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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 3 - Actively Resting in God
Text:Psalms 91:9-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Mercy

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 94 - The Love and Justice of God 
Psalter 183 - Ascension Blessings 
TH 701 - Redeemed 
TH 693 - Blessed Assurance 

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

A child who is in the deep end of the pool will panic. She is too short to touch the floor. She is not strong enough to tread water. When she starts to sink, she panics. The water comes over her head - she breathes in water and starts to drown. But when her father is there, his feet are firmly planted on the ground. His head is above water. His arms are strong to hold her above water and to prevent her from drowning. When he holds her close to him, she does not panic. But the danger for many lifesavers is a panicking swimmer who will not be held. So this child must actively let her father hold her. 

In our study of Psalm 91, we have seen the character of God. When we know him to be who he is to his people, we need not panic. We can go to him. Just like that child who fears drowning can call for her father. Our heavenly Father promises - “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.” “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” Even when 1000 fall on our side, and thousands of millions more on our right, God will deliver us, if not from present troubles, then from eternal troubles. Remember, you will pass through the waters. Remember, your body may be killed. But in heaven (Revelation 21:4), “…God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  

But here’s the clincher. God’s people will not have comfort unless they go to him. They will not have assurance, unless they believe. Similarly, Jesus died to save sinners, but no one is saved unless they go to him. Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. He invites! But will we go? There must be an active resting in God.

Today, we shall explore what this means and how to do it. There are depths in this Psalm, I can’t plumb, but I will try explore it and make it practical. There are 3 points. Firstly, we must be intimately connected with God. Secondly, we must receive the help he gives. Thirdly, we must exercise our faith to act.

Firstly, we must be intimately connected with God. We are told in verses 9-10, “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.”  God must be a personal God to us. Notice the pronouns through the entire Psalm. Please look. Verse 1 - he that dwells in the secret place shall abide in God. Verse 2 - I will say of my God - he is my refuge, I will trust in him. But you know what? Verse 3 - he can deliver you; verse 4, he can cover you. Verse 5 - you don’t have to be afraid, verse 7 - you don’t have to be destroyed. Verse 8 - you can see victory. Yes. But how? Verse 9 - when YOU have made the Lord, who is MY refuge, even the most High, YOUR habitation. 

What’s the Psalmist saying? I know my God - he’s my refuge. I know all about him - I’m very close to him. He can save you. He can rescue you. But do YOU know him? Is he YOUR God? Because, when YOU make the LORD YOUR habitation - then you will understand what I already understand - that I will not be destroyed. An intimate and personal relationship with God gives you confidence.

Young people, it’s one thing to know about God, to know about his care because you’ve studied it. It’s entirely another thing to know him personally and to experience his love for you. 

And how does that come about? How is this intimacy achieved? It is to be saved. The phrase “thou has made the LORD, thy habitation” is explained by verse 1 - “He that dwelleth in (or inhabits) the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” There is a place of intimacy - the secret place. The word that is used in Hebrew means a veil or covering.

This clearly reminds of the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. The secret place was the place of God’s presence behind the veil. During the wilderness wandering, God showed his presence during the day with a pillar of cloud that led the people. At night, when they set up camp, the tribes arranged themselves around the Tabernacle. And then the pillar of fire would descend upon the Holy of Holies. God led the people and he dwelled among the people. And while he was with them all the time in intimate fellowship, once a year, he would be with the people in much closer fellowship. The High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, through the veil, with the blood of the sin-offering and sprinkle it on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. There, he would represent all the people and atone for all their sins. He would speak to God face to face. And all the people found entrance into this secret place, this Holy place, through the high priest. But the High Priest only represented the people of God. So only the people of God had that fellowship with God through the High Priest.

We know that this foreshadowed what Christ did. When he died, that veil in the temple split in two, because his body, the real veil, as Hebrews tells us, was broken. And he ascended, entered into the real Holy of Holies with the blood of the sin-offering, not of animals, but of himself – his precious blood. He represents us there in heaven. And not everyone in the world is represented, only those who trust in Jesus. 

So the primary step of active resting in God is to be saved. We can only enter this secret place of intimacy with God through Christ the Great High Priest. Do you trust in him for salvation? Do you have a personal relationship with him? Without salvation, there is no true lasting rest. 

This intimacy is also described as belonging to God. Verse 9 says - because you have made the Lord your habitation. Now, many believed this psalm to have been written by Moses during the wilderness wandering, when they had no permanent dwelling; and hence the word habitation meant something to the people. They were moving everyday, so a place in which they can finally stop and belong to - that’s what they wanted. To dwell permanently at rest under God’s shadow or shelter.

There’s another portion of scripture that describes this more beautifully.  Song of Solomon 2:3 says, “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”  This is a description of Jesus. The picture is of a weary traveler in a forest surrounded by trees - probably different trees - like big oaks, old trees with large canopies, beautiful trees; but none are of use to the weary traveler. In the middle of the trees was the apple tree - which is odd because they grow in orchards. This tree met his need - he could sit down under its shade and eat its fruits. He has found rest and a place of belonging. We will never find true rest unless there’s this intimacy with Christ.

But active resting involves receiving the help of God. That’s the second point. As God’s children, he gives us help. Supernatural help. Verses 11-12 say, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”  We’re told that God has angels to help us. We don’t often think about that. But it’s there in Scripture. Hebrews 1:14 tells us  “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”  Angels are servants of God sent to help and serve Christians, who are the heirs of salvation.

Now, before we get too excited to come up with a complicated theology of angels; to be sure, verses 11-12 apply firstly to Christ. Remember, when Christ was being tempted? Satan said that he should throw himself off the roof of the temple because the angels will save him. They will not let him dash his foot against a stone. And truly, Satan’s interpretation was correct. This promise here; this Psalm; is primarily for Christ. But if we are in Christ, if we are believers in Christ, he sends his ministering angels to help us. 

God uses them and employs them with us in mind because of Christ. This is what happened in the Old and New Testaments for God’s people. They appeared as warriors. Just before Joshua was going to attack Jericho, the captain of the hosts of the LORD appeared before him, thus promising him aid.  The angels themselves witnessed the creation of the world.  And they appeared when the supernatural meets the natural world.  They appeared to the shepherds during the first coming of Christ, an angel appeared in the garden of Gethsemane to strengthen Christ, they were present at Christ’s resurrection, rolling the stone away and greeting the women. And they were also there at Christ’s ascension. They are there for us. 

And there are angels watching over us. God has given us personal protection. They are supernatural and spiritual beings, who operate beyond our sight and even knowledge.  I can’t explain this nor deny it. These agents of God, help us in ways we can’t fathom.

But on a less mystical note, God also sends other agents our way.  Ministerial help. The word angels in the Hebrew is also used to speak about prophets or preachers. Now, I have to admit, I am taking a bit of liberty with the text. The text does refer to angels. But their work in verse 11 is to keep thee in all thy ways. 

And this is what the preaching of the word does. Preachers tell us how to live according to God’s Word. The instruction is to restrain us from sin - to cause us to walk circumspectly. Ephesians 5:15 says that we ought to walk circumspectly not as fools but as wise. The word circumspect is means to look around to keep ourselves within a certain area.  God sends his angels - even his messengers to keep us in our ways. Keep means to hedge, to keep us within a certain area.  By way of application, we are kept safe when we listen to the Word. It tells us where we should tread and where we ought not to. How we should think, what we should not think. So we expose ourselves to danger when we do not heed its instructions.

To experience confidence, we need salvation, an intimate walk, and we need to accept the help he offers. But above all here, to the Christian, the hardest thing to do, in my opinion, is to exercise that faith. That’s the third point. We must exercise our faith to act. You want his help, let him help.

The child who is struggling in the deep end, with waters coming over her head. Her father is there holding out his hand to her - she can either push him away or allow him to save her. She has to cling on to him. And when she does, she can go anywhere in the deep end, holding on to him. 

We need to exercise our faith. Armed with the knowledge that God is with us, the Christian should with confidence go through his troubles by faith.  Verse 13 says, “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.”  Here we see the correct response – a response of faith.  

Here we see two categories of danger.  The first one is only menacing – it seems dangerous but if we know what to do, we can avoid the danger.  The lion that we see here is a roaring lion. That is the sense we get from the Hebrew word.  It is perhaps past its prime and can only appear to ferocious through its roar.  The adder is a curled up snake, ready to strike. It hasn’t struck yet and although the danger is imminent, it hasn’t come.  And so, we exercise faith in times like these, where the degree of danger although real, is still only a threat. We face such fears with courage, clad in our armor, we move forward walking over them, knowing that God is with us.  

On the other hand, there are malicious dangers. We need wisdom to overcome them. The young lion is a lion with a full grown mane – representing a lion at its prime, a cunning hunter which is powerful and deadly.  He makes no sound, he stealthily moves in on his prey. The dragon is a deadly and poisonous serpent – a sea monster, as some commentaries have it. Both of these animals are deadly and dangerous – far more than the lion or the adder. But even the Christian here is able to trample them under foot – he is able to traverse through them.  

Dearly beloved, the Apostle Paul went through his fair share of dangers - both menacing and malicious. When he was saved, he was told that he would suffer. He was kidnapped, beaten, threatened, arrested, accused in lawsuits, interrogated, ridiculed, neglected, shipwrecked. What’s amazing is, when he was dragged out of the city of Lystra and stoned and left for dead, he got up and he returned. When he was warned not to go to Jerusalem, because he would be arrested, the Apostle Paul went to Jerusalem, and he was arrested.

You see, if you have internalized this Psalm and believe it, when you are safe in the secret place, walking closely with the Lord and have much wisdom in you, there won’t be anything you can’t face with his help. Why was Paul able to do this? Because Christ, his Great High Priest, who was in heaven interceding for him, went through much more. 

Our Lord came from the bosom of the father, from the most intimate fellowship to earth where he did his will. But he spent much time with his Father, he and his father were one. He was helped by his Father with angels many times. And when he went through his greatest suffering, he knew that when it was over, his Father would raise him up again. He walked over the adder - that old serpent - that old dragon; he trampled on the lion - the roaring lion that prowls around. And yes, the Lord Jesus was bitten for us, he felt the sting of death at his heel, but he crushed Satan’s head! That is why, if we are in Christ, in the secret place of the most high, we shall fear no evil. Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?

Spurgeon said it remarkably when he said, “Give me the support of God, and I can easily bear the insults of men. Let me lay my head on the chest of Jesus, and I will not fear the interruptions of care and trouble. If my God will forever give me the light of His smile, and a glimpse of His blessing – it is enough. Come on enemies, persecutors, demons, yes, the Devil himself, for ‘the Lord God is my sun and shield.’ Gather, you clouds, and surround me, I carry a Sun within me; blow, wind of the frozen north, I have a fire of living coal within me; yes, death, kill me, but I have another life – a life in the light of God’s countenance.”

Dearly beloved, if this seems so very alien, you are not alone. I may sound convincing, but I need to actively rest in God just as much as you. But dearly beloved, if this seems so very alien, you must come to him - to that secret place. Trust in him, actively. Rest in him, actively. May God help us.

Sermon Outline:

  1. We Must Be Intimately Connected with God
    1. God must be our personal God
    2. We must be saved
    3. We must belong to God
  2. We Must Receive the Help He Gives
    1. Supernatural help
    2. Ministerial help
  3. We Must Exercise Our Faith to Act
    1. Triumph over menacing dangers
    2. Triumph over malicious dangers

* 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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