THE SOLDIER'S PSALM
I would like to bring to your attention a Psalm in the Scriptures which has come to be called "The Soldie's Psalm"
Almost 100 years ago, during World War I, the 91st Infantry Brigade of the U. S. Expeditionary Army was preparing to enter combat in Europe. Because their commander was a devout Christian, he assembled his men and gave each of them a little card on which was printed the 91st Psalm, the same number Psalm as their brigade. They agreed to recite that Psalm daily. After they had begun praying the Psalm, the 91st Brigade was engaged in three of the bloodiest battles of World War I - Chateau Thierry, Belle Wood and the Argonne. Other American units that fought in the same battles had up to 90 percent casualties, but the 91st Brigade did not suffer a single combat-related casualty.
Print your own Soldier's Psalm to use and/or give to others.
Actor Jimmy Stewart also found comfort in this Psalm. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Stewart enlisted in the Army Air Corps and prepared to go overseas. Stewart's father choked up when he tried to bid him farewell so he wrote a note for his son to read en route. After being shipped out, Jimmy read his father's words which described his father's feelings and which his father had been unable to say out loud. The note read,
"My dear Jim-Boy,
Soon after you read this letter, you will be on your way to the worst sort of danger. Jim, I am banking on the enclosed copy
of the 91st Psalm. The thing that takes the place of fear and worry is the promise of these words. I am staking my faith in
these words. I feel sure that God will lead you through this mad experience. I can say no more. I only continue to pray.
Goodbye, my dear. God continue to bless and keep you. I love you more than I can tell you.
Jimmy Stewart returned home a decorated war hero, unharmed, even though his record included twenty combat missions. During the height of the battle, Stewart said he learned to lean on the words of his tattered copy of Psalm 91.1
In 1950, during the Korean War, Jim Baxter, who was a Sergeant in the U. S. Marine Corps, and his brother were both called to active duty in the First Marine Division. He tells the following story:
"Our mother wrapped us in Psalm 91, gave each of us a small New Testament and again sent us off to war with the
Lord's blessing. She claimed Gods promises over us.
As my outfit, Fox Company, attacked in the streets of Seoul, I was hit with a machine gun bullet. I made it behind a burning
police sub-station in the middle of the street. My corpsman, Chico, dressed my wounds and as sniper bullets crashed into
the street beside us, he laid on top of me - covering me with his own body. Several marines threw a wooden door on the
ground and rolled me on it and ran me down the street under heavy fire. It was a fearsome ride!
While recovering in a safe place, Sergeant Baxter reviewed in his mind how the corpsman, Chico, had saved his life. Then,
because he had been raised in a Christian home and had heard the Gospel, he began to think about Jesus and how Chico
had been an example of Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus had given His life to save Sergeant Baxter for eternity. Baxter
surrendered his life to the Lord right there on his cot.
After his recovery, he said that "with the Lord as the Lord of my life, I rejoined my outfit and went back into front line
combat for another five months before returning home." Both he and his brother came home alive. "Our mother cried
with joy unspeakable," he said. "We were both baptized and have been His loyal Marines ever since. Every day we
say, "Yes Sir," to the Lord Jesus, our champion and hero. My Lord and my God."2
Just a few years ago on June 2, 1999, a group of American Vietnam War Veterans walked to the top of what 30 years ago had been called Hill 376. These men, members of the First Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, and their comrades, had been trapped there exactly thirty years earlier, outnumbered and pinned down by fierce enemy fire. After an intense battle, they were rescued. These men, the only survivors, returned three decades later to pay their respects to their fallen brothers and to seek further healing for their own hearts. After walking to the grassy hilltop and rehearsing the events of that awful battle, one of the men took out a copy of the Bible, turned to a passage and read it out loud. It was Psalm 91!3
Another officer, Major Mastriano, Second Armored Calvary Regiment, testified to God's answer to people's prayers during the first Persian Gulf conflict and to a firm belief in Psalm 91. Mastriano was in a helicopter squadron called to help locate enemy who were firing on American troops. He writes, "Although only lightly armed, my helicopter responded to their call for help" We quickly arrived at the location where our support squadron reported Iraqi activity, but found nothing. We slowed our air speed and continued our search. Suddenly to our left I saw two Iraqi armored vehicles rapidly firing at us at point blank range. We should have been killed instantly, but God protected us. As soon as our pilots realized what was happening, they aggressively dove the helicopter to the right, safely away from the Iraqis! We should have been shot down that day. Two things got us through that life-threatening experience. First, the prayers of God's people were responsible for our safety. God answered those faithful prayers. Second, God is true to His Word. Psalm 91 says it all!4
Robert Devortshak, a news reporter, was covering the first Gulf War. Possibly the very night before Major Mastriano had that harrowing experience in the helicopter, Devortshak was hunkered down in a foxhole looking up at the starry sky struggling with his fears due to his close proximity to the war. He asked a sergeant how he prepared for battle. The sergeant took out a Bible, opened it and showed him the 91st Psalm.5
What makes Psalm 91 so amazing?!
by March 23, 2003 - Clifford B. Boone
This week the war in Iraq began and thoughts of it bring fear knocking at the door of our hearts. However, fear rises not only because of the war in Iraq, but also because we now live in a post-9/11 world. War, terrorism and other fears threaten to undo us. In light of this, I want to look at the Soldier's Psalm and find the solace and courage that others have found so that Psalm 91 will be our Psalm, too.
In Psalm 91 God gives us four instructions to quell the sense of fear that rises in our own hearts. God instructs us by saying "˜You will" four times.
In verse 5, the Psalmist says, "You will not be afraid of the terror by night!" "You will not be afraid" is His first instruction. Then, in verse 8, he says, "You will only look on!" In those words God says that you will watch and trust. Additionally, verse 13 reads, "You will tread upon the lion and the cobra!" Here God says, You will move forward. Finally, verse 15 is written from God's perspective when it reads, "He will call upon Me." God says that you will pray. Four instructions that God gives us to fight fear that rises up in our hearts. God, in His mercy, understands that we will be afraid so He instructs us about what to do when we are.
YOU WILL NOT BE AFRAID
The first instruction is crucial because it is the foundation for all the rest. Once we understand this one the others quickly fall into place.
Although the dangers are very real and present, God tells us "not (to) be afraid." In verses 5 to 7, we read
"(5) You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; (6) Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. (7) A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not approach you."
The Bible never gives a sugarcoated view of life. Life is presented with dangers, even terror. We are not to believe that we are somehow immune to the ever-present dangers of life. However, God says that "You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day." As if "night terror" or "arrows" weren't enough, we read in verse 6 that we shouldn't fear "the pestilence that stalks in darkness (night) or the destruction that lays waste at noon (day)." Those were things we hadn't even considered yet! According to this Psalm, danger can come any time, day or night.
Furthermore, there are different kinds of dangers. There's "the arrow that flies by day," the intentional danger, in verse 5. Someone has put the arrow on the string, pulled, aimed, and released it. Someone has a malicious intent and wishes to harm us. Then in verse 6, we read about pestilence. Disease, whether intentional or not, is another ever-present danger. We may be living our lives without a hint of peril, but these intentional and unintentional dangers come our way and are harmful to us.
The danger is magnified in verse 7, where we read, "A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand!". These dangers can be extremely intense and intimidating, not only near but very close, intentional or unintentional, and can happen anytime. Then in the face of all this, the Psalmist says in verse 5, "You will not be afraid." Even though all of this is true, we are told not to be afraid. This leads us to ask how can we not be afraid. If the dangers are very real and ever present why is God telling us not to be afraid?
In Psalm 91, we see two answers to our question. First, we are not to be afraid because of who God is. In verses 1-4 we read,
"(1) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (2) I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!' (3) For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, And from the deadly pestilence. (4) He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark."
In the first two verses of this Psalm, we see four different names of God, all of which express His power and His authority. In verse 1, God's name is Most High: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High." Our God is the MOST HIGH because there is none higher. Then, God is called Almighty: "He will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." Our God is the ALMIGHTY! No might or power or ability can manipulate or control Him because there is no one and nothing greater than HIM. In verse 2, God is called Lord: "I will say to the Lord," This is the Jehovah God, the great I AM. He created the heavens and the earth. Finally, in verse 4, God is called My God: "My God, in whom I trust." This is our God. In face of the real terrors of life, we are instructed not to fear because of who our God is. He is the MOST HIGH! He is the ALMIGHTY! He is the LORD, and He is GOD!
Regardless of our thoughts about this war, anyone watching the television coverage had to be impressed with the military's precision in bombing Baghdad, and the destruction that followed. However, even the United States' military might is nothing compared to the Almighty. He is the ALMIGHTY! He is the MOST HIGH! He, then, is the source of our comfort and our courage. Whatever it is that threatens you, if you remember that He is mightier than it is, your fears will begin to abate. The pestilence, the arrow, the terror by night or day, the thousand falling to our sides, the ten thousand at our right hands, all this is under the ALMIGHTY!
There is no need to fear because of who He is. This is the first answer to our question. The second answer is more personal because it involves our relationship to God. We do not fear because of who God is and because we are rightly related to him. We see that in Psalm 91. In verse 2, we read the word "My" three times: "I will say to the Lord, My refuge, My fortress, My God in whom I trust." The Psalmist isn't talking about some god who made us, set the world into being and then went off to do something else in the universe. The Psalmist knows this God because he calls Him MY God. This great God who is powerful is MY God. There is a relationship. We do not fear when we are personally related to God.
We also read of the personal nature of being rightly related to God in verse 14 when God responds to the Psalmist: "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name." God says that He will deliver us because we love Him. This is amazing! Because we love the Almighty and are rightly related to Him, He will rescue us.
The testimonies of several of the people that were baptized this morning reminded us that there is a difference between merely acknowledging that there is a God and knowing Him. There is a difference between coming to church "doing our religious duties, and actually KNOWING God" having a relationship of trust and love.
We are not born into a personal relationship with the Almighty nor do we grow into such a relationship because of our education or maturity. Knowing God in a personal way is different.
As the people here expressed this morning, they had to respond to Christ in their own heart. They said yes and bowed their will to Jesus Christ. Then, they entered into this relationship. We know that it is a personal relationship because of what God says in verse 14: "I will set him securely on high because he has known My name." God will deliver the person who really knows God, knows His name. We know God not just facts about Him. We KNOW Him.
When Jesus began to teach and move from place to place, he caused confusion because people did not understand who He was. In the early days of Jesus' ministry, His own disciples weren't sure who He was. After He calmed the sea and the wind, they asked, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (Mark 4:41) His enemies, the religious leaders of the day, were jealous of Him because of He taught in a way that they couldn't teach. There was an unearthly power and authority in what He said and what He did. Jesus disturbed people because he was upsetting the status quo. They came to Him, time and time again, and asked, "By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?" (Mark 11:28)
Even at His trial, the night before His crucifixion, Pontius Pilate questioned Jesus. Pilate asked Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" (Matthew 27:11) You can sense desperation in his voice. Pilate was being forced to decide the fate of the man before him. Politically, he knew that he could make only one decision, but Pilate knew that it would be wrong to crucify this One who was innocent. Pilate wanted to know if Jesus was the King of the Jews because he sensed something about the identity of the One who stood before him.
Throughout His life, people asked, Who is this Jesus? Who is He? Pilate sentenced Jesus to death and tried to wash his hands of the whole thing, but it was still Pilate's responsibility to designate what crime would be written across the top of the cross. Jesus' crime which was written in three languages on the cross was "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews." (John 19:19) The Jewish leaders argued with Pilate over that inscription. Pilate ended the discussion with a declaration that probably caused by them further frustration: "What I have written I have written!" (John 19:22) Although he posed the question to Jesus and did not get an answer from Him, Pilate still wrote the truth on the inscription above Jesus on the cross.
There the Son of God hung on the cross with the inscription above His head for all to read, "the King of the Jews," which, of course, meant that He is the Messiah. He is the One sent from God above. This is the One who came to fix the problem between we human beings who have messed things up with our sin and the God against whom we've rebelled. There on that cross God the Father was punishing the Son for your sin and for my sin. He was taking upon Himself, as a substitute for you and me, the punishment that you and I deserved. He took it to satisfy the justice of Almighty God and to save us, to give us forgiveness of sins.
There was a soldier standing before the cross as Jesus died. As Jesus breathed His last, the soldier said, "Truly this Man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39) God is today still breaking into people's hearts showing them who this One is and what He did. Knowing Jesus Christ is not just knowing the facts. It is seeing Him for who He really is, knowing Him.
Jesus during His earthly ministry told us about Himself and God. Before He was betrayed, Jesus prayed, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). Jesus in this prayer characterizes eternal life as knowing Him, knowing God in Jesus Christ, not merely facts about Him, not merely going through rituals that the church says are important, but KNOWING Him in a personal way. Psalm 91 describes the same love relationship, a trust relationship with Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 91, in the face of danger and threat, in the face of any source of anxiety which brings fear into our hearts, whether related to the War in Iraq and terrorism or not, God says you will not be afraid because of who God is and because you are rightly related to Him. He is the Almighty and because of Jesus Christ's death for us, and because we have trusted in Christ, we now know Him. I can live victorious over my fear. I can refuse the fear that grips my heart because I know Him and am rightly related to Him.
I want to ask this before we go on. In the face of your fears, are you forgetting who God is? It is good to be reminded from God's Word. Since 9/11, Americans have lost a sense of safety and rightly so, but I want you to remember that for ages and ages your brothers and sisters in Christ in other places in the world have never known that sense of security that we had before 9/11, but they have rested in security nonetheless because the Almighty is their God and He is greater than anything that threatens us. In the face of your fears, don't forget who God is.
Also I want to ask you, are you rightly related to this Almighty? Have you trusted in the Son of God? Have you seen Jesus Christ for who He really is and placed your trust in Him? After all He did on the cross to gain forgiveness for your sins, have you asked Him to make it true for you? Make sure that today you have found a love relationship with the Almighty. It can start today.
YOU WILL TRUST AND WATCH
You will not be afraid, and you will trust and watch. In verse (8), we read, "You will only look on with your eyes, And see the recompense of the wicked." The way in which he uses the word "recompense" speaks of justice and of a judge. Some wrong is being made right. Some punishment that is deserved is being meted out. This reminds us that there is a Judge, and He is God.
God is the great Judge of all. He is the One who knows all. He is the One who understands. We have heard a lot about intelligence this week "intelligence this, intelligence that” but the people who are gathering intelligence are not necessarily in control, are they? They are just trying to figure out what is happening. That is not the way with God. It is not just that He KNOWS everything. He is actually IN CHARGE of everything. He is working, allowing certain things to happen. Things are running according to His plan, but in the midst of it, He will hold people accountable for sin. There will be retribution.
Whose job will it be to judge and mete out punishment? Can you sort it out? Do you know who's guilty and who's not? Who is guilty to what degree and to what other degree isn't? Thankfully, we don't have to sort that out. The Scriptures are clear: "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord!" (Hebrews 10:30). That is His right. God is the Judge. Paul also tells us in Romans 12:19 that we need to "leave room for the wrath of God." When we are unable to make sense of it all, we must remember that God is able and He is the judge.
In Psalm 91, the Psalmist also presents a picture of the unseen realm: "(9) For you have made the Lord, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. (10) No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. (11) For He will give His angels change concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. (12) They will bear you up in their hands, Lest you strike your foot against a stone."
There is an unseen realm, brothers and sisters. We don't understand all about it because we are not designed to know that; however, in the unseen realm, there are angels and demons. They are involved in the affairs of men and of nations and they are very busy right now. However, we need not worry because God is not only the Judge of human hearts, He is also the Lord of the unseen. He sees what you and I cannot see.
In verse 8, the psalmist says, "You will only look on" (emphasis mine). He uses the word "only" to give a sense of passivity, of inability. There are times and places when we are not to be passive but here he is saying, we cannot see the unseen. We cannot judge every human heart, and, when it comes to the unseen realms, we must trust and watch. You are not God. Do not fear. Trust and watch! Are you watching? Probably. However, are you trusting that the Judge, the Lord of the unseen, is working? I would encourage you in these days to trust and watch.
YOU WILL MOVE FORWARD
You will not be afraid, you will trust and watch, but also you will move forward: "You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down" (13). You are to be passive in the face of your inability and in the face of what God's role is as Judge, but when it is your duty, move forward. There is a lion and a cobra. What are we to do? Step on them! Isn't that great!
I am tempted to share some of those good snake stories from Tanzania. I even have a couple of lion stories. These verses meant a lot to us when we were over there. One time I actually stepped on a snake. It came up and struck the trousers I was wearing. Its fangs didn't get my skin, but I have come as close to that as you can come. There were lots of snakes before that incident which we hadn't quite stepped on, but they were right there, in our car, our house, all over the place. Poisonous ones! And yet God enabled us to tread upon them. We kept moving forward to do what God called us to do.
Now, in Africa we were able to take this verse quite literally and to believe God in the face of actual cobras and lions. Here, we have cobras and lions of different sorts! This verse is still ours. The fears and dangers that are before us should not stop us from moving forward.
I want to be sure that we understand the difference between the second point and this one. We are to be passive when things are out of our control. That is for God to judge. It is God who sees the unseen, He commands us to watch and trust; but when God has shown you clearly what to do, move forward. Don't let fear stop you from doing that which God calls you to do, no matter what is going on. What is it that God has given you to do? What is your assignment from Him? The encouragement here in verse 13 is to move forward with it. Don't be paralyzed by world events. God has given you kids to raise. Move forward! If you are a student, He has given you the task of studying. Move forward with that. In your job, work hard to glorify God. Move forward. We witness. We use our gifts for the edification of this body. We should continue to do all of this! Let not the fear stop us from doing that which God has already laid on our hearts. You will move forward.
YOU WILL PRAY
Lastly, we will pray: "(15) He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honor him. (16) With a long life I will satisfy him, And let him behold My salvation." You will not be afraid. You will trust and watch. You will move forward. The Psalm ends with the part of the dynamo that keeps it all together, You will pray. Call on God. Claim His promises.
We can't end without mentioning one question that comes up. What if the danger does touch me? These promises sound so good, but what if the danger does come my way? What if the thing that I fear wounds me? Remember Job. He was a rich man, a godly man. He lost his children, his riches, and his health. Then, even his wife turned against him. When we read the Book of Job, God has made us privy to some of His purposes. In the Book of Job, we read what is happening in the unseen realm. We can see that God is doing something and that there is an unseen audience. Satan is defeated by the way Job responds, but the interesting thing is that Job never sees that. He is not privy to that. You and I see it, but Job didn't. All he knew was that he was suffering terribly; however, in Job 13:15, he says, "Though He (God) slay me, I will hope in Him!" Sometimes God allows the enemy's arrow to hit and that is our chance to keep focused on the promises, to relax and say, Lord God, this hurts and I don't know Your purposes but I know You. I know that You have a plan, and I trust You. Though You slay me, I will hope in You.
Returning to Psalm 91, verse 4, we see the beautiful part that carried my family and me through the dangers we saw during our missionary work: "He will cover you with His pinions and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark." This is the line that meant so much, "His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark." If you don't understand anything else, get this. It is not your faithfulness that protects you. It is HIS faithfulness. It is not your faithfulness to Him that is a shield and bulwark. It is HIS faithfulness to you. If you are rightly related to Him, you have come through Jesus Christ to the Almighty; therefore, HE is faithful to you. In His faithfulness, He protects you. Because of His faithfulness, you lift up these promises to Him and trust Him for them. If there is an arrow that gets through and strikes you, you know that it was within His faithfulness. It sounds odd at first, but it is true. He is faithful to you. He has let the arrow through for a purpose. You may never know the exact reason until you get to heaven, but He has let it through for a purpose. His faithfulness stands, so rise up with Job and say, Though He slay me, I will yet hope in Him! He will answer you.
We see that the Soldier's Psalm is not just for the soldiers. It is our Psalm, too. You will not be afraid. You will trust and watch. You will move forward. And you will pray.
I would like us to take some time to pray. Dave Tress, one of our former Air Force officers, is coming forward, and he will lead us in a time of prayer. Listen to his instructions. Let us use the remainder of our time to pray.
Having served in the U. S. Armed Services, it is a great honor and privilege to lead us this morning in a
short time of prayer for our service men and women as well as for our country. You should see behind
me a list of service men and women who are actively serving us in Iraq or involved in our armed
services. Many of them are in fact in the Iraq area. I don't know where all of them are, but as an
example, Jeremy Zella, who is one of our number, is serving with the Marines in the Iraqi theater. Rev.
David Jones is a Bible Fellowship Church chaplain. He also is serving as chaplain in the Iraqi area.
Major David Green is a pilot with the United States Air Force. He is flying sorties in the Iraqi area as well.
There might be others on this list in the Iraqi area, but those who are not actually in Iraq are nonetheless
doing their part in serving our country. It is an honor to spend time praying for them this morning.
I am going to ask you group together right where you are in small groups of 3, 4 or 5 people and in
those small groups to spend some time praying for our service men and women, our troops, our country,
and for ourselves. If any of you do feel uncomfortable, please feel free to choose to pray silently by
yourself. Our goal is not to make any of you feel discomfort, but rather to come before our Lord and to
pray. So I will encourage you to pray in small groups. I will open the time in prayer corporately, then ask
you to continue on in prayer. Tim Schaeffer will come forward then to close our time of prayer.
4 http://www.billrudge.org/Ministries/operationdesert.htm and
5 e-article dated February 16, 2003, by Robert Dvorchak of the Post-Gazette
U, Will like this....
THE U IN JESUS
Be fore U were thought of or time had begun,
God stuck U in the name of His Son.
And each time U pray, you'll see it's true,
You can't spell out JesUs and not include U.
You're a pretty big part of His wonderful name,
For U, He was born; that's why He came.
And His great love for U is the reason He died.
It even takes U to spell crUcified.
Isn't it thrilling and splendidly grand
He rose from the dead, with U in His plan?
The stones split away, the gold trUmpet blew,
and this word resUrrection is spelled with a U.
When JesUs left earth at His Upward ascension,
He felt there was one thing He just had to mention.
"Go into the world and tell them it's true
That I love them all - Just like I love U."
So many great people are spelled with a U,
Don't they have a right to know JesUs too?
It all depends now on what U will do,
He'd like them to know,
But it all starts with U.
When Jesus died on the cross he was thinking of you! If you are one of the 7% who will stand up for him, tell someone about this U.