2020-11-08 The Protection of the Lord

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          November 8, 2020

“The Protection of the Lord”
Psalm 91:14-16

Often, when I appear in recital ministry via piano performance, I perform an arrangement of the praise song “You Are My Hiding Place.”  Before the performance of the arrangement, I usually remark that, when Christians greet one another, they minimize the pains they bear—and, in the doing, they deny to some degree their need of God’s protection.  Yet we all have this need—even men—and ‘tis welcome indeed when God shows us, in ways subtle or dramatic, His precious protection of us and of our loved ones.

This is another benefit that flows to the believer in Christ by virtue of his union with Him.  Let’s hear more about this benefit as we hear these final verses of Psalm 91 read and proclaimed in this place.  Hear ye now, one and all, the Word of God once again in this place.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

George Zemek, in his Road Maps for the Psalms, notes two sermons in Psalm 91.[1]  First, the unnamed Psalmist declares God’s protection of His people (1-13).  The Psalmist, using third-person, singular verbs, tells us that God is our refuge and fortress from terrors, arrows, pestilence, beasts, and the like—and he tells us these things with language and images precious to our ears and souls.  Second, the Lord declares His own protection of His people (14-16).  The Hebrew verbs change from third-person singular to first-person singular.  Hence, God Himself declares, through His unnamed Psalmist, that He protects us from all the ills mentioned in the whole Psalm—and more.  With the context now noted, let us proceed to the exposition of today’s text.

All the promises declared in today’s text are sure for the redeemed of God in Christ Jesus—and for them only.  The redeemed of God, redeemed only through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, display that redemption by holding fast to Him in love and by knowing His Name—that is, knowing Him both cognitively and experientially.  To such redeemed ones, and only to such redeemed ones, the Lord will give such blessings as mentioned in our text.

First, the Lord will deliver His people.  The Hebrew implies that God will bring us into escape from trouble.[2]  He will cause us to flee as a bird to its mountain (Psalm 11:1).  Second, the Lord will protect His people.  The Hebrew verb here implies that our Lord will set us securely on high, above trouble’s reach.  Though such trouble strives to ascend to our God-given height, it strives in vain.  The Lord has given us in this verse both escape trouble and remote inaccessibility from it.  Let’s see what else He gives us in the verses that follow.

Third, the Lord will answer His people when we call.  Psalm 107 repeats, refrain-like, the cry of His wayward people, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress” (107:5, 13, 19, 28).  When we cry to the Lord in our distress—wayward or not—He hears and He works, especially in deliverance of us from trouble.  Fourth, God promises to be with His people in trouble.  One Name of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, is Immanuel: God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23).  The Lord is nigh unto the broken hearted, and saves those of a crushed spirit (Psalm 34:18).  Fifth, God rescues His covenant people.  He draws us away from the troubles that vex us sore—troubles that would wound and destroy without remedy apart from Him.  Sixth, the Lord crowns His people with His honor as we walk with Him, as the Lord declares to Eli the priest, “They that honor me will I honor” (1 Samuel 2:30).  These blessings mentioned here are both numerous and profound.  Yet, by God’s powerful grace, there remains more.

Seventh, God will satisfy His redeemed in Christ Jesus.  To be satisfied, according to the sense of the Hebrew verb, is to have enough or to have more than enough—maybe much more than enough.  God satisfies us in this world with long, full life—as He defines long and full.  He also satisfies us in the world to come with eternal bliss, which He gives to every soul entrusted to His Son for rescue.  This is satisfaction, this is protection, indeed.

Scripture elsewhere testifies to God as the One Who protects His elect in Christ Jesus—even the likes of many (I pray all) of us.  We learn elsewhere in the Psalms that God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), and He is our hiding place (Psalm 32:7).  Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, assures us that none can pluck us from His hands (John 10:28, 30).  In fact, nothing in all creation separates us from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37-39)—as the Holy Spirit leads the Apostle Paul to write.  We examined today the end of Psalm 91, and rejoice in God’s sure protection declared there—but God’s protection has multiple attestation across the entire written Word of God.

Yet some of us, in view of circumstance experienced or witnesses, must ask, “What if these verses don’t seem to hold?  What if arrows, pestilence, and the like strike us?  What if earthly life ends—apparently prematurely?  What then?”  These questions, though formidable in themselves and born from concern and pain, have answer.

Should certain arrows and such strike us, be they ever so painful and unwelcome, they serve God’s Person and purposes.  Somehow, those relatively few arrows, e.g., that strike us serve both to glorify God and to redound for our good who love Him.  Pains that come, either the result of our sin, of sin against us, or of living in a fallen world, increase our ministerial capacity, increase our trust in the Lord, and wean us from this world—among many other good uses.  God is our Protector—and, when, He sovereignly decrees discomfort for us, He has His maximal glory and our maximal good in prospect.  He, we can trust Him when assailed.

Remember also, though it be so hard, that if it appears that a certain life ends prematurely, that God’s definition of long life prevails, not ours.  God’s purpose for some may result in their early removal from this plane and in early promotion unto Glory.  Their lives were full, though they appear brief, and all the days appointed for them came to be.  Moreover, none in Glory grumble about their early promotion.  I cannot imagine that any soul, once in Heaven with the Lord, wishes their earthly journey lengthened and their Heavenly welcome and eternal bliss postponed.  Hence, even when God’s promises of protection seem to fail to hold, they hold.

Think of all the times God’s protection preserved your life, health, and relationships, among other things.  Think of the ways His protection preserves you now.  In view of these, rejoice, beloved Christian, and rest in His precious promises to protect you: both in this life and in the inexpressibly glorious one yet to come.

AMEN.

[1] George Zemek, Road Maps for the Psalms: Inductive Preaching Outlines Based on the Hebrew Text (no publisher listed, 2006).  How I treasured Dr. Zemek’s presence and insight during my years as a regular attender of the Central Arkansas Reformation Society (ca. 2004-ca. 2008)—a group affiliated with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals which met for many years most first Thursdays for lunch, study, prayer and fellowship at Bible Church of Little Rock.

[2] My usual tools for Hebrew exegesis include Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1977) [the text of the Hebrew Old Testament], The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906.  Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001) [Hebrew-English lexicon], and J. Weingreen, A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew, Second Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959) [textbook of Hebrew grammar].