Scripture: Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. Psalm 91:14-16 ESV
Observation: Psalm 91 serves as a response to Psalm 90, which focuses on the brevity and challenges of life. Here, the psalmist draws our attention to God’s protection of his people even amid adversity. Waxing lyrically, the author declares that those who make Yahweh their “dwelling place,” who draw near to him and trust in his care, will overcome the wiles of evil (verses 9-10). Then comes the text which Satan quoted to tempt Jesus: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (verses 11-12). Here, though, the psalmist merely expresses his confidence in the Lord’s care without any implications of testing God (as commanded in Deuteronomy 6:16 and as Christ rightfully cited when rebutting the devil).
Lastly, the psalmist concludes with a promise from his Lord founded in an intimate, loving relationship. Because this trusting child of God meaningfully knows the name of the Great “I am” and holds fast to his love, Yahweh will hear his cries for help and save him. Indeed, the Lord will even honor him and extend his years.
Takeaway: In response to how Israel evoked God’s anger through their ongoing disobedience and disregard for his holiness (Psalm 90), the psalmist has connected the dots and has learned from the nation’s folly. He knows that the name of the Lord reflects his character, that Yahweh is the Great I Am who rescued his chosen people from bondage, delivered them to a land flowing with milk and honey, and exalted them among their enemies. And this same God who is unchanging will do the same for any who seek to know him and grow in their affection for him.
So what does it mean to hold fast to God in love and to know his name? If we consider a healthy parent-child relationship, in the early months, the child learns that her caregiving parents are attentive to her needs and are quick to respond when she cries. Although she does not know the meaning or depth of her parents’ love, she is experiencing it. Thus, as she develops language, she is keen to learn their names and call on them alone when distressed or needing comfort. And as the years pass, she deepens her understanding of her parents’ sacrificial love and grows in confidence that nothing can separate her from their affection. Thus, even as she enters adult life and starts her own family, she will continue to call on her parents when trouble comes her way or when she merely desires to connect with them. Why? Because she has learned to hold fast to their love and intimately knows their names, unlike anyone else.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for revealing your name and your sacrificial love for us as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. Would you please help us submit to the sanctifying work of your Holy Spirit, who teaches us how to hold fast to your love and who deepens our understanding of your holy name? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling