Our world has been turned inside out as we continue to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard not to think about the virus because it has literally touched every area of our lives. We’re separated from family and friends.
Churches have closed their doors. Schools are closed, jobs are either on a total loss, on hold, or some are working from home. Gyms, restaurants, and other small businesses are forced to close and grocery stores have limited hours. Then there’s the news; every story or report seems grimmer than the next.
The coronavirus pandemic is confusing and frightening for hundreds of millions of people. During this historical moment in history, it’s hard not to be anxious or worry. One doesn’t have to look too far before Psalm 91 shows up on their newsfeed. It’s no wonder because Psalm 91 is literally the 9-1-1 to our mighty God.
It’s brimming with declarations and promises of God’s protection. During this time of global pandemic with COVID-19, this Psalm speaks of God’s presence, power, and protection against fear. Fear is the one emotion God doesn’t want to overtake us; because when we fear, it reveals in our hearts how we are relying on our own efforts and not trusting our Savior.
The Apostle Paul encouraged his protégé, Timothy, to cling to faith by reminding him, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). This is essentially the battle call in Psalm 91.
In the face of this pandemic or anything else in life, we have the right to be concerned but we do not have the right to worry or fear. There are over 365 verses about fear in the Bible and even Jesus tells us three times in Matthew 6:25-34, “Don’t worry.” He doesn’t want us to fear or worry because these emotions become king instead of Jesus being our King.
Psalm 91 Is Our 9-1-1
So why are millions of Christians around the world praying Psalm 91? The power of Psalm is a reminder that no matter what happens, a financial collapse, job loss, war, cancer, or COVID-19, God is still in control. In the very first two verses, we are told exactly who God is.
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.
Hidden in plain sight are four of God’s powerful names: The Most High, the Almighty, the Lord, my God. Why does the writer use four different names in two verses, and what is significant about it during this pandemic? The first name the Most High, is the Hebrew word Elyon. The name signifies God's majesty, sovereignty, and pre-eminence.
We are reminded in this passage that we live, breathe, move and have our rest in God. He assures us of protection, comfort, and care. It reminds us we don’t dwell on the news, we don’t dwell in anxiety, worry, or the pandemic. He is our dwelling place.
The second name, the Almighty, is translated from the word Shaddai means a God mighty beyond our imagination or comprehension. It appears 48 times in the Bible and references that God is the God of the wilderness or God of the mountains.
The point being, God can cause mountains to tumble, he can part the seas, he can protect us from the enemy. He can protect us during this pandemic because no matter what happens, we will be with him for all eternity.
The third name, the LORD, translates to Yahweh. It is the personal name of God, revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 6:2. It has been translated as Yahweh, Jehovah, and more often as the LORD (in all caps).
It means that the Lord is God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and knows us on a deep, intimate level. He knows the exact number of hairs on our heads, the color of our eyes when we lie down and wake up, he knows the number of our days on this earth.
The fourth name, my God, comes from the Hebrew Elohim. This name first appears at the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It also means “supreme one” or “mighty one.”
In just these first few verses of Psalm 91, we are reassured beyond a shadow of a doubt that we serve a mighty God. It reminds us that even though we live in a fallen world, he is still with us. Even in perilous times as the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re reminded he is our shelter, our protector, our deliverer. We are reminded God is in control, forever and always.
The Message of Psalm 91
Psalms 91 is God’s way of telling us that whoever runs to him and seeks his divine protection will be saved from calamity and destruction. When we pray the words of this psalm it becomes a powerful shield of protection from fear.
However, some people mistakenly thought the teaching is an unconditional promise and proof that life would be smooth sailing; that we won’t face hardship, illness, or any other crisis.
This kind of thinking is often preached by pastors and ministers who teach the false and deceptive prosperity gospel. Nothing can be farther from the truth. God promised protection, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer even in the face of this pandemic.
What we can count on are the promises found in this Psalm. It is filled with the goodness and power of God with eight promises:
(1) I will rescue him... (Deliver, Cause to Escape) (2) I will protect him... (Set Him on a High Place) (3) I will answer him... (Respond to, Speak) (4) I will be with him in trouble... (In Afflictions, in Distress) (5) I will deliver him... (Rescue, to Bring into Safety) (6) and honor him... (To Make Rich, Strong, Heavy with Honor) (7) With long life will I satisfy him... (To Have Abundance in the Journey) (8) and show him my salvation. (Let Him See my Deliverance and Victory).
What Does This Mean?
God doesn’t promise that we won’t get sick or witness loved ones suffer at the hands of this illness or anything else in life. What he does promise is to be with us and protect us from fear. The promises and plans he has for each of us offers us comfort that he is in control.
As Christians: We live and walk by faith. Faith is trusting in God — in his goodness, his faithfulness, and his plans. And it’s the result of fearing God: We recognize God’s supremacy, goodness, and control, and so we trust him. “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!” (Psalm 115:11).
Psalm 91 Prayer
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.”
Heather Riggleman is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor for Crosswalk. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 22 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and a contributor to several books. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.