1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
4 he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation
Good morning, First Presbyterian Church!
I’m recording this message for you about 16 hours before I get on a plane to Scotland. By the time you’re watching this, I should have safely arrived and, since it’s Sunday, I’ll be in the town of Aberdeen. I will have already gone to church, and might be enjoying my Sunday afternoon at a Scottish pub. So please don’t call me if you have technical difficulties with this video!
Today’s scripture reading, which you probably just heard, is Psalm 91. It’s a Psalm about protection from all kinds of dangers–everything from famine, disease, and warfare, to lions and snakes and accidentally stubbing your toe on a rock!
This Psalm has been a favorite for soldiers in just about every century, especially verse 7: “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”
This Psalm is the origin of the concept of the guardian angel, which comes from verse 11: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
As far back as the middle ages, this song was also a favorite for sailors, travelers, exiles, and people who had wandered far from home. That makes sense–people who live life on the road, or on the run, are often in need of just that kind of protection.
There’s something else that people who wander need and long for, too: home. As I travel in Scotland for the next two weeks, I know that I’ll see some pretty amazing places, I’ll meet some interesting people, but I’ll also know that I’m just passing through. I have a home, a refuge, a dwelling place. It’s in El Paso with all of you.
Some who wander have dwelling places waiting for them at the end of their road. Others–like those relocating (willingly or unwillingly) to a new city, a new country, a new life, may have only the hope, the dream of a safe dwelling place, a refuge, on the other side.
Psalm 91 reminds us that the only lasting dwelling place and the only real protection comes from the one who made heaven and earth. There’s a beautiful image in verse 4: “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.”
Pinions are the outer part of a bird’s wings, the largest and longest feathers. If you’ve ever seen the image of a mother bird stretching her wings over her babies to shelter them from the rain and the wind, you understand the kind of picture the psalmist is painting. That’s protection. That’s home.
As you wander through this life, sometimes it’s good to ask yourself if you’ve been dwelling in places where you should be just passing through? Or have you been passing through places where you should be dwelling?
But whether you are dwelling or just passing through…may you find your true and lasting shelter under the shadow of God’s wings.