Today we will focus on psalm 91. Some call this a psalm of trust and others a wisdom psalm. Its author is unknown. This psalm has a strong Messianic flavor to it with the Lord Himself speaking in verses 14-16. This psalm expresses confidence in the Almighty God who provides shelter for those who take refuge in Him. These people receive redemption, life, and glory from the Lord, who loves and cares for those who seek him. Psalm 90, which is the oldest psalm, written by Moses dealt with the difficulties of life but this psalm, which some ascribe to Moses, addresses the dangers of life. The psalmist warns of many dangers, things such as hidden traps, deadly plagues, terrors at night and arrows by day, stumbling over rocks, and facing lions and snakes. Whether it is the New Testament or the Old God’s people cannot avoid confronting unknown perils and dangers but we can escape the evil consequences.
When we read scripture, we see that many of God’s faithful servants have faced great danger in carrying out His will; people like Moses, David, Paul, and any of the prophets. We also see that God goes with them and sees them through the dangers and difficulties. But we know that there have also been many who were martyred. God was with them as well. The bottom line is that God has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and walking with Him amid trouble is always much safer than walking without Him when all is well.
The first thing we notice when we begin this psalm is that God is an ancient shelter. Moses wrote in psalm 90 that the Lord has been our home throughout the generations. And God is open to those who seek refuge in Him. It is as though the psalmist had two addresses, just as believers today. There is the actual physical dwelling and then the Lord. The safest place in the world is in the shadow of the Almighty God, and those who trust in Him live very close to Him. The psalmist here addresses God as the Most High. It is an ancient title that expresses the Lord’s exalted status as the ruler and protector of the godly. It emphasizes God’s majesty and often parallels the term Almighty, which in Hebrew is Shaddai. Together these two words for God speak of Him as having a mountain like majesty, in whose presence there is a secret place or shadow. God is in fact our fortress, our refuge and strength. There are many names here for the Lord, each with a different meaning that describes specific characteristics of the Lord.
Picture God as higher than anything, stronger than everything, all sufficient for any of our needs. He is Jehovah, the covenant making God who is faithful to His promises and He is Elohim, the powerful God whose greatness and glory surpass anything we can imagine. This is who we turn to each and every day. His mercies are new each day and it gives Him pleasure to lavish His love upon us. He gives us spiritual armor and His shield covers us in safety against the arrows of the evil one. The psalmist uses the example of a bird trap and deadly diseases to describe some of the dangers that may befall His people, and disease here can really represent any kind of affliction. And once again we see the image of the Lord as a protective mother bird who gathers her young around her and covers them with her wings. It is a mighty promise that is strong enough to serve as the armor of protection. The reference to shield here would have been the large shield that allowed soldiers to completely hide so they did not get shot by enemy's arrows.
By using both night and day, the psalmist speaks of God’s constant protection. Terror, arrows, pestilence or disease and destruction together refer to evil in general. The psalmist reminds us we have nothing to worry about because the Lord watches over us. He never slumbers or sleeps. However, this does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us. It means that God will be with us. We are never alone. And it is a reminder that God is good all the time and all the time God is good. When the psalmist speaks of the terrors of the night, he could simply be referring to being afraid of the dark and what can happen in the darkness...things that go bump in the night. Verses 7-8 read like the description of a battle. These two verses may have a direct link to the covenant promises God made with Israeli at Mount Sinai. The Israelites saw with their own eyes what happened at the first Passover and the grief of the Egyptians who lost their firstborn. They watched as the waters of the Red Sea engulfed the Egyptian army. Both times no harm came to God’s people. His angel went before them to prepare the way for them to enter the promised land. We even see God’s Words being used as protection for Jesus as he spent 40 days being tempted by the evil one. The evil one quoted scripture and Jesus responded with scripture. The Lord is our shield and our strength.
From verses 9-13 the psalmist again invites the godly to seek refuge in the Lord and enjoy the benefits of Divine protection. The evil one used verse 11 in his tempting of Jesus (Matthew 4:6) but God makes this promise for those who obey Him in verse 14, not to those who might choose to test Him. Lions and snakes especially are images of the evil one in scripture. In the ancient Near East, where people walked along narrow paths, sometimes in valleys, these were great dangers to travelers. So, the animal and snake imagery picture all kinds of evil that might threaten the coming One…Jesus. And the Father will protect Him no matter what.
The last verses, 14-16, are the voice of the Lord. He spoke and announced what He would do for those of His people who truly loved Him and acknowledged Him with obedient lives. The word used for love here is not typically used. This word means to cling to, to cleave, to be passionate, even hugging tightly. This word is used in Deuteronomy 7:7 and 10:15 regarding the love Jehovah has for His people Israel. Among His blessings will be deliverance and protection, answered prayer, companionship in times of trouble, honor, satisfaction, and a long life. For the Jews, living a long life and seeing kids and grandkids for several generations was the ultimate blessing in this life. But a long life on earth represents just a small part of the Lord’s goodness. For us as Christians, the best part of life comes after this one, the eternal life we have in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. (The fortress here is the Blarney Castle in Ireland.)
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W