Christ in the Psalms: The Psalm of the Temptation—Psalm 91
The first great event in the life of our Savior was his incarnation when the Holy Spirit overshadowed a young Jewish peasant girl from Nazareth and she supernaturally conceived a child. This event is hinted at in the 40th Psalm when King David writes: “ ... Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.” The incarnation represents our belief that Jesus, who is the second person of the trinity, took on a human body and human nature and became both man and God. In the Bible its clearest teaching is in John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."
From Genesis through Malachi, the Old Testament foretells that Christ would come into the world. This is why Jesus tells the Jewish leaders: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,” (John 5:39, NIV84). After Christ’s ascension, this is exactly what the Apostle did–they studied the Scriptures because they testified about the life and ministry of Jesus. One of their primary sources for information about the life of The Anointed One was the Psalms.
This morning I want us to look at a second Psalm that describes the second great event in the life of our Savior–His temptation in the Wilderness of Judah.
As most of you know, immediately following his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness under the Holy Spirit’s leadership. During that time, he devoted himself to prayer and fasting. It was time spent in close fellowship with his heavenly father. It was also during this time that, I believe, Jesus received his marching orders from God as to the shape and scope of his earthly ministry.
I think Jesus had to decide on the answers to some important questions:
- What message would he present to the people, and how would he present it?
- What would be the focus of his ministry?
- How would he measure success?
The questions you and I face are similar to the ones faced by Jesus. Each of us knows that, like our Lord Jesus, we have options in this life. How do we choose correctly? I would submit to you this morning that our Lord’s method needs to be our method. Fasting, prayer, and an unwavering commitment to God’s Word, are the key ingredients to finding God’s will for our lives, and defeating the world, the flesh, and the devil.
In the midst of seeking God’s will, our enemy the devil, will attempt to throw a wrench into the gearbox of our lives. Satan will always attempt to turn times of decision to his advantage. He tried to divert Jesus’ ministry down an unsatisfactory route. The devil came to a tired, hungry Jesus and attempted to persuade him that meeting his own needs must be a priority. These temptations remain appealing.
The 91st Psalm is another Psalm where we see Jesus. It is frequently referred to as the Psalm of the Temptation since verses 11 and 12 are quoted in the New Testament during our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness. And irony of ironies, it is the devil who quotes these very verses to Jesus! Though only two verses of the Psalm are quoted, I believe the entire Psalm is a messianic Psalm.
In it we find that some significant clues as to how we may defeat the temptations that come our way.
I. THE FOUNDATION OF OUR LORD'S FAITH (91:1–2)
- The Foundation of Our Lord’s Faith, Is the Foundation of Our Faith
- verses one and two reveal that the foundation of our Lord’s faith rested in
- the Person of God
- the Promises of God
A. BELIEVING IN THE PERSON OF GOD (91:1–2)
- God the Spirit, speaking through the psalmist, employs four names for God:
- Elyon (91:1): "The Most High"
- this name reveals God’s supremacy as sovereign Lord above all authority and dominion and every name that is named
- high as may be our difficulties, He is higher
- our enemies may be lofty, but He is above them
- what can be too hard or too high for the Most High?
- Shaddai (91:1): "The Almighty"
- this is the name he first revealed to Abraham
- it tells of the God of infinite power and resources for which nothing is too hard for Him
- it is He who formed of the world out of nothing
- it is He who holds the sun and stars in their places, and keeps the planets in their orbits
- it is He who has shown his mighty power in the miracles of the Bible
- it is He who is our protector and God
- Yahweh or Jehovah (91:2): "The Lord"
- this is the personal name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush
- this is the name of the Covenant God—the God who makes promises to His people and always lives up to His end of the promise
- this God revealed Himself to us through God the Son whose name is Jesus
- He is Abba Father
- Elohim (91:2): "My God"
- this is the absolute, all inclusive name for the God of Scriptures
- it refers to His eternal Deity and infinite perfection
- it also refers to his intimacy and nearness
- he is not an abstract God, He is my God, who gives Himself to me, and permits me to call Him my very own
- the foundation of our Lord’s faith was in the Lord God Almighty, who is the Most High
- the tests that he would endure in the wilderness would require faith and trust in nothing less
- the foundation of our Lord’s faith would also rest in ...
B. BELIEVING IN THE PROMISES OF GOD (91:2)
- Jesus speaks through the voice of the psalmist, and proclaims His trust in God as His refuge and place of safety
- God the Son is going to put his absolute trust in God the Father
- He can trust the father because ...
- God is his shelter—this refers to a secret hiding place and is so translated in some Bibles
- ILLUS. Have you ever had your own little secret place; a place where you could go to get away from it all; a place where you could be alone with your thoughts? Little children often find such a place where they can feel secure.
- the bible tells us that we all need that “secret place”
- "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:6, ESV)
- ILLUS. In the Book of Isaiah, God condemns Israel for seeking protection from their enemies—not from Him—but from Egypt! "Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!" (Isaiah 30:1-2, ESV)
- we error greatly when we put our ultimate trust for deliverance or protection in the powers of earthly authorities
- ILLUS. David knew what it was like to be hunted in an attempt to be snared by his enemies. When David was on the run from King Saul, he found a lush oasis in the desert that is called Ein Gedi. It was not only a refreshing refuge, but a strong fortress that was easily defended.
II. THE FOES OF OUR LORD'S FAITH (91:3-13)
- The Foes of Our Lord’s Faith Are the Foes of Our Faith
- in this part of the Psalm, God the Spirit speaks words of confidence to God the Son
- verse 3 begins: “For he will deliver you ... ”
- in these verses, we witness the providential care of God
- as Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to experience 40 days of testing, this Psalm must have been of great comfort to Him
- our Lord’s testing place was the Judean wilderness
- it must have been an extraordinary experience for Jesus that pushed him to his physical, mental, and emotional limits
- even today, it is a barren, inhospitable, and dangerous place to be by yourself
- in this barren wilderness the son of God would battle the son of perdition
- it was a clear routing of the devil by our Savior
- what was our Lord be delivered from?
- God the Father will deliver God the Son from the traps of the enemy
- God the Father will deliver God the Son from illness and pestilence
- God the Father will deliver God the Son from the wild beasts
A. SATAN IS THE GREAT FOWLER WHO LAYS SNARES
- ILLUS. The snare of the fowler refers to a person who trapped birds for a living. Their means and devices for capturing birds included decoys, traps, nets, and various kinds of bait. These were men who very carefully laid out their traps and nets and camouflaged them well so that their quarry would not suspect.
- wicked, scheming enemies of the righteous are called fowlers
- when Job’s friend Eliphaz analyzes Job’s predicament, he tell his friend "Therefore snares are all around you, and sudden terror overwhelms you," (Job 22:10, ESV)
- the first act of our Lord after His baptism in the Jordan, was to go into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil
- as the Second Adam, Jesus was to be tested where the first Adam had failed
- when Satan came calling, Jesus would resist the cunningly devised snares of the Devil
- the first temptation had to do with appetite
- after 40 days of fasting, Jesus had to be desperately hungry
- every article I read this week on hunger said that a healthy, well-fed man can go approximately 30 days without food before serious health complications begin to set in
- Jesus had gone 40 days
- Satan knew that this was a vulnerable time to approach Jesus
- the first temptation is, " ... “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”" (Matthew 4:3, ESV)
- ILLUS. Jesus, Satan says, I’ll bet you’re really hungry. Ya know, it’s not right that the Son of God suffer like this. Why don’t you use your supernatural powers and turn these stones into bread? God would understand!
- Satan tempted Jesus to treat His physical needs as if they were ultimate needs
- Jesus refused to accept Satan’s premise that physical needs are the most important in life
- ILLUS. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, we live in a hedonistic society. Hedonism is a philosophy that postulates that happiness or pleasure is the sole good in life. The motto of the hedonist is, If it feels good, do it!” The writer Oscar Wilde said it best: “I can resist anything except temptation. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” The result of this philosophy is a life-style that puts our physical needs above all else.
- “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25, ESV)
- "For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:32-33, ESV)
- it may be when we are down physically
- it may be when we are down emotionally
- it may be when we are down spiritually
- you can rest assured that when you’re down, Satan’s temptations will come your way
- "Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” (Matthew 4:5-6, ESV)
- the first temptation has failed
- now, suddenly, Jesus and Satan are standing together atop the tallest part of the Temple in Jerusalem
- they are 450 feet above the floor of the Kedron Valley
- on one side was the deep valley and on the other the temple grounds crowded with worshipers
- the Devil makes his pitch, “Now Jesus, you’ve made it clear that bread is not your priority. You have declared that hearing and doing every word that comes from God is your desire. Very well, we are at the worship center for the people of God. What better spot to hear and do the Word of God? Listen to what the Scripture says—after all, nothing gives you your sure guidance like the Scriptures, does it? I know you will want to do what they say. Here it is: ‘He will command his angels concerning you ... they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ (Psalm 91:11-12). “Now, go ahead and jump! God has promised to send His angels to catch you. Everyone will see you. They will be amazed. They will follow you anywhere. Jump, Jesus, jump! If you believe God’s promises, jump!”
- the devil is never more dangerous than when he quotes or misquotes the Word of God
- Satan is tempting Jesus with slick religion
- slick religion always glorifies self and not God
- ILLUS. It’s the kind of religion that caused the Pharisees of Jesus’ day to call attention to their almsgiving, fasting, and praying. It’s the kind of religion that greedily claims material possessions in the name of Jesus and then gloats in the blessings of God.
- " ... “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Matthew 4:7, ESV)
- "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”" (Matthew 4:8-9, ESV)
- with the third temptation, Satan takes “the gloves off”
- ILLUS. When I was growing up, my dad was a real St. Louis Blues hockey fan. And during the season we would always take in maybe half a dozen games. Hockey then it is no different than hockey now. At some point there’s going to be a fight. You know there’s going to be a fight. The fight always begins when they throw down their sticks. And then they began us sparring and dancing around on the ice. You know it’s serious, one they flicked their wrists and for all their hockey gloves. That’s when the punches begin to fly.
- he bluntly tells Jesus, worship me in all of this is yours
- "Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” (Matthew 4:10, ESV)
- it is written ... It is written ... It is written
- if our Lord could drive back the enemy with the Scripture, so can we
III. THE FRUITS OF OUR LORD'S FAITH (91:4–10, 13)
- To find refuge under God's wings (91:4)
- To be protected by the armor of God's faithfulness (91:4)
- To be reassured in times of terror, danger, and evil (91:5–7, 10)
- To see the punishment of the wicked (91:8–9)
- To tread upon the lion and snake (91:13)
- The Fruits of Our Lord’s Faith Are the Fruits of Our Faith
IV THE FELLOWSHIP OF OUR LORD'S FAITH (91:14–16)
- “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16, ESV)
- The Fellowship Jesus Had with the Father Is the Same as Our Fellowship with the Father
- the Psalm closes with God the Father reassuring God the Son with seven “I Will” statements
- I will deliver him
- I will protect him
- I will answer him when he calls to me
- I will be with him
- I will rescue him
- I will honor him
- I will satisfy him
- for the Christian, these promises are summed up in one great New Testament passage
- \"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."/ (Romans 8:31-39, ESV)
There are, I believe three important applications for us in this Psalm of the Temptation.
- First: Is Jesus Christ your Lord and God? Is the God of the Bible your refuge in times of trouble? The psalm’s promises are for you only if he is.
- Second: Do you live in close fellowship with God? Do you rest in the shadow of the Almighty? Is he your place of habitual dwelling? The psalm is written to urge you to trust and cling to God in all circumstances.
- Third: It is when we believe God’s Word and act upon it that we find him to be faithful to what he has promised and learn that he is in truth our shield from dangers and our rampart against enemies.
In an insecure world, where temptations abound, God offers us a secure place in Him.