Turn to Psalm 91 in your Bibles. Your Bible might have a heading over Psalm 91 that says something like, “Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God” or “Security of the One Who Trusts in the LORD” or “Assurance of God’s Protection.” This is a psalm that tells us that God will be our refuge, our fortress, our shield, and more.
In short, God will protect us. Let’s read the first four verses to get the flavor of the Psalm—
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: My God; in him will I trust. 3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, And from the noisome pestilence. 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, And under his wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. (Psalm 91:1–4)
Does this psalm promise us that COVID-19—or anything else, for that matter—will not hurt us if we trust in the Lord?
Work through this Psalm with me now. We’ll see the source of our security and the scope of our security. Then we’ll step back and work on how to correctly read Psalm 91.
The prophet Jeremiah saw the Babylonians come and sweep through his homeland. He saw God’s city—Jerusalem—fall before a foreign invader.
Like us today as we face a virus sweeping our nation, Jeremiah’s world was turned upside down. Shops were closed. Schools were dismissed. Travel forbidden by the new regime. People died.
It was out of this time that Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations which, as the name implies, is full of complaints, depressing remarks, and laments. But there is a hopeful gem in the middle of the book where Jeremiah writes:
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21–23)
What did Jeremiah do to get hope? He focused his mind on the character of God. That’s exactly what we need to do at this time as well! We need to recall to our minds the faithfulness and the goodness of God. That’s what we’ll do in this lesson: let’s recall to our minds the goodness of God, beginning in Exodus 33—
16 And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, 17 And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. 18 And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. 19 So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. 20 But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. 21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. (John 6:16–21)
Like the disciples on the dark and dangerous sea, we live in a dark and dangerous time. The coronavirus, or COVID-19, is now regarded as a pandemic. Our nation is now under a national emergency.
The coronavirus crisis has people on one side scoffing and saying “Who’s afraid of a little flu?” and people on the other side saying that it’s time for government-run healthcare. It has excited those who love conspiracy theories and panicked many into buying toilet paper.
The coronavirus has caused much fear, and I won’t try to discount it—it’s something to be concerned about.
The passage that we have before us is a difficult one to place in the logical flow of the chapter. It starts with how the Pharisees loved money and ends with divorce and remarriage! How does it all fit together? I struggled with this passage and the connecting theme that I found was: how to be like a Pharisee.
14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. 15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. 16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. 18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. (Luke 16:14–18)
Let’s look and see how to be like a Pharisee:
13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16:13)
Yusuf Ismail, the original “Terrible Turk,” was a wrestling legend even while he was alive in the 1890’s. In his first match, against a champion Frenchmen wrestler, he pinned his opponent in four—four—seconds.
In 1898, he came over to the United States on a tour, where he destroyed opponent after opponent. For this tour, he received a massive sum for the time, $10,000, which he demanded in gold, not cash. He put this 40 or 50 pounds of gold in a belt that he kept strapped around his waist.
On the return voyage to Europe, the ship collided with another ship, taking nearly 600 people down with her, including the Terrible Turk. It is assumed that he was too greedy to remove the heavy weight of gold from his waist, and drowned trying to swim to a lifeboat. (See https://www.eurozine.com/the-life-and-death-of-the-terrible-turk/)
Money is something that can drag us down in many ways…including spiritually. Paul wrote—
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10)
How do we allow money to drag us down like the Terrible Turk was?