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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Psalm I Used to Hate

I used to hate Psalm 91.  It felt like a bald-faced lie - particularly verses seven and ten. 

o     v. 7 “A thousand may fall at your side; ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” 
o     v. 10 “No harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.” 

Psalm 91 seemed to promise universal protection from every imaginable danger.  Yet this is clearly not true.  Who doesn’t know someone or has not themselves experienced great tragedy in this life? It often seems that pestilence not only comes near some tents.  It runs over them and burns them to the ground! 

Two observations changed my mind about this text.  First, God’s promise at the end of the Psalm is this: “I will be with you in trouble.”  This Psalm can’t be a promise that you will never face trouble, if God is with you in it.  In fact, a second look at the Psalm shows that this person expects all kinds of trouble!  Arrows are flying, thousand are dying, and pestilence is stalking . . . this is not a walk in the park!  Second, the Psalm is not about protection.  It is about deliverance.  God’s deliverance takes at least three forms.

(1)   He is a refuge during the trouble.  Just as David fled to the caves of En Gedi when Saul was seeking his life, so we may flee to the presence of God, when trouble strikes.  We do this when we choose to trust Him in spite of the trouble that has overtaken us.  In v. 2 the Psalmist writes, “I will say to Yahweh, ‘You are my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’”   

(2)   He lifts us out of our trial in the end.  In v. 14 we read that God will lift us up out of our problems.  The NIV mistranslates the verb “to lift up” as “to protect” us.  This poor translation creates the wrong impression about the Psalm.  When we read that God will protect us, we tend to believe this means He will never let us feel pain, or at least immense pain.  However, it is more accurate to say that God will not leave s in our pain forever.  He will lift us up.  He will deliver. 

(3)   He leads us to a place of blessing.  At the end of our journey we will be able to look back and see how God provided for us, was present with us, and brought us to a place of blessing.  Ultimately, the end of the story cannot be discovered until we reach the age to come and see this life from the perspective of paradise. 

I now find Psalm 91 a source of great comfort because I do not see it is a promise of protection from pain, but a promise of God’s presence at all times, His provision of a refuge during the storms, and ultimately His redemption and restoration of that which the evils of this life have stolen.  He just wants me to trust Him that He is there and He has a plan.