Psalm 91: When the odds are long and statistics are scary

I spent much of last year slowly going through Psalm 91, talking with the Holy Spirit about every word and every line. In January of this year, the Lord led me to start sharing it here, so if you’re just now joining me, I encourage you to go to the beginning of my study, because the first verse is pivotal!

Psalm 91: Revelations from a year of talking to God about it

This is my 6th post, and I’m up to verses 7 & 8:

A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.

Let’s go through these two verses together, since they are a combined thought.

A thousand may fall at your side…

This line is relatively straightforward, but it sets us up for the rest of this passage. The word “thousand” in the Hebrew is exactly that – one thousand. The word “fall” is not specifically referring to people dying. It’s a general word that relates to all kinds of falling. The phrase “at your side” is very general as well.

The picture that this line portrays is that of a person who has every reason to be overwhelmed and intimidated and afraid of circumstances though. They are standing there and 1,000 people have stumbled and tripped and messed up and fallen into depression in the same circumstances. The person standing wants to be an exception, but that would make them one out of a thousand, and those are very long odds to even hope for. That’s the circumstance that the first line is portraying.

…And ten thousand…

Then the next line goes on to describe even worse circumstances! Instead of a thousand, it’s ten thousand. This word in the Hebrew actually a word that means a myriad. It’s interpreted as ten thousand here, but other places it’s interpreted as a million, or as an “abundance.” It’s basically taking those 1/1,000 odds and saying that it’s actually gotten worse. So bad that you can’t count how many are falling around you.

…at your right hand…

Just in case you thought maybe it was saying that those thousands that were falling were only on one side of you, this part confirms that nope, you’re surrounded.  The “right hand” is also specifically referring to your stronger arm (figuratively). In battle, you positioned yourself so that your right side was facing your opponent because that’s where your sword was held.

…But it shall not approach you.

Now that we see this impossible-looking situation, the verse provides the exception and the amazing statement that yes, the person who is dwelling in the shelter of the Most High and stubbornly abiding in His shadow is going to be the exception in those impossibly-long odds!

You will only look on with your eyes…

To me, this line is pointing back up to the pictures and principles provided in the first two versesThis person is trusting and hiding in the shelter offered by God, but this isn’t an earthly shelter that insulates them from war and struggle and attack and pandemic. Thus, with their physical eyes, they are still seeing what is going on. They aren’t hiding with their eyes closed and their “head in the sand” as the phrase goes. They see full-well what is going on.

…And see the recompense of the wicked.

This final line is referring to when God uses earthly situations to bring about justice.  The Bible is full of examples of when a calamity of some sort was brought upon those who were intent on evil.

I think it’s important to note, though, that we cannot therefore infer that when a calamity happens, everyone whom it affected was evil.  We live in a world that has been damaged by sin, and as such, bad things happen to good people. We also must remember that our idea of what is good and what is bad is often different from God’s. My car accident years ago appeared evil, yet so very, very much good resulted from it that if God were to invite me to go through that again in order to get that much more from Him, I would gladly agree!  If you struggle with this idea that our idea of what is good might be faulty, then I encourage you to read Good or God? by John Bevere, as he explains it much better than I could have.

To me, the most important part of these two verses is how the promises defy the odds. These verses are encouragement to hold onto God’s truths despite the statistics and the odds.  When David’s stone hit the one tiny spot that was vulnerable in Goliath’s armor, that defied the odds. When Gideon’s army of 300 went up against the entire army of Midian, that defied the odds.  When Sarah conceived after decades of infertility, that defied tons of medical statistics.  When I was 16 years old and completely recovered from mono in only 2 days after a positive lab diagnosis, that defied the statistics that say mono takes 1-2 months. When my husband lived last year with a ruptured appendix that went undetected for over four months, that defied statistics and medical knowledge. Even now, the medical statistics for this coronavirus from January and February had to be modified when they found that lots of people who were carrying the virus had no symptoms at all, which in turn means the death rate is actually much lower than it seems when you’re comparing people-with-symptoms-who-test-positive with deaths.

God loves to defy statistics.

May I encourage you to place your reliance upon God?  Go back to my post on verse 2, about the choice you have to make.

Then read this post from last September: Trust’s foundation makes all the difference when you walk through fire.

Your peace is found in knowing Him. Trusting Him to stop and allow what He chooses, but knowing that He is with you in the fire, no matter what.

And here is a worship song for you today. It’s the song I sang in the ER with my husband last year.

Previous Post in this series: Psalm 91: When fear has no hold on you
Next Post in this series: Psalm 91: A tiny, three-letter word highlights our decision

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