautiful poetry verse 1 says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” The shelter (KJV: “secret place”) of the Most High refers to God’s dwelling place. The worship place of the early Hebrews was modeled on His dwelling place in heaven, and functioned as a teaching device about the plan of salvation. It was called the “Tent of Meeting” (Exod. 33:7-11), seen in the painting below.
This tent of meeting, or sanctuary, had two rooms, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place housed the Ark of the Covenant, the agreement God had made with Israel at Mt. Sinai. The Ark was constructed of two golden angels, a “mercy (grace) seat” under their wings, and a box below them which contained God’s Law. This all symbolized God’s throne in heaven which is based on divine law, love, and grace.
The pre-incarnate Christ actually stayed in the Most Holy Place as He led Israel through their wilderness journey (1 Cor. 10:3). Only Israel’s high priest was allowed in there to meet with God. For that reason, it was a “secret” place. Believers could not go in. Instead, they were taught to enter by faith, through the representative function of their high priest, who went in to request forgiveness and help for them from God.
When Jesus went to heaven after his resurrection, Hebrews tells us he “serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (Heb. 8:1-2). Hebrews chapter four comforts us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.” So, it encourages us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:15-16 NIV). This pandemic is certainly a time of great need, isn’t it?
When Psalm 91 says “those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty,” it means that when we trust in our Mighty Savior and High Priest Jesus, and surrender our lives to His care and keeping, He will be a “shadow” in the heat of life’s troubles. We will come under His personal love and care. We can pray to Him, and He will hear every word.
In Psalm 27:5, David says, “For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (NIV).
I don’t know what you are facing in his pandemic. You might feel very vulnerable to the disease itself. You may be facing financial loss and uncertainty about your employment. Like me, the daily news with its reports of deaths and jobs lost, may really trouble you at times. You might be wondering where all this is taking us as a nation and as a world. Will things ever get back to normal? What will that normal be?
In Psalm 91, Jesus invites us to come under His personal love and care. He is powerful, and He is good. Nothings escapes His notice. I invite you to read all of Psalm 91, and trust the God it describes. I will write about it more in days to come.