Protective Force



A Study of Psalm 91

It’s a well-known truism that life can bring hardship and pain even to those who lead exemplary lives. You may be doing all that your church asks of you, and still some difficulty befalls you or your family. But being a believer does not immunize us against life’s upsets. While walking the way provides a large degree of protection, life on Earth falls short of living in paradise. We can, however, count on God to answer our call to be at our side as we traverse whatever difficulty we face. The text shows how God’s presence casts a protective shadow over us, allowing us to sense comfort amid the pain. This enables the believer to endure, even though the unwanted upset may continue. And since a shadow cannot exist without light, we are reminded that brighter days are waiting in the wings to return to our lives.

Pastor Paul from the pulpit

When life happens, whom do you call? When faced with some unexpected calamity, where do you turn for help?

Psalm 91 encourages us to live in the shadow of God. It is one of the most beautiful psalms, whose potent imagery and graphic language have proven to be a comfort to God’s people throughout the ages.

In the opening verse of the Message Bible, the psalmist makes a passionate plea:

– “You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in El Shaddai’s shadow.”

Those who do will learn what the saints who have gone before us learned:

– “God, you are my refuge. I trust in you and I am safe!”

The psalmist’s claim is based on experience, not hearsay. It is shared by many other believers. Only after spending time in God’s presence during hardship, loneliness, calamity, or loss do we discover He alone can provide the comfort we need.

Some will find it difficult to make such a declaration, even after the pain has begun to subside. These people will feel as though God should have prevented the calamity. Such feelings are understandable, especially given that the Bible says that …

… “the prayers of the righteous availeth much.”

I too once wondered why God did not spare the life of a person the church had been praying for until I read verse 16:

– “Call me and I will answer, be at your side in bad times.”

God has never promised we will avoid bad times, but has pledged to draw near to those who call out to Him during such times.

Death, sickness, hardship and calamity are a part of life. They will eventually touch everyone. However, God promises to manifest His presence during these times and respond when He is called.

Verse 16 helps to put Psalm 91 and all of God’s promises of protection and provision into context. These are not empty promises. There are many people who, through personal experience, have seen them realized. Skeptics remain, however.

Some folks will still wonder about the significance of being in the mere shadow of God. After all, what is a shadow? It is nothing from a substantive point of view. You cannot touch, feel, smell or hear it. And in the absence of light, you cannot even see it.

A shadow is beyond the scope of our senses. Because it cannot be grasped, there is no tangible element to it. A shadow is, by definition, elusive.

But here’s what a shadow can do. It forms a silhouette, an outline, a trace, an image of something or someone that is in the vicinity.

A shadow is the evidence of someone or something that is near.

As long as the entity is present, their shadow will also be present if accompanied by light. As long as the entity is near, their shadow will be a constant companion to all under its cast.

Think about this: a shadow can only be realized when there is light. The Bible makes clear that God’s people are children of light and, as such, we remain able to perceive His presence no matter how much darkness surrounds us.

The term shadow in the Hebrew means shade or canopy, and it conveys the idea of a protective covering. Literally, one should take shade in God’s presence or take cover under the canopy of God’s presence.

The name the psalmist uses for God is El Shaddai, which means God Almighty or the God who is sufficient. El refers to the power of God. Shaddai refers to God’s ability to nourish, supply and satisfy.

It was Abraham who first referred to God as El Shaddai. He did so when God told him in Genesis 17 that from his loins would come a mighty nation. Abraham was 90 years old at the time, and realized that only God could make such an event happen. Hence, Abraham invoked the name El (the God who helps) and Shaddai (the God who blesses with all manner of blessings).

It is in this context the psalmist urges us to take refuge and live in the God who is sufficient. God does not need anything from us, but He is able to provide for our every need.

The psalmist informs us that, if we turn to God and take refuge in Him, we will realize that living in God is a safe place to be. He says,

– “He rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you – under them you are perfectly safe.”

In Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place, the Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor chronicles how, during the Second World War, she and her family hid Jews from the Nazis. The Nazis arrested her and her family after an informant denounced them. But the Jews in her home had been so well hidden, that the Nazis never found them. Indeed, all but one of those Jews survived the German occupation of the Netherlands.

When we live in God, He becomes our frontline of defense, and everything must go through Him before it can get to us.

When we take refuge in God, we will also discover that living in God is a comforting place to be.

The text says,

– “Fear nothing… Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon.”

Douglas Maurer, 15, of Creve Coeur, Missouri, had been feeling bad for several days. His temperature was ranging from between 103 and 105 degrees, and he was suffering from flu-like symptoms. Finally, his mother took him to the hospital in St. Louis. Douglas was diagnosed as having leukemia. The doctors told him in frank terms about the disease. They said that, for the next three years, he would have to undergo chemotherapy. They did not sugarcoat the side effects, telling Douglas he would go bald and that his body would most likely bloat.

Upon learning this, Douglas went into a deep depression. His aunt, however, called a floral shop and arranged to have a wonderful bouquet delivered to him. She told the clerk that it was for her teenaged nephew who had leukemia.

When the flowers arrived at the hospital, they were beautiful. Douglas read the card from his aunt. Then he saw a second card. It said,

– “Douglas – I took your order. I work at Brix florist. I had leukemia when I was 7 years old. I am 22 years old now. Good luck. My heart goes out to you. Sincerely, Laura Bradley.”

His face lit up. He said,

– “Oh!”

There is an obvious irony here. Douglas Maurer was in a hospital filled with millions of dollars worth of the most sophisticated medical equipment. He was being treated by expert doctors and nurses with medical training totaling in the hundreds of years. But it was a salesclerk in a flower shop – a woman making $170 a week – who, by taking the time to care, and by being willing to go with what her heart told her to do, gave Douglas hope and the will to carry on.

There is comfort and peace of mind through living in God that gives us both the hope and the will to carry on.

The text says,

– “He ordered His angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they will catch you; their job is to keep you from falling.”

Several years ago, a friend convinced me to invest in the ADT home security system. They provide 24-hour protection. In the event of a breach, a signal is sent to the central command, which informs the authorities. Someone would be at our home within ten minutes.

Taking refuge in God is like having your own personal security system; you know that the perimeter of your life is always being guarded and if there is a breach, help is on the way.

I realize this is not a traditional Thanksgiving message, but I felt the Lord strongly impress upon me the need to offer people some comfort and reassurance during this holiday season. Especially, in light of the fact that our economy is recovering slowly, there are so many people hurting and in distress, and the holidays seem to bring clouds of melancholy to those who are alone. While I believe this message is applicable to anyone at any time, I personally want to invite and encourage everyone to sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night, and take refuge in the shadow of El Shaddai.

If you need something to be thankful for this holiday season, be thankful for God’s shadow. It is a symbol of God’s presence and nearness, and a port in the storm. If you are hurting, in distress, alone, or in need of comfort, please try God. Whatever your past experience, I would like to invite you to get to know God in Christ personally. For years I served the God of my parents, my pastor, and my grandparents. It was not until I met Christ that He introduced me to God, my heavenly Father. If you do not know Him personally, take a moment and acquaint yourself with Him.

Almighty Father,

I know and acknowledge that I am a sinner. I repent, right now, of all my sins, and I am asking you to forgive me. You said in your Word, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). I am calling on the name of your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and be my Savior.

You also said, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I believe with my heart that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead so that I may have eternal life. I confess Him, right now, as my Lord.

I ask you Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to live on the inside of me, and help me to live a life that is pleasing to both you and God, the Father.

In the name of Jesus, I submit this prayer.


Sunday 22 November 2009

May God Bless You

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