Safe And Sound
For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone (Psalms 91:11-12).
Most readers recognize the Scripture selection above as verses quoted by Satan when he tempted Jesus to cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple to prove he was the Son of God. Most readers will remember the response as well: Jesus told him, "It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God" (Matthew 4:7)
I think you all understand it's wrong to test God's promises of protection by stepping into the path of an oncoming truck. Yet, there are those who fail to recognize the same spirit of obstinacy in simply expecting life to be all sweetness and light - and then complaining when it isn't. These same people seem to believe quoting the right Bible verse or repeatedly pronouncing the name of Jesus at the proper moment obligates God to fix everything. When it doesn't work the way they think it should, they complain - further testing the Lord (Numbers 21:4-6, 1 Corinthians 10:9).
Testimonies have been recounted and books have been written claiming that any Christian who daily recites Psalm 91 and lives uprightly will be protected from the many and varied calamities of life. But that isn't true. I do agree God watches over his people and protection is afforded those who walk in the footsteps of Jesus. However, that isn't the same as a life free from physical hardship or harm.
Does this mean the promises of Psalm 91 are false? Of course not. But there are three things we need to keep in mind when reading Psalm 91.
In the first place, our definition of "protection from harm" and God's definition of "protection from harm" are evidently different. For instance, we want to take everything in this psalm literally - even though the psalm itself suggests otherwise: you will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the young lion and the serpent (Psalms 91:11-13). Now, unless you're a member of a snake handling cult you understand this as metaphorical language. Indeed, it carries a much more powerful punch as metaphor than it ever could as literal language. Rather than get excited about the ability to handle poisonous snakes or wrestle lions without getting hurt, you should be overjoyed that Jesus has overcome the devil. He is the one who has crushed the serpent's head. He is the one who has vanquished the roaring, devouring lion. As a consequence if you submit to God, you can simply resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Granted, we may find metaphor, simile and literal statements in one psalm but the witness of Scripture directs us to understand this psalm in a spiritual sense as it applies to the individual Believer. Yes, we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). And those tribulations include things Psalm 91 says we will be protected from. The Apostle Paul provides just one example: from the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness (2 Corinthians 11:24-27, see also 2 Corinthians 6:4-10).
We will talk more about the teaching concerning righteousness (Hebrews 5:13) next week.
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