Today many people are looking for freedom from fear and anxiety. Covid-19 and the associated worldwide quarantine has spread panic and fear. People are anxious about their health, lost jobs, mounting bills, and global unrest; many feel a sense of discouragement in the present and dread about the future.
For this reason, we want to give you a preview of an upcoming book that will be available later this year entitled Setting Captives Free - Freedom From Fear and Anxiety. This course is a 30-Day devotional for those seeking freedom from their fear and anxiety. We hope you find this excerpt both encouraging and helpful.
Do you long for protection? Are you afraid or panicked at the thought of sickness, uncertain of the future, and fearful of what might happen to you? In today's lesson, we will address these concerns as we abide together in the secure shelter of Jesus.
“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 he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. 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 look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place - the Most High, who is my refuge - 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:1-16
As a child, perhaps you played Blind Man's Bluff - a game of being blindfolded and turned around and around and then told to find the people near you. Robbed of your sight, you would have groped around, hands stretched out in front of you, trying to find someone by the sounds they made. Your steps, which would usually be planned and purposeful, would have been hesitant and faltering in the fearful and unknown darkness you were experiencing. The game was good fun, but it isn't so fun when life feels like that game.
Psalm 91 is a wonderful passage of reassurance and rest for our hearts in the middle of times of uncertainty when we cannot see the way ahead. In this Psalm, we learn that whether we are faced with the fear of sickness or death, relationship turmoil, financial hardship, hurtful disapproval by others, or fear of failure, God always has His hand firmly on us. If we listen, we will hear and recognize His voice of truth and love in our hearts. "I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name." (Psalm 91:14). Through belief in the redeeming work of Christ Jesus, we are called by name, one by one, into His family as beloved children of God (Isaiah 43:1).
In times of extreme fearfulness, we hesitate to move forward, "lest you strike your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91:13). We are tempted by Satan, the "fowler," also described in the Bible as a "lion and the adder" (Psalm 91:13), who uses snares to entrap us and lies to amplify our fears and fill our minds with the intensity of our struggles to the exclusion of faith-filled truth.
We might respond to the crises of our lives by seeing only the negative details to the point of despair or retreating into ourselves. However, in the comforting words of Charles Spurgeon, we are reminded that: “The Lord has no emergencies. He is never at the end of His resources.”
God’s sovereignty over our lives never sleeps. His commitment to us is never weakened. Jesus’ work of rescue for us (Psalm 91:15) from the hands of Satan on the hill of Golgotha cannot be erased.
Psalm 91 provides us with compelling visions, countering the lies of the evil one and reassuring that we are not hopeless victims in our situations but rather surrounded by the strength of God. We have a place to abide in a safe ‘refuge,’ a ‘fortress’ which is high, too high to be overrun by our enemies, the enveloping ‘wings’ of a bird to give love and warmth, and an intimate ‘dwelling place’ and ‘tent’ to tabernacle forever with God. Can you see these protective coverings over you, safeguarding and shielding you?
In Christ, we “rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak” (Isaiah 40:31 GNT). Similarly, in Psalm 91, verse 4, we see the beautiful sheltering of God by His feathers in all the calamities of life:
“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge;” Psalm 91:4
Pinions are found at the far outer sections of a bird's wings which enable them to fly. It is these feathers that are especially mentioned in this verse that raise us up to soar high with God in His abiding grace.
Some non-native birds undergo a process of pinioning to prevent them from escaping into the wild, and the pinion joint may be removed to prevent flight. Their natural ability to fly away from danger is thwarted and they are exposed and made vulnerable to predators on the ground.
We know another, Jesus Christ, who was pinioned over 2000 years ago so that we would be free to soar with joy and not grow weary. Our Savior, so full of love and kindness, held out His arms on the cross and stretched them wide over us, suffering in love and sheltering us from all eternal harm. No matter what situation we find ourselves facing, God’s “wings” of spiritual protection hovers over us as we trust in His Son’s Calvary work. As we set our hearts and our minds on the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are empowered to run from our self-made fortresses of fear, worry, and anxiety into His invincible refuge of safety:
Jesus covered us with protection by being a substitute of punishment for our sin, guilt, shame and the curse of the Law.
“Twisting some thorns into a victor's crown, they placed it on his head and put a stick in his right hand. They knelt down in front of him and began making fun of him, saying, "Long live the king of the Jews!" Matthew 27:29 ISV
Jesus, as the innocent Lamb of God, was nailed through His hands and feet to the cross and condemned in our place. His body hung in the filthy mire of our shame and guilt, covered in every one of our sinful efforts to make ourselves holy. A crown of thorns pierced His head as Jesus heard mocking voices yelling: ‘Shame, shame on You’ so that we would hear these breathtaking words of freedom in our souls: ‘You are “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22 NIV) and you wear His crown of eternal life’ (James 1:12; Psalm 91:16).
Jesus covered us with protection by absorbing the wrath and judgment of God into Himself.
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;” Psalm 22:14
Jesus’ joints were dislocated, in essence, His ‘wings’ were clipped. He hung pinioned and restrained for six hours, the sagging weight of His body pulled down by cruel gravity. He experienced in every cell of His body “the recompense of the wicked.” (Psalm 91:8). Jesus’ heart of love melted like wax before the flames of His Father’s wrath for the unholiness of our lives of rebellious betrayal against our Creator. It was a divine consuming fire that no one could stand against: “even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear” (2 Samuel 17:10). But Jesus rose victorious with our sin debt fully paid, so we in Christ will never suffer a moment of God’s righteous anger for our wrongdoings (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Jesus covered us with protection by suffering for our unrighteousness.
“And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there.” Matthew 27:35-36
Such humiliation faced Jesus: He was stripped and crucified naked, hung on the cross in utter shame and disgrace. His shed blood flowed from a vast number of wounds made poisonous by our sin embedded in them. Jesus received no comfort as He endured the abuse of crowds and the abandonment of His Father God, who had to look away from the sin that His Son became.
But Jesus rose in power, the tombstone of His grave rolled away, three days later; and we became gloriously clothed in the bright and clean wedding garments of Jesus’ perfect righteousness. When asked, “Who takes this one to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish?” Jesus said, “ I do.” The words of “until death do you part” would never be spoken over us in this eternal union.
“He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10.
Jesus covered us with protection by facing the devil and death alone in our place.
“Like lions they open their jaws against me, roaring and tearing into their prey.” Psalm 22:13 NLT
At the cross, Jesus walked as a decoy into the enemy’s hunting ground to divert the devil away from us and to attack Him in our stead. Jesus laid Himself bare and vulnerable to the terror of the night, the deadly arrows that fly by day, the pestilence that stalks in darkness, and the destruction that wastes in the hot noonday sun (Psalm 91:5-7). By Jesus’ death, death was swallowed up (Isaiah 25:8), and we are ransomed and set free by His shed blood from the power and fear of death (Hosea 13:14).
When fear in our hearts cries out; “I am not safe and what will happen to me?”, we pray for the grace not to cling to our life in fear, but to surrender and give up our life wholeheartedly to Jesus so we will find it (Matthew 10:39). We look to God’s hands of safety around us, abiding with Jesus in the protected shadow of the cross:
“I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I [Jesus] will be your glorious hero and give you a feast. 16 You will be satisfied with a full life and with all that I do for you. For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!” Psalm 91:15-16 TPT [word in bracket added]
In the words of the hymn, ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’, we read the wonderful words from Martin Luther:
“A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;…
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:”
When troubles come in our lives, we are relieved to remember that we have the Man of God’s own choosing, Jesus, by our side. God’s dear Son understands in a way that no other person does of the nature of our human suffering. As we share in the sufferings of Christ, we share in the comfort that overflows in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5).
Each detail of our trials is known to God, and not one is unexpected to Him. In the light of eternity, we know that everything in our lives works in intricate ways that are woven together for good (Romans 8:28), and no situation comes to us but what the love of God allows.
We respond to our anxieties in our words and actions, looking to the cross in a way that brings glory and honor to God, remembering His benefits. We stand firm in His words of truth about us moving forward, and not retreating in fear, into the battle of faith, knowing Jesus has won the outcome of this battle for us already.
Before our salvation, we were lost and weary, condemned and without hope, “finding no way to a city where they could settle.” (Psalm 107:4). Our Mediator, Jesus, the Rock of our salvation, covered us by His body at the cross, and now no fear can overcome us as we are more than conquerors in the power of Christ:
“So no weapon that is used against you will defeat you. You will show that those who speak against you are wrong. These are the good things my servants receive. Their victory comes from me,” says the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17 NCV
We are in perfect peace knowing that whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Paul directs our thoughts to the gain of what is coming for us in Christ with these words: "For to me, to live is Christ [He is my source of joy, my reason to live] and to die is gain [for I will be with Him in eternity]." (Philippians 1:21 AMP). We look in faith to Jesus and ask for grace to say “I desire every gain that is in You”.
Question 1: In Psalm 91, what area(s) of Jesus’s protection at Calvary means the most to you at this time?
Question 2: Could you please consider in what ways the truth of the cross proclaimed through these lessons has been touching, healing, and changing your heart and share a prayer giving praise to God for what He has done and for grace to continue transforming your heart by the gospel of Jesus Christ?