Trust (Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16)
On January 1, 2000, Tammy, a 15-month-old RJ, and I were at my grandparents’ home in Indiana, and I became very sick. I had severe stomach cramping like I’ve never had before or since, and I probably had 50 bouts of diarrhea in about 12-14 hours. I was taking Imodium like candy, and it was doing nothing. Obviously, I needed a doctor, but there were no walk-in clinics at that time, and it was New Year’s Day.
Tammy drove me the 3-hour drive home with expectation of calling my family practitioner first thing the following morning. But, before 4:00 am, I woke up in the worst pain of my life. As I was screaming in pain, Tammy called my parents and said she needed to drop RJ off so she could take me to the ER.
At the ER, the triage nurse said I just had gas and nothing was really wrong—I wanted to punch her! The physician ordered a CT, and the results came back appendicitis.
The surgeon came in and checked me over before wheeling me to the OR, and said I had C. diff. instead. My GP had given me an antibiotic a few days before, and it killed the good bacteria in my colon and allowed the bad bacteria to flourish. I spent about 48 hours in the hospital getting strong IV antibiotics, and I still suffer from aftereffects.
I know you’ve all had your own health struggles at some point or another. Some of you have faced cancer. Some of you have faced heart issues. Some of you here this morning have suffered from COVID. Some of you have had broken bones or joint replacements or injuries or surgeries.
This morning’s text talks about serious illness and other fatal threats. In this psalm, God promised absolute protection from death. Yet, we all know we’re going to die, and the psalmist himself died. How can we make sense of this passage?
The key to understanding this passage is verse 8: “You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.” This psalm speaks about God’s bringing disaster upon the wicked. Throughout the Old Testament, God sent war and pestilence upon nations for disobedience. This psalm teaches—in that context—the one who faithfully trusted in God would not see that destruction; instead, he would see “the recompense of the wicked.”
What this passage teaches for us today is: “God protects his own from judgment.”
Scripture (Psalm 91:1-8)
These two verses are significant in the psalm for two reasons.
One: Notice the places of safety where the faithful person abides:
- Shelter—A place where one hides from danger.
- Shadow—The psalmist said that under the wings is where one finds refuge (v 4).
- Refuge—A place of security.
- Fortress—The place one is protected from attack.
Two: Notice the names of God:
- Most High—The One who is Sovereign above all.
- Almighty—The One who has all power.
The end of verse 2 gives the essence of biblical faith: “My God, in whom I trust.”
Notice the perils from which God would rescue the faithful:
- The snare of the fowler—This is likely a metaphor for those who hated the righteous.
- Deadly pestilence—Destruction and disease God sent upon the disobedient.
- Terror of the night and arrow that flies by day—A picture of foreign enemies coming upon the land.
The one who trusted in God didn’t need to worry when the foreign nations came—he or she would not fall. Instead, he or she would see the wicked punished.
“God protects his own from judgment.”
God no longer sends direct, physical punishment such as is described in this psalm. However, at the end of the age, God is going to bring eternal punishment on the wicked.
- “For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:8).
- 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.
- Hebrews 10:30-31.
- “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Rev 14:11).
- “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).
While God will punish the wicked in an eternal hell, those in Christ shall never see that destruction. The psalmist said at verse eight that the godly would simply “see the recompense of the wicked.” The godly wouldn’t experience that recompense; the godly would only see it.
Likewise, at the end of the age, the godly will not experience God’s wrath. “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly” (2 Pet 2:9). That’s the case because the godly are saved through the sacrifice of Jesus:
- “Jesus . . . suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Heb 13:12).
- “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn 2:1-2).
Since God protects his own from judgment, you need to be in Christ. Psalm 91, although written long before Christ, gives insight into how you should live in Christ. Let’s think about living in Christ in light of Psalm 91. How do you live in Christ and escape divine judgment?
One: You Need to Tarry.
In other words, you need to remain—abide, live—in Jesus. Notice how the psalmist opened his song: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” The words “dwell” and “abide” strongly suggest a lifestyle. Godly living allowed one to find safety in God.
Whoever abides in Jesus has no reason to fear judgment: “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 Jn 2:28).
How do you practically abide in Jesus? Quite simply: You obey him:
- “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 Jn 2:6).
- “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 3:24).
If you want to have no fear when Jesus burst through the skies “with his mighty angels in flaming fire,” you need to obey him.
How well do you obey God? What does your life this past week say about how closely you’re abiding in Christ? What do your plans for this coming week say about how well you’re abiding in Christ? Can you truly say that you are tarrying—abiding—in Jesus?
Two: You Need to Trust.
The psalmist trusted God. He declared: “I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (v 2). The psalmist knew he was safe when enemies and pestilence approached; he was obedient to God and had nothing to fear. He knew he had nothing to fear because he knew God is a God who keeps his every promise.
If you truly live in Jesus, you have nothing to fear from Jesus’s Second Coming. Instead, you have every reason to be filled with anticipation.
- You will be blessed and inherit the kingdom God prepared for you: Matthew 25:34.
- The Second Coming will bring “glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good” (Rom 2:10).
- Whether you are sleeping in the dust or alive when the Lord comes again, you will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air, and you will always be with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17).
- As you are always with the Lord, God will make all things new (Rev 21:4).
If you want to trust what God says about your future salvation, you need to do two things:
One: Understand God never lies.
God “never lies” (Tit 1:2). Therefore, every single promise God has made for the obedient (and the disobedient) will come true. Grasp that in your very fiber.
Two: Imagine what that day will bring.
Picture Jesus’s bursting through the skies in glory. Picture all the dead standing before him. Picture yourself standing there. Picture the Lord’s saying to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Picture the glories of heaven once you enter your reward.
As you picture that day, do so with only hope and expectation. Judgment—great judgment—will befall this world. However, in absolute confidence, you can know that no evil shall before you.
But that’s the key to trusting in God—faithful living in Jesus. Without faithful living in Jesus, there’s absolutely no hope of salvation. Are you faithful this morning? Do you need to begin a life of trust as we stand and sing?