Let us turn to Psalm 91. Psalm 91, and this is our third study - it may be, hopefully, our final study in this Psalm as we look at it together. Let's take time to read the Psalm, Psalm 91: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord", of Jehovah, "He is my refuge and my fortress: my God", Elohim, "in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation".
We looked in our first study at the safest place to be in all the world. Last week we looked at some more verses of this Psalm, and we looked at how you survive, how you get through life, with all that life throws at you. This week we're going to look at 'God's Guardians With Their Guarantees', the guardians of God with their guarantees.
It's true, isn't it, that travelling from theory to reality is a long journey. Travelling from theory to reality is a long journey. As one preacher put it, it is a 16 inch journey from your head to your heart, actually appropriating the truths of God into your everyday life - that when you face the problems that we've been talking about in recent days, you face them and that theory becomes your practice. That's what we've been studying in the book of Ephesians for the past year and a half or so, and we've seen in the first three chapters of Ephesians the theory, the doctrine, then the second half is the practice: how this doctrine affects your life.
As we look at this Psalm it's exactly the same, it's a long journey travelling from theory to the reality of how you face these problems in life. That was illustrated to me after I preached the last two weeks, and discussing these truths with some people - even in the foyer after the meeting - they were saying to me, and I was concurring with them and agreeing with them, it's so hard, isn't it? It's alright standing up here pontificating about the theory, but it's a different thing when you're in the reality, actually appropriating these truths and living by them. It's a different thing when you're faced, staring eyeball to eyeball, with these troubles. We might be able to say that, in that instance, talk is cheap! It's alright preaching on Psalm 91, but what do you do when that trouble is facing you? Do you really remember these things? I mean, let's be practical: do these eternal truths really kick in and do they come to your aid? Does God shelter you under His wing? Do you find that God brings you His protection and His peace when you are faced with the trouble? Does it work?
You might say: 'Well, I don't want to wait until I'm in a problem to find out whether this works or not. I want to know it works. I want some kind of guarantee, some kind of assurance, that this will work. I don't want to realise it doesn't work when it's too late!'. How do we answer that? Because that's a fair assumption that people will take when they hear these truths and go away and say: 'Well, it's alright for him, he's not experiencing what I'm experiencing. When you're in it, it's a different matter altogether!'.
Francis Schaffer, who you might term as a Christian theologian - or perhaps more correctly a Christian philosopher, in his last few months of life was lecturing in a Christian Bible College. He was asked the question by some of these highbrow students: 'Why are you a Christian?'. Why are you a Christian? They were all sitting with pen and paper waiting for a great philosophical or theological explanation, an apologetic renunciation of everything else, and a defence of Christendom. Do you know what he said? 'I am a Christian because it is the truth'. Now, isn't that it? I am a Christian because it is the truth. The person I heard telling this story was in the gathering, as he heard it he said it just enthused him. It was like an electric bolt to his head, he felt: 'That's it! It's the truth! Let's go and tell them! It's the truth, let's go into the world, we've got the truth!'.
Therefore there are two things we need to lay down as we look at this Psalm. First of all: that our duty is not to grapple with the truth, our duty is to state the truth. We have to preach the truth, and the truth is the word of God. No matter how hard the truth is, no matter in the reception of the truth how uncomfortable it becomes to us as human beings, and how difficult we find it is to live up to the truth, it does not absolve us of preaching the truth.
Now, that's the first thing: we must preach it. The second thing is our - your - responsibility of when you hear the truth, bringing your life into line with the truth. Now, I am not under the false assumption that many of us, including myself when I read this Psalm, find a lot of the truths very difficult to implement into my life and put into practice. Therefore I feel, perhaps, that we need a bit of a push - and I think the Psalmist believed that, that we need a bit of an assurance, we need a bit of a guarantee from God. 'How can I know', perhaps the Psalmist is saying in his heart, 'that this will work? How can I know that when I'm faced with trouble, faced with disease, faced with problems, faced with tribulation, faced with enemies, that You are actually going to do this? How can I know?'.
Therefore He gives us His guardians, and He gives us His guarantees. The thesis of this Psalm, the main point of Psalm 91 and the verses that we will look at today in the short time that we have left, is this: God has provided protectors, and God has provided His promises that assure us of His protection. How can I know? God has provided us protectors! How can I know? God has promised you that He will provide protectors and that He will protect you.
So let's look at this, let's look at how does God protect us. Now in verses 9 to 12 we saw last week that God reinforces, and as if - in case we forget - in verse 9, in case we forget that there is a condition on these promises in this Psalm, which is verses 1 to 4: you've got to dwell in the secret place of the Most High, you've got to abide under the shadow of the Almighty. In case, as you're going through the rest of the verses about all the diseases that you're protected from, and everything that could happen to you that's not going to happen to you because you're in God - in case you forget that there's a condition, in verse 9 he says: 'Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation' - 'I'm reminding you that this isn't unconditional. You have got to abide under the shadow of the Almighty, you have got to dwell in the secret place. You have got to make the Lord who has been my refuge, your refuge, your habitation - the Most High. When you make Him your habitation, the one who is Most High takes you out of everything, above everything, because He is Most High'.
Therefore we need not forget that this is the requirement that is before us, the conditions. But if we fulfil those conditions and abide in God, we will have God's protectors, God's divine protectors. Look at these verses, verse 11: 'He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways'. In verse 10 he says: 'There shall no evil befall thee', and we saw last week that that is not safety in a safe world. In other words God is not going to change this world just for you, you're in the world, you've got to go through the world - but the Lord has said to us: 'When you go through the waters, I will be with you. When you go through the fire, I will be with you in the fire'.
Daniel was in the lion's den, He took away the bite, but he still had to go into the lion's den. Now how can that be so? Are we just left up to our positive thinking when we're in the midst of trouble, that we know that it's not no afflictions, but it's no evil touching us? How can we know that the evil will not come nigh our dwelling? How can we know that in the real realm that we are living in, with all the problems, that we will have real protection at our very back door?
There's an interesting story that's told by C.H. Spurgeon. In 1854 he was just called to the neighbourhood of the Metropolitan Tabernacle that he served in for so many years, there in London. He had only laboured in that area for one year when the area was visited by Asiatic Cholera. He writes in his diaries that day-by-day he was burying folk, every single day, with this sickness. He notes that he became wearied himself, he says actually: 'I became sick of heart, because not only were my congregation falling, but my own friends fell one by one'. Eventually, as he was burying day-by-day, he began to feel that he was sickening a little bit like them, and he felt that he was coming down with the same sickness. Into the bargain he felt burdened with such a heavy burden to bear in ministering to these folk who were bereaved. He felt, he says, that he was sinking down underneath this. One day he recounts that, returning mournfully from one of those said funerals, curiosity led him to read a paper in a shoemaker's window on the Dover Road. Do you know what the newspaper said? Verse 9 and 10! 'Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling'. He said: 'Immediately relief and faith was applied to my heart, and I felt I was girt with immortality! I felt that God had just come down with His word and put a cloak of armour around me, that nothing could touch me' - that is what this word ought to do for you! It ought to gird you with immortality! It ought to make you realise that no matter what touches me, nothing can touch me out of the will of God if I put myself under the shadow of God! Nothing can harm me: 'I am immortal', as the puritan says, 'until God says I must go'.
How can we be sure? It's through God's protectors as angels, that we've read about in verse 11 - He gives His angels charge over us. Hebrews 1 and verse 14 says: 'Are they', angels, 'not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?'. Angels are our servants - that's remarkable, isn't it? When you go into the Old Testament Scriptures, and you look at what angels did there and the records of them, you find that many times they appear as warriors. One of the most prominent occurrences of that is in Joshua 5 and verse 13, by Jericho. There Joshua is and the Captain of the Lord of Hosts stands before him with his sword unsheathed - an angel! Indeed, I believe, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Angel of the Lord Himself - but yet there is a picture of an angelic being as a warrior, as an armour of God.
We read in Job that these angels witnessed the creation of the world: 'When the morning stars', angels, 'sang together, and all the sons of God', angels, 'shouted for joy?'. Warriors, beings that were present at the very beginning of all creation. As we go into the New Testament we find that they appear when the supernatural world breaks into the natural world. When there are cataclysmic events, spiritually speaking, taking place in humanity and in our world, angels appear - and the natural makes way for the supernatural. You can see that by the Gospels, the fact that angels appeared at the Lord's first coming, and as you go into the book of Revelation you find that angels will appear again at His second coming. You look through the Gospels at His birth, there are the angels declaring the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. You go to His resurrection, you find them there - an angel in the tomb, an angel rolling away the stone. Before His death in Gethsemane, as He peers into that cup that He must drink, as all of that agony was finished, then an angel came and strengthened Him. In Acts we read at His ascension that there were two men clad in garments of white, white apparel, beside the Lord as He ascended into glory.
These are the beings that we're talking about. We haven't even touched, we're only dipping our toe into the shallow water of what these angels are really like. There are other beings, cherubim and seraphim, that are reserved specifically for God alone. But these angels are great, awesome beings, ministering spirits - and the miraculous thing about it is this: they're there for us! The Lord said in Matthew 18 and verse 10: 'Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven'. I know specifically He was speaking, perhaps, of children - but I believe when the Lord speaks of 'little ones' He was speaking of His ones. Our angels, your angels, continually behold the face of our Father in glory. Guardian angels who are, the word of God says, an expression of the love of God to His little ones.
You read in 1 Corinthians 11, with regard to headship and head covering, that the angels look down at decorum within the assembly. These are great beings! They're looking down at this very moment at how we are conducting ourselves in the church of God which we are! In Revelation we find that they are the mediators of God's judgement, they are the ones that announce and declare the judgement of God. We find them in Acts acting on behalf of the Apostles, making God's will known to men. It's amazing that there are creatures such as this, but we don't worship them. We must say that: we don't worship them. They are great beings, but we do not worship them - and in fact Paul rebuked worshipping angels, because some of the Gnostics, a sect of Christianity, a heretical sect in the early days, were starting to worship angels. He had to declare that Christ was made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they!
Now the mistake that I don't want you to make going away from this meeting this morning is to do what a lot of Christians do, and that is getting obsessed with angels. You miss the point when you get obsessed with angels! They are our guardians, they are powerful beings, but what does this Psalm say they are? They are the figure of God's protection of your life! If you see the angels and don't see God's protection you're missing the whole point! You see, what God is wanting us to do through this Psalm is to look by the angels, to recognise that Christ has ordained these angels to guard us. They are not our focus, His protection of us is our focus, they are only the means of it! We're not to be angel-spotting, and 'I've seen an angel', and 'An angel talked to me about this, and that, and the other'!
What does God want us to do through this Psalm? What have we been saying? He wants us to see past the temporal, past the disease, past the cancer, past the disability, past the problems in work, past distress in the home from children or parents, or husband or wife - He wants us to see past, and to see that God is able! If we fail to see past, and get taken up with all the angels and their wee wings that we think they have, we're missing the point.
Do you see it? Are you starting to get an eternal perspective? It's not 'Have you seen an angel?', but 'Have you seen God's protecting power in your life?'. Let me give you an illustration of this, and I'm going to take my time - we'll be into next week by the looks of things, again. Second Kings and chapter 6, if you want to turn to it, 2 Kings chapter 6 verses 16 and 17. Elisha's servant is seeing the armies round about the city, and it's making him afraid, and Elisha knows that his servant is afraid. His servant turns round to him, and does this capitulate what your expression is, and the voice of your heart when you face problems? 'What will we do? What are we going to do? Look at all these armies, everything's against me, everything's coming in around me. I'm getting that feeling, psychologically, of claustrophobia. I don't know where to go, I don't know what to do. What will we do?'. 'And Elisha answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha'.
Now, what did he need to see? Did he need to see angels? No! He needed to see that they that are with us are more than they that are with them. That's what you need to see. Do you see everything that's against you? They that are with you are more than they that are with them! Is that not true my friend? That is that faith injected from the word of God into your heart, to realise that God is for you! And if God is for you nothing can be against you! To realise that the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivers them!
Verse 11: '[They are] given charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways' - in all thy ways. I think that's beautiful, you know. Nothing is too small, in your minor problems, in your major problems, in everything in life there is a genuine guarantee that if you trust in God - don't try and prove God: 'Lord, I want to see an angel today to know that You're protecting me', for if you do that and if you're dabbling in the supernatural in the sense of trying to prove God and see things and hear things, there is a great danger that you commit the sin that the devil committed as he tempted the Lord Jesus when he quoted this same verse. Because he said: 'You throw Yourself off the temple, and He says' - Psalm 91, and the devil quoted the verse - 'He shall give His angels charge over thee' - and he left out these words 'to keep thee in all thy ways' - 'They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone'. If the Lord, you know, was throwing Himself off the temple for the devil, He wouldn't have been keeping Himself in the way of God, would He? That's why the devil left it out. But what was the verse that the Lord quoted to him? 'Thou shalt not test...' - do you want to see angels? Do you want Me to jump off the temple? Don't test God!
What do we do? We don't test Him, we trust Him! It says: 'They shall bear thee up' - do you know what that picture is? I think it's the picture of a mother holding up a sick child in her arms. As the Psalmist said: 'When I said, My foot slippeth' - 'I'm going down, Lord. Lord, I'm going, I can't hold myself, I'm getting bogged down with all these problems' - when I say that: 'Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up'! 'Thou shalt not dash thy foot against a stone' - I mean, that's not a big deal, is it? Tripping over a kerb stone and cracking your toe - the Lord is saying: 'Even those small things, I will look after you in'.
Its official: 'He shall give His angels charge over thee'. It's personal: 'over thee'. It is constant: 'in all thy ways'. To tread, look at verse 13, tread upon the lion and the cobra - all evil, a general metaphor for protection from deadly attacks, poisonous venom of a serpent's fangs. The cobra which can't hear its charmers, nobody can tame it, but God can tame it! Is that not a picture of Satan, who is called in the word of God a roaring lion, an old serpent, a red dragon. What the word of God is saying is: even the fiercest, the strongest, enemy of God and man can be trampled!
What must it have been, as I finish, what must it have been for the Romans? Paul writes them a letter, and we can't really enter into the problems that they were facing day-by-day: the persecution, all the tribulation that they were facing. Paul writes them a letter, and in chapter 16 he sends all the greetings to the folk within the church, and then in verse 20 at the very end - you can see them, I can imagine them sitting at the edge of their seat waiting: 'What does Paul have to say to me finally?'. He says: 'The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly'. What must that have been!
If you dwell in God, my friend, you will have protection from Satan's traps, you will have inoculation from sin's diseases, you will have deliverance from fear in the night and anxiety by day, you will have the prospect of the punishment of your enemies - you don't need to worry about retribution, for God is the Judge of all. You will have a holy domestic home if you dwell in God. You will have the 'supernatural secret service' at your elbow. You will have victory over every enemy, and you will have complete protection in whatever befalls you.
Can I ask you, this is the truth now - this isn't experience speaking, this is the truth: what is there to worry about? What is there to worry about? May it penetrate your heart and soul today.
Let us bow our heads, in these closing moments ask yourself: 'Have I let, or can I let, the word of God transfuse into my heart?'. My friend, if you do let it, it will make all the difference. Father, we thank Thee for the word of God, and for the help it is to us. Lord we pray that, as we have now known the truth, that through knowledge of the truth that the truth may make us free. If we let it, and let the Holy Ghost of God work in our hearts, and weave this truth around our souls, we shall be free indeed. Bless us now we pray, and bring us back under the Gospel [this evening] and save souls, we pray in the Saviour's name. Amen.
Don't miss the final part of 'The Only Safe Place': “A God Of His Word”
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the third tape in his 'Psalm 91' series, titled "God's Guardians And Guarantees" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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