“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2, NIV
This psalm focuses being intimate with our heavenly Father.
Throughout the entire chapter we see personal pronouns used. In contrast to other psalms that are directed to the nation, this one is written to an individual. This personal focus makes this a favorite psalm for many.
Shelter and shadow, refuge and fortress are the opening ‘word pictures’ used very elegantly. The psalmist writes what he knows, and it is apparent that he understand the needs of the human spirit, and for protection. Each of these four words creates a common link between believers. Each of us need a working understanding of all four protections.
Dwelling, resting and ‘saying’ are necessary elements for the word pictures to work. I should ‘dwell’ in God’s sheltered care. All too often, I wander out past the security of the Lord (or maybe I’m lured out?) But there is safety in having God so close to us. His proximity is for my protection.
“Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
V.v. 3-4, maintains its personal or familiar tone. ‘Save you’ (salvation) is far more that a theological term. For the psalmist however, it’s not about ‘doctrine’; rather the psalm is an embrace. He is rescued from the trap, and the sickness that seems so contagious never touches him. Moving from metaphor to metaphor, he engages our imaginations to ‘see’ God’s salvation. The writer knows his stuff.
The Lord is pictured as a protective bird that covers his chicks.
We have a sure confidence as we gather together in that warm and safe spot under His wing. Whatever is after us has to go through God first. His presence is formidable. In His company is found our only safety.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”
Romans 8:31, 33
All of heaven is rallying for your well-being. You are sure of this based on your faith in God’s own word. He has ‘busted us’ out of a dark cage, and now defends you against all your enemies. And that is a very good thing.
I have to admit, I always wondered what this part of Psalm 23 meant. I thought “He anoints my head with oil” was figurative language for God keeping the Psalmist healthy. I never knew this parallel.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Psalm 23:5, ESV
“Sheep can get their head caught in briers and die trying to get untangled. There are horrid little flies that like to torment sheep by laying eggs in their nostrils which turn into worms and drive the sheep to beat their head against a rock, sometimes to death. Their ears and eyes are also susceptible to tormenting insects.”
So the shepherd anoints their whole head with oil.
“Then there is peace. That oil forms a barrier of protection against the evil that tries to destroy the sheep. Do you have times of mental torment? Do the worrisome thoughts invade your mind over and over? Do you beat your head against a wall trying to stop them? Have you ever asked God to anoint your head with oil?”
He has an endless supply!
His oil protects and makes it possible for you to fix your heart, mind, and eyes on Him today and always! There is peace in the valley! May our good good Father anoint your head with oil today so that your cup overflows with blessings! God is good and He is faithful!!”
“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”
Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters.
I believe God loves you (it’s not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you. Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally or physically ill).
Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, in His arms.
Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness. Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)
Some of us have physical disabilities. We come to worship from our wheelchairs and walkers. Some of us are deaf, and others are blind. But we come still. Our hope is in the coming King who promises us a new and fully redeemed Kingdom. There will be no more pain.
I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimer’s who understands little of what is happening to her, but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before dementia, she was a spiritual marvel. Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met.
Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe.
I just realized this–the angels understand worship, they really do. Praise seems to be their specialty. Each angel that surrounds the throne has a PhD in “worshipology.”
But you know what? They really don’t understand our worship out of our pain, weakness, and brokenness.
Let us worship God with our cracks and brokenness. In John 12:1-7, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus’ feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain.
But always remember this dear one–it is only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.
“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.”
2 Timothy 2:13, NLT
There can be times of a great despair; when sin or sickness is definitely in the spotlight. Losing hope is an easy response for mere mortals like us. There can be a place where the darkness won’t lift; and it’s at that point you realize that you’re simply in over your head.
I know that feeling quite well.
I have bipolar disorder and I tend to camp out at the margins where it seems like the grace of God evaporates in the heat of the moment. Whether it is my sin or circumstances, I occasionally feel pretty much abandoned, and it usually is something self-inflicted. We have this glaring tendency to put ourselves in where we should not have been. And condemnation means no comfort can get through to us.
We wonder if God has finally given up on us, throwing us on the trash heap of lost souls. We might feel that is what we deserve.
“Many are saying about me, “God won’t rescue him.”
In Psalm 3, David has come to the realization that his sins have “tainted” him. He talks of many enemies that have suddenly gathered, and they are claiming that David was now outside of God’s grace and favor. The theology of this seemed logical. David had sinned greatly. And just perhaps he had. David’s sin of adultery and murder was heinous and depraved. His enemies suggested that God would now abandon him.
Our own sin may be excessive, but God’s faithfulness is even more extreme.
”Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies.’‘
The grace of God is limitless. It is beyond human comprehension or reasoning. When he committed himself it was for forever. King David understood this, and would survive the devastating fall-out from his sins. Indeed he would reap all that he sowed (Gal. 6:7-8).
You see, Jesus has taken all your sin upon himself, and that includes your faithlessness. He has done this astonishing thing out of the deep depths of His love and mercy. We don’t deserve it and we can’t pretend it is something else. A heart welded to His knows this. We are “saved by grace through faith.”
Do you still feel God has abandoned you forever? Dear one, there is an unholy war on the saints that Satan is waging. He hates your simple trust in God and will shake it anyway he can. He blisters believers hoping to discourage them. And he doesn’t ever fight fair.
“The Lord appeared to us in the past,saying:“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him.
You must only rest in His kindness and love. He will not abandon anyone who puts even a feeble trust in Him. When we turn from our sin, God will always turn to us. Always believe it, for it is true.