We are continuing our series of reflections on the Psalms. Each day we will upload a new reflection to the website. We hope and pray that you will find them helpful and that they bring hope during this season. Click on these buttons to read the text of the psalm or listen to a recording of it. You can also listen to the reflection using the audio player below.
This psalm is a prayer of encouragement to trust God for protection and security. It has been known as the Soldier’s Prayer and, during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been used to pray for protection from coronavirus disease. The psalmist talks about God’s protection: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;” (verse 4) and “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (verse 7). However, does this mean that if we pray this psalm that no harm will befall us? Christians are not immune from illness. We will know of some who have had coronavirus and sadly also who may have died as a result.
We need to be careful when we read the Bible that we do not pick verses out of context and use them as a kind lucky charm to twist God’s arm. As with reading all Scripture we should ask these questions. Firstly, what was the original intent of the words of the Bible? This means looking at the historical context and the literary context – what did it mean to the person who wrote it and to the people who first heard it. Secondly, what does the text mean here and now? How can we interpret the text and apply it today? In doing so, it cannot mean something that it did not originally mean. Also, when reading the Old Testament, we must use the lens of Jesus and the New Testament to help our understanding.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the enemy quoted verses 11-12. Jesus responded with more Scripture: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16). So if this psalm is not a way to test God then how can we use it? The Bible and church history bear witness to the fact that the people of God suffer. Those that have gone before us have died for the Gospel, and in many places around the world, Christians face persecution today. So rather than being a recipe that if we do A then God will do B, Psalm 91 is a prayer offering hope. In verse 15 the psalmist says, “I will be with him in trouble.” God does not promise a trouble-free life, but he promises to be with us when we suffer, even in our darkest hour. Jesus entered this world to be God with us, to suffer with us and to die for us.
Father God, thank you that you are with me in my times of trouble. Thank you that you hear my prayer in my darkest times, that you have saved me and that you will deliver me. Today Lord, I ask for your help with …