Wednesday of Pentecost 4 – Psalm 91:1-10

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

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 a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor 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.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.

A while ago I met with a parishioner who was going in for surgery. It was out-patient, but it was also serious. They had found a mass. There would be a biopsy and then test results. It would be an anxious next few days, filled with the pain of surgery and the fear of what the doctor might say.

In the historic liturgy of the church there is a response which is sung or spoken just before we commune. The pastor says, “Lift up your hearts.” The people respond, “We lift them to the Lord.” Those words are ancient and have been spoken by Christians in almost every imaginable context, including persecution. The original Latin is far brusquer than the English. It is more like a centurion barking at his cohort, “Up with your hearts!” It is the sort of thing he would say before they go into battle.

This psalm reminds me of that response in the liturgy. The psalmist asserts that God is a refuge and strength, but I encourage you to notice the list of enemies which follows, especially vss. 3, 6, and 10. The deadly pestilence that stalks in darkness is a pandemic. The plague which comes near the tent is a virus. We have just come through a pandemic and so those words ring different in our ears than they did a few years ago. The psalmist, however, knows that he dwells in the shelter of the Most High. This is Jesus, who has risen from the dead and is enthroned in heavenly glory. He has promised us that resurrection is our future and so with this psalmist and Christians of every day and age we can lift our hearts and rejoice. He will rescue us from the snare.

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