The fourth of the relational statements that the early church fathers made reflected God’s relationship to the church. “I will guard them,” says God of his people. At first, we might be inclined to think that this statement could be fuller or more involved. We might expect God to say Ego Redimam (“I will redeem”) or Ego Amabo (“I will love”) or even Ego Sanctificabo (“I will sanctify them” or “I will make them holy”). At the same time, if we explore this idea of guarding something, we can argue that it contains at least an element of each of these statements. One guards those things that they love or hold to be valuable and one must have something in one’s possession to guard it, thus God redeems his people from the sin that once held us captive. Also, those things that we guard and cherish, we choose to refine, removing those imperfections that we can find in the object of our affection. Thus the language of Ego Custodiam includes all of the above comments.
So, why does God choose to guard his church? Certainly it must not be assumed that God places his affections upon us because of who we are or because of what we have done. All of our works, we must affirm like the Apostle Paul, are naught but dung (Philippians 3:8). No, he places his affections upon us because of whose we are—his own—and as a revelation of his glory. What we all deserve is eternal condemnation because of our sins and the guilt of sin we have inherited from our forefathers, yet he has chosen us since before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), before we had done anything good or bad (Romans 9:11), and sent his Son to pay the price to redeem us from our just judgment, substituting himself in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). As the value of an item is based on the price that one is willing to pay for it, our value to God is without measure, for his Son, Jesus, being eternal God, paid an eternal price for our souls. And because of that price paid, he will never let one of his own slip from between his fingers (John 10:28-30).
Beyond redemption is the idea of his guardianship. God does not save us to leave us saved but to our own devices. No, God preserves us and guides us through life. The Psalmist writes of God’s guardianship:
“For his angels he will command regarding you—
To guard you in all of your ways.”
The picture here is self explanatory; God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 5:9) and he will not share us with any other. We are guarded, kept, and held secure for this great purpose and he will not revoke his calling upon us (Romans 11:29). Indeed, nothing on earth or in heaven can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
But what does that mean for us? It means that there is no reason for us to despair. How often we go through life and feel as if we are standing as one person against a host of enemies and that the world’s sole goal is to tear apart the things that we have sought to bring together. How often we feel lost, confused, and abandoned when confronted by tragedy in this world. How often we feel as if God is not listening to or responding to our prayers. How often chaos seems to dominate our lives and the world around us. Yet, all of these perceptions miss the mark. Because our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and from our hearts flow all sorts of vain imaginations and sin (Mark 7:20-23), we miss the glory that God has prepared for us even in the challenges of this world (1 Corinthians 2:8-9).
You see, we often get so wrapped up in the events of the moment that we forget that we do not see the big picture. Indeed, even when we begin to try and focus on the big picture of God’s redemptive history, because we are finite and grounded in this world, we still do not see with the scope and breadth that our Lord sees it. Indeed, compared to the immensity of God’s vision, our vision is minuscule to be generous. The sad thing is how often we take our minuscule vision as the whole of God’s vision and then wonder why God is permitting things to take place, all-the-while questioning his character and his goodness. There is none like our God (Psalm 77:13) who calls us not to be anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34), but instead to cast all of our cares before him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Reflect on what God speaks through the psalmist as Psalm 91 is brought to a close:
“Because he clings to me in devotion, I will save him;
I will make him untouchable because he knows my name.
When he calls me I will answer him,
With him, I will be in times of distress.
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long days I will satisfy him,
I will reveal myself to him in my salvation.”
“Why do you despair, my soul?
And why do you groan?
In regards to me you must hope in God,
Because again I will confess him—
Salvation is before me by my God.”
(Psalm 42:12 [verse 11 in English translations])
Once again we find the psalmist echoing the words of his soul’s despair. The Hebrew word used here literally means to melt away or to dissolve. Indeed, how it seems that our spirit does tend to melt away within us—to fade into nothingness—when the world seems to bear down against us. How easily most of us are discouraged when things seem to be falling apart around us, yet, like the psalmist, we must ask, in whom do we hope?
If our hope is in God, why then do we complain and worry? Is he not the creator of the universe and has he not said that he will provide all of our needs? What then is there left to worry and gripe about? Our ills have no power of him. Worldly powers cannot sway or God to cease believing in himself or to cease existing. No, God is and he will always be—and he will always care for his own. What then is left to fear? Are not all of our worries irrational? Indeed, beloved, place your hope in Him, for He will deliver you from the second death.
But notice what the psalmist connects with the idea of hope—confession. The term that is employed here is the word, hådÎy (yadah). This word is often translated as “to praise,” which is one of the senses of the term, but the idea that is conveyed is that we are praising God publicly by our public confession of his glorious name and wonderful works. Indeed, we are to believe in our hearts and confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) if we are to be saved. How often confessing Christians have bought into the lie that their faith is a personal thing and thus never praise God through their living and ongoing profession of his name. Indeed, the faith by which we walk in the world is a clear testimony that he lives and rules over our days.
This psalm closes with the great and glorious reminder that salvation comes from God and from God alone. Loved ones, there are many in this world who would suggest that they can offer you salvation. There are none, though, other than Jesus Christ who has risen from the grave and has thus promised that he will do the same for those who trust in him as Lord and Savior.
Praise the Rock of our salvation!
Praise the mighty God above!
Come before His sacred presence
With a grateful song of love.
He is God, and He alone.
Wake the song of adoration—
Come with joy before His throne!