April 26, 2020
Shelter In Place
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Psalm 91

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


Psalm 91 is known as the psalm of protection, reminding us that when we trust in God we can find shelter under the shadow of the Almighty. Find comfort knowing that no matter where we are or what life throws our way, dwelling and hiding in God's presence will always be the safest place. We can draw strength from this Psalm as it reminds us to seek refuge within His promises even when times may seem challenging. This Psalm reminds us that the safest place in the world is at the center of God’s will.

More From This Series


Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to Psalm 91. We’re looking at a series of Psalms called Statements of Faith. These are Psalms of trust, expressions of confidence in God during trials and testing times, and I want to come and look at another one of these with you. We’ve looked at Psalm 46, Psalm 11, Psalm 16, Psalm 23. And tonight, we’re coming to look at Psalm 91 and God willing, next Sunday morning we will look at Psalm 62 and probably wrap this series up.
Keep your Bible open at Psalm 91, message I’ve called Shelter in Place, because Psalm 91 begins with these words, “He who dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty and I will save of the Lord. He is my refuge and my fortress. My God and Him will I trust.” You and I should be thankful for the things that God gives us, but we should also be equally thankful for the things He keeps from us.
When you and I go before God in a spirit of gratitude, not only thank Him for his provision, thank Him for His protection, what He has given and what He has kept from us. In fact, when I think about that, I feel like the young soldier who came back from the Vietnam War and once he was back his friends began to press him to tell him a good war story, but he kind of deflected that and said, “You know what? Nothing really happened while I was there. Nothing that dramatic.” But they didn’t believe him. It was their conclusion and conviction that there must be a story that would be worth hearing. And after badgering him for some days and weeks, he eventually gave in and here was his answer. Here’s what he said about his time in Vietnam. “Well, the thing that struck me most was the number of bullets that missed me.”
Is that not the truth? That might not sound dramatic, but it’s very dramatic. As dramatic as being wounded. “The thing that struck me was how many bullets that missed me.” And as you and I look back on life, should that strike us also? Should we not go before God in a spirit of gratitude to thank Him for the bullets that have missed us? I don’t know about you, but I’m very much aware that it is grace that has brought me safe this far. And like John Newton, you have faced dangerous toils and snares, but grace has brought us safe this far and it is grace that will lead us home. You know what? The truth is, I should be dead already. I was thinking about that this week. I should be dead already.
When I was a little boy, maybe four or five, I was running about the streets with some of my friends. I don’t know if we were playing cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers, but as we zigged and zagged across the street, one of my friends was run over by a passing car. He was run over at a place I’d just run by a couple of moments earlier. His name was David Chambers. I’ll never forget that. I’ll never forget the bloodcurdling scream of his mother as she ran down from the house to find her son dead. Why not me? I’ve spent six years in the RUC during the troubles in Northern Ireland in the mid-’80s when INTERPOL, the International Agency for Policing across the world said it was one of the most, if not the most dangerous policing role in the world. You were safer being a police officer in El Salvador in the mid-’80s and you would’ve been being a RUC officer in the streets of Belfast.
But God was kind. God showed me his preserving providence. I lost friends. I walked behind the funeral cortege of my sergeant who was shot dead by the IRA coming into our station. I think about car accidents and car incidents, a head-on collision, which I walked away from and I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Bombs in Belfast, falling off walls, jumping onto the back of buses. There was a time where I lived were double-decker buses would come through the estate and we used to run behind them and jump onto the bumper at the back of the bus and stick our fingers into the engine grill and get a free ride to the bottom of the estate. Crazy. I should be dead already. I’m sure you have your stories that give testimony to the fact that grace has brought us safe this far and grace will bring us home.
God’s preserving grace is an amazing thing. It’s an amazing thing to think about the bullets that missed us. I think John Calvin’s right. When you look back on life, from the perspective of eternity, we’re going to see that the part of Satan was so great and the weakness of our flesh so feeble and the hostility of the world so strong that every day of our life, if God had not intervened, we would never have made it through 24 [inaudible]. It’s true. And that’s what Psalm 91 is celebrating. Psalm 91 is celebrating the bullets we’ve missed. Psalm 91 is giving testimony to the fact that in God we can know safety and security. Psalm 91 is testifying to the reality that God watches over His people. And I want us to come and look at this psalm, a psalm that gives us an assurance of God’s everlasting vigil over His people.
It’s the granddaddy of all the Psalms of trust. It’s an Old Testament expansion of Paul’s cry in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us who can be against us?” Look, life is dangerous. We know that. Corona has reminded us that on a scale almost unparalleled. Life is dangerous, but the danger is mitigated through trust in God. So let’s come and look at this psalm. As to the author in the background, we can’t be sure. The author is anonymous, the times are unknown. Some have argued that it could have been King David. Others have argued that it was Moses because there’s an interesting connection with in contrast regarding Psalm 90 and Psalm 91 and Moses wrote Psalm 90. In fact, there are echoes of the plagues of Egypt and the ex-citizen Psalm 91 that might give reason to a mosaic authorship, but we can’t be sure.
My friend, Steve Lawson suggests that perhaps we have here a royal commander or a military leader who is addressing the soldiers of Israel before they go into battle could well be the case. There is certainly military language that is listed throughout this psalm. Regardless of the setting, regardless of the signature, the message is clear. You and I ought to shelter in place. We ought to abide and dwell in God’s presence and believe, realizing that we live under the canopy of His protection. And although it does surprise us, it shouldn’t surprise us looking back on life, how many bullets have missed, how many scars we bear, how many times God extricated our necks from the noose. That’s the testimony of the psalm. So if you’ve got your Bible open, it’s Psalm 91. We’re going to look at three sections. And you’re going to see in this Psalm that in verses one to two the psalmist speaks to himself and for himself.
Then in Psalm 91 verses three to 13, the psalmist speaks to others and encourages their faith in the face of danger. And then in verses 14 to 16, God speaks to the psalmist as he speaks to others. The way I’ve outlined the Psalm is in verses one to two, you have the delivered, you have the testimony of a man who has been delivered because of his trust in God and he gives testimony to that fact. Verses one to two, the delivered. In verses three to 13, the deliverance as the psalmist encourages others to trust God for deliverance and the feast of danger. And in verses 14 to 16, you have the deliverer, we have the commitment of God in a series of I wills, we have divine intention communicated in regards to the preservation of the saints of God. Let’s look at verses one to two, first of all, the delivered. The delivered.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, and Him I will trust.” As we’ve just said, the psalmist is speaking to himself and for himself. The style is anticipatory, the tone is personal. Because God is my refuge and my fortress. There’s a clear and present danger that is inherent in the text. And the psalmist, like Dave revealed in first Psalm 30 verse six, he encourages himself in the Lord. He reminds himself that, “You know what? If you dwell in the hiding place of God Almighty, you will abide under the shadow of his care and keeping.” The psalmist is a witness to God’s grace in preserving providence. He’s not a victim to fearful circumstances and I love that.
I hope you’re not a victim in the midst of this coronavirus. I hope your life’s not falling apart. I hope you’re not an emotional puddle of fears and apprehensions. No. You’re a witness to the fact that God is worthy of our trust and when you abide in his presence, a sense of security, a shalom descends over your soul and you’re not a victim in fearful circumstances, you’re a witness to the sufficiency of God’s presence and power. Now, here’s a question. What does it mean to dwell in the secret place of the most high? It certainly could be the language of the Holy of Holies, the secret place, the place where the priest goes in, but once a year behind the curtain, the place where God meets with his people, where the Shekinah glory resides in the tent of the wilderness or in the temple of Solomon.
But I think it’s not just the language of the Holy of Holies, I think it’s the language of hospitality. This word, “To dwell in the secret place,” the secret place could easily been translated to hiding place. But the word dwell there speaks of coming as a guest into someone’s home. In the eastern culture, when someone entered your home, they came under your protection. When someone entered your home, they come under your protection. That was a [inaudible] custom. And it seems to me that might be the simple reading and the broadest reading. What does it mean to dwell in the secret place? It means to approach God, to abide in His presence and to come under His protection. It’s to draw near to God through prayer and scripture reading and public fellowship and private devotion. But here’s the point, here’s the takeaway. Here’s what works for Monday morning.
Those who abide in God, those who make God their dwelling place don’t need to hide from danger. This isn’t about hiding from danger. This man’s life was full of danger. Those to whom he will speak in verses 13 to 16 lived in the face of danger. That’s not the issue. This isn’t a promise that God will hide you from danger. This is a promise that as you hide in God, you can exist with common confidence in the danger because you’re abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. This is about approaching and abiding in God’s presence. To update it in new covenant language, this is about going through Jesus Christ into the presence of God. Hebrews 4, 14 to 16, approaching the throne of grace, coming in our need and finding grace and help and mercy for our particular situation. It’s Hebrews 10, 19 to 25 where Jesus Christ, through his death, burial and resurrection, through his atonement and resurrection, he has opened up on you in a living way whereby you and I can come into the Holy of Holies.
We can go into God’s presence through Jesus Christ, our advocate and our great high priest. What a friend we have in Jesus. You see all our sins and griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God and prayer. And oh, what peace we often forfeit. And oh, what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God and prayer. And really that’s what Psalm 91 verses one and two is encouraging us to do. The life that is overshadowed by a sense of God’s grace, greatness, and glory which is discovered and experienced in worship, private and public, the life that is overshadowed by that reality is never overwhelmed by life’s reality. That’s what we’re being taught here. When you dwell and hide in God’s presence, you abide under the shadow of the Almighty. And when you’re overshadowed by the greatness of God, life can’t overwhelm you.
Drawing near to God pushes fear away. Corrie ten Boom said to a group of English ministers one day on a train platform, as she was leaving having been with them for ministry, she said, “Men, nestle don’t wrestle.” Nestle don’t wrestle. It was her way of saying, “Guys, stay close to the Lord. Whatever your challenge is in life, draw near to Him. Don’t wrestle, just nestle.” That’s what Psalm 91 is encouraging us to do. In the midst of life’s fires, in the midst of life’s furnaces, nestle. Nestle. Approach God, talk to God, hear from God, worship God, love God, commit yourself afresh to God. But you know what? Sometimes we have to wrestle to nestle. It’s not easy to be still and know that He is God. The greatest fight in life is to maintain our walk with God. That’s the path to victory. Our greatest battle in life is to maintain our walk with God, to dwell, to abide in the presence of God.
That’s the key. The key to peace is seeking God, dwelling in His presence through prayer, worshiping with His people or worshiping Him in the confines of our own soul, meditating upon His word and the great and exceeding promises of that word. It is the depth of our intimacy with God which will determine the breadth of our bravery before man. Let me say that again. It is the depth of our intimacy with God that will determine the breadth of our bravery before man. You can’t use God as a convenience store. June has a supermarket she’ll go to on a regular basis. That’s her go-to place to shop. It’s not a convenience store, it’s a place where she likes the products, she likes the prices. But once in a while when we’re in a bit of an emergency, there’s a convenience store near us we’ll pop into just to meet a present need.
And you know what? We’re told here to dwell, to abide in the hiding place of the most high. And yet at times we use God like a convenience store. We ignore Him most of the time. Our Bibles lie closed gathering dust. Our prayer life is in shreds. Our worship is shallow and not encouraging. And we use God in emergencies like this, like a convenience that we pop in. That’s not going to work. It is those who dwell, those who constantly seek, those who constantly ask. It is they who will find the peace of God that passes all understanding. And let me remind you this, here’s the promise of this text. Dwelling with God and living for God is the safest path in life. He who dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow, the shed of the Almighty. He is my refuge and fortress. My God and Him I will trust.
And you know what? As you work your way through this text, especially verses one to four, there is image after image metaphor piled upon metaphor, the reminders that indeed dwelling with God and living for God is the safest path in life. There’s the idea of shed or shadow. If we dwell in the sacred place of most high, we shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Safety and shadow, safety and a shadow. But it is the presence of someone or something that casts a shadow. And this is the promise is you and I nestle and don’t wrestle and we nestle up against God in worship and discipleship and prayer and embracing the means of grace and trust Him. We live under the shed and the shadow of the Lord Almighty. It’s beautiful. Read here of that God is my fortress, my refuge and my fortress.
The word fortress is interesting. For those of us that have been to Israel, later on this Hebrew word was used to describe Masada. And all our trips to Israel, we visited Masada 1,300 feet up from the ground. [inaudible] summer palace, it was the place of the last stand of the Jewish people against the Romans. It was a massive fortification that took the Romans a long time to conquer. But unlike that Masada, this is a Masada that will never be conquered. This is a fortress God Himself that you and I can take refuge in. Beautiful. Look at verse four. “Under His wings we can abide. Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge.” This is the image of the mother hen, right? Didn’t Jesus use that image in Matthew 23:37? As he looked out on Jerusalem, the metaphors have changed. Once he looked at the people, they were sheep without a shepherd and his heart broke.
And then he looked out on the nation of Israel who had refused his wooing and his kindness and his love and he says, “You know what? I would’ve gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks but you wouldn’t come.” And you’ve seen it. I’ve seen it, the little chicklets under the wings of the mother hen. What a beautiful picture. Shadow, fortress, wings. Look at verse four, shield. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge. His truth shall be your shield on your buckler. The buckler was a small shield. The first mention of the shield is a long shield, a full body shield. God is your shield and your shield. It’s the full body shield. It talks about how God’s going to take care of us from head to foot, watch over us.
And so what we have in these metaphors piled upon metaphor, what is being nailed home is the security and the safety that’s found in the presence of God in the midst of danger. Remember, this isn’t a shielding from danger. This is a shielding in the presence of God in the midst of danger. Which would remind me, by the way, as we leave this thought, and you’ve heard this before, but this psalm plays it out. This psalm shouts it out. The safest place in the world is the center of God’s will even if that place is dangerous. That’s why missionaries have retorted to their family and friends who have said, “You shouldn’t go there. That’s a dangerous place.” No, the dangerous place is at home outside the wall of God. Remember what we said last week in Psalm 23? Better to be in the valley with the shepherd than on the mountains without him.
The safest place on earth is in the center of God’s will. And that is a will you discover when you dwell in His presence and you read His word and you open yourself to Him in prayer. Listen, the issue in life is not “are you near danger?”. The issue in life is are you near God in the midst of the danger? Don’t worry about danger being near. That’s not a problem if you’re near God and you’re in His will. Because I think this Psalm teaches what many have said across the years, a man or woman of God is immortal until their work is done. If God has got something for you to do, you won’t die until you’ve accomplished it. Psalm 91 is reminding us of that fact. Just recently I read a wonderful book on women of faith and courage by Vance Christie and one of the characters in the book was Corrie ten Boom and he tells the story in the book of how when they were living in Harlem in Holland, the Germans had set up a nurse strip there and the allies had come several times and bombed it.
And during one particular night during one of these early raids, Corrie ten Boom was awakened not only by the sound of what was going on in the distance, but she was awakened by the sound that something was stirring in the kitchen and she went downstairs and found her sister, Betsy in the kitchen and they joined each other for a cup of tea around the kitchen table. And after a while after the fighting had kind of tapered off, she returned to her bedroom in the dark. And as she was about to get into her bed, she put her hand on the pillow and find herself cut by a sharp object. She grabbed it when downstairs her sister, Betsy joined her and in the light they realized that there was a bomb fragment, a piece of shrapnel that had come through the roof of the home and onto her pillow.
And as they sat there, Corrie ten Boom looked at her sister and she said, “Betsy, if I hadn’t have heard you in the kitchen…” And before she could say anything more, here’s what her sister said, “Don’t say it.” Putting a finger over her mouth, she went on to say, “There are no ifs in God’s world and no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety. Oh Corrie, let us pray they will always know it.” Wow, that is the safest place, God’s will, which is discovered and lived out of a life that’s dwelling in God’s presence and pursuing His glory and worship. Let’s move on, verses one to two, what I called the delivered. The psalmist is speaking to himself and speaking for himself and giving testimony to where he’s at in life. “I will say the Lord is my refuge and my fortress.”
But now he introduces us to a second focus. The psalmist has not only been speaking for his own benefit, he has been speaking for others’ benefits. This is verses three to 13, what I call the deliverance. It’s one long, expansive, rich reassurance and restatement that God can be trusted to deliver and cover his people. Look at the language, verse three. “Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler. He shall cover you by His feathers.” Verse four. Look at verse seven, “A thousand may fall at your side and 10,000 at your right hand, but it shall not come near you.” Verse 10, “No evil shall befall you.” Verse 11, “For He shall give His angels charge over you.” Having spoken to himself, I will say of the Lord, he now speaks to others and encourages them to put their faith in God. That’s something we just don’t want to miss. The psalmist seeks to communicate a confident trust in God.
He wants to edify the community of faith. He wants to remind them that comfort and strength is found by trusting in God. Here’s the point that struck me. In a time of crisis, this man did not add to the crisis. He didn’t feed fears, he fed faith. You know what? There’s a lot of scaremongers on television. There’s a lot of scaremongers on the internet. And I am in no way downplaying the severity and the size of this plague and problem that we’re facing. And while we need to hear prudent warnings of the danger both at the national level and certainly within the life of the church, we need people to feed faith, not fear. We need people to generate confidence, to give people hope, to steady their nerves, to give them a place to look beyond the problem. Can I just challenge you?
Whether you’re talking on the phone, talking to your family or writing an email or posting a blog, don’t be a spiritual chicken little, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” That’s not the language of faith. Yes, we’re to be prudent, we’re to be realistic, but listen to the language of the psalmist. God shall deliver you. God shall cover you. God will be with you. Be a Barnabas, be a son of encouragement.
You know the story I’ve told before of the salesman who was on the road, he was on the back end of his time away from his family. He was tired, he was missing his wife, he was missing his kids and he pulls into a little diner off the side of the road one night. He sits down rather discouraged and the lady comes along and just plops the menu in front of him and he looks at it. And when she comes back, she asks him what he wants and he looks up with a kind of forlorn look and he says, “You know what, lady? I’d love the meatloaf and a kind word.” And she goes away. Sometime later she comes back. She just plops the plate down with the meatloaf on it and the mashed potatoes. She turns away and he stops her, says, “But what about the kind word?” To which she turns around and says, “Don’t eat the meatloaf.”
You know what? All of us need a kind word. All of us need to be encouraged. We need others to paint a smile on our face through what they share. Now, psalmist does that. I love that. Now, let me say this before we look at a couple of things quickly. I do want you to notice that the deliverance is required. The deliverance is required. We need to know that we abide under the shadow of the Almighty. We need to know that God is our refuge and fortress, that we abide under His wings and He will shield us in the day of battle. We need to know that because the dangers are many.
And if you read the language of verses three to 13, there’s an array of threats that are described. They’re seen, they’re unseen, they’re human, they’re demonic, they’re supernatural, they’re natural. I don’t have time to get into it all but the language of the snare of the fowler, the language of pestilence and plague, the language of shields and arrows, the language of wild animals and the wicked, it’s clear that this man acknowledging that for the saint of God there are plots to be survived. There are battles to be fought, there are plagues to be overcome, there are demons to oppose.
That could well be a reference to animals in verse 13, but sometimes animals are used in the Bible to speak of predatory people or demonic forces. And the fact that God gives angels charge over, that seems to infer that somewhere in the mix of this language, there’s a unseen war going on. There’s a spiritual battle going on. There are demons [inaudible] against the people of God, let alone natural circumstances. And you notice the threat level, it’s high and it’s constant. Look at those verses that jump out at us. “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night nor the arrow that flies by day nor the pestilence that walks in the darkness nor the destruction that lies west at noonday.” Day and night, midnight and midday. It’s constant.
I like the way someone has put it. Faith happens in a hostile world, not in the mystical ambient light of a gothic cathedral. Faith works itself out in the middle of enemies, not in the silent chambers of the soul or only in the company of folks who are purely intended. It’s true. Maybe I could illustrate it further, but remember that scene in the series, the Band of Brothers, which follows a company of paratroopers from their training to D-Day and through the European campaign at a marvelous testimony to these men’s resilience and courage? One of the things I liked about that was the live interviews at the end of each episode and one of the main characters is Lieutenant Richard Winters and how he was the mainstay for the men, a cool head, a good commander, brave. And there’s one scene in particular during the Battle of the Bulge where they’re kind of heading into danger. Now, some troops are leaving the front line.
One of them turns to Lieutenant Winters and said, “You know what? You guys are going to be surrounded very soon.” To which Lieutenant Winters replies, “We’re paratroopers. We’re meant to be surrounded.” We need to embrace that kind of spirit. We’re the saints of God. Amidst the wicked, we’re in the world but not off it. We’re the lambs, they’re the wolves. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and pars. We’re meant to be surrounded. It is a war. It is a battle, but we have a wonderful captain.
Now, let’s look at the deliverance here. The psalmist is right in end of his own experience. He has declared his own faith in God. He now turns to the community of faith and addresses perhaps a particular individual. Steve Lawson may well be right. Maybe it is a commander. Maybe could it be King David going into battle where he turns to a soldier or soldiers and tells them how God will deliver them and cover them as the arrows rain down as the war continues and sickness comes? Whatever the case, two aspects of the deliverance. Number one, the meaning and the means. The meaning and the means. Let me say this, this is a psalm about danger, but there’s a danger with this psalm. And the danger is we will overread its promise because at first glance, it seems to be a get out of jail card.
It’s not going to come now. You’re not going to get sick. The arrow’s not going to hit you, you’re not going to die. And if you keep reading that language, which is stark and dramatic, you could be in danger of overreading the promise that if you trust God, you’ll never be sick. If you trust God, you’ll never have a fight in your hand. You’ll be healthy and wealthy and wise. This psalm has been happy hunting, ground for the purveyors of the false gospel of health and wealth. This is a psalm about danger, no doubt, and there’s a wonderful promise from God in the midst of that danger, but we’re in danger of overreading it. If you look at the text, you’ll see that God promises to do one of two things. And remember that most men of God believe that we are immortal until our work is done.
In a sense we can be bulletproof, we can know a great measure of deliveranc.e But you know what? It’s not absolute all the time. The testimony of scripture is there to reinforce that. Our own experience tells us that. Reading a Christian biography and history is another voice in that argument. Now, here’s what’s being promised. We are being promised deliverance from our trials. Sometimes God does deliver us from them right out of them. He removes them or removes us from them. “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.” But I want you to notice verse four. Not only does God promise to deliver us from them or out of them, but he doesn’t always do that. There’s another deliverance and that is a deliverance in them, a deliverance from fear, a deliverance from surrender, a deliverance from spiritual collapse.
Look at verse four, “He shall cover you with his feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge.” God’s either going to deliver us from or he’s going to cover us in. That’s the balance. Be careful what you do with the text. Don’t overread it. It certainly gives us confidence, but it shouldn’t lead to recklessness and it shouldn’t lead to false promises. In fact, if you scroll down to verse 15, you’ve got both of those things together. What do we read? “He shall call upon me and I will answer Him and I will be with Him in trouble and I will deliver Him and honor Him.” Either God will be with us in the trouble or he will deliver us from it. There it is. In fact, could I remind you that this psalm was quoted by Satan in the temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You can write it down. Look at it later, Matthew 4:6 where Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple. Then he quotes Psalm 91 about how God has given angels charge over you so they’ll keep your ways and in their hands they’ll bur you up and your feet won’t dash against the stone. And you know what Satan is saying? “You know, if you are the Messiah, jump off, prove it to us. Prove Psalm 91.” What does Jesus reply? “You shall not test the Lord, your God.” Jesus is reminding us that while this is a wonderful promise that can be overread, it can lead to presumption, responsibility where it feels to strike the balance within the text, a balance that Warren Wiersbe preached about one day.
And after he talked about the troubles and the trials is sometimes God allows his people to go through and doesn’t deliver them from, a man approached him and chastised them and criticized them and said, “You know what? Haven’t you ever read chapter 11 of Hebrews, how God delivered all of those heroes of the faith, Abraham, Moses and all the others who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, escaped the edge of the sword? What do you say about that?” And that’s certainly true. God did all of that and in some cases God will do all of that. But Wiersbe didn’t stop and he wasn’t intimidated by the man’s answer because he knew his Bible and he knew the balance of the Bible and he knew the danger of overreading promises.
And he went to the man, he said, “But what about verse 35 in Hebrews 11 where it talks about others? Others who were tortured and refused to be released, others who were flogged, chained and put in prison, others who were sawn in two.” So the meaning of the deliverance is that God will either deliver us from, and that’s a wonderful thing and he has and he does, but he will also cover us in and he will deliver us from surrendering to the circumstances and caving into our fears and becoming a prisoner to our anxieties.
That’s the meaning of the deliverance. What about the means of deliverance, quickly? The means of deliverance. The text shows that the ground of our promised deliverance comes from several sources. I’m going to just camp really on one of them and mention the other two, but I love this thought. The real security is finding the nature and character of God. The nature and character of God. See, God is described in the opening verses with four wonderful names that reveal his glorious nature and his glorious character. The breadth and depth and height of God’s being can only be described in a variety of titles and names. He’s the most high, Elyon. The God who is above all, the God who presides, the God who is sovereign, the God who is the king of kings and Lord of lords. He’s the Almighty. He’s El Shaddai. He’s the all sufficient one, adequate for every situation.
He’s the Lord which is capitalized. That’s Yahweh or Jehovah. He’s the self existent one. He’s the one who keeps covenant with his people as he introduced his name, the Moses and mid-covenant with him. Then he’s Elohim, the powerful God, the God who surpasses all that we can imagine. Here are four good reasons to believe. Here are four good reasons to hope. Here are four good reasons to calm down. Elyon, El Shaddai, Yahweh, Elohim. He is for us. And if He is for us described partially by these four glorious names, then who can be against us? I love also what Christopher Ash says in his commentary on the Psalms. “Putting these four together stresses that the person in view is not placing their trust in some vague self-defined spirituality, but in the covenant creator of the Bible. This is a self-description of God within His word where we’re given windows into His person and our security is based on the perfect unchangeable, unrivaled nature of God effective.”
You’ll scroll down to verse 14. You’ll notice these words. “As God and I speaks because He has said His love upon me, therefore I will deliver Him. I will deliver him on high because he has known my name.” When you know the names of God, when you understand their significance, when you read your Bible and see them worked out in redemptive history, what peace comes? What confidence is found? What strength becomes real? Read the life of Martin Niemöller contemporary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a former U-boat captain, Lutheran pastor, one of the finders of the confessional church in Germany that opposed a Nazification of the German church. In 1934, he was hauled before Adolf Hitler who berated him and other Lutheran pastors and basically told him, “You stay out of national business. Preach in your church, take care of your people, but you leave the nation to me.”
And Martin Niemöller spoke up and he said that it was God’s will for him and the whole church to speak the whole council of God to the whole of the people. Hitler didn’t say much. But you know what? His actions spoke louder than words. Within a few days a bomb went off in the vestry of Martin Niemöller. Not too long after that, he himself was arrested, imprisoned. And after some time in imprisonment in 1938, he was brought to trial. And at that moment, the cold bony finger of fear stuck itself in his face and he began to kind of lose it a little bit. He wondered about friends and family and his future. And he was going through an underground tunnel from his prison to the trial in Nuremberg. With all of these fears now gripping his soul, he heard a whisper. He didn’t know where it came from. He wondered what was it? Was it supernatural?
But then he realized it had come from the guard who was taking him to his trial. And the whisper communicated these words. Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe.” And you know what? His fears melted away in the light of that truth. In the midst of Corona, in the midst of an uncertain future, in the midst of pestilence and plague, my friend, is the name of the Lord not a strong tower? El Shaddai, Yahweh, Elohim, Elyon, sufficient, covenant keeping, Almighty, above all. You nestle, you won’t have to wrestle with fear and anxiety because you’re abiding under the shadow of that God. In Him, you can put your trust. He’s your fortress, He’s your refuge. Now, I don’t have time to develop the other two means of grace regarding this. I’ll just throw them your way.
Psalm 91 verse four, “He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings shall you take refuge. His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” I love the new living translation. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. His truth is revealing his word in the 66 books of the Bible, in the two covenants old and new. We have all the great and exceeding promises of God to us, His people and they are like armor. Truth understood and truth undertaken makes us bold and makes us brave. And it puts our enemies to flight. Don’t forget that we saw an element of Jesus temptation in that the devil knows his Bible and can misapply it, which is a dangerous thing. When you misinterpret and misapply a text, you’re in danger. But when you live that text and apply that text, you’re in sure and safe ground.
And Jesus fought the devil and overcame his circumstances with these words. It is written. The word of God was his armor. In fact, we’ll change the metaphor. Here, we have the word of God as a shield. In Ephesians six, it’s a sword. The sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, helps us in the fight. And may we embrace that. For some years my wife, June read Spurgeon’s checkbook of faith and it was an encouragement to her. And I always loved that image of The Checkbook of Faith and his book had many, many of the great and exceeding promises of God. And do you know why he called that book The Checkbook of Faith? I’ll let you hear his words about the promises of God. As you read them over one after the other, you need to say to yourself, “This is my checkbook.”
I can take out the promises as I want them, sign them by faith, present them at the great bank of grace and come away enriched with present help in time of need. Oh, my friend, as you read the promises of God word, turn your checks into cash. But there’s one other element of this, the angels of God. The angels of God. I’d love to develop it. It deserves a sermon itself, the ministry of God’s angels. But here in verses 11 to 12, we read these words, “For he shall give his angels charge over you.” Now, remember where we’re at in the sermon. We’re looking at the meaning of the deliverance. It’s either to deliver us from or to cover us in. And what is the means of the deliverance? Trusting God’s character, worshiping before God and embracing what he is and taking that item to life, believing the promises of God and they will become armor to you.
And then on top of that, God takes his secret service agents, the angels. He’s the Lord of hosts. He’s the Lord of heavenly armors and he charges them to take care of you and me. And the reason I call them God’s secret service agents for although you’ll find them manifest within redemptive history in terms of judgment in terms of a announcing a great epic within the redemptive story, either at the birth of Christ, sometimes miraculously and manifestly coming to the rescue of God’s people, most of the time you and I will enter angels unaware. Okay, Hebrews 13 verse two. We’re just not going to see what they are and what they do. We’re going to be like Alicia’s servant in second King six 16 to 17, whose eyes had to be open to realize that the angels of God were all around him and Alicia and there were more for them than against them.
But most of the time we don’t see that. We’ve got to believe that. But all the time God’s angels are working in the life of the church in the invisible war with satanic forces holding back their hurt and their harm. Ministering through us, strengthening us like the angels strengthened the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s a beautiful thing. I don’t have an angel story, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have an angel story. You say, “Pastor, that’s a contradiction.” No, it’s not. I don’t have an angel story, but I’ll bet you I have an angel story because most of the time I won’t see what they do. Hebrews 1:14, a beautiful verse. “God sends His angels to watch over those who will become heirs of salvation.” They’re some of the reasons the bullets miss. I have a sneaking suspicion and a [inaudible] suspicion, I was driving one night with several friends in the car, showing off to be honest about it to my condemnation.
Couple of girls in the car, putting the pedal to the metal. Was on a coast road in Northern Ireland, lost it on a corner and I got it back. And I don’t know how I got it back. In fact, my son said, “I can’t believe you got the car back.” And I kind of took credit, go, “Well, it’s just me.” If I have a sneaking suspicion of an angel story in my life, something, someone grabbed that wheel and controlled that car. That’s as far as I’ll go, but I don’t need to know that’s an angel story. All I need to know is that He has given His angels charge over you and me. There’re a means of protection. Don’t discount your personal protection detail, which are called the angels of heaven. Okay, time’s gone. I’ll just touch on verses 14 to 16 because they’re so wonderful, but I think I can get the gist of them to you because we’ve looked at the delivered verses one to two and the deliverance verses three to 13.
But what about the deliverer? “Because He has said His love upon me, God is now speaking of the psalmist and the faithful sense of God that trust Him. Because he has said His love upon me, therefore I will deliver Him. I will set Him on high because He has known my name. He shall call upon me and I will answer Him. I will be with Him in trouble. I will deliver Him and honor Him. And with long life I will satisfy Him and show Him my salvation.” Having spoke to himself, having spoke to others, the psalmist now finds God speaking to him. As he seeks to confirm the faith of others, God confirms his faith. Here’s what God does for people that trust Him, are loyal in their love to Him, who know him intimately through His name, who pray. Because it’s a certain type of person will enjoy this certain type of protection. And that certain type of person, the believing believer, the praying saint, the devoted disciple, the worshiping soul, they come to enjoy a subtle sense of God’s presence based upon as we close, a sevenfold promise from God.
When we’re done, keep your Bible open and go back over verses 14 to 16. “I will deliver Him. I will set Him on high. I will answer Him. I will be with Him. I will honor Him. I will satisfy Him. I will see of Him.” These are the blessed assurances of Psalm 91. This is a pledge from God Almighty of His self involvement based on grace and the covenant of His love toward His people to get involved in your life and my life. Here’s what He will do, no doubt about it. Sure as shooting, God will deliver us. God will set us on high. God will answer our prayers. God will be with us. God will honor us. He will satisfy us with a long and a full life and He will show us his salvation. R. C. Sproul is right when he said, “God doesn’t simply command courage with no reason behind it.”
In nearly every incident where God says, “Fear not,” there follows a reason to have courage. And that reason is God himself, His nature and His perfect plan. A minister tells this story as we close of a man and a woman who were giving their vows during a marriage ceremony and the minister turns to the groom in that wonderful, joyful, serious moment and says to the groom, “Will you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife?” And he turns and he says, “Well, I’ve been thinking, actually.”
And the ministers kind of taken aback. There’s a ripple through the congregation. And the minister catches himself and says, “You know what? Well, that’s good that you’ve been thinking, but actually I’ve asked you a question. Will you?” To which the groom replies, “Well, when I get thinking, I do get excited when I think about her.” The minister looks at him and says, “Well, I’m very glad you get excited when thinking about her, but I’ve asked you a question. Will you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife?” After a long pause he says, “I will.” The minister turns to the bride and he says, “Will you take this idiot to be your lawful wedded husband?”
I don’t know if she said yes or said no, but I want to tell you, read the I wills of Psalm 91, 14 to 16. God doesn’t stutter. There’s no ambivalence. You’re going to read about what God, a covenant God, a sufficient God, a glorious God will do for His people. And whatever you’re going through, it doesn’t matter what men can do to you, it doesn’t matter what diseases can do to you. God is your refuge and under His wings you can abide. Let’s pray. Father, we thank you for your word, grit, peace of they that keep your law.
And in the midst of this trial, in the midst of this global pandemic, may the church be a witness to the peace of God that passes all understanding. Lord, we thank you today, looking over our shoulder for the bullets that missed. We thank you you have proven yourself, you’ve delivered us from and you’ve covered us in. And we thank you that what you were, you are and you shall be. Lord, we want to marry ourselves to the I wills of Psalm 91. We want to find our refuge in the nature of God, not the nature of the situation, not the nature of our human health, but in the nature of an ever lasting, almighty sufficient God who covenants in love and mercy to indeed save his people. Lord, we thank you you’ve saved us physically from harm and danger. We thank you you’ve preserved our life to serve you.
We are immortal until our work is done. We thank you you’re saving our soul. We thank you you continue to save it from the penalty and par of sin. We thank you someday you’ll save of it from the very presence of sin. Lord, we celebrate today with the psalmist. The fact that he who dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my strength. In Him will I trust. We pray it all in Jesus’ name. Amen.