A Fresh Look at Psalm 91
I had an interesting dream the other night. Dreams are not unusual for me; they are just one of the biblical ways God speaks to me, clarifying things or bringing direction and insight. This dream was more like a parable, and it illustrated exactly what I have wanted to write about: Psalm 91.
Psalm 91 speaks of abiding and dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, of trusting in God and making Him our refuge. This Psalm rivals Psalm 23 in its popularity; just about anyone who has been to a church service, or read even snippets of the Bible, will be familiar with it. We send Psalm 91 to our troops on the field as a promise of God’s protection, and we quote it to comfort those in hard circumstances.
I have often wondered how to “dwell” and “abide” better; it seems like such a slippery task sometimes, given the demands we feel to be anything but still! Just making eye contact and listening to someone for more than a moment requires such discipline sometimes! (My husband can confirm this…)
Yet the reward God promises for abiding in Him is extraordinary – deliverance from a multitude of dangers. Here is a summary:
God also promises:
My favorite promise from this psalm, however, is in verse 4: “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4). All this, just for abiding in Him! Who wouldn’t want to stay close to a God like that?
Well, I do, but like you, I don’t always succeed at this. So the Lord gave me a dream to illustrate the idea, and I hope it will be meaningful to you, too.
The Resurrection Inscriptions
The most powerful inscriptions ever made happened at Christ's resurrection. It was so important to our Savior that we understand the significance of what happened, that He returned even to "doubting Thomas" and asked him to place his fingers in the imprints of the nails on His hands, and the spear in His side. The inscriptions on His body are the conclusive proof of His great love for us.
In the midst of life's trials, we often forget what this means for us. When people fail us, it is easy to forget that we are loved. Celebrations - even of "Resurrection Sunday" - can be tough when we are gathering with difficult relatives or maybe feeling left out completely. In Christ, however, we have received an invitation that is too good to refuse! We are loved by Someone who never forgets us and always delivers us.
God Never Forgets Us
We are not the first people to worry about neglect or abandonment. Israel was doing the same thing long ago, under the Babylonian captivity. The temptation in affliction is to doubt God's goodness. God’s solution was to inscribe a personal invitation for them to be with Him – forever:
“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” ~Isaiah 49:14
God (through Isaiah) uses imagery that all of us can relate to, describing the strongest bond known to man. It would be unthinkable for a mother to forget her own child. Yet even if this happened, God would never forget you. This isn’t the only time God uses such language. Take a look at an earlier scripture:
“Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” ~Isaiah 46:4
God promises, in decidedly feminine language, to bear with us through thick and thin: He made us, He will bear us, He carries us and He delivers us. The language He uses is all related to childbearing and pregnancy.
To give you a frame of reference, I have made, borne, carried, and delivered three children, each one bigger and heavier than the last. Morning sickness was really all-day sickness for me, lasting not just three months but all nine. When my third child was delivered, at a whopping 10 pounds, 2 ounces, I decided that was all the experience I needed with childbearing and pregnancy! I do adore my children, and it was worth it, but I am very glad not to be carrying them anymore!
I'm sure it is at least as difficult for God to bear my sins as it was for me to bear my babies. Yet even so, God still chooses to put up with me. Why? Because He made me, it’s worth it, and I belong to Him:
"I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” ~Isaiah 44:21b-22
Just as I would not have abandoned the process of carrying my children to term or willfully failed to deliver them at the appropriate time, so God does not abandon His commitment to bear with me in love or to redeem and deliver me. No matter how difficult the situation, He is in it for the long haul. He completes what He begins.
God Delivers Us
Knowing that our deliverance comes through Christ, let’s look a little more closely at the imagery used to describe that redemption in Philippians and Exodus.
Christ “…made Himself of no reputation,
taking the form of a bond-servant and
coming in the likeness of men…
He humbled Himself and became obedient
to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Paul writes, not by accident, that Christ became a bond-servant, someone committed to the will of his master. The Israelite law for Hebrew servants described a specific ritual for the servant who chose to remain with his master forever:
“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing... But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” ~Exodus 21:2-6
A faithful servant who wished to remain with his master was required to have his ear pierced with an awl on the doorpost – the same place the Israelites were commanded to put the blood of the Passover lamb - as a sign of deliverance:
“For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever.” ~Exodus 12:23
Hallelujah! Jesus Christ, God’s suffering servant, allowed Himself to be pierced for me. His death on the cross was His statement of intent to serve His Master forever. As ruler of His Master’s household, He has become my Lord and Savior. The nail marks on His palms are His inscriptions of love for me, as a true servant of Israel. His blood delivers me from the destroyer and all the claims he might make over my life. God has given me my own personal “Passover!”
The beauty of this resurrection season is that I now know that I am never alone, never forgotten by the One person who matters most. Not only that, but I am also promised deliverance from whatever afflictions trouble me. Whenever I feel abandoned or neglected, I have only to look at the inscriptions in His hands to know that He will never leave me or forsake me. There is no greater comfort than that.
And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you,
He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.
Are there times when you feel neglected by people you expect to love and care for you? Could God be challenging you to transfer those expectations over to Him - the One who never fails you?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014. All Bible references, NKJV
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions. To follow her blog, click here.
A Passover Meditation
Lovers of His Presence
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)
Are You Listening?
The Lord once gave me a prophetic word through a very personal analogy. He showed me that when the church doesn’t allow Him to speak, we develop a profound spiritual hearing loss, similar to what I have dealt with in the natural for most of my life. Let me explain by sharing what it means not to hear, and then give you a vision for what it would be to hear Him more clearly.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.