One chapter of the Bible that had real meaning for me as a teenager was the 91st Psalm. Other passages that were more doctrinal in nature took hold of my soul and directed my steps in a more definite manner a few years later, but this wonderful Psalm helped lay a foundation for a young person’s confidence in God and His sovereign goodness and faithfulness. I’m certain it has done so for countless others.
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, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; 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 . . . 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 . . . 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 . . .
Now it is true that Psalm 91 applies most directly to the Messiah as the perfect, dependent Man. But we who know God in this age can learn from this portion what true confidence is, by faith in Him who has fully revealed His name to us as Father, by His Son Jesus, our Savior and Deliverer. J. N. Darby gave these insightful comments on it: “Faith thus, in its confession of His name, makes [that name] its refuge and strong tower, and moreover trusts in it: a great thing, for no power of evil, no cause of distress can be anything to upset the mind, if the Lord be looked to and trusted in. [Faith] has here the promise of ever watchful and protecting care. This is true whatever outward evil may come. As we see in Luke 21:16-18, the Lord says some of them should be put to death, but not a hair of their head should perish — they were all counted. Providential power is all at God’s disposal.”
It is likely that the three Hebrew children who stood before King Nebuchadnezzar had in their souls the enjoyment of this psalm. What was their answer to the king of Babylon when given the ultimatum of bowing to the golden image or else suffering the furnace of fire? “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image that thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). Their confidence in Jehovah’s ability to preserve and deliver them had not wavered once on those occasions where we see them in connection with Daniel, nor did they falter here when he was absent. Whether or not they would avoid or survive the fire, the confidence of these outstanding young men was in the One who would most certainly bring them through to a “better resurrection”. That final outcome is what so many others have looked forward to by faith, some of whom are referenced in that magnificent eleventh chapter of Hebrews, where we have recorded for the encouragement of our faith the triumphs and rewards of full confidence in God.
The disciples of the Lord Jesus (in contrast to those faithful ones “of whom the world was not worthy”) occupied a place at a point in time that could only be considered as privileged far above anything experienced by men up until that time in history. Even Adam in the garden did not have the Son of God walking with him in bodily form, communing with him, and personally seeing to his every need, like the twelve friends of Jesus had.1 But on more than one occasion, the disciples forgot just who was with them in the boat when the storm arose and the sea threatened. In Mark 4:37-41, their trust in their Master reached such a low ebb that they began to doubt His care of them. “Carest Thou not that we perish?” was their cry to Jesus who, taking his rest on a pillow, had always perfect confidence in the One who had already answered that confidence in the psalm referenced above: “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.” They feared and doubted; He trusted God absolutely.
How did the Lord Jesus answer His worried disciples? He who always met every occasion and every difficulty with perfect evenness in Himself and wisdom toward others responded to them in a manner that may sound almost harsh to our ears, for we are prone to make allowances for fear and doubt in our own minds. “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” To their credit, if we may say so, the disciples did not resort to defensiveness, nor even to embarrassment or shame. Rather, their doubtful fear of perishing was quickly replaced with a godly fear of wonder and admiration at the almighty power and faithful care of this One whom even the winds and seas obeyed.2
How forgetful at times are those with the highest privileges and the closest ties to the Lord Jesus! As Christians who live now while He is in the glory, we have benefits and blessings that the disciples did not, including “another Comforter” (the Holy Spirit) to assume the place for us that Jesus had among the twelve. We have life and incorruptibility brought to light by the gospel, and we are saved in hope of eternal life, “which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.”3 In light of all this and more, we ought to view each trial and every danger we face as an opportunity to reflect upon our Lord’s abiding care and love for us, and to place our entire confidence in God our Savior and in Christ Jesus, our hope.
His love, in time past, forbids me to thinkJohn Newton, 1779
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink:
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review
Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through.
1 Luke 22:35; Mark 8:14-21
2 Compare Matthew 8:27, Mark 4:41, and Luke 8:25.
3 II Timothy 1:10; Romans 8:24; Titus 1:2; I Timothy 1:1