On Monday I wrote about the glory cloud in Psalm 91. I think the psalmist draws out the implications of being under God’s presence to bless in a general way for all Israel. The Jewish man is assured that he is under the cloud of God’s presence, safe from destruction; So is the Jewish mother, safe from pestilence; So too is the Jewish child, safe from terror. This was certainly proved true over and over again in Israel’s history, as destruction, plague, and terror passed them by because God’s presence to bless was over them.
Yet there are just as many or more accounts where Israel suffered all these things. What then? It’s all well and good when your God answers by fire, but what when he doesn’t and the prophets of Baal are shouting taunts at you? Did God fail to keep his promise? I think not, and this is what I meant Monday when I said that the Psalmist not only expounds upon the theme of the glory cloud, but particularizes it.
The language of being “under God’s wings” in the OT doesn’t always refer to the glory cloud. Often it speaks of the mercy seat in the Tabernacle and Temple, and the wings of the golden cherubim are spoken of as God’s wings (Psalm 61:4). I believe that this is the case in Psalm 91, that this is in the mind of the psalmist as he writes.
Given all of what I’ve just said, there exists a second image alongside the first. The first image conjured up by Psalm 91 is that of Joe Israel going about his daily business, knowing that God’s presence to bless is with him in the everyday. This second image is not so concrete. It is the image of Joe Israel, his spear shattered and his shield broken, his enemies bearing down on him, yet still abiding under God’s presence to bless, because God’s presence is the blessing. He does not fear “the arrow that flies by day” even when the sky is blackened by arrows, because no arrow can deprive him of God’s presence.
In this sense the glory cloud does not only hover above Joe Israel’s head; it has gotten beneath his skin.