Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week the psalmist was excited and enthusiastic about praise of God. In its very beginning the psalmist told us how we ought to praise, saying we ought to shout for joy! I especially liked part b of the second verse – “make God’s praise glorious”. We were reminded that our praise ought to be magnificent and celebratory. We also mentioned “Glorious (Make The Praise)” by Karen Clark Sheard. This song seems to encapsulate the whole of what Psalm 66 was trying to convey.
Verses 16 through 20 closed the lesson with praise for God’s deliverance. But it was a personal reflection. The psalmist is writing about his own experience with a God who delivers, a God who hears, and a God who understands. Verse 16 says “let me tell you what God has done for me”. This is powerful. Telling your own testimony is authentic. Genuineness, authenticity, and being true are characteristics that have great impact on others. This should remind us that faithfulness to God is what God desires from us.
Last week’s lesson was the second in a series of love songs. This third week of love songs keeps us in Psalms, but this time in the third book of Psalms. The focus in this week’s love song is praise for God’s protection even in difficult and trying times in our lives. God’s work leads to praise and praise reinforces our love. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Living with God’s Loving Assurance”. Standard Commentary titles it “Our Rescuing God”. The Scripture text comes from Psalm 91:1-8, 11-16.
Nelson’s Bible Handbook lists ten types of psalms. Those include individual and communal lament, individual and communal thanksgiving, general praise, descriptive praise, enthronement, pilgrimage songs, royal psalms, and wisdom and didactic psalms. While the span of these types covers the height and depth of human emotion as well as the sweep of human condition, Psalm 91 is not included in this list. Instead, it is “probably intended as a psalm for public worship” (Townsend).
Psalm 91 is included in the fourth book of psalms which includes 17 other psalms ranging from Psalm 90 to Psalm 106. Its author is not definitively known but some commentaries attribute it to Moses. This poetic Psalm is written to the Hebrew people but its truths, comfort, and reassurance of a loving and present God applies to us today.
What takes place in this passage:
God’s protection is the central theme of this psalm. In this third and final week in the Psalms, we close this quarter with another love song. In this love song we see the presence, protection, and provision of God. The immediate poetic language of verse one brings a reassuring comfort. I especially like the King James Version description of dwelling in the “secret place” of the most high. The New Revised Standard version calls this secret place the “shelter” of the most high. This secret place or shelter is a place of protection. Verses one through three speaks to both protection and provision by a God who unequivocally cares. Part of why this psalm if so beloved is because of its soaring, poetic language. In verses one through six the psalmist reassures individual believers of God’s protection, while verses seven through thirteen speak to God’s angels providing protection” (Townsend). Notice the care mentioned in verse four. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge”. This is a poetic picture of how God protects and provides for believers. We can feel safe under the wings of The Most High.
Verses eleven through thirteen speak to “God’s angels providing protecting during times of warfare or pestilence or danger” (Townsend). We should take comfort in knowing God’s angels protect in times of trouble, distress, and trying. This can be a particularly comforting psalm for the battlefield soldier. Its poetic language and reassuring promise bring comfort to the troubled soul. It should also be noted that this is a poetic psalm. Verse thirteen should not be taken literally.
Finally, verses fourteen through sixteen close this love song “speaking in God’s name as the psalmist assures the faithful of God’s constant protection” (NISB). Notice “because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him for he acknowledges my name”. This is a love song and in this psalm we see God’s presence, protection and provision for the believer.
This psalm is all about God’s protection of God’s people. It is a poetic love song that reassures us of God’s love. What make this psalm so powerful are our own individual experiences. We can understand and relate to the feeling the psalmist expresses because we know what it means to dwell in the “shelter” of the most high. Having a close and personal relationship with God brings comfort in times of trouble. Knowing that God knows and God cares brings reassurance that God is with us in our times of trouble. God has not forsaken us.
Key Characters in the text: (None mentioned)
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Psalm – A hymn, sacred song, or poem. The book of Psalms (the Psalter) is composed of 150 religious poems of prayer and praise of ancient Israel, arranged in five books.
Praise – (from Lat. Pretium, “worth”) Honor and adoration given to God as a celebration of God’s being and worth. It is a constant biblical ascription and injunction that creatures should praise God as the Lord.
Assurance – the state of being assured: such as being certain in the mind or b: confidence of mind or manner: easy freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty.
Themes / Topics in this Lesson:
- God’s presence, protection and provision.
- How I know God is with me.
- My refuge and strength.
1. How has God protected you?
2. What things have come against you and God protected or provided for you?
3. This psalmist looked to God for protection and provision in the midst of trouble. Since this is also Black History Month, who are past and present Black Americans that has done the same in the midst of trouble.
Protection from evil and deliverance from trouble are or will be needed in each of our lives. We cannot live in a fallen world and not expect to face trial and tribulation along the journey. The good news is that God knows, God sees, and God cares. This psalm reassures us that God is present in our times of trouble and “with long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation”.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week begins the first lesson of the Spring quarter. March, April and May will focus on discipleship and mission. The first four lessons of next quarter focus on the call to discipleship with each scripture text from the Gospel of Luke. One lesson takes passages from Mark and Luke. Next week we will consider the ideas of humility and hospitality as they relate to our other relationships.