Our Rescuing God
Read: Psalm 91.1-16
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
Psalm 91.11-12 (NRSV)
The theme of Psalm 91 is the protection that God gives to those who trust him. Consider the number of words used to describe the act of protection: “shelter,” “shadow” (v. 1); “refuge,” “fortress” (v. 2); “cover,” “shield and buckler” (v. 4); “dwelling place” (v. 9). This psalm may have been part of a liturgy performed by those entering or leaving the temple (the shelter of the Most High) seeking God’s safekeeping from dangers physical (robbers) and spiritual (demons).
According to the Hebrew, this psalm begins with the testimony of the psalmist. “I will say of the Lord . . .” (v. 2). He invites his listeners to likewise put their trust in the Lord (vv. 4-13). At the close, God makes the promises; “I will show them my salvation” (v. 16). God is referred to as “the Most High” (elyon) and “the Almighty” (shaddai) because God is able to protect from every peril. There are unexpected dangers like the snare set by a trapper and there are overwhelming threats like a fatal plague (v. 3). God’s sheltering is personal like a parent (a bird extending his wings) and it is pervasive like a soldier’s shield and buckler (surrounding armor, v. 4). God is present to deliver day or night, in deepest darkness or at high noon (vv. 5-6). The “scourge” and “plague” sound like diseases but they could also be demonic spirits; the “wings” could be those of the cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant. Or they could belong to the “guardian angels” (see Exodus 23.20) dispatched by God to keep close watch lest that slightest threat comes near (vv. 11-12). Perhaps the most powerful and convincing verses are 14-16. The Lord says those who have “set their love on me” know my name. Therefore, when they call, the Lord will answer. God will be present. God will rescue. God will honor. God will extend life. They will fully experience (see) God’s salvation.
There is a divine promise or an assurance of help in almost every verse of Psalm 91! One could easily call this the psalm of our rescuing God.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence