He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
7 A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
8 You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
9 For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.
14 “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.” Psalm 91, NASB
The idea for this series on the Book of Psalms came from a young family friend. One of the many reasons he gave me for no longer attending church is the lack of diversity in the sermons preached and or taught in church. According to him, the Old Testament is missing in action, especially troublesome texts. I also want to start this series with the Book of Psalms because almost everyone has some experience with the book, especially Psalm 23. Another reason why I wanted to start with this book is because we all have some experience and context with poetry as the voice and thought of a people. Rap and hip-hop are considered to be the modern day poetic thoughts of a people like Psalms.
I am going to rely on Walter Brueggemann’s, Spirituality of the Psalms. Brueggemann makes three broad categories to place the psalms into, orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. Brueggemann sees the psalms of orientation as the ones when life is going the way we want. Life is full of blessings because we love God and we try to do the right thing. The psalms of disorientation are those that were written because life hits us with its disappointments, pain and betrayals. Psalms of new orientation are those that occur when we have passed through disorientation and we just want to praise God for being there with us.
Like most ways of categorizing things, all of the psalms don’t fit into the three neat categories. The reason for this is because life is not one dimensional, but complicated. During parts of our lives, we may not just be in a phase of orientation, disorientation, or new orientation only. We may be going through all three of these periods at one time. Psalm 91, the psalm that I am going to focus on today is one of them. Most people would consider this a psalm of orientation, but I have used it in all situations of my faith walk with God. Psalm 91 is unique in the way it is written. The first 13 verses are written from the viewpoint of the writer/believer on how God will protect him/her. The last three verses seems to be written from God’s viewpoint promising the writer/believer what will happen if he/she follows what is written in the previous thirteen verses.
I first started using Psalm 91 when I had my children. When I was pregnant with my first son, a friend told me about Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of womb is his reward,” KJV. She said this is the reason why parents will be held accountable to God for their children. I embraced this idea. I vowed to be a good parent. For me, that meant listening to Holy Spirit speak to me on raising my children. One day someone else told me that they prayed Psalm 91 over their life everyday for protection. I read it and decided that I would pray this psalm over my children’s lives everyday. I got to the point that I would substitute their names for the pronouns in verses 1-13. This was a comfort for me because at a certain age you can no longer be around your children 24/7. I truly believe because I was praying this psalm over my children that they were protected even from me. I was not a perfect parent and when I messed up, Holy Spirit had me apologize to them. My children learned that I was not perfect and it was okay to make mistakes and learn from them. As a result of that, they now think that I am a perfect parent. But, I believed and knew it then that God would protect my children from
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
This was the state of orientation that I was in for my children. Even now, I pray Psalm 91 over them even though they are adults.
Yet for me during a lot of this time, I was in a state of disorientation. I have been raised to be a servant. (Luke 10:25-37) No matter what I was doing in my professional life, this was my compass. Often this would leave me short of money, ill, tired or feeling betrayed by those I trusted. The feeling of betrayal would not go away or money would not come right away so I would be in stress. Stress can affect your body, mind, soul, and safety. I would pray Psalm 91 in my stress. God would protect me from the snare of the trapper, deadly pestilence, terror by night, the arrow that flies by day, pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that lays waste at noon. Stress makes you less careful when you drive, walk the streets, or even shop at the grocery store. In my state of disorientation, I believe God has and still protects me.
During my phase of disorientation, I had to stop and praise God for protecting me from the big tractor-trailer, that I was not paying attention to on the road. I used verses 14-16 in my new orientation. I was reminded that God promised to deliver me. Or when a financial need was answered, I was reminded that God will set me securely on high. Or when illness attacks my body, I am reminded that God promised to give me a long satisfactory life. I dare you to do like the ancient Israelites, pray and chant the psalms over your life no matter what orientation your life is in.
 Walter Brueggemann, Spirituality of the Psalms (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2002).