The Ninety-First Psalm
The Psalms were written by many individuals and they cover many attitudes, beliefs, and emotions. Some of them are very negative in that the writer prays that God will destroy his enemies. But there are a few such as the beautiful 91st Psalm that reflect the indomitable faith and courage of some unknown writer. Whoever he was, he was a person of great confidence who had an absolute trust in God. He had the tenacious ability to stick to his faith in God in spite of the many obstacles and tragedies he had to face. It is easy to say we believe in God and that He is good and that we trust Him when things are going along smoothly in our lives. It is a different story when we are confronted with some seemingly immovable challenges or even a tragedy or what we may think is a tragedy.
Some of the writers expressed pessimism and despair in their time of trouble. They would think that God had deserted them, or even worse, that God was afflicting them in some way and they would beg for God to repent of His evil ways. But not the writer of the 91st Psalm. He had discovered the real “secret place” and a very intimate relationship with God. He knew God to be something for real and not some wishy-washy intangible hope or speculation. Many thought the “secret place” was in the temple. When that temple was destroyed so was their faith. But this writer had discovered the real “secret place.” It was the secret place in consciousness. It was that inner knowing of oneness with God. It was more than an intellectual experience. He did not read about the secret place in some book. He did not have to be told about God, for he knew his oneness with God. In his seeking and searching he had touched or had been touched by the powerful Presence.
The Psalmist expresses his great trust in this way, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” He had learned to abide, to remain constant, to stand firm in his faith in God. He had more than a superficial faith in God. He did not think that faith or trust in God necessarily eliminated all challenges. Some human beings think that if God does not immediately remove all obstacles, illnesses, or bless them with abundant prosperity that God does not like them or that God is being evil. The Psalmist knew that his faith and trust in God would see him through all challenges. His Lord was like a shadow. It did not remove the sun but it was a protection from it.
There are going to be certain things happening in our lives. Many would like to change everybody or change the world. They cry out that if God loved them He would remove their enemies or the problems that they must deal with. The Psalmist instead affirmed, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him will I trust.” The Lord that he had discovered within him was to him an impregnable fortress. He could become still and take refuge by basking in the Presence of God in his time of great need. It is at times like this that the individual is blessed with a strength and endurance that he did not know he had. He discovers that he is able to meet the adversities of life. He is able to put aside all human thought, all human doubt, all human questions and take refuge in the inner fortress. He discovers then that it does not make any difference why the challenge happened. Those who keep their minds focused on the things in the outer that seem to be against them do not find this inner source of security. Yet they still have to meet their challenges even when they try to run from them. But then they meet them or try to escape from them in fear.
The Psalmist affirms that the Lord is my God, I will trust in Him. No matter what comes my way. I will not accuse God of what comes my way. I will just trust. That means I may not know why something may happen but I will not let it throw me a curve. I will abide in His Presence. I will trust whether I experience miracles or not. For then I discover the greatest miracle, the miracle of a true and abiding faith. Nothing shall or will deter me from expecting a victory. For in His Presence He tells me that victory is inevitable.
“Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.” We get ourselves into all types of entrapping situations. We may have entered into a relationship with someone with all good intentions. It may have been a business partnership, a marriage relationship, or some other and then we discover that the other party did not have the good intentions that we thought he or she had. When we abide in the consciousness of the inner Presence we find that He will free us from these entrapments. “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”
His truth is our protection. It is truth that frees us. Jesus reminded us of this when he said that knowing the truth would set us free, knowing the truth about the inner Presence, that He is all-powerful and can help and deliver us. Many do not know the truth. They trust in their human resources, their human powers and abilities and they remain in bondage. But he who trusts in the inner resources of the Great Presence will find freedom.
He will also discover that he will not be afraid of the many people, places, experiences, or other things that come into his life to challenge him. “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.” The people at that time believed in evil spirits. They thought these spirits were especially active at night. They believed the night demons would cast evil, magic spells upon them. But the Psalmist discovered that he did not have to worry about these so-called evil spirits and what they might try to do. He never thought of them or of others as having power over him. God was his protection and God was His deliverance and this faith gave him peace and confidence.
Many, not knowing the secret place, would fall by the wayside. Thousands would succumb to the temptations of the outer world and to the temptations of their own appetites and passions. He knew that life was good but that he had to be obedient to the laws of life. If he was he would be blessed. Those who did not know the law would reap the negative consequences of their actions. Though many went down to defeat because of their lack of understanding, because of their lack of self-control and spiritual discipline, it would not happen to the one who would abide in the consciousness of the inner Presence and would always seek to do what God told him to do. “It shall not come nigh thee.” What happens to others does not have to happen to him.
The one who makes the Lord his habitation shall reap many benefits. In His Presence there is protection from the plagues of illness, lack or any other hardship. This does not mean one will experience illness, it only means that one will be sustained through the experience until the perfect healing comes. “He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” The angels are symbols of that invisible power and help that comes to us to sustain us in our times of need. It may be times when we are acting foolish, times when we do not know any better. In our wanderings in the darkness of human ignorance we shall be protected lest we dash our feet against a stone, lest we attract to us some experience that would overwhelm us due to our negative belief that seems like a stone. When we consider the knowledge of truth that we should have and the awareness that we have at the moment we can readily see that there are many “stones”, many misconceptions that have been formed in our soul consciousness.
“Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder, the young lion and the dragon shall thou trample under foot.” They believed that evil spirits incarnated in serpents and wild beasts. You will recall the story of the serpent speaking to Eve in the Garden and the tragedy that happened to her as a result of listening to his lies. He promised her many things, wisdom, happiness, equality with God. All she had to do was eat the forbidden fruit. The forbidden fruit was not bad fruit. It was a symbol of the outer things that we let control us, the things that we think will make us happy, successful, or satisfy some other need. Outer things are not bad but we had better keep our foot upon them. The appetites and the passions can wreak havoc in our lives when we let them control us. The serpent still seeks to deceive us today. When we abide in the secret place we shall gain the understanding and develop the self-discipline necessary to control all our human emotions. We shall master the little ones as well as the big ones. They will be trampled “under foot.” Feet represent spiritual understanding and when we have an understanding relationship of trust in the inner Presence we gain power, mastery, and dominion.
Then comes that beautiful part of the Psalm when God speaks directly to the Psalmist. God says to him, “Because he hath set His love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.” We might ask where our love is set. Is it set upon things or is it set upon God? We might also ask if it is set upon God in order to get things or is it set upon God, period. When our love is set upon God and we let Him work things out in His way, then we are delivered. Many times we are being delivered and do not even know it. Whatever qualities of the soul that must be developed will be developed as we abide in our trust.
God continues to reassure the Psalmist, “I will set him on high because he hath known my name.” To know the “name” of God is to realize that the consciousness of His presence makes one powerful. It was believed by the people in the time of the Psalmist that to know the name of a person gave one power over that person. Moses knew the name of God and he gained the power to lead the Hebrews to freedom from their Egyptian bondage. Many look for freedom through things. But, it is the name of God, the realization of what it is as a very Real Presence within, that protects, guides and blesses us.
God was acknowledging the faith and trust of the Psalmist and He says to him, “He shall call upon me and I will answer him.” When we call upon God we must not expect Him to act or do for us as we want Him to. God will answer. His answer will be the best for us, even if it seems undesirable. God always answers even when we think He is not answering. If we could learn to become still enough then we would hear the answers more clearly.
“I will be with him in trouble.” Even when we think that we are alone, God is there. He never deserts us even though the human part of us may feel that He has. He is there when things are well and He is there in our times of challenging need. The Psalmist never doubted this eternal and everlasting presence of God. In our human anguish we may cry out for God to listen to us, to hear us. What a waste of breath. God always hears; God always knows what needs to be done in our lives. He knows what soul qualities we need to develop. God is there even when the soul cries out for relief and it seems that no answer is forthcoming. Be not deceived, the inner development of consciousness is the most important thing. For those who remain steadfast the blessings are honor, self-respect, character, integrity, refinement. There is also the promise of long life and salvation. The realization of long life is the realization of eternal life, the realization that life is without beginning or end and that God is with us through all the experiences of life. There will be true salvation, freedom from all human thought bondage. We shall return to the Garden. We shall abide in the secret place of the Most High forever and we shall be forever free.
© 1985, Jim Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.