Jews and Christians around the world have found comfort and power in many of the psalms. But one of the most powerful is Psalm 91. This particular psalm has been credited with saving believers from disaster, warfare, and all kinds of perils. In a world where fear is rampant, the powerful promises of this psalm have brought safety to those who fully understand and trust in them and it has removed anxiety and fears from many who trust in God’s promises.
The first verse of the Psalm uses the words “dwelleth” and “abide.” Both words imply taking up residence in God, living closely and permanently in communion and communication with God. The promises in Psalm 91 are not for casual infrequent worshipers of God. This is nothing new. Many promises in the Bible are provided only for those who stay close to God. So Psalm 91 is a contract or covenant between God and those who are especially close to Him, those who trust in the Bible and love the Lord with all their heart, and mind, and strength.
How does one dwell in God? Essentially, dwelling in God is to live a life where one is always aware of God’s holiness, goodness, beauty, creativity, and love. It is to begin the day with one’s Bible and to allow God’s word to color how one views the world.
Psalm 91 affirms God’s power. Faith in God’s word is affirmed and spoken. Faith in God is affirmed in three ways: The Believer affirms the trustworthiness of Whom he believes in, the possibility that God’s word is true, and that God is able and willing to give what he has promised. Throughout the psalm, God’s promises are compared to a fortress, a castle, and a tower where one can be safe.
When trouble comes, humans tend to murmur and complain. But this psalm offers no complaint. There is no sense of helplessness against disease, harm, or snares. The believer in God does not say “I believe the doctor’s report” but instead says, “I trust in God’s report.” Moreover, the believer does not believe or repeat what the doctors say. Instead, the believer trusts in God’s promises. Whatever the sea of troubles, quicksand of bad luck, or mountain of illnesses, the person who knows her Bible can say to the mountain, “God is my refuge. I will trust in Him.”
The Psalmist lists the many troubles the Lord is able to deliver His people out of. He lists the snare of the fowler, for instance. A fowler is someone who sets traps for birds. The world is full of snares. The Bible also tells us that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. The book of Proverbs has many proverbs about snares such as bad friends, greed, seductive women, and even co-signing for a friend. All people —whether young or old— can become victims of traps and tricks set to snare them. But those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High are like baby chicks under the wings of a mother eagle.
There is also warfare imagery and military terms such as shield, fortress, and buckler. God’s word, God’s truth is a shield. Of course, truth is not helpful if one doesn’t know it.
The writer speaks of several basic categories of trouble. The terror by night: unseen terrors that come at night. The arrow that flies by day: troubles that strike suddenly in the daytime. The pestilence that walks in darkness: diseases, plagues and hidden things. The destruction that wastes at noonday: disasters that occur in broad daylight. The psalmist assures the reader that they will not be afraid of these threats.
Many Christians who do not know Psalm 91 know Satan’s temptation against Jesus. During the temptation of Christ, the devil used the a promise in Psalm 91 as a temptation. “Throw yourself off this tower for God has given His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways.”
Clearly, there is a difference between finding one’s self in trouble and being presumptuous just as there is a difference between finding one’s self surrounded by snakes and setting out purposely to handle them. Whether Jesus was speaking of demonic entities (often referred to as snakes in the Bible) or of real biological snakes, it is not a good idea to fall into the trap of those who —like snake handling cults— fall into presumptuous sins. No promise of safety is given to those who are foolhardy and presumptuous.
Psalm 91 begins with a speaker affirming his faith in God’s power and suddenly at verse 14, God Himself speaks. The Bible tells us that God is not a man that He should lie. By suddenly appearing and speaking up in the Psalm, God puts his own seal to the promises the psalm writer has been trusting in. It’s as if God is saying: “My Child said this, and I am affirming and setting my seal on his affirmations that they are true.”
God repeatedly says: “I will.” This is the promise of One Who cannot lie, of One Who has the power to keep His part of a seemingly impossible contract. The Believer has his part and God has His part. The believer’s duty is to set his love upon God and to trust God’s word. God’s part is to hear the believer’s prayer, to be with the believer in trouble, to deliver the believer out of trouble, to satisfy the believer with a good life, and to show His power to save the believer. Wonderful promises for those who remain in God’s presence.
1He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.