They Call, I Will Answer
ur Psalm is addressing Israel's need for protection because they were always in trouble. As some children need more care than others, the people of Israel needed a lot of attention. The location of their Promised Land was a main problem. They were living in the middle of the main highway between the ancient super powers of Egypt, Babylon and Persia. Looking at the maps in the back of our Bibles, which are the same areas that are being reproduced in our newspapers and magazines today, we easily see that the Arabian desert extends far north in a half moon shaped desert peninsula and the only way for camel caravans to travel from east to west, or visa versa, was around the northern rim, called the Fertile Crescent. Israel was located in the middle of a narrow passage. On the way to war these armies would wipe out Israel and take the remnant into captivity, plundering valuable timber and precious metals. Israel remained between a rock and a hard place, as does the modern nation called Israel.
Psalm 91 is an example of God's Guarantee of Protection of His people. God promises shelter, refuge, and faithfulness in trouble, destruction, pestilence and fear. "You will not fear the terror in the night." (v.5) "When they call to me, I will answer." (v.15) "I will protect those who know my name." (v.14)
In today's world all people live at the crossroads of potential destruction. Airplanes and missiles fly over oceans, mountains and deserts, striking anyplace, anytime. Even America, the so called "Only Superpower," has found itself vulnerable to terroristic attacks. God's protection from terror remains in effect and we have found Him faithful. In spite of earthquakes, tournedos and hurricanes that fall on the just and the unjust just alike; and, even through the humanly planned strikes of terrorists that have become our contemporary "pestilence." The "arrows that fly by day" are for us hijacked airliners loaded with jet fuel and body bombs strapped to crazed suicide bombers. Even in these troubled times we have found that God has answered our many prayers.
The operative line in our precious ninety-first Psalm is verse fifteen: "When they call to me, I will answer them.I will be with them in trouble.I will rescue them and honor them."
Two very basic aspects of the spiritual life are assumed in this verse: First, We must call before God can answer. It's similar to the telephone, we can't answer until it rings, or in the case of our cellular phones, only when the music plays does the tiny phone become a means of conversation. We have been given a way of calling God through prayer, but we must call.
Billions, all over the world, have recently made that call to heaven's celestial switchboard. Our Sanctuary was packed to overflowing for the National Day of Prayer on Friday the 14th, following Tuesday the 11th's terroristic strikes. There was a sincere calling to God in prayer. Folks continued to come all through that afternoon. Since then we have had many visitors in our worship services. A man came last Sunday evening saying that he was recomitting his life to Christ after a long rebellion. My daughter Lyn phoned the many first time visitors from last Sunday and reported a real interest from folks wanting to get back to God. One young girl responded, "Yes, we were there and our family plans to come back every Sunday and to never miss again!" That family, as one, is calling out to God.
God will answer, it's guaranteed! The Psalmist did not say that God might answer, or that there is a chance that He might involve Himself in our fear of terror in the night. "I will answer, when they call," is His part of the "Covenantal Agreement" that He has made with all humanity. It has been my own experience that, God has never failed to pick up the phone when I have called. I have never gotten a busy signal or an answering machine, not even a polite secretary. God answers His own phone, when we call.
However, sometimes the answer is not the one we want. It's often like phoning the clinic for test results: Sometimes the levels are high and the doctor writes a prescription. There is always hope in what at first seems like a hopeless situation.
Of all the interviews with survivors of the World Trade Center disaster none have been more gripping than those who narrowly escaped certain death. They all consider themselves fortunate and I have not heard one not mention praying as they walked down those many flights of emergency stairs. It is true that all who called out to God had their prayers answered with a precious new lease on life. Still, the ones we think about the most are those who were working at their desks when they saw an airliner headed straight for their window. What about their brief prayers that may have only been a sentence fragment. Our verse fifteen says, "I will rescue them and honor them." Verse sixteen ends the Psalm with the promise, "With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation." Did God fail them? No, for death is not the end of life. We have hope of an eternal life.
Finally, we ask about the misguided terrorists. How could they live in our cities, including Atlanta, for years; shopping at our malls, eating at our Waffle Houses, driving by our thousands of churches and perhaps even watching our own services on cable television, and still believe the fanatically absurd concept of suicide and mass murder in the name of God? We can only say that people called the wrong phone number even back in the days of the Psalmist. The nations that warred against Israel still fly their planes across the desert and now also toward us. Our President says that we will live with fear for some years to come. Hopefully we have the correct phone number memorized. We will need to make that call regularly as we pray for personal protection and for the end of the reign or terror. We can thank God for the unity we feel as Americans. We need to pray that people will take life more seriously and become more thoughtful in their living. Let us pray that people will continue to seek out a church home. Also, pray for our churches that they will welcome newcomers with open arms. Always pray for peace on earth as we plan for the birthday of the Prince of Peace.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor