Revised Common Lectionary--2007
For May-Aug, 2007 click here
Easter IV (Apr. 29)
Acts 13:15-16, 26ff.
Psalm 23 (I)
Psalm 23 (II)
Rev. 7:9-17 (I)
Rev. 7:9-17 (II)
Easter III (Apr. 22)
VT Killing Meditation
Acts 9:1-19a (I)
Acts 9:1-19a (II)
Easter II (Apr. 15)
Acts 5:12-32 (I)
Acts 5:12-32 (II)
Easter (Apr. 8)
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18 (I)
John 20:1-18 (II)
Lent VI (Apr. 1)
Psalm 22 (I)
Psalm 22 (II)
Lent V (Mar. 25)
Psalm 126 (I)
Psalm 126 (II)
John 12:1-8 (I)
John 12:1-8 (II)
Lent IV (Mar. 18)
Luke 15:11-32 (I)
Luke 15:11-32 (II)
II Cor. 5:16-21
Lent III (Mar. 11)
I Cor 10:1-13
Lent II (Mar. 4)
Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18
Luke 13:31-35 (I)
Luke 13:31-35 (II)
Lent I (Feb. 25)
Deut 26: 1-11
Luke 4:1-13 (I)
Luke 4:1-13 (II)
Rom 10: 5-13
Epiphany VII (2/18)
Gen. 45:1-15 (I)
Gen. 45:1-15 (II)
I Cor 15:35-38,42ff.
Epiphany VI(Feb 11)
Luke 6:17-26 I
Luke 6:17-26 II
I Cor 15:12-20
Epiphany V (Feb 4)
Is. 6 (The Senses I)
Is. 6 (The Senses II)
Luke 5:1-11 (II)
I Cor 15:1-11
I Cor 15:1-11 (II)
Epiphany IV (Jan 28)
Jer. 1:4-10 (II)
Luke 4:22-30 (I)
Luke 4:22-30 (II)
I Cor 13 (I)
Epiphany III(Jan 21)
I Cor 12:12-31
Epiphany II (Jan 14)
John 2:1-11 (I)
John 2:1-11 (II)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (I)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (II)
Baptism (Jan 7)
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Luke 3 (II)
Lent I--Feb. 25, 2007
Bill Long 2/16/07
Psalm 91; The Divine Protection
Though your reading for the morning may not include the entire Psalm, it is a precious one and deserves full quotation:
"You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.’
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence;
4 he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling-place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honour them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.
This is a great Psalm of trust, a Psalm that exudes confidence in God's ability and eagerness to deliver those who trust and love God. I have most often recited it when someone I know is about to go on a trip or undergo a dangerous mission. It is celebrated in Christian hymnody by the familiar "Call Jehovah Thy Salvation." Sung to the upbeat tune "Hyfrydol," the words are:
"Call Jehovah thy salvation, rest beneath th’Almighty’s shade.
In His secret habitation dwell, and never be dismayed.
There no tumult shall alarm thee, thou shalt dread no hidden snare.
Guile nor violence can harm thee, in eternal safeguard there.
From the sword at noonday wasting, from the noisome pestilence,
In the depth of midnight blasting, God shall be thy sure defense.
He shall charge His angel legions watch and ward over thee to keep.
Though thou walk through hostile regions, though in desert wilds thou sleep.
Since, with pure and firm affection, thou on God hast set thy love,
With the wings of His protection, He will shield thee from above.
Thou shalt call on Him in trouble, He will hearken, He will save.
Here for grief reward thee double, crown with life beyond the grave.
The Psalm neatly divides into three parts: (1) vv. 1-2, the Declaration of Trust in God; (2) vv. 3-13, the Divine Protection in all of Life; and (3) vv. 14-16, the Divine Promise of Long Life and Presence. A word on each will suffice.
I. The Psalmist's Trust (vv. 1-2)
The words tumble over themselves in eagerness in vv. 1-2, words that confidently express the full range of the Psalmist's hope in God. We have tents and shadows and shades and hiding places and shelters and refuges. It is almost as if the Psalmist is trying to burrow deeply into the divine heart, confident that at the center of the universe is a merciful power who is quite worthy of his complete trust and who will afford him full protection. Some of the words he uses are richly reflected in other Psalms; space permits mention of only a few. "In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots; you hold them safe under your shelter" (Ps. 31:20); "For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent" (Ps. 27:5); "for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings" (Ps. 61:3-4). It is under the shelter of God's wings that the Psalmist rests. These wings are the "eagles wings" (Ex. 19:4) on which God has borne the people since the time of covenant-making. Thus, images of grace and protection fill these verses. It is as if they are a form a two-verse superscript or a synopsis of what is to come. Read these two verses and let the strong words resound and comfort. Then you are ready for the rest of the Psalm.
II. The Divine Protection--An Active Concept (vv. 3-13)
God's protection, celebrated in "static" terminology in vv. 1-2, is now dissected in "active" words in vv. 3-13. God is worthy of trust because God is there, in the midst of our lives and in creation, averting dangers and delivering from harms. Three ideas flow from these verses. First is the temporal extent of the protection. You are 'covered' night and day, darkness and noonday. These verses (5-6) remind me of the sense of frustration Job felt when he tried to approach God and God was nowhere to be found. Listen to Job's frustration:
"If I go forward, he is not there;/ or backward, I cannot perceive him;/ on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;/ I turn to the right, but I cannot see him" (23:8-9).
In contrast to the bleak assessment of Job is the confident assertion of the Psalmist. God's deliverence is 24/7, in the deepest nights and the brightest days. Nyctophobes and photophobes alike will be delighted that God's light is there in the darkness and God's shelter is there in the burning sun.
Second is the physical dimension of the protection. The Psalmist rises to rare rhetorical heights in vv. 7-8 when he talks about the thousands and ten thousands that may fall, without the one who trusts being injured. Saul may have slain his thousands and David his ten thousands, but no matter how many figurative corpses litter the landscapes of our lives, "it will not come near you." Has the Psalmist overplayed his hand here? Has he too confidently uttered words that might not be true? After all, soldiers die in Iraq. People who have trusted God have accidents. A minister friend of mine was killed in a car accident. I don't know the answer to this dilemma, but I know that the Psalmist is claiming things about God that we ought to claim for ourselves. Try it out. See if God is true to the words here. Third is the type of protection afforded--angelic help. In verses quoted by Satan, of all sources, in the temptation narrative (Luke 4:1-13), the Psalmist tells us how we are surrounded by these messengers of mercy. Let us see them, O God, and let the protection continue.
III. The Divine Promise (vv. 14-16)
Now that the Psalmist had gotten deeply into the act by his affirmations of trust, God speaks. God will "deliver" those who love God. The verb translated "cleave to me" (hashak-v. 14) also has rather deep Biblical resonances, especially in the Deuternomic tradition. In that tradition the verb emphasizes God's love for the people. "It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart (haskak) on you and chose you...It was because the Lord loved you" (Deut. 7:7-8). Or, "yet the Lord set his heart in love (hashak) on your ancestors alone and chose you" (Deut. 10:15). We love God; God sets the divine heart on us; we are protected; we know God's name. Call and response (v. 15) is the reality of our relationship with God. Then there are three words tucked in the middle of v. 15. Literally it reads: "with him I myself (will be) in trouble." What more could the one who trusts want, but the assurance of the presence of God? It is reminiscent of the discussion God had with Moses. God said: "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." But then Moses said: "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?" (Ex. 33:14-15). With God's presence in our lives, our salvation and security is assured. Thanks be to God.