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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Preached At:
Title:Psalm 91 Part 1 - God’s Tender Care
Text:Psalms 91:1-4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Mercy

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 58 - The Triumphal Ascension of Christ
TH 653 - Jesus Is All the World to Me
Psalter 297 - The Praise of the Redeemed
TH 84 - Under the Care of My God, the Almighty

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

This has been an interesting year. Medically, China exported COVID and it brought the whole world to its knees. This has led to political conflict and a war of words; and also economic distress - businesses have closed - our own iconic Robinsons, which has been around for more than a century - closed in the middle of this pandemic - and we don’t know if it was the wake or the middle - but it certainly isn’t the end. But interestingly, some businesses have flourished. Contactless food and parcel deliveries have increased. We know not what next year will bring. 

Politically, things have changed as well. The world watched on in fascination, and still does at the American scene. We ourselves have our first official leader of the opposition. China and Australia have a war of words and perhaps even more. We don’t know what things will be like.

During this time, we are thinking of self-preservation. What can I do to ensure that I will land on my feet? What can I do to prevent my situation from worsening? But for some - what can I do to take advantage of the situation? How can I profit from such a time? Both questions are valid. Even as God’s people, these are questions we must ask - and they are valid questions of survival - to be wise and prudent.

But as God’s people, we must never forget to turn to God in these times. God has allowed such unusual times so that we would emerge from this changed in perspective toward him. As we near the end of this year and start a new year, I will be going through this Psalm with you in 4 sessions - as the Lord enables. We want to consider how in times of uncertainty, there is a place of certainty. How in times of distress, there is a place of tender care. Today, we consider the first 4 verses and speak about God’s tender care. That in our troubles or times of uncertainty, we ought to go to him because he cares for us.

There are 3 points in this Psalm. Firstly, who God is. Secondly, who God is to his people. Thirdly, what God does for his people.

Firstly, who God is. The Psalm starts off by saying in the first two verses, “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.”  The Psalmist here uses four titles that show God in all His glory and beauty – the most High, the Almighty, the LORD, and my God.  These titles tell us who God is.  

He is firstly the most High - the most high God – El-yon.  It tells us that that God is the highest of those who are high, that nothing surpasses his rank.  He is the highest in rank, greatest in power, richest in wealth and possession, and wisest in counsel.  No one could ever compare with him.  And 42 times in the Old Testament, God describes himself by this title.  

But the very first time this is used is in Genesis 14:18,19.  Melchizedek blesses Abram and says, “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.”  And that is the thought that is connected with this title – that God, being the Most High, is possessor of all things and owns all things.  Nothing that we see, does not belong to him.  The whole earth, the rivers, the mountains, the seas, the cities, the buildings, our homes, our cars, our clothes, our hand phones, and ourselves – we all belong to God.  There is nothing that belongs to us – we are not the owners of ourselves.  God is possessor of all.

Secondly, he is the “Almighty” – Shaddai.  There is nothing that God cannot do – he is omnipotent.  This word was first used in connection, again, with Abram.  In Genesis 17:1,2, we see God revealing himself to Abram once again when Abram was 99 years old, and still without a child.  But God Almighty promised Abram that he would make a covenant with him and bless him, multiplying his seed after him.  And it came to pass – after one year, God provided Abram with a child – Isaac was born.  And Isaac also used this title.  In Genesis 28:3, he charged Jacob to go and find a wife, praying that this God Almighty would bless him; saying, “And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people.”  From nothing, God the Almighty blessed this people that from them numberless have been blessed.  Almighty God is the provider of all – he is someone who by nature blesses.  So he is not just the possessor of all, but the provider for all.

Thirdly, he is “the LORD” – Jehovah.  This was the name that God identified himself with when he told Moses to deliver his people out of Israel.  Exodus 3:7 says, “And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.”  The LORD would not forget the covenant he made.  He loved these people, he loved them even before they were born – and now because of their plight, because of their troubles, he wanted to deliver them.  Jehovah loves his people with a special everlasting never-dying love.

The last title is “God” – Elohim.  This word is the most frequently used with its first occurrence is in Genesis 1:1 – in the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth; and this is used 34 times in the creation account.  It is a name linked to the creation of the world.  Elohim is the creator of all.

So what do these titles tell us about God?  They tell us who he is – that first and foremost, no one else compares to him. And as creator and possessor of all things, he can provide for the very people he loves. And if that is who he is, why would we, in our troubles, not go to him for help? Why do we trust in ourselves?

Very often, we think we are self-sufficient. Like Eve, we ignore God’s commands. Like Cain, we trust in our good works. Like Babel, we think we are able. But we are not. We need God. And here in this Psalm, God shows himself as a great God. And as a great God, he helps his people. That’s the second point - who is God to his people.

Verses 1-2 say again - “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.”

God is a refuge and a fortress to his saints, he is a shadow that shades them.  These three things are synonyms – they basically refer to the same thing.  Simply put, the underlying sense of these words is that of comfort and help.  God is the saint’s comfort – the chief comfort – the greatest comfort.  No other help compares to him.

And the reason for this is because he is our refuge.  He is our safety in times of uncertainty and adversity.  In Numbers 35:11, God appointed that there should be 6 cities of refuge.  In ancient times, feuds were common, and personal vendettas were carried out.  Suppose you accidentally killed another person, and the victim’s family wanted to kill you, you could run to any of these cities of refuge to wait until a fair trial would be held. Accusations there will always be - a fair hearing - not always. These cities were set up in order to protect the innocent – a place where they could flee unto, when their very lives were threatened; imagine the toll that it would take on a person who had to watch his back all the time, unsure of what would happen to him the next moment.  But here, he could find safety within these walls.  God is a place of safety unto his children – they can flee to him in times of uncertainty and adversity.  

The second word, fortress, give the idea of confidence.  It is a place of defense, a place so strengthened that the enemy could not breach it. Such fortresses were constructed on hills, so people would be doubly safe. So while God is a refuge of safety in times of uncertainty, he is also a fortress upon a hill – a place of greater certain safety. 

The third word, shadow, gives the idea of renewal.  In the hot Judean sun, a shadow was a place of comfort – a place where a person could renew his strength. When travelers journeyed through the wilderness, high cliffs would cast a shadow. The travelers would find rest in small caves. There they would recuperate.  In Psalm 121, the psalmist looked to the hills for help, and he said his help came from the Lord whom he describes in verse 5 as a shade.  In Isaiah 4:5,6, it is said that the Lord will make Mount Zion a dwelling place of refuge, and it will be a shadow in the daytime from heat.  In God, we find a refuge of safety, a fortress of greater safety, and a shadow for recovery. 

But we learn here that we must make him our comfort. Verse 1 says - “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Only those who dwell in God will find that refreshing. The last part of verse 2 says, “in him will I trust.”  It is more literally translated as, “to him will I go for care.”  We do not have God’s care, if we do not go to him. It’s as simple as that.  We spend so much time in our troubles - but we do not go to God for comfort. If we do not go, we will not have. James 4:2 says, “ye have not, because ye ask not.”  It is the very act of trusting that we will have comfort. This is who God is to his people. 

And why should God not grant us comfort when we go to him? Thirdly, we see what God does for his people. Verses 3-4 says, “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.”  If God is creator, possessor, and provider to all those he loves, and a refuge, fortress, and shade to those who come; surely, he will deliver; cover; and assure his children.

Firstly, God delivers them.  The word for “deliver” can also be translated as snatch or pluck, like when Jesus said, “no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”  The word pluck means snatch. Like what a snatch thief does. But God holds us tightly - no one is able to snatch us from him. But God is able to snatch or deliver us from trouble. 

From the fowler and from the noisome pestilence. There are troubles that come externally - from the fowler - like Satan, circumstances, people, etc. Then there are troubles that weaken us from within - the noisome pestilence - the disease - things that weaken us or tear us down – like our sins and fears or actual diseases. The fowler and the pestilence are trials - they could be an illness; a colleague, a particular secret sin, or a church problem. But God can snatch us from these things.

Secondly, God can cover us. The word “cover” means “to shelter.”  The imagery here is of a mother hen who covers her chicks under the feathers of her wings.  They’re safely tucked in there.  When the destroyer passed over Egypt, the Israelites were not harmed, because their homes were covered in the blood of the lamb.  The coats of skin that God provided for Adam and Eve covered their nakedness and their iniquities.  Noah’s ark was covered with tar, that the waters of destruction might not penetrate its hull.  They were all covered – insured at the expense of another.  Christ is our sure insurance – he has paid the penalty, and hence we are covered.

While God can snatch us from our problems, sometimes he lets us go through them - but he covers us. Noah still had to ride through the storm even though he didn’t drown. The Israelites had to go through that night of the 10th plague, but their children didn’t die. Adam and Eve were still removed from the garden, but their nakedness was covered. God lets us go through difficulty, but he shields us from the worse brunt. But even though we go through our problems, God assures us. That’s the third thing he does.

The phrase “his truth shall be thy shield and buckler” can be translated as “his trustworthiness, his faithfulness, shall be your shield and armor.”

The buckler is an armor that encompasses the soldier and the full-length shield ensures that a person is doubly protected.  The soldier will not go into battle unless he knows he is well protected. No one will go into battle with his swimming trunks and water gun. But he will go if he has a Kevlar helmet, a bullet proof vest, and a semi-automatic rifle. Likewise, the Christian who is assured that God is with him, can go through his troubles with greater confidence.

In life, we have many battles. There’s the fowler and the noisome pestilence. But who is God to us? He is our God, the Most High, the Almighty one, our Lord. And he is a refuge, fortress, and shade. He will snatch us away from trouble, cover us in times of trouble, and assure us that all things will be okay.

Now, this does not mean that we will never have troubles, severe troubles. This does not mean that the church of God will not be persecuted. You may have your illness and die from it. You may have work troubles and be fired. But God gives assurance that in all of these things, he will cover and shade you. If you die from your illness, God has delivered you from this world. If you die in poverty, God will give you all heavenly riches. You may struggle with your besetting sin until you die, but God helps you in this life, and gives you victory in the next life.

Do you know why you have these assurances? Because of Christ. God delivered him to his enemies. God poured out all our sins and sickness on him. God let that fowler - Satan himself - to bruise the heel of Christ. God removed that fortress and refuge and shadow from him - and exposed him to that great wrath. Why? So that we can receive all those benefits. And even in the midst of all this - Jesus trust in God - into your hands do I commit my soul. Not my will but thine be done! Christ made God his comfort. Christ dwelled in the secret place of the most high. And he teaches us that even in times of great difficulty, we can do that - and we will have the tender care and comfort of God.

What are some practical applications for us? I can talk about the year - but it may not be the pandemic, it may not be an economic problem that troubles you - it could be personal, emotional, relational, medical. How has your perspective changed, knowing that God is a tender God toward his people?

This year has not been an easy year for all of us - 2020 will go down in recent history as a very strange year. 2021 may not be any better. But while times and circumstances will change, the one who goes with us into the New Year is already there. He sees the end from the beginning. And the end is good. So may the Lord grant you these assurances even in such times like this.

Sermon Outline:

1. Who God Is

    A. God is the possessor of all

    B. God is the provider for all

    C. God is the lover of his people

    D. God is the creator

2. Who God Is to His People

    A. He is our safety in times of uncertainty

    B. He is our confidence

    C. He is our shelter in times of recovery

3. What God Does for His People

    A. He delivers us from trouble

    B. He insures us from trouble

    C. He assures us in times of trouble

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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