A Little Big Thing (Psalm 91:7-8)
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. ⁸You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. —Psalm 91:7-8
So much in the life of faith depends on the little things. One little stone slew Goliath. A little faith the size of a mustard seed moves mountains. One little baby in a manger saved the world. One little word from that Savior’s mouth will put an end to His enemies and permanently establish His Kingdom.
There is a little word in Psalm 91:7 that bears the weight of meaning. Just two small letters hold the secret to understanding the height and depth and width and breadth of God’s grace to those who put their trust in Him. Can you identify the key word?
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
The little word with a big impact is the word it. What is the “it” that will not impinge on us though the whole world may be falling apart? The answer to that question comes from the verses before and the verse after.
Verses 5 and 6 list four potential threats to the peace and well-being of the one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High and abides in the shadow of the Almighty. Those threats are presented as terror, arrows, pestilence, and destruction. The threat is fear, specifically fear of death.
Have you ever considered why we fear death as we do? God has built an understanding of eternity into us, whether we acknowledge it or not. Inherently we know that it is given unto every man once to die and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We know, deep down, because God has planted it in each of us, that we must face Him when we die. We must face our Maker, our Creator, our Sovereign God and give an account to Him of the life He gave to us.
We fear death because we fear God’s judgment. Look at Psalm 91:8: “You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.” There’s the “it.” Final Judgment. The Recompense of the Wicked. The Thing that terrifies us. The heart of our fear, the fear of our heart. However, even though a thousand may fall to fear of death at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, you do not have to fear death or judgment...if you dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Think of a barren, dry, wicked hot desert. Think of walking, no water, blinded by the scorching sun, parched, skin burning and sensitive to touch from the overexposure. Now, imagine coming upon a green tree with a full canopy of leaves, not a one withered or dry, every leaf full of life and vigor. What would such an oasis offer you in the misery of the desert? Comforting, life-giving shade, right?
How would you engage that life-giving, life-protecting, heart-gladdening shadow? Would you pass by quickly? Would you renounce it as untimely, decide to wait for a more convenient moment? Or would you throw yourself down in relief and delight and take every measure of protection and restoration that shadow offers? Would you stay until you are fully recuperated and enjoy the luxury of that shadow’s provision?
Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ and entrust themselves to the promises of God, who delight themselves in Him, who make His glory their meaning and their purpose are those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty. They have no cause to fear death for they know judgment has already been poured out on Christ who died on the cross in their place on their behalf.
These are the fearless ones who will only look with their eyes, not experience for themselves, the recompense–the judgment—of the wicked. Are you one of these? Or do you live in fear of it? Trust Jesus today and fear not.
Many of God’s promises apply to our experience in this life, but some apply specifically to our death and the life to come. Why should promises for your future cause you as much joy as promises for your present?
The promises of Psalm 91 intend to cement your confidence in God’s personal integrity. What doubts or uncertainties come up when you read Psalm 91? Do you resolve these doubts by dismissing them or dismantling them? How do you abide in the shadow of the Almighty in your life?
The promises of God are always true. We know they are “yes” and “amen” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). Are you “in Christ” today? Have you put your faith in Him? Are you counting on God to keep His word to you just as He keeps His word to His Son?
Dale McIntire (D.Min, Bethel Theological Seminary) has pastored Cornerstone Community Church for 28 years and is the author of Catching the Wind: A Guide for Interpreting Ecclesiastes. He is married to the originator of the Fighter Verses concept, Linda Fregeau McIntire, who also authors and co-authors Truth78 resources. They share a like zeal for infusing the next generation with love for God’s Word.