In verse 5, the Psalmist says, “You will not be afraid of the terror by night…”. “You will not be afraid” is His first instruction. Then, in verse 8, he says, “You will only look on…”. In those words God says that you will watch and trust. Additionally, verse 13 reads, “You will tread upon the lion and the cobra…”. Here God says, You will move forward. Finally, verse 15 is written from God’s perspective when it reads, “He will call upon Me.” God says that you will pray. Four instructions that God gives us to fight fear that rises up in our hearts. God, in His mercy, understands that we will be afraid so He instructs us about what to do when we are.
YOU WILL NOT BE AFRAID
The first instruction is crucial because it is the foundation for all the rest. Once we understand this one the others quickly fall into place.
Although the dangers are very real and present, God tells us “not (to) be afraid.” In verses 5 to 7, we read
“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.”
The Bible never gives a sugarcoated view of life. Life is presented with dangers, even terror. We are not to believe that we are somehow immune to the ever-present dangers of life. However, God says that “(y)ou will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day.” As if “night terror” or “arrows” weren’t enough, we read in verse 6 that we shouldn’t fear “the pestilence that stalks in darkness (night) (o)r the destruction that lays waste at noon (day).” Those were things we hadn’t even considered yet! According to this Psalm, danger can come any time, day or night.
Furthermore, there are different kinds of dangers. There’s “ the arrow that flies by day,” the intentional danger, in verse 5. Someone has put the arrow on the string, pulled, aimed, and released it. Someone has a malicious intent and wishes to harm us. Then in verse 6, we read about pestilence. Disease, whether intentional or not, is another ever-present danger. We may be living our lives without a hint of peril, but these intentional and unintentional dangers come our way and are harmful to us.
The danger is magnified in verse 7, where we read, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand…”. These dangers can be extremely intense and intimidating, not only near but very close, intentional or unintentional, and can happen anytime. Then in the face of all this, the Psalmist says in verse 5,“You will not be afraid.” Even though all of this is true, we are told not to be afraid. This leads us to ask how can we not be afraid. If the dangers are very real and ever present why is God telling us not to be afraid?
In Psalm 91, we see two answers to our question. First, we are not to be afraid because of who God is. In verses 1-4 we read,
“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.”
In the first two verses of this Psalm, we see four different names of God, all of which express His power and His authority. In verse 1, God’s name is Most High: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High.” Our God is the MOST HIGH because there is none higher. Then, God is called Almighty: “He will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Our God is the ALMIGHTY! No might or power or ability can manipulate or control Him because there is no one and nothing greater than HIM. In verse 2, God is called Lord: “I will say to the Lord,” This is the Jehovah God, the great I AM. He created the heavens and the earth. Finally, in verse 4, God is called My God: “My God, in whom I trust.” This is our God. In face of the real terrors of life, we are instructed not to fear because of who our God is. He is the MOST HIGH! He is the ALMIGHTY! He is the LORD, and He is GOD!
Regardless of our thoughts about this war, anyone watching the television coverage had to be impressed with the military’s precision in bombing Baghdad, and the destruction that followed. However, even the United States’ military might is nothing compared to the Almighty. He is the ALMIGHTY! He is the MOST HIGH! He, then, is the source of our comfort and our courage. Whatever it is that threatens you, if you remember that He is mightier than it is, your fears will begin to abate. The pestilence, the arrow, the terror by night or day, the thousand falling to our sides, the ten thousand at our right hands, all this is under the ALMIGHTY!
There is no need to fear because of who He is. This is the first answer to our question. The second answer is more personal because it involves our relationship to God. We do not fear because of who God is and because we are rightly related to him. We see that in Psalm 91. In verse 2, we read the word “My” three times: “I will say to the Lord, My refuge, My fortress, My God in whom I trust.” The Psalmist isn’t talking about some god who made us, set the world into being and then went off to do something else in the universe. The Psalmist knows this God because he calls Him MY God. This great God who is powerful is MY God. There is a relationship. We do not fear when we are personally related to God.
We also read of the personal nature of being rightly related to God in verse 14 when God responds to the Psalmist: “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.” God says that He will deliver us because we love Him. This is amazing! Because we love the Almighty and are rightly related to Him, He will rescue us.
The testimonies of several of the people that were baptized this morning reminded us that there is a difference between merely acknowledging that there is a God and knowing Him. There is a difference between coming to church—doing our religious duties, and actually KNOWING God—having a relationship of trust and love.
We are not born into a personal relationship with the Almighty nor do we grow into such a relationship because of our education or maturity. Knowing God in a personal way is different.
As the people here expressed this morning, they had to respond to Christ in their own heart. They said yes and bowed their will to Jesus Christ. Then, they entered into this relationship. We know that it is a personal relationship because of what God says in verse 14: “I will set him securely on high because he has known My name.” God will deliver the person who really knows God, knows His name. We know God not just facts about Him. We KNOW Him.
When Jesus began to teach and move from place to place, he caused confusion because people did not understand who He was. In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, His own disciples weren’t sure who He was. After He calmed the sea and the wind, they asked, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41) His enemies, the religious leaders of the day, were jealous of Him because of He taught in a way that they couldn’t teach. There was an unearthly power and authority in what He said and what He did. Jesus disturbed people because he was upsetting the status quo. They came to Him, time and time again, and asked, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” (Mark 11:28)
Even at His trial, the night before His crucifixion, Pontius Pilate questioned Jesus. Pilate asked Him, ”Are You the King of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11) You can sense desperation in his voice. Pilate was being forced to decide the fate of the man before him. Politically, he knew that he could make only one decision, but Pilate knew that it would be wrong to crucify this One who was innocent. Pilate wanted to know if Jesus was the King of the Jews because he sensed something about the identity of the One who stood before him.
Throughout His life, people asked, Who is this Jesus? Who is He? Pilate sentenced Jesus to death and tried to wash his hands of the whole thing, but it was still Pilate’s responsibility to designate what crime would be written across the top of the cross. Jesus’ crime which was written in three languages on the cross was “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19) The Jewish leaders argued with Pilate over that inscription. Pilate ended the discussion with a declaration that probably caused by them further frustration: “What I have written I have written!” (John 19:22) Although he posed the question to Jesus and did not get an answer from Him, Pilate still wrote the truth on the inscription above Jesus on the cross.
There the Son of God hung on the cross with the inscription above His head for all to read, “the King of the Jews,” which, of course, meant that He is the Messiah. He is the One sent from God above. This is the One who came to fix the problem between we human beings who have messed things up with our sin and the God against whom we’ve rebelled. There on that cross God the Father was punishing the Son for your sin and for my sin. He was taking upon Himself, as a substitute for you and me, the punishment that you and I deserved. He took it to satisfy the justice of Almighty God and to save us, to give us forgiveness of sins.
There was a soldier standing before the cross as Jesus died. As Jesus breathed His last, the soldier said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) God is today still breaking into people’s hearts showing them who this One is and what He did. Knowing Jesus Christ is not just knowing the facts. It is seeing Him for who He really is, knowing Him.
Jesus during His earthly ministry told us about Himself and God. Before He was betrayed, Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”(John 17:3). Jesus in this prayer characterizes eternal life as knowing Him, knowing God in Jesus Christ, not merely facts about Him, not merely going through rituals that the church says are important, but KNOWING Him in a personal way. Psalm 91 describes the same love relationship, a trust relationship with Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 91, in the face of danger and threat, in the face of any source of anxiety which brings fear into our hearts, whether related to the War in Iraq and terrorism or not, God says you will not be afraid because of who God is and because you are rightly related to Him. He is the Almighty and because of Jesus Christ’s death for us, and because we have trusted in Christ, we now know Him. I can live victorious over my fear. I can refuse the fear that grips my heart because I know Him and am rightly related to Him.
I want to ask this before we go on. In the face of your fears, are you forgetting who God is? It is good to be reminded from God’s Word. Since 9/11, Americans have lost a sense of safety and rightly so, but I want you to remember that for ages and ages your brothers and sisters in Christ in other places in the world have never known that sense of security that we had before 9/11, but they have rested in security nonetheless because the Almighty is their God and He is greater than anything that threatens us. In the face of your fears, don’t forget who God is.
Also I want to ask you, are you rightly related to this Almighty? Have you trusted in the Son of God? Have you seen Jesus Christ for who He really is and placed your trust in Him? After all He did on the cross to gain forgiveness for your sins, have you asked Him to make it true for you? Make sure that today you have found a love relationship with the Almighty. It can start today.