Discussing approaches to the Bible at the course last night. Came across the beginnings of a rewrite of Psalm 91 in an old notebook this morning. I’ll try and finish it. One of the suggested principles we came up with for approaching the Bible was to trust in its truth, even when the truth was not apparent. This seems to be a case in point. What on earth is this psalm trying to say?
You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the improvised explosive device
and from cancer;
he will cover you with his aerial bombardment,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and armour plating.
You will not fear the night sweats,
or friendly fire in the desert,
or the mugger in the alley,
or heatstroke, TB, pneumonia…
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you,
no suffering come near your home.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not stub your toe on a dodgy paving slab.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
you will stroll like a firewalker over the hot coals of a world that’s out to get you.
Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honour them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.
Will he? To be blunt, this sounds like utter nonsense. Where is the truth in this?
The commentary notes in one of my Bibles describes it as a psalm of trust and based on Israelite popular religion. It seems to be a mixture of bold, faithful trust in God, and a sort of blind gung-ho “God is on our side” warmongering spirit.
I guess that makes it quite a good summary of one of the biggest and most troubling contradictions in the Old Testament.