In the Shadow of the Almighty
Our Scripture lesson this morning is taken from Psalm 91.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
On January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed by the Auca people of Ecuador, whom they were attempting to evangelize. Some years later, his widow Elisabeth, wrote a profile of her husband entitled, Shadow of the Almighty. The title comes from the first verse of our psalm.
The title of Elisabeth Elliot’s book, as well as Psalm 91, were composed with the intent of making us ponder the question, “Is God True to His Promises?”. If you will recall this was one of the Faith Shaking Questions we encountered in Psalm 89. The final editors of the Psalms included Psalm 91 in Book IV of the Psalms in answer to the question, “Is God True to His Promises?”.
There are four things I want us to consider today in answering that question:
A Big Promise
A Big Problem
A Big Answer
Let us begin with the first:
A Big Promise
A Big Promise
Psalm 91 begins with the author’s own profession of faith:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Then the author tells his readers what God will do for them if they trust in God, this is found in verses 3-13.
Finally, and most importantly, the author records for us God’s own words:
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
That is A Big Promise and this big promise causes us A Big Problem!
A Big Problem
A Big Problem
Reading over the list of things God does for the person who trusts in Him seems to provide ample evidence that God is not true to His word. For example:
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
There is not one person here who has not had some of the evils of this life fall upon them. The plague of cancer has come near the tent of us all. What family has not had a family member or friend beset by this deadly plague?
Where was God’s “shield and buckler” when the arrows of the Auca Indians stuck down Elisabeth Elliot’s husband and four other men?
Don’t be embarrassed to ask these hard questions, because that is the intent of the author, more importantly that is the intent of God, that we ask these hard questions.
Only by appreciating how big the problem is can we appreciate how big the answer is!
A Big Answer
A Big Answer
The answer is found in verses eleven through thirteen.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
When we began this series on the Psalms, we learned that Psalm 1 and Psalm 2, were the keys to unlocking the rest of the Psalms. Psalm 1 tells us to meditate upon the Torah day and night. If we have done this we will immediately recognized that the “lion and serpent” of verse 13 may have a deeper meaning.
In Genesis 3 we learn that the great enemy of humanity is a fallen Seraphim (the Hebrew word Seraphim is the plural of serpent) and it is this “serpent” that the Promised Seed of Eve will “trample underfoot.”
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This Promised Seed brings us to the second key, the Anointed on of Psalm 2, who is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the most important key for unlocking the Psalms. It is no accident that Jesus was tempted with this very Psalm!
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
This promise of angelic guardians brings us back to the Torah; there we learn that God promises to send His angels as guards over His people in their journey to the place He has prepared for them.
“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.
Therefore, this promise is not a promise of protection against mere earthly dangers; rather it is a promise of protection against spiritual dangers that would to prevent us from arriving at the place God has prepared for us.
Satan’s temptation of Jesus was one of these spiritual dangers. If Satan had been successful, he would have derailed Jesus from His path of glory. This path to glory had to go through the suffering of the cross. The same is true for us.
and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
As simplistic reading of Psalm 91 outside of the context of the Torah and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is very misleading. If fact, it is the time of spiritual misdirection that Satan uses to lead us off the path to glory.
Shortly before his death, Jim Eliot cited these words of Jesus’ in his diary.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Reflecting on these words, Jim Eliot wrote, “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.”
After his death, Life magazine published a ten-page article on Elliot’s and his friend’s mission and death. Reading news of their deaths, thousands of American Evangelicals were inspired to become missionaries and even more were inspired to give sacrificially to missions. Today the Auca tribe and hundreds of others now profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!
This is why Paul encourages us with these words found in Romans and 2 Corinthians:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
We read Psalm 91 thinking God is promises us a trouble free life, when He is promising us a Serpent crushing glory! Paul understood this; this is why he concludes his letter to the Romans with these words:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
God is not a liar, He is true to His promises and His promises are much bigger and better than we can imagine!