Wednesday, 18 September 2019

My Favorite Psalm

The Ninety-first Psalm is my favorite, and here’s why:

He’s my little brother, three years younger. Of course, we had our disagreements as children: yelling, slamming doors, pestering, but as we matured, we came to appreciate and love each other. It was a joy to attend his wedding and I was so pleased when they settled in the same town. I was really proud, too, when he became a lawyer and went to work for a large utility company. Still, as a new Christian myself, I wasn’t able to discern the condition of his spiritual life. I longed to share my faith with him, but it’s all too true that the hardest people to witness to are the ones who are closest, especially your family.

I was at his home visiting one evening when he arrived from work, smiling broadly. “We won!” he told his wife, referring to a frivolous lawsuit brought by a disgruntled former employee. “The judge said there was absolutely no basis for the suit.’

“I imagine the plaintiff wasn’t very happy,” I commented.

“You better believe it! You should have seen the evil stare he gave me across the courtroom.”

I didn’t have any particular powers of prediction, but those words sent a shiver down my spine. “Just be careful,” I commented.

My brother shrugged. “It’s over. He knows that.”

But it seems he didn’t. A few weeks later, the judge’s house burned down, an apparent arson. A few weeks after that, a transformer station belonging to the utility company blew up under suspicious circumstances. Then my brother began getting letters and phone calls, threatening his life.

“The police must do something!” I said.

“They can’t prove it’s him,” my brother told me. “They know who it is, but they have no proof to act on.” He understood the laws involved.

“But what can you do?” My brother and his wife had two small children. I had the same sinking feeling inside that I’d had when I’d first heard of this guy.

The utility company took the threat seriously. They hired a round-the-clock security guard and provided my brother with a bullet-proof vest. Still, this situation couldn’t go on indefinitely. The calls and letters continued, keeping everyone on edge.

One night, as I resumed my earnest prayers for his family’s safety, something led me to open my NIV Bible to the Ninety-first Psalm.

Silently, I prayed the words:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most Highwill rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

Like a direct and reassuring conversation, the promises filled my heart and began to still my fears. I hadn’t read many Psalms before, just the Twenty-Third. Why had I never heard of this one before? I read on, devouring the words:

 Surely he will save youfrom the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

“This is for my brother,” I murmured. The words seemed to fit the situation perfectly:                                    

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,but it will not come near you…                                                                                                                                              

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone…

“Yes, Lord, angels!” I said aloud and realized that there were tears flowing down my cheeks. On and on the words flowed, bolstering my faint courage more and more with each poetic image. The reassurance of the previous verses would have been more than enough, but God wasn’t through. At the very end of the Psalm, he had added a promise that spoke to my heart’s deepest wish for my brother:

 

I will deliver him and honor him.With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

 

That night, I slept better than any night since the whole thing started. In the ensuing weeks, my brother decided to move to our hometown, thirteen hundred miles away. It was hard to say goodbye, but I was content in the knowledge that the plaintiff wouldn’t know where they were.

 

I silently held close the very last promise that the Gospel would one day become real to my brother. And the Lord kept his promise. Somewhere along the line, in the years that followed, my brother and his wife accepted Christ. So now, they’re not just brother and sister-in-law, but also brother and sister in Him.

 

And that’s why the Ninety-First is my favorite Psalm.

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