Coronavirus and God’s Protective Care

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Note: This sermon was preached in Plantation, Florida on Sunday, 4/19/2020, during lockdown due to the coronavirus.

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Psalm 91:1-16

INTRODUCTION: This morning we are going to be looking at the topic of coronavirus and God’s protective care. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and I wanted us to take some time this morning to look at Psalm 91, and see what God says to us from this psalm about our situation. (Read Psalm 91:4-7 and pray.)

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Psalm 91 is a famous Psalm that speaks of God’s protection. It’s probably the passage of Scripture I’ve seen most quoted during this whole pandemic.

One reason for this is that Psalm 91 speaks specifically about sickness and plague, and so it applies directly to our situation. But another reason is that this is simply a wonderful psalm that is chock full of God’s promises for us to claim at any time or in any disaster. It is a powerful and encouraging psalm that speaks to us of God’s protective care for his people. It is also a Psalm that has been misused and misinterpreted in the past, and so we want to look at that as well.

So, how do you come to know and experience God’s protective care even during a pandemic? Psalm 91 teaches us four things we want to look at this morning: 1) Trust God; 2) Do not fear; 3) Look to God for protection; and 4) Rest in God’s love. So, let’s look at all four of these together.

I. Trust God (1-2)

First of all, trust God. This is where it all begins, and this is really what it all comes down to. Do you trust God? It’s important to note here that when we talk about trusting God, we are also talking about trusting Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It’s not enough simply to trust that there is some divine being out there somewhere. If you really want to know God’s protective care, you must trust the one true God who has revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You must come to God trusting in his Son, Jesus, as Lord and Savior.

   A. Dwell in the shelter of the Most High (1)

There are two things Psalm 91 tells us about trusting God in these verses. First, we should dwell in the shelter of the Most High. Look at verse 1 with me now: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1) You see, the two parts go together. If you want to rest in the shadow of the Almighty, that is, if you want to rest in God’s protective care, you must first dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

We hear a lot about sheltering in place these days, don’t we? “Stay at home! Don’t go out! Only go out for groceries and essentials!” And sheltering in place is very important. It’s helped us to flatten the curve and stop the rapid spread of this disease.

But the Bible talks about something even more important than sheltering in place and that is to shelter in the Lord. And not just shelter in the Lord, but dwell in the shelter of the Lord. Stay there. Live there. The authorities may tell you to stay in your homes, but the Bible tells you to stay in the Lord!

Now, do what the authorities say. Stay in your home until it’s safe to come out. But when you do need to go out, perhaps for groceries or other items, make sure you stay in the Lord. You may need to leave the shelter of your home, but you never need to leave the shelter of God’s care.

   B. Say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and fortress.” (2)

How do you trust God during a pandemic? First, dwell in the shelter of the Most High. And then, secondly, say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and fortress.” Look at verse 2 with me now: “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:2)

If you are in Christ this morning, then God is your refuge and your fortress. So, say it! Don’t just read it. Don’t just think it. Don’t just think about it. Say it! Say it out loud! Proclaim it! There is power in speaking God’s word out loud.

Let’s say it out loud together, shall we? “The Lord is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” Let’s say it again, ready? “The Lord is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” As you speak the words, you will feel the truth of them, and they will strengthen your faith and help you to trust God even when bad things are happening all around you.

So, how do you come to know and experience God’s protective care in your life? First of all, trust God.

II. Do not fear (3-8)

And then secondly, do not fear. This is one of the most repeated commands in the whole Bible. Someone has said there are 365 occurrences of this command in the Bible, one for each day of the year. I’ve never counted, but it sounds good to me!

   A. God covers you with his wings (3-4)
      – Psalm 57:1

So, why do you not have to fear as a Christian? We find a number of reasons right here in Psalm 91. First of all, God covers you with his wings. Look at verses 3-4: “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:3-4)

This is such a beautiful image, the image of a mother bird protecting her children under the cover of her wings. The mother hides them under her wings. She takes the full force of the blast for them. Nothing can get at them without going through her first.

Isn’t that exactly what God did for us at the cross? God sent his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins, to cover our sins with his blood. Jesus took the full force of the blast of God’s wrath against sin for us. Nothing can get at us without going through God first.

We find a similar image in Psalm 57:1 a psalm of David where David prays: “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 57:1) This disaster, this coronavirus will pass. In the meantime, you can take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. That’s the first reason you do not need to fear. God covers you with his wings.

   B. God is with you day and night (5-6)
      – Psalm 121:3-6

And then a second reason you do no need to fear is that God is with you day and night. Look at verses 5-6: “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” (Psalm 91:5-6) You do not need to fear because God is with you day and night. That pretty much covers it all, doesn’t it?

Now some of you are more afraid during the day. It’s during the day that you are tracking the numbers or watching the news reports. It’s during the day that you might have to venture out shopping for food or essentials.

And then some of you are more afraid at night. You wake up in the middle of the night, and you worry about the virus. I’ve woken up a few times and “felt” shortness of breath or “felt” pressure in my chest. It would be easy for me to worry and wonder, “Do I have the coronavirus?” Now, if I’m really experiencing symptoms, then I need to call 911. But if its just a general wondering or fear, then I need to give that over to the Lord and go back to sleep.

Psalm 121 says this: “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep…. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.” (Psalm 121:3-6) You know what that means? God works the nightshift! God stays awake so you don’t have to. God doesn’t sleep, which means that you can! You can sleep in peace knowing that the Lord watches over you. You do not need to fear.

   C. God is with you no matter how bad it gets (7-8)
      – 1 Peter 3:14

And then a third reason you do not need to fear is that God is with you no matter how bad it gets. Look at verses 7-8: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” (Psalm 91:7-8)

The Bible is clear that God makes a distinction between those who belong to him and those who do not. Now God in his grace often protects those who do not know him or love him as well. But God has a special covenant relationship with his people. God has a special family relationship with his adopted children. God is with you no matter how bad it gets.

A lot of people are afraid of this coronavirus. They’re afraid of the numbers. They’re afraid for their paycheck. They’re afraid of getting sick. They’re afraid of dying. But 1 Peter 3:14 says: “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14) No matter what the count is around you, God is with you in a special way. You do not need to fear as the numbers rise. Whether it’s thousands or tens of thousands, God is there to love and protect you. God is with you no matter how bad it gets.

III. Look to God for protection (9-13)

How do you come to know and experience God’s protective care even during a pandemic? 1) Trust God; 2) Do not fear. And then thirdly, look to God for protection. There are some wonderful promises from God in this next section of the psalm, and all of them have to do with God’s protective care of his children. So, what are these promises?

   A. No harm will befall you (9-10)
      – Psalm 139:16

First of all, no harm will befall you. Look at verses 9-10: “If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – 10 then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.” (Psalm 91:9-10)

When you are in Christ, when you dwell in the shelter of the Most High, when God covers you with his wings, you are absolutely safe. Nothing can harm you. Nothing can penetrate God’s defenses. Nothing is bigger than God.

Psalm 139:16 says it this way: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) God knows the day of your birth, and he knows the day of your death. Nothing can change God’s purpose and will for your life. There is no safer place for you than in the center of God’s will.

Stonewall Jackson, the famous general in the Civil War, had a strong faith in God. In the movie Gods and Generals there is a scene where bullets are flying all around him, and he stands strong and unafraid. I love this quote from him concerning God’s protective care in his life. He said,

“My religious beliefs teach me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time of my death. I do not concern myself with that, but to be always ready whenever it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and all men would be equally brave.”

When you are in Christ, know that you are absolutely safe in God’s hands. No harm will befall you. What a beautiful promise from God!

   B. God’s angels are guarding you (11-12)
      – Matthew 18:10

And then a second promise here is that God’s angels are guarding you. Look at verses 11-12: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12) God not only watches over you from afar. He sends his personal security team! God commands his angels to guard you in all your ways.

And parents, when it comes to your children, the Bible offers you a special promise from Jesus about these angels. Jesus says about children in Matthew 18:10: “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10) Although God commands his angels to watch over all the saints, Jesus gives us this special word of comfort to us concerning our children.

   C. God gives you power over the enemy (13)
      – Luke 12:4-5

And then the third promise in this section is that God gives you power over the enemy. Look at verse 13: “You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” (Psalm 91:13) The enemy seeks to steal and kill and destroy, but God gives you power over the enemy, and you do not need to be afraid.

Jesus says in Luke 12: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5) What is Jesus saying here? Fear God, and nothing else! Fear God, worship him, reverence him, and you do not need to fear anything else in life.

So, these are three very beautiful and precious promises we may claim in this psalm. When you are in Christ, no harm will befall you, God’s angels are guarding you, and God gives you power over the enemy. These are God’s promises to you.

Two errors to avoid when claiming God’s promises:

Now there are two errors we need to avoid when it comes to claiming God’s promises in this psalm. We mentioned earlier that this is a famous psalm of God’s protection. Unfortunately, it is also famous for being misinterpreted and misused.

   1) Do not be foolish and test the Lord (Matthew 4:5-7)

The first error to avoid is this. Do not be foolish and use these promises to test the Lord. How might you test God using these promises? Any number of ways. By acting like you are invulnerable. By not doing your part while asking God to do his part. By not taking proper precautions – like washing your hands, practicing social distancing, wearing mask and gloves, sheltering in place.

Do you know who misused this verse in the Bible? Satan! Satan did. Satan misused this verse when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. We read in Matthew 4: Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7)

So, don’t be foolish and test the Lord in these things. God has promised to protect you from harm. He has not promised to protect you from foolishness.

   2) Do not limit God’s promises to this life only (Philippians 1:21)

And then the second way we misuse these verses is when we limit God’s promises to this life only. God’s promises apply to your whole life, both now and eternity. Just as it would be wrong to limit God’s promises only to eternity, it is also wrong to limit God’s promises to this life only.

If we limit Psalm 91 to this life only, we may get the false assurance that Christians never get sick or die. But we know that’s not true. God may protect you from the coronavirus. Or God may protect you through the coronavirus. We need to remember Paul’s famous words from Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) We need to keep eternity in mind.

Henry Martyn was a missionary to India and Persia in the early 1800’s, and he died of the plague when he was thirty-one years old. He wrote this in his journal nine months before his death:

“To all appearance, the present year will be more perilous than any I have seen; but if I live to complete the Persian New Testament, my life after that will be of less importance. But whether life or death be mine, may Christ be magnified in me! If he has work for me to do, I cannot die.”

So yes, let us claim these precious and beautiful promises of God from Psalm 91. God has given us his promises to comfort us and strengthen us. But let us also be careful to avoid these two errors. Do not be foolish and test the Lord. Do not limit God’s promises to this life only.

IV. Rest in God’s love (14-16)

How do you come to know and experience God’s protective care even during a pandemic? 1) Trust God; 2) Do not fear; 3) Look to God for protection; and 4) Rest in God’s love1) Trust God; 2) Do not fear; 3) Look to God for protection; and then, finally, 4) Rest in God’s love.

God loves you, and that makes all the difference. How does God show you his love? There are three things here.

   A. God rescues and protects his people (14)

First, God rescues and protects his people. Look at verse 14: “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” (Psalm 91:14)

We love him, because he first loved us. God offers special protective care for his people that the world does not enjoy. Once again, this doesn’t mean that Christians never get sick or die. But it does mean that many Christians who would have gotten sick from the coronavirus will be spared because they belong to Christ. And many others who do get sick will be healed. You can rest in God’s love knowing that God rescues and protects his people.

   B. God answers the prayers of his people (15)

A second way God shows his love is he answers the prayers of his people. Look at verse 15: “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15)

One of the great joys of being a Christian is seeing God answer the prayers you bring to him in Jesus’ name. We will never know until we get to heaven how many people were spared from the coronavirus in answer to our prayers. But know that your prayers make a difference. You can rest in God’s love knowing that God answers the prayers of his people.

   C. God gives eternal life to his people (16)
      – John 10:28

And then a third way God shows you his love is God gives eternal life to his people. We read in verse 16: “With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:16) This is God’s greatest gift to us of all. No matter how long or short you live here on earth, this life is only a breath compared to eternity.

Jesus says this in John 10:28 about those who belong to him: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) Do you know what that means? Even if you get the coronavirus, even if you get sick or die, you are still in God’s hands. Nothing can touch your justification in Christ. Nothing can touch your salvation. Nothing can take away God’s forgiveness of your sins. You can rest in God’s love knowing that God gives his people eternal life, and nothing can touch us in the palm of God’s hand.

As the apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:
 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (or the coronavirus?)…. No, [Paul writes] in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

 
CONCLUSION: I can’t promise you that you won’t get the coronavirus. I can’t promise you that you won’t get sick or die. I can’t promise you that because God doesn’t promise you that. What God does promise is something so much better. God promises you that when you are in Christ, no matter what happens, he will watch over you. He will be with you, and he will protect you.

You are safe in Christ, and therefore nothing can ultimately harm you. God will either keep you from the coronavirus, heal you from the coronavirus or bring you safely home. Either way, you win! So, trust God. Do not fear. Look to God for protection. Rest in God’s love.

© Ray Fowler

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