March 20, 2020

Shelter in Grace

Psalm 91 Part 1

Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston

 

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD,

He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

Psalm 91:1-2

In times of danger and uncertainty, where can we go for sanctuary?

In our present crisis, a virus identified as COVID-19, or Coronavirus, has become a life-threatening pandemic impacting and terrorizing the entire world.

In the United States, schools have been closed, restaurants shuttered, and residents of nursing homes quarantined from receiving outside visitors. Every institution in society has adjusted to this new reality. Churches have suspended services, the economy has suffered, hospitals are strained and the government is limiting personal travel.

People are being told to ‘shelter in place’ by remaining in their homes for an unforeseen period of time. This is a desperate attempt by public officials to limit the spread of this deadly virus. While we ‘shelter in place’ I want to also suggest that we ‘shelter in grace.’

We shelter in grace when we turn to the Lord and call upon His Name, when we seek God’s mercies and restorative love. When we shelter in grace we are acknowledging that our ‘help comes from the Lord, the One who made heaven and earth.’ As the opening verses of the 121st Psalm puts it; “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

In similar fashion, the 91st Psalm speaks of God’s protection upon all who trust in Him. That protection comes when we ‘dwell’ in the secret place of the Most High. As verse 1 says; “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Written by King David, this Psalm may reflect his experience with King Saul who sought to kill him. Saul became increasingly envious of David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant, and planned the young man’s death. In First Samuel chapter 19, verse 2, we read of Saul’s son and David’s close friend, Jonathon, warning David; “Saul my father seeks to kill you: now take heed until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide yourself.”

David was hunted by an evil and insane king that wanted to kill him. It seemed that there was no place in the entire land where David might escape the wrath of the king. But as the Psalm indicates, David found a secret place where he could hide from these dangers and stand in the presence of God!

Through faith we can shelter in grace, the secret place that allows us fellowship with God. The secret place is where the weary rest, where our burden is light and our yoke made easy. It’s where the Lord Himself is found, standing by to protect all who trust in Him!

When we shelter in grace, we discover the faithful covering of the Almighty who assures our hearts with confidence and with a ‘peace that passes understanding’ (Philippians chapter 4, verse 7).

In John’s Gospel, we read of Nathaniel’s first encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. When Nathaniel was first told about Jesus, he replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John chapter 1, verses 44-51).

Nathaniel expressed the common sentiment that the village of Nazareth was a back-water town with very little to offer. But Nathaniel’s sarcasm turned to worship and joy when Jesus revealed he had seen Nathaniel under a certain fig tree, a secret place, where Nathaniel communed with God! Nathaniel’s ‘secret place’ was a place of prayer, of seeking God and being found by God.

Nathaniel discovered that something better than good had come from Nazareth. Grace had arrived from heaven. The prophesied, promised God and Savior had finally come into our world to redeem humanity from despair and death.  With Jesus, we shelter in grace by placing our trust in Him.

God searches for all who seek Him, and our seeking often occurs in those private spaces and places where our prayers and petitions are reverently made.

Often, it’s in the secret place that our trust in God is forged, and God’s grace is realized.

In a small room in the Capitol building, just off the main rotunda, is a secret place for Congressional members to pray.

Closed to the public, it has a stained-glass window with an etching of George Washington kneeling in prayer, and the words, “Preserve me O God, for in thee do I put my trust.”  Our national leadership has a secret place where they can meet with God!

In this time of global tribulation, lets ‘shelter in grace’ by locating a private place where we can pray and meet with the Lord. It’s no secret that God wants to meet with you!

 

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