While the adage ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is unproven, the adaptation ‘a psalm today keeps the blues away’ is true. We in South Africa are deep into a 21 day COVID-19 lock-down and, despite our best intentions, it is hard not to feel a little down and ‘blue’. It is at times like this that some of the Psalms of the bible take on fresh meaning for us, especially Psalms like 23, 91 and 27.
There can’t be many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, who have never heard all or parts of Psalm 23. It is probably the most popular scripture reading at funerals and it’s also sung in many forms and at many times.
In the context of our current time of crisis, read again what King David wrote all those years ago: ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…’
This is not necessarily a promise of immunity, but it is a strong statement of confidence in God. I will not fear – why? – for God is with me.
Psalm 91 is perhaps less quoted than Psalm 23, but what an uplifting composition, usually attributed to Moses. Its opening verse is just glorious:
‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of El Shaddai.’
The basic meaning of ‘El-Shaddai’ is ‘God Almighty’, but over the years bible scholars have attributed several shades of meaning to it, such as: ‘the all-sufficient one’, the one who is strong while we are weak and whose grace is sufficient for us. Remember that when Paul asked God to remove his affliction from him, the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In ‘younger’ days as a Christian, I used to love singing the song made famous by Amy Grant. Why don’t you listen to it now by clicking HERE – let its words speak deeply to your soul.
But Psalm 91 doesn’t end at verse one. The very next verse is a powerful affirmation which if we believe and speak will surely dispel fear and melancholy:
‘I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.“
Verses 9-11 and 14 then set out a conditional promise:
If you make the Most High your dwelling — even the LORD, who is my refuge — then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways… “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name”.
At another time I would write about the problems associated with when and to what extent we can personally appropriate promises like this. However, in this time of world, national, and personal crisis it is more important to simply ask the Holy Spirit to speak from this Psalm deeply into our hearts.
A great way to conclude a short article such as this is to direct you to some of the words in Psalm 27.
Verse 1: The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?
Verse 5: For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Verses 13-14: I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
May the Lord bless us and keep us.