My Refuge and Strength/March 10, 2019

Second Baptist Lincoln 
March 10, 2019

My Refuge and Strength

Psalm 91:1-12

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[
a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

 

This past Wednesday, churches around the world commemorated the beginning of the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.  We don’t generally celebrate Ash Wednesday, but we do focus on the Lenten Season as a time to recommit our lives to Christ and focus upon the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  This year, I’m doing something a little different.  I’m going to preach from the Psalms during Lent.  I’ve never done a series on the Psalms, and certainly not during Lent.   I think the Psalms are perfect for the Lenten season as they seem to deal with suffering and the anticipation of God’s help and strength during a time of suffering and death. The Psalms are filled with songs of praise for God. In the Psalms, we find comfort and assurance, but we also find some fairly violent and condemning speech.   The Psalms are written by numerous authors, not just David. 

Today, we are going to be looking at the Psalm 91. It is one of the most beautiful and uplifting of the Psalms. Psalm 91 can be broken down into 2 messages. The first 15 verses are descriptions of how God protects us, and things He will do to make sure we are safe and the enemy will not harm us. The last verse is a promise of blessings the Lord will give to those who follow Him faithfully.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

This Psalm tells believers that when they have an intimate relationship with God, He will protect them. We live “in the shadow” of Almighty God and He indeed DOES cover us with His protection.   About three and a half years ago, most of you remember when I went with a group of pastors to Amsterdam and Hungary.  The very first day in Europe was in the city of Amsterdam in the section of Haarlem when the Christian heritage site of the Ten Boom House is located. 

It is a watch and Jewelry shop with a living quarters above it where Corrie, her sister Betsy and their father Casper lived during WWII.  When the Nazis began rounding up Jews and sending them to Ravensbruck, Auschwitz and other labor camps and death camps, the Ten Boom family constructed a room behind one of their bedroom walls where Jews could be hidden.  Eventually, they were caught when an acquaintance was captured and interrogated by police, and he told the police about “The Hiding Place.”

 Corrie, and Betsy were sent off to Ravensbruck and Casper, after only nine days in another camp, died at the age of 84.  Betsy eventually dies, and Corrie is eventually released.  One of her favorite passages was this Psalm 91.  Imagine as she reflected on these words of the Psalmist:

You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
 

 Knowing that she is not alone, and that God is with her at all times protecting her from enemies all around her.  Protecting her from the pestilence of fleas and lice, watching all around her as thousands are put to death in the gas chambers or worked to death in the quarries. 

None of us have experienced the horror of a Nazi death camp, but these words still ring true in all our situations.  Whatever we face, we are not walking through it alone.  Look at verse 2:  “I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  That is truly a bold statement by the psalmist.  Are we in a position to say that God is our refuge?  I mean TRUTHFULLY say it?  Do we really depend upon God to be our rock and redeemer, our refuge, our protections, our fortress?  

 I think we are more like the prophet Elijah where one day we are boldly standing up to hundreds of prophets of Baal and calling fire down from heaven, and the next day we are running through the desert hiding from our enemies.   One moment we are brave and saying “He is my refuge and fortress” and the next minute we are saying, “What am I going to do?  I’m in big trouble?  There’s nobody to help me!”  God tells us in verse 2 that He will be our refuge and fortress of protection. Verses 3 and 4 give the image of a bird providing shelter with its wings. They will be our shield.

 Think of a mother hen and her chicks.  The mother is seasoned and mature and has the instinct of experience, and is vigilant about her surroundings.  The chicks are weak, new to the world and the environment around them. 

 The chick is fragile and vulnerable just like we are in this great big world around us, but we are under God’s protection.  There is something soft, loving and safe about the mother-bird’s wings.    As the chicks bury their heads in the downy feathers of the mother’s underbelly, with the wings covering them from the outside threat, they are happy, content and secure. He says that we will be protected from dangers that are seen and unseen. Verse 5 talks about the terror of the night and the arrow that flies by day. The night hides dangers that try to creep up on you.

I remember in the movie that depicts Corrie Ten Boom called The hiding Place (We showed it here a couple years ago.)  Corrie was lying on her hard, labor camp bunk and silently whispering Psalm 91.  I’m guessing the night dangers were very real to her, but so was the love of God.  We have no reason to fear enemies who are covered by the night or those who strike during the day. God will protect us regardless of the scheme they have.

He goes on to say we should not fear plagues like famine, natural disaster, or anything that will threaten people or livestock. He is our shield. Verse 6 also mentions “pestilence that ravages at noon.”   This seems to be so far from our daily experience.  We don’t face this level of fear and physical danger.   Then I’m reminded of those whose lives were safe and secure, but then turned upside down by foreign invaders and war.   Here the psalmist is telling us that in Him we have a safe haven from thieves, wild animals, persecutors, and sicknesses. God is our refuge!

Verses 7-10 make references to disasters of epic proportion. Even though thousands will fall at our sides to catastrophe they will not harm those who seek refuge in God. They will not harm us.  God knows man cannot defend himself without help so He gives His angels the job of coming to watch over us.

An Englishman was a prisoner in a concentration camp in WWII. One day this young man read Psalm 91 and paused especially on verse seven: “though a thousand fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, it will not come near you.”   He cried out to God, “Lord, people are dying all around me. Will I die here too? I am young and I still want to serve Your Kingdom while on this earth!”   At that moment the Lord spoke to him and said, “Rely on what you’ve just heard, and walk to your freedom.” The Englishman walked to the first gate.   The German soldiers aimed their guns at him and said, “Where do you think you’re going?” He looked up at them and said, “I’m under the protection of the Most High.”  The soldiers instantly straightened up, saluted, and let the man pass through the gate. The Englishman then came to the outer gate and the same thing happened again.  The soldiers aimed at him and asked him where he thought he was going.  When he explained that he was under the protection of the Most High, they too, straightened up, saluted and let him leave the prison camp. 

That young man traveled the countryside and made his way back to England. He later found out that the soldiers secretly referred to Hitler as ‘the most high.’ The Englishman, though, was truly under the protection of the Most High God. He was the only prisoner to come out of that prison camp alive. 

 This Psalm is as powerful to you and me as it was to Corrie Ten Boom, the Englishman who walked out of the camp, or even the Psalmist who wrote it. We can have confidence that although we might face all kinds of trouble, God is our fortress and strength. 

It was in an apple orchard between the French villages of Saint-Lo (Sah-lo) and Cherbourg, France.  The troops spent 48 hours in foxholes or trenches after landing at Normandy.   It was in that apple orchard while pulling guard duty that Norval Jacobs felt God’s presence.  Norval and another soldier would pass each other as they jointly patrolled the parameter.  At one point, Norval found the other guard, “Whitey”, with his gun at his feet and staring blankly and unresponsive due to battle fatigue. 

 Norval was scared.  I remember him describing this to me just as he has to many of you.  He called out to God for help, and he said that suddenly God was right there with him and God’s voice assured him that he was not alone.  He said his fears were suddenly gone.  He knew everything would be ok.

 You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.


AMEN