Canvey Methodist Church Bible Study 17th November 2020

Canvey Methodist Church Bible Study - 17th November 2020

 

Love Conquests Fear.

 

Psalm 91:

 

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]

2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

    my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you

    from the fowler’s snare

    and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,

    and under his wings you will find refuge;

    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night,

    nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

    nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,

    ten thousand at your right hand,

    but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes

    and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”

    and you make the Most High your dwelling,

10 no harm will overtake you,

    no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you

    to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;

    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;

    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;

    I will be with him in trouble,

    I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life I will satisfy him

    and show him my salvation.”

Footnotes.  a.Psalm 91:1 Hebrew Shaddai. b.Psalm 91:14 That is, probably the  king

 

Comment: 

 

When my children were about three to four years old, one of their favourite games was to climb up about four to six of the hall stairs with me standing facing them at the bottom and then to turn around and hurl themselves into the air in complete trust that I would catch them at the end of their descent. Fortunately for all concerned I always did. At that age their trust in my ability to catch them seemed to outweighed any fear that they may have felt.  

There is seemingly a strong link between trust and overcoming fear; The mountaineer trusting ropes and climbing equipment, the skydiver trusting parachutes, the deep sea diver trusting oxygen lines and astronauts trusting vessel integrity and instrumentation.

According to the dictionary Fear is described, “as an emotion induced by perceived danger or threat, which causes physiological changes and ultimately behavioral changes, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events”.

Similarly, the dictionary defines Anxiety, the bed-fellow of fear, as “an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. It includes subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events. Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration. Anxiety is closely related to fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat; anxiety involves the expectation of future threat”. 

 

Perhaps understandably, in 2020 with Covid-19 stalking the world, we are living at a time when both fear and anxiety are raising their heads in the daily experience of many.

On Wednesday the 20th May 2020, the Independent newspaper reported that,

“In lockdown, the average adult has seen their stress and anxiety levels rise by almost 50 per cent in recent weeks – with those aged over 60 seeing the biggest increase.  Worryingly, more than two thirds who are experiencing anxiety said this was manifesting itself in physical symptoms”.

 

Fear of events, of perceived threats and of the unknown is not a new phenomenon, but rather it is as old as humanity itself. Whilst clinical anxiety can, and should, be treated by a trip to the doctor, and by medication, that nagging, gripping, tentacle like spreading, stomach churning, irrational and unwarranted confidence limiting fear of life and its events can be soothed by a divine touch and a peace that passes understanding. 

As we turn once more in this series to the book of psalms, we find Psalm 91, the ancient “antidote to fear”. It’s words still ringing with vibrancy and a promise of hope for all who “dwell in the shadow of the most high”. But what do we know about this Psalm, it’s origins, what it has meant to people over the years, and what it can mean to us now in 2020. On your behalf I did a bit of digging in the Bible Commentaries and there is indeed,” more to Psalm 91 than might first meet the eye. 

 

The Technical Bit

Psalm 91 is included in the 7th group of Psalms known as the Didactic Songs and is made up of Pss 1, 15, 34, 37, 49, 73, 78, 91, 111, 112, 119, 127, 128.

What, we may well ask, is a Didactic Song when it is at home? 

Essentially it is a Psalm that is teaching or instructional in nature. Between them these Didactic Songs contain lines that are “instructional sayings” involving “insight sayings,” “proverbs,” and “riddles”, these all being the standard language of the wisdom teachers and writers of the Psalms. One of the distinctive characteristics of these Didactic poems is that they speak of “the two ways of living”; the choices between good and evil that confront all of humanity in daily living. These choices, in the Didactic Songs are spoken of as,

 “the ways of the wise and the foolish”, those of “the obedient:and the disobedient”. (Theologians call this “The Piety of the Two Ways).” 

What does this mean though?

The two ways - 

Firstly on the one hand stand those who are righteous (1:6), the blameless (15:2), the upright (37:37), the wise (49:10), the saints (34:9), the pure in heart (73:1). Those who fear the Lord. 

 

Secondly- On the other hand stand the wicked (1:4-6; 37:13-14). These are sinners (1:5), mockers (1:1), vile persons (15:4), wrongdoers (37:1), schemers (37:7), deceivers (49:5), and abusers of power and wealth (37:16-17, 32-33). These are the enemies of the Lord (37:20).

 

Psalm 91 stands in this tradition. According to Jewish thought Psalm 91 was composed by Moses on the day he completed the building of the Tabernacle in the desert. The verses describe Moses' own experience entering the Tabernacle and being enveloped by the Divine cloud.

Whilst five of the eight acrostic Psalms (each line beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet) appear in this group of Didactic songs (34, 37, 111, 112, 119), Ps 91 is not one of these. In its instructive lines we find themes of God's protection and rescue from danger.

 

Psalm 91 and Us.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Psalm 91 has been used over the years as a song to sing in times of danger and perceived threat. Thus in antiquity this psalm was recited to drive away such threats as plagues, demons, evil spirits, Terror, Arrow,  Pestilence, and Destruction (as mentioned in verses 5–6). In fact archaeologists have even found this psalm written in amulets worn by both Jews and Christians from  the Late Antique period.(200-800AD). 

 

However, in essence, Psalm 91 is a source of comfort and protection, and an invitation to receive God’s welcome. In it we are invited to trust God and to make our home in the shelter of His wings where we find protection. Thus Today we can reflect on the promises we find directed to us in Psalm 91. 

 

“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you”.v5-7.

 

Jesus, in the New Testament gave similar encouragement to his hearers to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

 Matthew 11:28- 28. Jesus said,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

And the apostle John, when speaking to those of his time facing persecution and trauma, said this:

 “1John 4:16-16 - And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.


 

Phil Togwell, a devotional author writes, “Fear is a cruel enemy. Fear often holds us back from taking steps of faith. It spoils our relationships, stopping us from giving and receiving love. It drains us of peace and fills us with dread. It reduces us, forcing us to become less than we are, less than who God has made us to be”. 

It is not surprising therefore that God repeatedly tells his people to not be afraid. In fact, it’s the most common command in the whole of scripture, repeated around 365 times, once for every single day of the year. 

 

“Do not be afraid”, says the Lord, “for I am with you.” (Joshua 1:9).

 

And God is with you and I today, in Covid lockdown, and beyond. He invites us into His presence and embrace, to trust him with our worries and cares, He whispers once again in your ear, and mine the words of 1Peter5v6-7:

 

“ 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.

 

May God enable us to cast our fears upon him and to dwell in the shelter of the most high. Amen

 

Points to Ponder:

 

1).As we reflect on the ‘fear’ phrases in today’s passage (the fowler’s snare, the deadly pestilence. the terror of night, the arrow, the pestilence, the plague) how do they make you feel? 

 

2) Who among our family and friends is plagued by fear in some way? 

Please pray for them the Lord’s promise to Joshua, “Do not be afraid, for the Lord is with you!” (Joshua 1:9).

 

Song: Cast your burden upon the Lord- Len Magee

https://youtu.be/Z5R5y1eOZE4


 

May God Bless us all

 

Colin 

 


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