The best form of prayer is always two-way conversation, dialogue rather than monologue, and at this time when coronavirus is raging and the whole world is having to come to terms with a new and invisible enemy – how grateful we are that the Lord continues to hear our prayers, and how much we need to listen to what He has to say.
Many have been making good use of Psalm 91; it’s a brilliant starting point for steadying ourselves in the Lord and heeding the exhortation to dwell in His presence and to abide in His shelter.
Some versions speak of dwelling in the ‘secret place,’ or in the ‘hiding place.’ He is true to Himself and true to us, and from this place of abiding in His shadow we trust Him to save us from all that threatens to overshadow us.
I’d always thought of David as being the author of this psalm, but there is an even stronger Jewish tradition suggesting that it was written by Moses. Whoever it was, here is a man who has clearly faced considerable challenges and some incredibly intense battles. I hope these reflections on the psalm will reach deep down.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest and abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Was the writer thinking of ‘the most Holy Place’ in the house of God, where the wings of the cherubim cover the ark of the covenant when he penned this psalm ? Like that ark we too abide under the shadow and protection of the Lord’s Shekinah glory! Lord You are the refuge we can always return to and on our home is You. You are all round us, defending us.
Thank You Lord that Your presence rested in glory on the mercy seat, the seat of grace that both covers and cleanses. Father, at this time when so many are struggling, and even losing their lives to an alien virus, send help from your mercy seat, by the blood that Your Son Yeshua shed to cover and ’protect’ us; the blood that sets us free from the contagion of sin.
Did you not say to Moses, “I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are up on the Ark of the Testimony, I will speak to you.” So meet with us too we pray. (Exodus 25:22, cf (cf 2 Samuel 6:2; See also https://ruachministries.co.uk/the-mercy-seat-of-god/)
When the psalmist calls you by several different names, Lord; it’s as if to underline the power and reality of the truths being promised and proclaimed. Thank You that You are ‘Elyon, the Most High;’ ‘Shaddai, the Almighty;’ and ‘Elohim, the living God’ as well as the name of the Lord that remains unpronounced in the Jewish community Yahweh, (YHWH): the Breath of Life: the One who is both intimate and transcendent. Baruch attah Yah, elohenu – Blessed are you, Yahweh; blessed are You, Breath of Life. (See https://theshalomcenter.org/content/why-yahyhwh )
I love the thought that we can breathe His name in love and adoration.
I am reminded of the time many years ago, Lord, when You strongly brought Isaiah 26:20 to our attention: ‘Go, My people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until His wrath has passed by.’ (Is. 26:20) You wanted us to ‘self-isolate’ from our regular ministry for a period in order to devote ourselves to praying about an international crisis. Thank Yolu that you made those days so special, and pivotal for our spiritual development. We pray You will do the same now and make this season pivotal for many right across the globe.
Surely he will save and deliver you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
Jesus, we certainly know who the fowler is, who persistently seeks to trick and tempt us, placing hidden traps along our path that are perfectly tailored to exploit our particular weakness. But even though when we do get ensnared from time to time, You still find ways to release us because we dwell in You and call upon Your name.
Even better, You help us to spot some of these snares ahead of time. The very moment we do so they lose much of their power – provided we take care to change direction and avoid them.
It’s good to pause remember specific occasions when You have delivered us from traps and dangers, Lord, and to use these as springboards of faith for situations that we and others are currently facing.
Help us make good choices, Lord, and to recognise sin for what it is – a snare and deadly pestilence that kills and destroys. We claim that promise that you will save and deliver us from every fowler’s snare and from every deadly pestilence.”
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood (Ps.24) Lord, as we wash our hands, do a work of purification in our hearts, so that we and others may receive blessing and righteousness from the God of salvation, and become the generation who seek Your face.’ (Ps. 24:5-6) Amen!
Because of Your tender mercy,
by which the rising sun comes to us from heaven
you shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.’ (Luke 1:78-79)
Germs and microbes may be tiny, Lord, but they exact such a heavy toll. And temptations are like the plague, in that we can’t see them with the naked eye – but as our discernment increases we can spot them swiftly. The little things in life we do and the choices that we make really do matter. May we not drift into a little bit of carelessness here or indifference there and so end up a long way from living our life in vital union with You. (cf https://ruachministries.co.uk/why-little-things-matter)
Make us prompt, Lord, to attend to whatever You know we need to attend to, and to make our choices well and wisely, for then, as we submit to You, and shelter in You, we are empowered to resist the enemy and to send him packing. (James 4:7)
Both King David and Moses had to deal with outbreaks of plague. In David’s case, it was the result of his own sinful action in succumbing to pride and taking a census of the people. Seventy thousand people died. Just think of the agony that David must have felt, knowing this had only come about as the result of what he had done. (2 Sam. 24:13-15).
When a rebellion led to the deaths of nearly fifteen thousand Israelites, Moses instructed Aaron to take a censer and fill it with incense, and then to ‘stand between the living and the dead.’ God accepted that as a profoundly symbolic action and brought the plague to an end. May our prayers be like those of Moses and Arron as we seek to stand in the gap at this time. (See Numbers 16:46-48 and context)
Even so, both King David and Moses had to bear the consequence of their own disobedience – David was a man of blood, and Moses was not permitted even to take a step into the land he had suffered so much for. The bar is set high for those in leadership positions, and yet, both men, despite their failings were highly esteemed in Heaven and still entirely welcome to dwell in the secret place of the Lord.
Truly, He covers us with His feathers, and under His wings we will find refuge;
His faithfulness is our shield and buckler. (Ps. 91:4)
Thank you, Lord, that despite all our trials and sufferings – yes even the self-induced ones that cause so many others to suffer too, You cover us with Your feathers, and give us refuge beneath Your wings. You are our shield and buckler, with the buckler serving as an additional shield worn on our forearm as a second line of defence when the attacks come thick and fast.
Lay bare Your holy arm , Lord, to protect and deflect us from fiery darts, even when multiple attacks come our way, and we feel all but overwhelmed.
As Charles Spurgeon put it, ‘Double armour has he who relies upon the Lord. He bears a shield and wears an all surrounding coat of mail–such is the force of the word “buckler.”
To quench fiery darts the truth is a most effectual shield, and to blunt all swords is an equally effectual coat of mail. Let us go forth to battle thus harnessed for the war, and we shall be safe in the thickest of the fight. It has been so, and so shall it be till we reach the land of peace, and there among the “helmed cherubim and sworded seraphim,” we will wear no other ornament, his truth shall still be our shield and buckler.’ (https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=spur&b=19&c=91 )
Thank you Lord that Spurgeon lived out what he preached, and was greatly used to minister to many dying people when a plague of cholera swept through London in the mid nineteenth century. Thank You that he did not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague – neh’-gah in Hebrew – that destroys at midday.
What an ugly word neh’gah is. It refers to spots on the body and major infections such as leprosy. It can also mean to smite. Moses and David both knew what it was to suffer many smiting blows and batterings. There is nothing unusual about the enemy sending blow after blow to try to prevent a Kingdom enterprise from taking off. In military terms, it makes best sense to strike an aircraft is while it is still on the ground rather than when it is twisting and turning in the sky.
No wonder fiery darts and a heavy sense of oppression often land on us as we set out on some new project or initiative. And if these fail to deter us from stepping out, the enemy often switches to an ‘air to air,’ or a ‘ground-to-air’ attack to try to destroy the Lord’s purposes, causing, for example, relationships or finances to flounder.
Protect us Lord from these attacks that come at midday when we are well on our way in some purpose or project, and which target our zeal and reduce our willingness to venture onward for You. May we keep our armour on, and afford no foothold to dullness or complacency. Energise, empower and invigorate us in new ways, whatever our age or state of health!
At the same time, it would be completely wrong to assume that we will automatically be spared from the plague. What we can ask trust for is that that we can be delivered from the fear of it.
Minister now, Lord Jesus, to the many who are really scared, terrified even, of the things that are now happening. You warned us that such things would happen – but You told us not to fear, because we have made You our dwelling place.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
Many of those who stumble and fall, whether physically or spiritually, will be people we know, whether personally or only by reputation. Some of them will be those we honour and look up to. When that happens, we can feel really sad, but even when You bury Your workmen, or they take themselves out of the fray, we must still press on, for the work of the Kingdom never ceases.
Unless God specifically ordains protection, as He did for the Israelites in Goshen – at the time when plagues were afflicting every other part of Egypt – natural disasters that we encounter may not be discriminating.
So even though we may not be granted exemption from problems, yet we make bold to pray for ourselves and for our locality: ‘seal blessing in and keep evil out.’
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling . . .
no harm will overtake you,
no plague will come near your home.”
Thank you for those precious words we come across in verse 9 which sum up the whole focus of this psalm: maween (maw-ohn) which ‘a dwelling’ or a ‘retreat’ and makhseh (mahsi) which refers to a ‘shelter’, from everything from storms to deceit.
Nearly two hundred years ago, a Tower of Refuge was built just offshore from Douglas in the Isle of Man, to provide shelter for sailors whose ships had come to grief on the treacherous rock on which it stood. When we find ourselves in danger, the name of the Lord is our strong tower of refuge; the righteous run into it and are safe. (Pvb. 18:10)
Jesus. Yahweh. The name of the Lord.
Remember the blessing of breathing the name Yahweh, ‘Breath of life,’ the Name from which we have derived the name of our ministry: Ruach Breath of Life Ministries.
To remind ourselves, it is our fear that the Lord delivers us from rather than guaranteeing immunity against disease or persecution. We are aware of how many of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have suffered: for example, the many tens of thousands of martyrs there have been, and those who have been driven from their homes in certain, African Hindu and Islamic nations, and as the result of this present Covid-19 crisis.
Turn this shaking that is affecting every part of society, into a powerful refining that sets people free from the spirit of self-reliance, so that they can truly dwell in You.
For He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways, wherever you go;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Father, thank You that the angels who are commissioned to watch over us in all our ways see the path we are on and all that lies ahead of us – where even a pebble could serve to trip us up. Thank You that You commission them to guard us on our way.
I remember once driving through fog when all of a sudden, my steering wheel suddenly pulled to the left. I am sure I didn’t turn it – and I dodged a car I had no idea was there! Dad had a still more dramatic tale to tell: he was driving along a main road, again in the fog, and suddenly found himself driving at quite significant speed on the verge – just as a car came harooshing through on the wrong side of the road right where he had been.
Thank You that Psalm 91 speaks of ‘angels’ in the plural. It’s amazing to think that we not only have a guardian angel, but that when we are in specific need, we may be shepherded and protected by more than one!
No wonder Satan tried so hard to get them to mutiny; nor that he sought to twist the Word of God by tempting Jesus to believe that He would be protected if He did something that God had not specifically asked Him to do, such as turning stones into bread, or leaping down from a high place. But You were having none of it! Thank You Lord Jesus that You triumphed over the devil in the desert!
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent’s head.
Referring to the most dreadful of all snakes, the KJV translates the last word in this verse, tannin in Hebrew, as ‘dragon,’ thereby anticipating Revelation 12:8, in which Satan, the great deceiver of the whole world, is described as a great dragon, who has been and cast down from Heaven to Earth. This is the ancient serpent whose wiles humankind first came up against in the Garden of Eden.
At that time, the Lord God promised that there would come one who would crush the serpent’s head, though He be bruised in the act . . . Thank You Jesus for Your willingness to come and suffer such very great bruising. And thank You for crushing the head, the very centre of our enemy’s power.
Thank You that all of us who belong to You, Jesus, have authority to overcome some specific work of the dragon, whether it appears like a mighty lion or a subtle serpent.
Yes, whether it comes in the form of evil thoughts or deeds and habits, or through some external attack, You have empowered us to share in Your victory. Jesus, keep us looking to You, so that we might win each and every battle – for with every successful campaign that we wage, our armour becomes stronger and our authority grows.
Bless all who are working on the front line today, Lord, treading uncharted and even dangerous territory, where serpents and other dangers lurk, and where many have fallen away. And we pray for those courageous ones who find themselves battling not only the darkness around them, but also facing much sniping and harsh criticism. Strengthen Your pioneers Lord to take the truths of this psalm to heart, and to be emboldened as they continue their often service for You.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.”
We are right at the heart of the whole psalm now; ‘because He loves Me, says the Lord I wil rescue him.’ Here is a declaration that takes us right back to the start of the psalm, to that place of safety where love casts out all fear and is stronger than death.
Let the spirit of prayer rise up in us now to strengthen those who are feeling lost. Keep them and us alike alert in our spirits to sense when You are calling us to pray for someone who may be in need of special protection.
Thank You for the prayerful reminder Elisha gave to his servant that opened his eyes to see that ‘those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ (2 Kings 6:16-17)
And if at times it seems as though You are not protecting us, we want to take the time to pause and ask why this may be so. Have we been presumptuous and stepped out from under Your protection? Are we harbouring unbelief or wrong attitudes towards someone? Are we doing the things You have asked us to do – or, conversely, doing things You told us not to do?
And if it is that there is something that needs to come back into alignment with You, Lord, may we cooperate with You and Your purposes and to turn away from anything that is not Your best.
Or are You perhaps bringing to an end the season we have been in and preparing us to enter into a battle that will win new ground for Your kingdom?
“He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”
Lead and use us Lord; deliver us from darkness in all its many forms, and help us to share what we know to be true, that Jesus is Lord of all. Even when we pass through times of trouble and the valley of the shadow of death, You are still with us, and You hear us. We choose to dwell under the shadow of Your wing as You send Your mighty wind across the land, and it continues its work of shaking.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest and abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Keep people safe from being stolen prematurely as a result of accident or illness. Reveal yourself to people who are house-bound or vulnerable or worried.
Linda’s setting of Psalm 91 written by Justin Coldstream.