During this time of the Covid pandemic psalm 91 is often recited since this particular psalm is about God keeping people safe from harm and even mentions pestilence. Some preachers and Christians are probably using this text to say that there is no need for vaccines and other protective measures against the virus, since God promises in His word to protect us from all this. They would say, we must just have faith, and then we can go on like before.
When I read this psalm on a Facebook post a few weeks ago, I realized this psalm was very suitable for the times we are living in. At the same time my spontanious reaction was that the psalmist was lying and not telling the truth about life as it is, no matter you believe in God, a Higher Power or nothing like that. Let us read a part of the psalm together:
“For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday…A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.”
Does this mean that no Christians or believers will die of Covid? We all know that is not the case. But why is the psalmist saying “A thousand may fall…but it will not come near you”, as if this is how life turns out for those who takes refuge in the Lord? I believe I do not have the full answer to that, but I do have some thoughts.
I think psalm 91 is a beatiful poem about trusting and resting in Divine Love, and therefore the text is encouraging us not to be overtaken by fear. Still, I do also believe, that this psalm is written by a person in great need of God’s help and protection, so this is also the believer trying to encourage and comfort him- og herself. We could almost say that the psalmist is trying to handle his fear and trying to survive in difficult times, and therefore he is also comforting himself, and putting his trust in God. And of course, there is nothing wrong in doing so. Rather it must be greatly advised to cry out to God, when someone is experiencing dark times. But, that does not mean that there is someone that we will save us from every bad experience and that we will never get sick, and sometimes even experience a bodily death caused by a disease. This is my humble opinion.
I listened to Marshall Davis on his podcast the other day. He is a former baptist pastor and now a Christian non-dualist. I am thankful to him that he talked about this particular psalm. He warns about telling people lies that nothing bad ever happens to Christians or people of faith, since statistics and life show that no one in particular is exempted from possible harm from Covid. Christians also experience that it is not true that “a thousand may fall at your side…but it will not come near you”. I would really recommend you to listen to this podcast episode to hear Davis’s words that are truthful and also encouraging. I think Davis is telling us that we need to face life as it is, and not lie about it, still at the same time “…the Most High can be our dwelling place”.
Marshall Davis also mentions that most of the psalm writes about God in the third person. Only the last three verses are written as if the Divine Self is speaking directly in first person. I therefore find the last three verses particulary interesting and also encouraging:
“Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation”.
Even though we also in these verses read about protection, deliverance and long life, in some way the thought that no harm can reach us seems toned down. God speaks in first person and says, “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them IN trouble”. So, if I am to honor my own and many people’s experience, I can’t say that nothing evil or harmful will ever happen, but I can say with confindence that I will put my trust in God and encourage others believers and seekers to do the same. We can trust that The Divine Love will be with us in times of trouble, even though we cannot necessarily escape all trouble.
I also believe that Jesus Christ suffering on the cross shows us that just as we can suffer with Him being hung innocently to die on a cross, we can know He also is with us in our suffering. A reason He suffered is not so we would not know suffering in our lives. He suffered so we can find comfort in His love for us and trust that Love will bring us through the suffering and dark times. After suffering and death there is always resurrection and new life!
You can find the talk by Marshall Davis and the episode I am referring to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbMk6nDTzh4&list=PLsK97WbFX2Mb1czemIFlPSawSnD8Yti9j&index=6
The Scripture quotations herein are from the New Revised Standard Bible, copyright (c) 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reseverd.