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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflection: 8
Worldwide pandemics are nothing new.
Back in 1846 there was a cholera pandemic. Cholera was then incurable. The pandemic started in India, surged outward to Europe and North Africa, then crossed the Atlantic to America, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. It was at its height in our country during 1853-54 and took 10,000 lives in London alone.
Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon was in London at the time. He was an immensely powerful evangelist, the Billy Graham of his day, but also ran a large church. He visited the dead and dying, fearlessly taking Christian hope wherever he went.
The secret of his courage? He believed the promises of Psalm 91. He said this Psalm is "the best preservation in times of cholera… I have a heavenly medicine against plague and pest. He who can live in its spirit will be fearless, even if once again London should become a lazar-house (i.e. a hospital for those with infectious diseases) and the grave be gorged with carcasses.”
Over the next weeks, we'll be looking at this Psalm to see how its promises can bring us the same courage and fearlessness. We’ll go through the whole Psalm, to get a good handle on what God might be saying to us through it. (You can read the Psalm at the end of this reflection, or if you want to read it alongside this reflection
Let's look at the first verse:
“Whoever dwells in the secret place of the Most High will remain in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)
Did you ever have a "secret place" you would love to go to, when you were little? Somewhere away from everybody else. A place of safety and comfort.
The Most High God has a “secret place” set aside for you. Somewhere you can go to meet with him. Away from everybody else. A place of peace and quiet. Just you and God. Jesus encouraged us to go to our room, shut the door and talk to our Father in secret (Matthew 6:6). Your secret place for meeting God could be in your room, in your bed (like King David – Psalm 6:6, Psalm 63:6) or somewhere else altogether. It doesn't matter where it is. It just matters that you have a secret place, just for you and God.
God invites you to come into that secret place whenever you are in trouble. Whenever you need him. The invitation, though, is for far more than a secret place you can run to when hard times come. God will never turn you away when you come to him in need, but he wants to meet you in that secret place regularly. Not just when you are in trouble.
God invites you to “dwell” with him in that secret place. He wants this secret place for you and him to be so much more than somewhere you run to, from time to time, when you need him. He would like you to "dwell" there. To make that secret place somewhere you live. You are there day in, day out. Regularly. Consistently. You make it your home. You spend lots of time there. You are at home, comfortable there.
As you settle into living in that secret place, something very wonderful happens. You can see it in the second half of our verse. You will "remain in the shadow of the Almighty". Just imagine how close you have to stand to someone, to be in their shadow. Now we are socially distanced, we aren’t used to being that close to anyone. But God invites you to come and be that close to him.
If you are close enough to someone to be in their shadow, that person will notice everything that happens to you. Nothing and no-one can come close to you without them knowing.
When you are so close to God that you are remaining in his shadow, then nothing can come near you, without his permission. Without him seeing. Without you being under his all-powerful protection.
This is a beautiful image of the safety and security which you remain in, as you make yourself at home in your "secret place" with God.
Living in your "secret place" with God is the key to all of the precious promises in the rest of this Psalm.
God is sending you an invitation today to find a secret place with him. To make that place your home. The invitation is marked "RSVP". How will you reply?
My Refuge and My Fortress
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of 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.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, "The LORD is my refuge," and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."