HITTING THE MARK OF PSALM 91

Beluga whale with pup in her shadow.

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The first time I ever saw a beluga whale was in Vancouver, Canada. We had just returned from an Alaskan cruise, and I was complaining about not seeing any whales. Everyone else seemed to see them breach, but whenever I looked – nada! So, when we docked in Vancouver, a friend took us to their beautiful aquarium to see one.

Here’s what struck me about the belugas, and I will never forget it: They are bright white, but the baby beluga is born the exact color of the mother’s shadow. So, when it swims right next to her, it’s perfectly camouflaged – literally, hiding in her shadow! That picture is an amazing illustration of what Psalm 91 says about those who “abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” It begins like this, but you should read the whole thing…

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.  (Psalms 91:1-6ff)

Since the promises of supernatural safety and freedom from fear in the whole psalm are contingent upon living in the “secret place” with God and staying in His shadow, we need to make sure we do! Of course, that should always be our goal, but it is especially important in this volatile hour. So, let’s keep the beluga illustration in mind, as we consider the one thing that can exclude us from that sweet spot: SIN!

The primary Greek word translated ‘sin’ in our English Bible is ἁμαρτία (hamartia). Used 174 times in the New Testament, it means to miss the mark, to veer off-course – and miss the prize. God is HOLY and cannot tolerate sin; it deeply offends Him. Yes, that’s the truth, but there is more… Sin is lethal; it kills us – and that is particularly devastating to Him, because of His great love for us.

The true gravity of sin is apparent only to God, because of His unique, eternal perspective. He sees the short and long-term results, sees what we can’t … until it’s too late. (Hebrews 9:27) Ultimately, when we die we must give an account to Him, and there is no time for a course correction, then. Thankfully, in His great mercy, He reaches out to us in our sin, to bring us to Himself. This has been so throughout Biblical history…

Beginning with the fall of Adam and Eve, God demonstrated His desire to redeem. Through deception and disobedience, they veered way off-course in a way that affected everyone who would come after them. Redemption, however, was costly, as death and banishment were the price.

The day they sinned, they died spiritually, were cut off from God’s life-giving presence. All at once, they lost their innocence and freedom, became self-conscious, felt naked, ashamed – and afraid. They couldn’t even face the One who created them! Mercifully, God covered the shame of their nakedness with animal skins but had to evict them from the Garden.

In the next generation, God underlined the seriousness of sin, when their sons brought Him offerings. Cain was a farmer, so he brought crops. Abel, however, raised animals, so he sacrificed the firstborn from his flock. Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s was not. He could not approach God on his own terms; ONLY a blood sacrifice would do.

Throughout the Old Testament, God made temporary provision for the sins of Israel through the “blood of bulls and goats.” (Hebrews 10:4) Israelites were commanded to atone for ALL SIN – even accidental and unintentional sins! Wow, how strict can you get? NO, not at all… God’s Laws weren’t harsh; they were merciful, because all sin is lethal. Sin is like the law of gravity: You don’t break it; it breaks you!

Sin not only brings death; it brings offense. Relationships are broken, and we reap the consequences. However, ALL SIN ultimately offends our Holy Creator and jeopardizes our relationship with Him! (Psalm 51:4) That is why veering off-course for any reason is dangerous. We can end up somewhere we don’t want to be… and that’s a problem. Just ask the folks at NASA what happens, if they get a launch angle wrong!

So, thankfully, once and for all, God provided the perfect solution: HIMSELF. Jesus, God incarnate, came to earth to save us! He was the perfect, spotless offering, the Lamb of God, who never veered off-course even once. In terms of the beluga, Jesus always swam by God’s side, hidden in His shadow – all the way to the cross.

Jesus could die for our sins, because He had none of His own. So, death could not legally hold Him. That is why, when He faced His executioners, he committed Himself to Him who judges righteously(1 Peter 2:23), and when He gave up His last breath, He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46) God, then, rendered His judgment by raising Him from death! Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” because “…with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place [in heaven] once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.(Rom 1:4; Hebrews 9:12)

God’s love for us and Christ’s victory on the cross has brought us forgiveness of sin. We never need to be afraid to come to Him and say, Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

So, let’s examine ourselves to make sure we’re on target. (2 Corinthians 13:5) If we have received the forgiveness Jesus provided on the cross, that’s the starting point – but it’s how we finish that counts. (Matthew 24:13) DO NOT believe those who would tell you that your ticket is punched; you’re good to go – no matter what how you live! Sin always pulls us away from His side and out of His shadow into dangerous waters.

This is not a time to fear anyone or anything – except leaving His side! If Jesus is our Lord (complete owner), He will save us. (Romans 10:9) If we’re on the right path, we just need to continue along that trajectory, regardless of life’s circumstances. If not, we need to make the course corrections necessary to hit the mark and get the prize. “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13)

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