"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." Psalm 91
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Psalm 91 has perhaps been one of Scriptures' most quoted passages. It's no wonder. In the whole collection of the book of Psalms, there is hardly a more reassuring chapter. As renowned 19th-century English preacher and author Charles H. Spurgeon states in his commentary: "(Psalm 91's) tone is elevated and sustained throughout, faith is at its best, and speaks nobly. A German physician was wont to speak of it as the best preservative in times of cholera, and in truth, it is a heavenly medicine against plague and pest."
The original manuscript did not include a title, and scholars cannot assert its authorship, but it is widely accepted to have been written by Moses. Many of the expressions used throughout this chapter are similar to Deuteronomy’s prose and idioms — one of Moses’ books of the Torah. Other scholars assign this psalm as one of King David’s masterpieces. Regardless, this beloved psalm has inspired believers throughout the centuries, particularly at times of illness, distress, want or persecution.
Several years ago, the verse I quoted at the beginning of this article received new meaning when I witnessed God's justice fall on someone who had tried to harm me.
My brother called me very early that day, which was quite unusual. My immediate thought was that something terrible had happened, but he quickly dismissed any tragedy. He proceeded to say that someone I knew had been arrested. My heart skipped a beat. Just one year before, that person had tried to harm me and my business. At the time, I wanted to fight and take justice into my own hands, but as I prayed about it, it became clear that I was only to be still, forgive, and let God handle the situation.
It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done because my natural response was undoubtedly to seek justice, but I reluctantly resisted the temptation to fight. Instead, I prayerfully opened my hands and delivered the situation to God.
One year — that’s how long it took for justice to be served. And when I heard about it, I instinctively knew that this justice surpassed the reach of the courts of men. The mighty judge of the universe had honored his word to me. As the verse in Psalm 91 promised, I “only observed with my eyes and (indeed saw) the punishment of the wicked.”
All I had to do was stand back and wait, nothing else.
In the Old Testament, instead of taking justice into his own hands, we read about young David's response while being unjustly persecuted by King Saul and his kinsman. He knew his natural resources could not stand a chance against the armies of Israel's first king. And so, he cried out to God as we read it on Psalm 7:
"Arise, O Lord, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice!"
"The Lord judges the nations. Declare me righteous, O Lord, for I am innocent, O Most High!"
David had no high court to plead his innocence to; after all, the king was his enemy. The very person who could have righted the situation was seeking to destroy him. But David had the court of heaven to appeal to and a mighty and righteous judge, whom David trusted to defend him.
As we read Israel's shepherd king's history, we realize that God honored David's solemn trust time and again.
Later, as the established and victorious king of Israel, David writes numerous praise songs to the One who fought his battles for him. Among them, Psalm 21 stands out as a solemn reminder that all our efforts to obtain justice are meaningless unless God is on our side:
"No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord. The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord."
It is a concept as comforting as it is challenging these days. It is a comfort to those who feel helpless in their struggles, but it is also a warning to those who blindly seek to take matters into their own hands.
Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Her newly published Bible Study – Twelve Inches – is now available on her website www.soaringwithHim.com. For speaking engagements and comments, email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com