He is the Elohim, the El Shaddai, the creative God who steps out on nothing and speaks light, the physical universe and life itself into being! The all-powerful One. The all-sufficient One. The many-breasted One, who is the ultimate provider of all things. This God, this almighty God, the intimate God of our fellowship, stands poised and ready to give us the care, comfort and protection we need and crave in this uncertain world.
Note the intimate "personal-ness" of the protection David writes about. He says, "I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust" (Ps. 91:2, emphasis added).
The second verse of the psalm is critical because it details the intimate and personal relationship that God requires of us. Times as uncertain as these, following 9/11, make it important for every individual to be certain of his standing and his personal relationship with God. This is not the time to believe in traditions or in family religion.
In certain cultures, "religion" is what we inherited from former generations. "Religion" is something you do on Sunday. It is more about cultural and historical activities than it is about intimate personal commitment and worship and praise.
But here the psalmist calls us back to the main point of the text: the requirement for personal intimacy with God in order to survive the kinds of events that have perplexed us since 9/11.
Listen to David's positive and personal affirmations. "I will say of the Lord..." It is his personal testimony. It is based on his personal experience. It is not the tradition of the elders of the family or the Jewish leaders--not even the priesthood.
No, it is based on the years that David wandered in the wilderness, hiding in caves, homeless and a wanderer in the very land over which he was already the anointed king. All the time, God protected him. He kept him one step ahead of Saul and his superior forces. He took him into the caves, spun the spider web to protect him, fed him where there was no source of food, gave his enemies into his hands time and time again.
So David comes forward to speak in the personal language of the Psalm, "I, David, from my firsthand intimate knowledge, will say of the Lord, 'He is my personal fortification.'"
David takes "ownership" of God. " I will say of the Lord, 'He is...my God, in Him I will trust.'" David's model becomes our model of security.
THE PROCESS OF PROTECTION Verses 11 and 12 of Psalm 91 speak of the process of God's protection. "He shall give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone."
Because David is a figure shrouded in antiquity, readers may think: Sure, God did those things for him in biblical days, but of what relevance is that to me in light of my fears today? How does what He did for David provide me with any sense of security as I look at the "real" world post 9/11?
The Bible tells us that God is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). We can rest assured that if He was there for David, He'll be there for us.
As I read through this section of the psalm, my spirit began to rejoice at God's ability to provide things for us in time and space that are completely outside our radar screens. Knowing that God has untold ways of providing for our protection, I drew inspiration and an incredible sense of security from the remarkable stories of "angels" coming to the rescue of 9/11 victims as the towers blazed and collapsed around them.
One is the story of the wheelchair-bound woman, trapped more than 70 floors above the ground with no chance of survival. Surely she is the personification of the text, for she had indeed "dashed her foot." Unable to walk, unable to negotiate steps in a wheelchair, she faced certain death in the inescapable inferno.
But in line with God's Word, two total strangers became the "angels" God used to "bear her up in their hands." They didn't know her. They didn't know each other, but seeing her as they passed her floor, they said, "You need some help," and carried her in her wheelchair down more than 70 flights of stairs to safety.
Another is the story of the blind man, trapped more than 80 floors above the ground. Believing that he would die in the blazing ruins of the World Trade Center, he sent his beloved guide dog away, so that he, too, would not die an excruciating death.
But through the smoke and debris, the heroic dog came back, miraculously leading his master through pitch-black smoke, shattered glass and twisted steel, down 80 flights of stairs to safety.
Truly, God's angels come in all shapes, varieties and sizes. Both these people can echo David's testimony: "He shall give His angels charge over you...and in their hands they shall [indeed] bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone" (Ps. 91:11-12).