Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 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, or the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:1-6; 14-16
I’ve been trying my best to avoid writing a devotional on the topic of the Coronavirus just because I’ve witnessed some overreaction to the threat and I didn’t want to risk adding to the fears. Neither did anything I was coming up with to say seem fitting. Scripture can start to sound trite in moments of crisis, and since I wanted to make sure and offer only helpful words in my weekly devotionals, I was intending to stay the course and focus only on Lent.
But the situation is changing quickly and affecting us right here at home with the cancellation of our church services, the closing of our schools, and the careful health screening of our COC community. The time has come to interrupt our meditation on Lent and focus on the situation facing us.
Psalm 91 makes bold promises. It says God will cover, deliver, protect, answer, rescue, honor, and show salvation. This is a pretty exhaustive list. It affirms and builds on what we learned about God in Psalm 103. He is a good Father, attentive to his children and always at work on their behalf.
One of the reasons I chose Psalm 91 as the Scripture for this crisis-themed devotional is because of the use of the word pestilence. This is what we are dealing with in the spread of destructive disease. Verse 3 says he will deliver from the deadly pestilence. It is mentioned again in verse 6. The psalm says we will not fear the terror of night or the arrows that fly by day or the pestilence that stalks in darkness or the plague that destroys at midday.
This seems a rather outrageous thing to say. Anyone can get sick. Anyone can get shot down by a flying arrow of destruction. When disease seems to be everywhere and spreading out of control, who are we to claim any degree of safety and protection from it?
Look at the psalm a little closer. It is written to a certain group of people. That group includes those who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, and who find refuge in God. These are the ones who are assured, as verse 15 states, that God will be with them in trouble.
If we look further, we discover that there is one more phrase on which all the deliverance and all the protection depends. It is in verse 4: His faithfulness is a shield and rampart. There it is. We can take refuge in God and trust in him because his faithfulness shields us. The verse uses the word rampart together with the word shield. A rampart is an elevated mound of land with a fortress built on it for the purpose of defense. God is our shield, and he is our defense. He is faithful. We can rest and be at peace behind these layers of protection.
If you are wondering today how to make sure you are living in the shelter of the Most High, and want to continue to remain in his shadow, here are some ways to enter in for the first time, or to stay in that place and not wander away from God’s care:
Spend time reading the psalms. If you are like me, this book of poetry has been bred into you from a young age through song and prayer. I find that the words that surface in times of anxiety are words from the psalms. If you are new to the psalms, it is never too late to learn to love them and find comfort in them. Here are some psalms to consider reading over the next weeks: Psalm 23, Psalm 45, Psalm 84, Psalm 91, and Psalm 103.
Practice generosity. Find ways to share, to support others, and to give away. Those who find refuge in God are rich in so many ways that a frightened, anxious world needs. We can be examples of strength and peace, the very things so many others are searching for.
Continue with the Lenten practices of confession and prayer. This opens up greater capacity in our lives to trust God more deeply.
His faithfulness shields you. It sustains you in times of trouble, and it gives you a safe place to rest.
Eternal God, your Son is the healer of our sickness. We pray for those who are ill or who are passing through difficult times, that they know the love of friends to support them. May we all live in the power of Christ that sustains us. Amen.