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Coronavirus, Suffering and Psalm 91 The Disciple’s Problem of Trust

What underpins the theology of Psalm 91 is an understanding of the problem of sin in Part 1 and the human experience of suffering in Part 2. These thoughts frame for us the larger questions we need to grapple with as we consider what is at the heart of Psalm 91.

The issue with Psalm 91 is this: It seems to suggest that those who take refuge in God (vv.1, 9, 14), would never suffer from any harm (vv.3 – 8, 10–13, 16.) What am I to make of this? I note three things:

  1. Firstly, the surface reading that the psalmist expects that there will be no death is certainly false! Looking within the context of Book of Psalms itself, we note that Psalm 91 is placed immediately after Psalm 90 which is a Psalm that expresses the brevity of life and the problem of suffering as a result of our sins! (Psa 90:3–10.)
  1. Secondly, this Psalm must also be read in the larger context of the Scriptures. As we have seen previously, Scriptures recognise that suffering can come even to those who “take refuge in GOD”.  This is true for Job and also our Lord Jesus who continued to entrust His soul to God even on the Cross.
  1. Thirdly, Satan himself used Psalm 91:11–12 in the wilderness to tempt Jesus to test God (Matt 4:5–6, Lk 4:9–11.) What was intended by God as a blessing to His people, was twisted by the evil one into some kind of self-centred, on-demand, I-must-have-it-now kind of attitude! Bible commentator James Mays writes:

    “The psalm itself poses a danger. Because its assurance of security is so comprehensive and confident, it is especially subject to misuse that is a possibility for all religious claims, that of turning faith into superstition. In Judaism and Christianity, bits of the text have been worn in amulets that were believed to be a kind of magical protection for those who wore them.”

    That is the danger of reading the Scriptures in a self-centred way. That is the danger of living our faith as a religion (where everything is a mechanical exchange with a genie) rather than a living relationship with Almighty GOD.

So. How then am I to read this Psalm? I read it as an exhortation to trust God in the midst of danger! I read it as a call to really, really trust God. In Psalm 91:13a, “cleave to me” (Hebrew: hashaq) is a reminder to truly cling to God. Yes, the Lord has delivered in the past and He will yet deliver again! The truth is that God has ultimately delivered us from all evil through the death and resurrection of Jesus! This will be fully realised at the new heavens and new earth where: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

However, as we have seen from the rest of the Scriptures, this is by no means a guarantee while on earth. Indeed the call to trust and hold on to GOD is seen in Job’s life:

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”

Job 13:15 (ESV)

This is also seen in Daniel’s friends,

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Daniel 3:17–18 (ESV) 

and also among the true believers,

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

Revelation 12:11 (ESV)

and mostly in our Lord Himself,

“And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’”

Mark 14:36 (ESV)

Psalm 91 is a psalm of promises as we take a cursory look at it. However, when understood through the whole counsel of Scriptures, these promises of God are deeply redemptive in nature. At the heart of Psalm 91 is not merely promises of immediate deliverance but the character of promise-keeping God whose promises of redemption and ultimate deliverance will be fully realised in the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21).

The call then of Psalm 91, is the same call issued throughout the Scriptures. Will I truly, truly trust and cling on to God?

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Daily Devo

Daily Devotional Journal

Scripture:
Psalm 146
Thu, 26 May 2022

The Champion of Justice

Observation:

What are the things that the Lord does, for which the Psalmist greatly praises Him?

Deeper Reflection
GOD KEEPS FAITH FOREVER; HE FULFILS ALL HIS PROMISES (v.6b). Therefore, people everywhere can put their trust in God, look to Him for help, and always hope in Him (vv.3-6). It is futile to put our trust in other people − even those with earthly power and authority. They cannot ultimately deliver us (v.3), because they are transient (v.4). We should instead trust in God the Creator of the universe, because He is eternal (v.6).God does justice! He is the Champion of justice! Verses 7 to 9 tell us clearly that God’s heart beats with compassion for “the oppressed”, “the hungry”, “the prisoners”, “the blind”, “those who are bowed down”, “the righteous”, “the sojourners”, “the widow” and “the fatherless”. Therefore, God executes justice on their behalf, feeds them, sets them free from captivity and bondage, gives them sight, lifts them up from depression and despondency, shows them His love, watches over and protects them, and supports and defends them. God cares deeply for the weak, the poor, the powerless, the ill-treated, the hopeless, the disabled, the burdened, the trapped, the minorities, the destitute and the defenceless. God acts directly as well as through His agents to help them. Of all people, God’s people are to be His faithful representatives in their society and in the world!Brothers and sisters, do our hearts beat likewise for such people? What have we done to help and support the poor and needy in our land? Will we both pray for them and take decisive action on their behalf? What will you begin to do or continue doing in order to serve them?
Application:

How can I reflect God’s heart and His ways to society and indeed the world?

Prayer:
Write a prayer to God as your response from your meditation on and application of the Scriptures.
Prayer Pointers:
  • Give thanks and praise
  • Pray for Outreach/Missions/New Life leaders: To reflect God’s heart and His ways to our society and the Asian nations
  • Pray for significant people
  • Pray for those in need
  • Pray for self

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