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In the Shadow of the Almighty

Tom Pennington Psalm 91


Well, I do want us to turn to the Word of God together this morning and to a passage that I have wanted to present to you for several weeks, because it's just been on my own heart as I've been thinking and meditating on it. And I want us to turn to it together this morning. So turn with me to the Book of Psalms. In just a moment I'll tell you exactly where we're going to turn.

But as you're turning there, let me just say that we have all watched, I think, in amazement at the acceleration of events related to the coronavirus over these last couple of weeks. None of us would have ever imagined that we would be today where we are. Last week I think most of us were not so much concerned about the virus itself as we were about how all of these things might upset the daily details and routines of our lives. But this week things have changed, I think, for most of us. We have seen the soberness of our government and health officials. We have read the various models of how this pandemic could unfold in our nation and even in our area. We've watched over 20% of our country be placed on stay-at-home orders. And of course we've also watched with great sadness an escalating number of infections, of hospital rooms being filled and, sadly, even of deaths as a result of this pandemic. As a result of that, I have noticed, as I've interacted with people, that people are becoming far more concerned now about the virus itself. They are being filled with some degree of apprehension or even fear over what the future holds for them and their families.

The question is, how can we as Christians respond to this normal, human temptation to be afraid? It's obviously something that we are all prone to. That's why so many times in Scripture we find God and His representatives saying to us do not fear, do not be afraid, because we're prone to. So how can we deal with this? How can we replace our fear with faith in God? How can we replace our terror with trust in a good and gracious God who is still on His throne?

Well, Psalm 91 was written for this very purpose and, frankly, for such times as these. That's where I want us to turn our attention this morning, Psalm 91. I encourage you to take your Bible and turn there with me. The divine purpose of Psalm 91 is to strengthen the faith of each one of us who trusts in Yahweh. It is to give us the courage we need when we are surrounded by danger. In the Hebrew text there's no title to this psalm. The Septuagint says that it was written by David, but there's no evidence of that. So really, this psalm appropriately is both anonymous and timeless. So it gives the widest possible sense of application to all different kinds and situations in life. Lets read it together. You follow along as I read Psalm 91. Again, take your copy of God's Word and you read with me. This is what the psalmist writes:

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 it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper

And from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with His pinons,

And under His wings you may seek refuge;

His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,

Or of the arrow that flies by day;

[Or] the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side

And ten thousand at your right hand,

But it shall not approach you.

You will only look on with your eyes

And see the recompense of the wicked.

For you have made the Lord, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

"Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation."

The theme of this wonderful psalm could be put this way: Yahweh, the true and living God, protects the one who trusts in Him through the dangers of this life and ushers him in to eternal glory. This psalm is really a celebration, a celebration of the believer's absolute security even in the middle of danger.

Now before we look at the psalm together, I think it's important first to step back and make sure we understand what this psalm is not teaching. Sadly, it has been used in some ways that are not helpful. First of all, let me just comment that some look at this psalm and, because of its incredible promises, say that this could only be true either of our Lord Jesus Christ or of the Millennium. I think both of those answers fall short. This is a psalm that's an assurance to all believers, all who trust in God. And our Lord faced troubles and difficulties in this life including death at a young age. In addition, we can't say that it's for the Millennium, because some of the things that are described here are not going to be present in that time

And so this psalm is for now. But let's, again, make sure we know what it's not teaching. It's not a promise, first of all, that believers will never experience, suffer from or even die from these dangers. All of the Scripture makes that clear. The most obvious example, of course, is Job, as Job was the most righteous man on the planet, and yet God did not protect him from some of these very dangers that are listed in this psalm. Of course our Lord faced the difficulties and troubles of this life. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Paul gives a litany of the dangers he faced in 2 Corinthians 11:23 and following. And even Paul's co-workers like Epaphroditus, according to Philippians 2, came to the point of death itself. So this is not a promise, this psalm is not a promise that we as true believers will never experience these things.

Secondly, this psalm is not teaching that you can be careless with your life or the life of others by refusing to take reasonable precautions. This is not a spring-break-beach psalm that allows you to do whatever you want and throw caution to the wind. In fact, Proverbs 27:12 says, "A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naive proceed and pay the penalty." We're to be wise. We're to take reasonable precautions for our own lives and the lives of others. I love the advice that Martin Luther gave a pastor during the time of the black plague. Listen to what Luther wrote. This is so appropriate for today. He says here's how I'll respond:

I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me He will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but shall go freely. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash or foolhardy and does not tempt God.

That's a great and wise response. So this psalm is not saying it's OK to refuse to take reasonable precautions.

Thirdly, this psalm is not teaching that you can presume on God's protection by taking unnecessary risks. This is sort of the other side of the second point that I just made. Don't take unnecessary risks. It's interesting that in Luke 4, during our Lord's temptation, for the third temptation Satan actually cites Psalm 91 to Christ. And he temps Jesus to throw Himself off the temple to prove His messianic credentials, and he quotes the reference in this psalm to angels protecting the righteous. You remember how Jesus responded. He responded with Deuteronomy 6:16. He said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." So no, we're not supposed to take unnecessary risks assuming and presuming on God's protection.

So what exactly then—if that's not what this psalm is teaching, what is Psalm 91 primarily promising us? I love this. It's promising us this: God will protect His children from every danger that He has not wisely and lovingly designed to bring into their lives. Let me say that again. God will protect His children from every danger that He has not wisely and lovingly designed to bring into their lives. So this psalm, then, is intended to strengthen your faith when you find yourself, like we all do now, in the middle of dangerous times.

Now look at the psalm again. We can outline this wonderful psalm in several ways, but there's no better way than to follow the psalmist himself. He signals a change in his own focus here by changing pronouns. You'll notice in verse 1 there's really no pronoun. It's done sort of as a general principle. But in verse 2 we find the first person singular pronoun (I and my) where the psalmist is referring to himself. Then in verses 2 through 13 we have the second person singular pronoun (you and your) where the psalmist is either talking to himself, or he's talking to us individually as his readers, or perhaps both. And then in verses 14 to 16 you have the first person singular pronoun again (I, Me and My) referring to God Himself. God is speaking in those verses.

So using those pronoun shifts, let's follow the psalmist's structure and, first of all, let's consider a general declaration of God's protection. A general declaration of God's protection, verse 1. It says, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." This verse is phrased as a sort of general principle. It is really the overarching, overall theme of this psalm, and it's expressed in the form of a timeless truth. It's really the text of which the rest of the psalm is an exposition. So look at, again, verse 1. He says the person, the individual "who dwells." That word means to stay or to remain. The individual who remains "in the shelter." This Hebrew word literally means the secret hiding place of the Most High. In other words, he's saying if you are a person who has chosen the True and Living God as your shelter, as your hiding place in the middle of trouble, then (he goes on in verse 1 to say) you "will abide." I love that word. The Hebrew word literally means to spend the night. You will spend the night, you will settle down at home. Where? "In the shadow of the Almighty." You will remain in God's presence, sheltered, as it were, by His shadow, with Him as your defense. This is really personal. God Himself will cast His shadow over you, and you'll be at home there, you'll stay there, you'll live there. I love the way John Calvin describes this. He says, "Men generally seek out a great variety of hiding places, but the only safe and impregnable fortress to which we can run is the protection of God." Or consider how Augustine put it. He said of this verse, "God is the one who will rescue me not I myself. Observe whether he teaches anything but this, that all our trust be in God and none in man."

Notice in verse 1 there're two very specific names that are used for God that only add to our security, that add to our safety. He is called the Most High. El Elyon. That is, there is nothing over Him that is in authority. He is the Highest One. In other words, He has authority to do whatever He chooses, so of course He can carry out this protection. He's also called, you'll notice in verse 1, the Almighty. That is, there is no one over Him not only in authority but in power. He has the power to do everything that He chooses to do. The one who has chosen God to be his shelter, his hiding place, the psalmist says, will continually abide as if they were at home under the shadow of God's constant protection. That's the general declaration of this psalm.

But notice in verse 2 we learn that this is only true of the one who has made a personal confession of God's protection. A personal confession, that's really the nature of verse 2. Notice what he writes: "I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!'" Notice that this confession is not some sort of a generic wish made to a generic deity. Notice to whom it must be addressed: "I will say to the Lord." Notice the word Lord there in all capitals in our English translations. That's because in Hebrew the word Lord is the word Yahweh. It's God's personal name. It simply means He is. Yahweh means He is. It's describing God's identity. He's the One who is and has revealed Himself in the Scripture. He's the God of the Bible. It's also describing His nature. He is in the sense that He is the only One, the only being in the universe who doesn't depend on anyone else or anything else for His existence. He simply is. He exists in and of Himself. The New Testament, of course, further fills out the identity of this God. Our Lord teaches us to know Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the God of the Bible. This is the God to whom this confession must be made.

This confession must be made solely to Him, and we must approach Him on His terms. As the rest of the Scripture makes clear, the one who truly trusts in Him will trust as well in His Son. Jesus said, if you believed in God then you would believe in Me, because He sent Me. And so if we're going to be the one of whom this psalm speaks, if we're going to make this confession, then we must not only confess the God of the Old Testament, we must confess the God who has revealed Himself in the New as well through His Son Jesus Christ. We must come to Him through the forgiveness that's only found through the perfect life of Jesus Christ lived in our place, through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, died to satisfy God's justice against our sins. And we must come to Him through the resurrection of our Lord, by which the Father affirmed all that Jesus said and did and was and accomplished. So this is how we must come.

The one who has embraced by faith the God of the Bible through the work of His Son needs to make this confession. Look at verse 2 again: "I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge.'" A refuge is a secure, a protected place. "And my fortress." That is reference to a walled city, a stronghold. The picture is of the ancient world when you were threatened by invasion and you lived out on the country side. And when you heard the armies were coming, you immediately ran to the walled city, and you went inside. And the gates were closed, and you were safe. We must tell God that He is our secure, protected place, that He alone is our walled city, He is our place of safety.

And then notice the psalmist adds, You are "my God, in whom I trust!" In Hebrew the idea is You are the One to whom I have attached myself, You are the One to whom I have fixed myself, You are One to whom I cling. It implies full dependence on God's ability to protect. You see, this confession is saying this: "I don't depend on some other god. I don't depend on some other resource. I don't even depend on myself and on my own ingenuity. I trust solely in You." That's the confession.

Now that brings us, thirdly, to a biblical exhortation about God's protection. Having given a general declaration and having given a personal confession, verses 3 through 13 bring us to a kind of biblical homily, a biblical exhortation or lesson about God's protection. In these verses the psalmist could be talking to us as his readers, to every true believer who reads this psalm. Or he could be, like the psalmist does in Psalm 103, he could here be talking to himself, to his own soul in verses 3 through 13. I think that's the most likely, because notice verse 3 begins with the word "for." So he says, I say this to the Lord (verse 2) for, because, these things are true. So I think in verses 3 through 13 the psalmist is preaching to his own soul, and at the same time encouraging all of us who read and use this psalm to follow his example. He's saying here are the reasons that I should say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!"

So here's the point. You should make the personal confession of verse 2 for these reasons. Reason number one: God's protection is universal. That's the message of verses 3 through 6. It's universal in the sense that God's protection is from all threats of every kind. And the psalmist goes out of his way here to make that point. Look at verse 3: "For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence." It is He. God is the only one who can deliver His people from all of the threats of physical violence that come against them. The "snare of the trapper" is a reference to the traps and threats that our enemies lay for us. The "deadly pestilence" literally is that which destroys, but it refers to threats that come at us from natural causes. So both those that are man made threats and those that are more naturally driven threats, in both case it is He who delivers you.

Then when we come to verses 5 and 6, the psalmist sort of gives us a summary of the dangers of this life. Notice that the dangers listed here alternate between daytime and nighttime. Verse 5: "The terror by night." That is any terrifying danger that comes at night, whether it's illness or plague or violence or war or whatever it might be. Anything that brings us terror. And let's be honest, everything looks worse at night. Those terrifying dangers that come by night. Verse 5 goes on to say, "Or of the arrow that flies by day." Any sudden, lethal attack from human enemies. Whether they are individuals who attack us, or this could even be describing in times of war when invading armies come against us. Verse 6: "[Or] of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon." Both halves of that verse, both Hebrew expressions refer to attacks very much like the one we are under now, to pandemics. To pestilence and destruction that stalks in darkness, that lays waste at noon, that continues its relentless march hour after hour, day after day.

Don't miss the fact that together the language of these verses intentionally encompass the entire range of the dangers or the threats that come against us in this life. Dangers that can occur at any time day or night. The psalmist's point is this: whatever dangers come and whenever they may come, God's care is not isolated to certain times and certain places—it is universal. What a comfort that is to us.

So how does God expect us to respond to that truth? Well, go back to verse 5. Here's the response He expects: "You will not be afraid." He's not saying we won't be tempted to fear. He's not saying we won't at times give in to fear. He's saying we don't need to be afraid, because God is able to watch over us in all of these circumstances. One author, one commentator on this psalm, Davidson, puts it this way. He says, "Trusting in God grants no exemption from the life-threatening and destructive forces which are part of human experience, but it deprives them of their sting and enables them to be faced without fear." That's the message of this wonderful psalm.

Why is that true? Well it's true because of what our God is like. Notice in verse 4 the psalmist describes God in two ways. First of all, he says His care for us as His children is like that of a protective bird. He says, "He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge." The picture here is of our God acting like a mighty, protective bird spreading His wings over us. This is a picture that's used often in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 32:11, God says when it comes to His people, I am like an eagle hovering over its young. In Psalm 17:8, David asks God to hide him (and I love this and this is the picture here) in the shadow of His wings. This is what our God is like.

But that's not the only thing that he likens God to. Notice the second half of verse 4. He says His faithfulness to His promises is like a warrior's shield. "His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark." The shield was simply a soldier's large, whole-body protective shield. And bulwark here is an unusual Hebrew word. It could be referring either to a defensive wall like a castle wall, or it could be referring instead to a small defensive shield. So a large shield and a small shield, but either way, understand the point that the psalmist is making. He's saying we are protected by Yahweh's faithfulness to His promises like those promises surrounded us as a series of protective walls or shields. Do you understand that God's promises to you are like a wall, God's promises to you are like a shield in and of themselves?

God's protection then is universal. That's the message of those verses. But secondly, notice God's protection is individual, verses 7 through 10. Here the psalmist makes it clear that these dreadful events described in the previous verses, they may come into our lives, they may happen in our own circumstances, but if they come we can still know God's protection. Notice verse 7: "A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you." Literally, the Hebrew text makes "you" emphatic: to you it will not reach.

Verse 8: "You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked." Now it's important to understand what the psalmist is intending here. Often the disasters that come into our world are in fact a form of God's temporal judgment. The Old Testament is filled with examples of God using even plagues and pestilence to bring judgment, both into the life of the Nation of Israel as well as into the nations around Israel, the pagan nations that surrounded them. So in one sense, the disasters that come into our world are controlled and used by God as a form of temporal judgment. But at the same time it's important for us to acknowledge that even the worst disasters during human history are more filled with God's mercy than they are with His wrath. When God chooses to move in wrath, the Book of Revelation makes it clear that 50% of the world's population will die in a single move. And so what we face, what we endure in this life are really a face of temporal judgment on the one hand but an expression of His mercy on the other, because they are a call for people to turn to God, to turn to the true God, to cry out to the One whom they know about through creation and through their own conscience as well as through His Word.

In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus referred to two contemporary disasters that occur in the first century, and He says that those who died in those disasters were not greater sinners. That was one of the sort of view points, one of the points of theology taught by the Pharisees. And He says no, it's not true, don't think of it like that. Instead, He said, think of it this way: such disasters, such events are there to remind us that death and judgment is coming for all human beings who don't repent and put their faith in Him. So those who die from this pandemic, they're not greater sinners than others. Rather, it is at the same time to those who live a gracious reminder that unless we repent, unless we come to God in His way through His Son, that we will likewise die, we will likewise perish, and we will likewise stand before our Creator in judgment. So verse 8 says, "You will [look on only] with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked."

Verse 9:

For you have made the Lord, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

The tent, of course, in that culture was a person's home, their dwelling place. The one who trusts in God will not see these disasters approach their homes. Now again, let me be clear. This is not a promise that nothing bad ever happens to true believers. Instead, this is God's guarantee that nothing ever happens outside of His will. His protection is individual as well as it is completely universal.

But notice, thirdly, God's protection is supernatural. This is the message of verses 11 through 13. His protection is supernatural. "For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways." The Jewish rabbis taught that there were two angels that followed every true Israelite and protected and preserved him throughout this life. There's where the idea of guardian angels came from. That's really not what this passage is teaching. It's not teaching that you and I have an individual angel or two assigned to us. Instead, He's simply saying that His angels are His ministering spirits sent out to minister to us. Hebrews 1:14 says this of angels: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" That's the idea here in verse 11. "He will give His angels charge concerning you, [notice how he puts it] to guard you in all your ways." That is, God is going to charge angels with the responsibility to protect His own in all of their daily activities.

Verse 12: "They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone." It's interesting. You'll notice in verse 10 the psalmist implies and even asserts God's protection of us when we're at home, when we're in our tent, but here in verse 12 he says our God is just as capable of protecting us when we're on a journey. That's the idea of striking your foot against a stone. This is not the sort of idea of you're walking along on flat-level ground, and you have an ordinary stumble over a small-little rock. You know, one of those experiences where we all look back and stare at the sidewalk that tripped us as if it were responsible. That's not the idea here. Instead this refers to the danger of traveling in Israel along its mountainous trails and suddenly stumbling on a loose rock and falling headlong to your death. The psalmist says the angels will bear you up in their hands that you do not strike your foot against such a stone and fall, plummet to your death.

Verse 13: "You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down." Again, if you were traveling in Israel these were the most threatening animals you could come across, you could encounter. And the psalmist says even they are not a threat to the believer who is under God's protection. And notice he uses the language not of barely escaping these dangers but of triumphing over them. "You will tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down." Reminds us of even how Paul puts it in Romans 8:37 when he speaks of all of the troubles of this life, and he says, "In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us."

So understand, then, that in verses 3 through 13 the psalmist urges us to follow his example and to preach this biblical instruction, this biblical exhortation to ourselves. Let me encourage you to do that. When you are tempted to fear in the midst of these circumstances, when your heart begins to go a certain direction, understand, you don't have to keep thinking those thoughts. You can gird up the loins of your mind, and you can preach the truth to yourself even as the psalmist does here. You can remind yourself of these promises. Remind yourself that God is in control, and that His protection is universal, it is individual, it is supernatural.

But the psalmist finishes this psalm by providing us with God's own affirmation of His protection. He has done so as he's spoken to himself and encouraged us to do the same (filled his own mind with biblical truth), but now as a prophet, as one writing under inspiration he has God speak. And God here in verses 14 to 16 speaks Himself not to but of everyone who trusts in Him through His Son. Notice these wonderful verses. Verse 14:

"Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation."

Now in those verses God does two really important things for us. First of all, He provides us with His own definition of trust, what it means to trust in Him. You remember back in verse 2, the confession was Lord, I trust in You. And so here in these verses God provides us a definition of trust; specifically, three descriptions of how we can recognize a true believer. You see, these verses make it clear that the promises of this psalm are not for everyone. They are only for the one who has trusted in the true God. But how do we recognize such a person? How do we diagnose if we are in fact such a person? Well, here he gives us three descriptions of a true believer.

First of all, verse 14, "He has loved me." In the Old Testament this Hebrew word translated "loved" here, it's used of God's love for His people. In fact one of the most famous texts in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 7:7, where God says I have set My love upon you, uses this word. It's used as well of human love for other humans. But only here in the entire Old Testament is this word used of our love for God. It means (as you just heard me bring it from Deuteronomy 7) to set your love upon someone, to attach your affection on someone. So the person who truly trusts in the true God has set his love upon God in the same way that God has set His love upon His own. He's devoted to God as God is devoted to His people.

There's a second description of those who trust in Him in verse 14: "He has known My name." You see, our relationship with God (those who truly trust in God) is not merely driven by emotion. Of course it involves emotion, but it's more than that. Our relationship to God is rational. It's driven by content. It's based on revelation. This description of "he [who] has known My name" describes those who worship God, because they have been gripped by what God has revealed about Himself in the Scripture. Revelations such as Exodus 34, where God proclaims His name before Moses and says I am Yahweh; I am compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin; and yet I will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me. It's knowing His name. It's knowing what God is like, knowing who He is. To know God's name is to know His character as He's revealed it in His Word, and because you know those things about Him, you trust Him. In fact, I love the way Psalm 9:10 puts it: "Those who know Your name will put their trust in You." Do you see the connection? If you really know God, if you know what God has revealed about Himself, if you've really come to grips with that, then you can't help yourself. You will trust in Him, because He is worthy of that trust.

There's a third description of those who trust in God. Not only are they those who set their love on God, those who know God, who know who He is and all that's true about Him, but "he [calls] upon Me," verse 15 says. He calls upon Me. The true believer, the one who trusts in God calls on God. This is a simple recognition that God's grace and God's grace alone is the only ground of hope for anything I receive from Him, whether it's my soul's salvation or whether it's deliverance from a temporal danger. I call upon Him, and I hope solely in His goodness and grace. Psalm 62:8 puts it this way: "Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him [meaning in prayer]; [for] God is a refuge for us."

So that's how this psalm describes those who trust. This is God's definition of what it means to trust in Him. The question you have to ask is, do you trust in Him like that? If not, you can even today. If you will call upon Him, if you will cry out through His grace alone for the forgiveness that's granted through His Son alone, then you will find the forgiveness that's found through His work alone.

But not only does God here (in His words that end this psalm) provide us with a definition of trust, we also have here God's definition of protection. This psalm has talked about protection, and here the psalmist fills that out as he puts these words in the mouth of God. There are contained in these last verses eight promises to every true believer. I don't have time to unfold them in great detail. Let me just point them out to you. Eight promises of protection for every true believer. And as we walk through these promises, it's going to be clear to you that God isn't promising here to protect His children from experiencing these things, but rather to be with them in the trouble and to ultimately, either in this life or eternity, to deliver them from the trouble. Notice these promises.

First of all, verse 14, "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him." God says, in My time and in My way I will rescue him. God never leaves His children, ultimately, in the midst of danger. A second promise, verse 14, "I will set him securely on high." That is, again, in My time and in My way I will raise him to a high, inaccessible place of safety.

The third promise is in verse 15: "He will call upon Me, and I will answer him." God will answer the prayer of the believer in trouble. Again and again you have promises like this. Psalm 50:15, God says, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I [will] rescue you, and you will honor Me." Sometimes what we need more is dictated in James 1:5, where James says if you find yourself in the midst of trials and you need wisdom, then ask of God and He will give it generously. I will answer him.

Promise number four is also in verse 15: "I will be with him in trouble." Notice again, this isn't I'll keep him from ever experiencing trouble, but "I will be with him in trouble." This echoes the wonderful promise of that most familiar and beloved Psalm 23:4, where it says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." That is, the darkest valleys of this life. Not just death, certainly that's included, but all of the dark valleys that we have to walk through in this life. "I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." I will be with him in trouble.

The fifth promise in verse 15 is "I will rescue him." When we are rescued from the dangers in this life it's always God who does it, and God so often does it. How often we take for granted God's rescue as He raises us up, protects us from some danger in which find ourselves. The sixth promise in verse 15 is "I will... honor him." That is with divine favor, with divine reward.

The seventh, verse 16, "With a long life I will satisfy him." Literally, the Hebrew says, "with length of days I will satisfy him." Sometimes that Hebrew expression is used of a long life here in this world. And God often does that for His children. But other times this expression "length of days" refers to eternal life. And here's the good news: God always does that for His children. Psalm 23:6 uses this same expression and translates it "forever." That's the idea here. Forever I will satisfy him with length of days, perhaps temporally in this life, but absolutely and assuredly forever in My presence.

And then the eighth promise comes in the end of verse 16: "I will... let him see My salvation." This is more than just temporal rescue from a danger. This is instead referring to final, complete, spiritual salvation. And here's why I phrased the theme of this psalm the way I did: God will not only protect His own through the dangers of this life, but He will usher us, sometimes through those dangers, into eternal glory.

What a magnificent psalm. What a psalm of comfort and hope and strength in the times in which we find ourselves. I just want to take a moment as we complete our time together to draw out the truths that we have really seen in this psalm. Let me encourage you to jot these down, to think about them, to meditate on them. Here are the crucial truths that we've seen here.

Number one. Not a single danger can possibly threaten you if God has chosen to protect you from it. Let that be a comfort to you. Take reasonable precautions. Don't put your life or the lives of others at risk. But at the same time, remind yourself that God is your shield. He is your protection, and His protection is greater than any danger that could ever threaten you. And no danger can threaten you if He has chosen to protect you from it. Secondly, you do not need therefore to live in fear in the midst of danger. God is on His throne. His promises are unchanged. His character is unchanging.

Thirdly, if in His decision one of these dangers does bring you harm, it will only be because your Father in His sovereign, good and all-wise plan had decided to allow it. You can trust Him. As Spurgeon so often said, "It's true at times that we can't trace His hand in our circumstances, but we can always trust His heart." You can trust Him. If He allows these dangers to come into your life and to bring you or those you love some harm, it's in His perfect, eternal plan. It's not random. It's not an accident. It's not a mishap. It's His perfect plan.

Number four. He will be with you in the middle of your trouble. I love that promise. He's promised (Hebrews 13) never to leave us and never to forsake us. A fifth lesson we learn here is He will only allow the threat to go as far as He has determined and no farther. Again, you don't have to worry about where things might go. He is still on His throne, and He's still watching over His own. He said that His eyes run to and fro around the earth to see those whose hearts are fully His and to act on their behalf. A sixth promise, truth that we learn here is He will use that trial for your spiritual good and for His glory. That lies behind the entire psalm, but of course it is encapsulated so beautifully in Romans 8:28.

Number seven. He will ultimately bring you through all the dangers of this life and usher you into His eternal glory. It's like we learned at the end of Romans 8. Paul said,

I am convinced that neither death [if that should come], nor life [anything I encounter in this life], nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Or I love the way Psalm 23 ends, in the beautiful words that are expressed there: "Surely [God's] goodness and [His steadfast love] will follow me." The Hebrew expression is "will pursue me like a predator on the trail of prey." Surely Your goodness and Your steadfast love will chase me down all the days of my life here, "and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." That's the promise of this magnificent psalm. May God use it to give each of us comfort and strength and courage and hope as we walk through these difficult times. Join me in prayer.

Father, we're so grateful for Your goodness. You didn't have to include this psalm. You didn't have to give us this sense of overwhelming comfort and security in this life. You didn't have to quiet our fears. And yet it's just like You, because You are good and generous and gracious, because You are a loving Father to have done so. Lord, help us like the psalmist to understand the general declaration of the truth of Your protection. But, Father, help us also to make the personal confession that we say to You that "You are my refuge.. my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!" And then, Father, help us to rehearse the truths the psalmist did to his own soul to our own souls that Your protection is universal, that your protection is individual, that Your protection is supernatural, that You will move heaven and earth to protect Your own. And remind us, even as the end of the psalm does, that if You have chosen to bring these things into our lives, You will be with us in the midst of trouble, and You will ultimately deliver us, either in this life or from this life into Your eternal presence. O God, help us to think like true believers, like those who trust in You. And may we share the wonderful reality of the gospel and of our hope with those around us in these troubled times. We pray in Jesus name, amen.

Well, I want to say thank you, again, for joining us this morning in worship. I also want to say thank you to Seth and the musicians as well as to the AV team who have made this possible. We're grateful for their sacrifices on our behalf. A couple of things I want to mention to you, just to be in prayer about, to be thinking about. We have sent a couple of updates recently via texts and email. If you didn't get those but you would like to, then you can just contact us at We'll make sure you get those updates. Of course continue to stay tuned to the website. We'll post updates there. And let me encourage you to do this. We need to stay connected as a church body. We can worship together via life stream—and that's wonderful, a great blessing—but we need to stay in each other's lives. And so we're encouraging existing groups (Sunday schools, home fellowships, Partners who are going through the discipleship curriculum) to continue to stay connected via safe, electronic means, so that we can stay in each other's lives. And we're already in process with many of those things; others of you will be hearing about that in this coming week. But just know we want our church to continue to function as the church during these days. And let me encourage you individually to make an attempt this week to reach out once a day to some other Countrysider, to some other member of this church. Check on them. Find out how you can pray for them. Let's stay in each other's lives through our phones, through other electronic means, but let's stay connected. And, of course, I urge you to pray. Pray for our world. Pray for our nation. Pray for its leaders, for our healthcare professionals. Pray for our church family, and pray for each of our families as well, and, of course, for our own souls.