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02-25-07 Psalm 91

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PSALM 91

Security of the One Who Trusts in the Lord.

This psalm is a meditation, in a serene and confident mood, on the security of the person who trusts in God. There is nothing in the text that provides a clue as to the time and circumstances of its composition. Dahood and others take it to be a royal psalm, understanding the participle in verse 1a to mean “he who sits enthroned,” that is, the king.

Verses 1–13 are an extended commentary on how God protects those who trust him; here the psalmist speaks of God’s angels as guaranteeing their safety, a concept rarely found in the psalms. In verses 14–16 God speaks, confirming the words of the psalmist and promising safety and long life to those who trust him and obey him.

It is possible to place in the left-hand margin the speakers, as follows: verse 1, a priest; verse 2, the worshiper; verses 3–8, priest; verse 9a, worshiper; verse 9b, priest; and verses 14–16, God.

HEADING: “God Our Protector.” Other headings are: “Under the divine wings”; “Security in God”; “My refuge and my fortress.” The tev heading may be recast for adaptation to other languages in such forms as the following: “God is the one who defends us,” “God, you are the one who takes care of us,” or “God is our defender.”

The Hebrew text has no title for this psalm.

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PSALM 91

1  He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

2  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,

My God, in whom I trust!”

3  For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper

And from the deadly pestilence.

4  He will cover you with His pinions,

And under His wings you may seek refuge;

His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

5  You will not be afraid of the terror by night,

Or of the arrow that flies by day;

6  Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

7  A thousand may fall at your side

And ten thousand at your right hand,

But it shall not approach you.

8  You will only look on with your eyes

And see the recompense of the wicked.

9  For you have made the Lord, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10  No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11  For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12  They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13  You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14  “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15  “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16  “With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

 

SECTION OUTLINE NINETY-ONE (PSALM 91)

This psalm is about faith and describes the perfect security of one who trusts in the Lord.

I.       The Foundation of Faith (91:1–2)

A.   Believing in the person of God (91:1–2): The psalmist employs four names for God:

1.     Elyon (91:1) : “The Most High”

2.     Shaddai (91:1) : “The Almighty”

3.     Yahweh (91:2) : “The Lord”

4.     Elohim (91:2) : “My God”

B.   Believing in the promises of God (91:2) : The psalmist trusts God as his refuge and place of safety.

II.    The Foes of Faith (91:3)

A.   The trap (91:3) : God rescues us.

B.   The fatal plague (91:3) : God protects us.

III.  The Fruits of Faith (91:4–10, 13)

A.   To find refuge under God’s wings (91:4)

B.   To be protected by the armor of God’s faithfulness (91:4)

C.   To be reassured in times of terror, danger, and evil (91:5–7, 10)

D.   To see the punishment of the wicked (91:8–9)

E.   To tread upon the lion and snake (91:13)

IV.The Friends of Faith (91:11–12)

A.   Who they are (91:11) : They are angels who do his bidding.

B.   What they do (91:11–12)

1.     They guard believers (91:11–12): They protect us wherever we go.

2.     They guide believers (91:12) : They hold us with their hands.

V.   The Fellowship of Faith (91:14–16): Faith creates intimacy between the believer and the Lord.

A.   A mutual love (91:14) : He rescues and protects those who love him.

B.   Communication through prayer (91:15) : God answers those who call on him.

C.   A long life of honor (91:15–16): He is with them in trouble and satisfies them with a long life and salvation.

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Scripture Outline

Confession: God’s Protection (91:1–2)

Confidence for Deliverance (91:3–13)

God’s Word of Salvation (91:14–16)

This is both a triumphant and a troubling psalm. It is triumphant because it guarantees that God will be our guard and guide through the evils of this life. It is troubling because it seems to be based on an unworkable theology: a theology of glory. What about suffering? What about the martyrs? What about the Cross? What about children with Down’s syndrome? What about Christians who pray for healing only to hear silence?

As a pastor I have had to deal with the whole range of human experience. On the streets of Hollywood in the 1960s I found prostitutes, drag-queens, runaways, drug addicts, and every conceivable diagnostic disorder. Trying to minister to these people brought me a combination of joy and sorrow both then and now. Some of the converts from that time have become mature in their faith, but many others are far from Christ today.

To change the scene, as a pastor, I have married hundreds of couples over the years. They come, in most part, smiling to the altar, faces glowing, reflecting their love and hope for the future. Few of these many marriages, however, have survived unscathed. Many have ended in divorce with children torn between their parents’ conflicts. Some barely survive. Others have gone through deep waters, later to emerge with health and vitality. But how can this psalm of triumph be applied to all of these people equally?

The fact that our victory in this world is so partial forces us to look more deeply at Psalm 91. We must also remember that Satan distorted this very text by using verses 11–12 to tempt Jesus to destroy Himself by leaping from the temple (Matt. 4:5–7). One irony, as we shall see, is that this psalm is directed against demonic assault.

If Psalm 91 is unqualified in its application to all believers, then it seems contradicted by much of our experience. It is not unqualified, however. It is addressed only to those who dwell “in the secret place of the Most High” and confess God as their “refuge and fortress” (v. 1). It is these who will be protected in the midst of the battle. Neither “the terror by night” nor “the arrow that flies by day” will touch them (v. 5). God’s angels will be their guards (v. 11), and even wild beasts will be under their command (v. 13). Prayers will be answered by God’s presence and protection (v. 15), and the result will be salvation in all of its fullness (v. 16). The issue of this psalm becomes then, “How may we journey into these promises and see them fulfilled in our experience?”

There is no tradition of authorship associated with Psalm 91. Commentators describe its mixed form as a wisdom poem (vv. 1–13) followed by a word from God (vv. 14–16). It may be associated with the temple liturgy, where instruction in divine protection leads to God’s personal response in the form of an oracle. The thought moves from the confession of God’s protection (vv. 1–2) to confidence in deliverance (vv. 3–13) and concludes with God’s word of salvation (vv. 14–16).

CONFESSION: GOD’S PROTECTION

91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;

My God, in Him I will trust.”

—Psalm 91:1–2

Verse 1 answers the question, “To whom does this psalm apply?” The promise of victory, which is its theme, is for the person who “dwells in the secret place of the Most High” (see Gen. 14:19–20 for this name of God). It is for no one else. The verb to dwell means “to remain, stay, tarry, endure, have one’s abode.” It suggests continuance and permanence.

Jesus identifies His disciples as those who “abide” or “dwell” in Him through eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:56). They also dwell in His Word (John 8:31). Above all else, they dwell in Him as branches dwell or abide in the vine (John 15:7–8). This abiding life, to live and remain in Jesus, is the New Testament counterpart to “dwelling in the secret place of the Most High.” But what is that “secret place?” It is a “covering,” a “hiding-place,” a “shelter.” It can refer to the temple (Ps. 27:5), but only because God’s presence is there (Ps. 31:20).

This secret place is the intimacy of God’s presence; it is our secure communion with Him. By dwelling or living in the surrender of un ceasing worship and prayer (see 1 Thess. 5:16–17), we are like Moses, who was put in the cleft of the rock and covered with God’s hand while His glory passed by (Ex. 33:22).

God’s presence in verse 1 leads to His protection. The person who dwells in the secret place “shall abide [“lodge”) under the shadow of the Almighty.” The metaphor is that of a mother hen who gathers her chicks under her feathers. David prays, “Hide me under the shadow of Your wings, from the wicked who oppress me” (Ps. 17:8–9).

In response to God’s promise in verse 1, the psalmist now gives his confession in verse 2. He will say to Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress,” or, better, in direct address: “God, my refuge and my fortress.” The imagery here is military; God is his defensive position against all enemies. Moreover, He is personal, My God. The psalmist concludes, “in Him I will trust” (“feel secure, be unconcerned”).

The theme of this psalm is now clearly established; God will give complete security and victory to the person who dwells in Him and puts his trust in Him. Intimacy and faith will bear this fruit in our lives.

CONFIDENCE FOR DELIVERANCE

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler

And from the perilous pestilence.

He shall cover you with His feathers,

And under His wings you shall take refuge;

His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,

Nor of the arrow that flies by day,

Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,

Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,

And ten thousand at your right hand;

But it shall not come near you.

Only with your eyes shall you look,

And see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place,

No evil shall befall you,

Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;

For He shall give His angels charge over you,

To keep you in all your ways.

In their hands they shall bear you up,

Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

—Psalm 91:3–13

In verses 3–13, we have an extended exposition of what God will do for the person dwelling in Him. While he will experience suffering and evil in this fallen world, he will also know divine protection and deliverance.

In verse 3 the psalmist asserts, “Surely He shall deliver [“snatch or tear away”) you from the snare [trap or net] of the fowler.” The person dwelling in God will never be a caged or eaten bird. Furthermore, God will deliver him “from the perilous pestilence.” (The noun pestilence means a lethal disease; Ex. 9:15; Num. 14:12.) As we have seen, God will cover the psalmist with His “feathers,” hiding him “under His wings” (see v. 1; Ps. 61:4). Here he will “take refuge.”

On the surface, the psalmist may be describing deliverance from human adversity. But in light of verses 5–6 (see comments below), it is probable that he has a darker enemy in mind. The fowler and the “perilous pestilence” become demonic agents of spiritual and physical assault. Paul warns new converts about falling “into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7). Behind much disease stands supernatural evil. So Jesus heals a bent woman whom Satan bound for eighteen years (Luke 13:16).

In the midst of verse 4 the metaphor shifts to military equipment. The person dwelling in God’s “secret place” will have “His truth” as a “shield” and “buckler.” This shield is large, protecting the whole body. The word rendered buckler appears only here in the Old Testament. It probably means a round shield. The two pieces of armor illustrate the full (and double) protection offered by God’s truth. In the New Testament truth is a weapon against the devil. Jesus ex poses Satan with His word as He declares Himself to be the Light of the World (John 8:l2ff.), and Paul instructs us to wear the “whole armor of God,” which includes the truth of the gospel in several aspects, “that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).

The results of this protection are sketched in verses 5–6. The per son dwelling in God’s secret place will not be afraid of “the terror [“dread”] by night” (v. 5). While this could refer to a surprise military attack, it probably indicates demonic assault. (A psychologist friend of mine experienced such an attack when she awakened from a nap after midnight in a room where several clients involved in the occult had been counseled. After rebuking the demons in Jesus’ name, she was able to go back to sleep.) Furthermore, the person dwelling in God’s secret place will not fear the “arrow that flies by day.” While this may have a human context, it may also be a metaphor for demonic assault coming like fiery darts (see Eph. 6:16).

In verse 6 the person hidden in God need not fear “the pestilence that walks in darkness.” Here, in contrast to verse 3, the pestilence is qualified. It stalks at night, having a demonic character. Finally, this person is free from “the destruction that lays waste at noonday,” which may well represent supernatural assaults in broad daylight. From all of this human and demonic activity, the person “dwelling in the secret place of the Most High” is protected.

The promise of God’s care is expressed physically in verses 7–8. While vast numbers of people are falling all around, a “thousand … at your side, / And ten thousand at your right hand, it [the plague, battle casualties, demonic conquest?] shall not come near you” (v. 7). The protected person walks through this holocaust of evil un touched. Moreover, he will also see the “wicked” (“hostile enemies,” “lawbreakers”) get their just reward (v. 8). In the New Testament Jesus and the early church saw God’s power overcoming the works of Satan; demons were cast out as the authority of God’s kingdom was manifest. When the seventy returned to Jesus from their mission, they reported, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He responded, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:17–18).

Why this victory over evil? The answer is given in verses 9–13. The foundation is laid in verse 9, which repeats the promise and confession of verses 1–2. The protected person prospers because the Lord is his “refuge” (see v. 2) and the “Most High” (see v. 1) his “habitation” (“lair,” “dwelling place”). There, living in God’s presence (v. 10), “No evil [‘distress’, calamity’] shall befall you.” More over, no “plague” (“scourge”) will “come near your dwelling” (“tent”). His family and possessions will be safe as well. By dwelling in the Lord, armed with His truth, we cannot be touched by Satan or his minions of evil. He cannot penetrate that secret place, near to God’s heart. He cannot gain an advantage over those of us who are now held in Jesus’ hand.

To be under God’s shadow (v. 1), covered with His feathers (v. 4), means also to have angelic aid. God sends His supernatural messengers to have “charge over you, / To keep [“guard,” “preserve”] you in all your ways” (v. 11). These angels are Elisha’s chariots of fire filling the mountains around us with protection against our enemies (see 2 Kin. 6:17). More than once, close personal friends of mine, whose mature Christian walk I respect, have reported to me that as I have gotten up to preach the platform is filled with angels.

This angelic care is complete. These guardians bear up the protected person “in their hands” so that he will not even “dash” his “foot against a stone” (v. 12). Moreover, he will experience victory over all evil: treading upon “the lion and the cobra,” and (in parallel) trampling “the young lion” and “the serpent” (v. 13).

In the disputed ending to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus promises His evangelists, “They will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them” (Mark 16:18). Paul also promises, “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20). As we indicated above, the fact that the devil took these verses in this psalm and used them to tempt Jesus is ironic since this same psalm promises complete protection from malignant, supernatural evil. At the same time, that Jesus refuted the temptation and walked through untouched proves that the promises of verses 3–4 for deliverance and protection are true (see Matt. 4:1–11).

GOD’S WORD OF SALVATION

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him on high, because he has known My name.

He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him,

And show him My salvation.”

—Psalm 91:14–16

God now speaks from His “secret place” in verse 14. Because the person who dwells there loves Him, or “has set His love upon Him,” He will “deliver him” (“cause him to escape [all evil]”). God will be faithful to His beloved. No demonic presence can stand before Him. Moreover, the Lord will “set him on high” (“securely exalt him,” see Ps. 69:29) because he has known His name; that is, he has had an intimate relationship with Him (see Ex. 3:13–14).

Out of this intimacy he will experience vital prayer: “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him” (v. 15). So Jesus promises His disciples, “If you abide (dwell) in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). God will also grant His presence and protection: “I will be with him in trouble [“distress”] / I will deliver him.” Moreover, He will “honor [‘glorify’] him,” give him “long life” (a sign of blessing), and “show him” (that is, “have him experience”) His “salvation” (“deliverance”).

Here is the divine response to the person who dwells and lives in intimacy with the Lord. He knows God’s presence (“on high”), God’s power (“I will answer him”), God’s protection (“I will deliver him”), and God’s provision (“I will satisfy him”). This is salvation!

For those of us who experience so much brokenness in this world, Psalm 91 can either be a mockery or a call and a hope. If we long for and desire greatly to be intimate with God, He promises to be intimate with us. The road to intimacy lies in self-disclosure (John Wimber). As we disclose ourselves to God, He will disclose Himself to us, and Satan will be locked out of our hearts as God’s kingdom reigns there. This is what it means to dwell in the secret place, to be hidden and covered by the Almighty.

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All the psalms are from God and are wonderful. But some have commended themselves to God’s people as being especially rich and comforting and to which they have repeatedly turned in times of sickness, loneliness, and trouble. Psalm 91 is one of these special psalms. It has been committed to heart by thousands of people, and millions have turned to it with thankfulness in the midst of life’s calamities.

Psalm 91 may be compared with Psalm 46, which calls God “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Martin Luther loved that psalm and turned to it often because he had so many troubles. Psalm 91 may also be compared with Psalm 90. Both call God the “dwelling place” of his people, which is probably why they have been placed together in the Psalter. There are verbal similarities between the two psalms, which has led some commentators to conclude that Psalm 91, as well as Psalm 90, was written by Moses, though there are no other truly substantial reasons for thinking that. Besides, the psalms differ greatly in their tones. As H. C. Leupold says, “The latter [Psalm 90] is somber and stately; this is bright and simple. The one breathes deep insight; the other cheerful trust.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was not overstating the case when he wrote, “In the whole collection there is not a more cheering psalm; its tone is elevated and sustained throughout, faith is at its best and speaks nobly.”

Psalm 91 has given us two great hymns as well as some additional verses by well-known writers such as Edmund Spenser (“And Is There Care in Heaven”) and Horatius Bonar (“He Liveth Long Who Liveth Well”). The hymns we sing are “Under the Care of My God, the Almighty” from the Bible Songs Hymnal of 1927 and “The Man Who Once Has Found Abode” from the Reformed Presbyterian Book of Psalms of 1940.

One striking feature of Psalm 91 is that it consists of three clear movements marked by a change in pronouns. The first movement is marked by the pronoun I (vv. 1–2). It expresses the psalmist’s personal faith in God. The second movement is marked by the pronoun you (vv. 3–13). It is a word from the psalmist to the reader or listener, his word to us. The final stage is marked by the divine pronoun I (vv. 14–16). Here God speaks to the reader to declare what he will be and do for the one who loves him and calls upon him. In the New International Version the second of these two major movements is divided into separate stanzas (vv. 3–8 and 9–13). The first speaks of God’s protection from many kinds of dangers. The second expresses the condition for such protection by God and the results if the condition is met.

The Psalmist’s Personal Faith in God

The first verse of the psalm is a thematic statement, expressing what the remainder of the psalm will be about:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

However, as soon as the psalmist makes that statement he immediately breaks in to confess his own faith before commending it to us: “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’ ” (v. 2). This is the equivalent of the apostle Thomas’s confession of faith after Jesus had appeared to him following the resurrection and Thomas fell at his feet, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

So here is a first point of application: 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.

What promises they are! And with what force they are commended to us! There are four metaphors for the security we can have in God. God will be our “shelter” and “shadow” (v. 1) and our “refuge” and “fortress” (v. 2). There are also four names for God, which give substance and strength to the metaphors. He is “the Most High,” “the Almighty” (v. 1), “the Lord,” and “my God” (v. 2). When the psalmist identifies God as his God in the last expression, it is a way of saying that the shelter, shadow, refuge, and fortress are for those who really do dwell in God and trust him. Spurgeon wrote, “The blessings here promised are not for all believers, but for those who live in close fellowship with God. Every child of God looks towards the inner sanctuary and the mercy-seat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place; they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not habitually reside in the mysterious presence.”

So here is a second application: 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.

Trust in God Commended

Having stated his own personal faith in God, the psalmist now commends that faith to us, taking six verses to explain what God will do for the one who trusts him. The most striking feature of this section (and the one following) is the use of the singular you throughout, which is a way of saying that these truths are for each person individually. They are for you if you will truly trust or abide in God.

Verse 3 sets the tone for this section by saying that God will save the trusting soul from two kinds of dangers: first, the subtle snare of enemies, described as the trap a fowler used to catch birds, and second, death by disease or pestilence. This does not mean that those who trust God never die from infectious diseases or suffer from an enemy’s plot, of course. It means that those who trust God are habitually delivered from such dangers. What Christian cannot testify to many such deliverances? Indeed, our entire lives are filled with deliverances from many and manifold dangers, until God finally takes us to be with himself.

The words “deadly pestilence” (v. 3) and later “the pestilence that stalks in the darkness” and “the plague that destroys at midday” (v. 6) help us recall many instances of such protection.

Lord Craven, a Christian, was a nobleman who was living in London when plague ravaged the city in the fifteenth century. In order to escape the spreading pestilence Craven determined to leave the city for his country home, as many of his social standing did. He ordered his coach and baggage made ready. But as he was walking down one of the halls of his home about to enter his carriage, he overheard one of his servants say to another, “I suppose by my Lord’s quitting London to avoid the plague that his God lives in the country and not in town.” It was a straightforward and apparently innocent remark. But it struck Lord Craven so deeply that he canceled his journey, saying, “My God lives everywhere and can preserve me in town as well as in the country. I will stay where I am.” So he stayed in London. He helped the plague victims, and he did not catch the disease himself.

There is a similar story from the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. In 1854, when he had been in London only twelve months, the area of the city in which the young preacher lived was visited by Asiatic cholera. Many in Spurgeon’s congregation were affected, and there was hardly a family in which someone did not get sick, and many died. The young pastor spent most of every day visiting the sick, and there was hardly a day when he did not have to accompany some family to the graveyard.

Spurgeon became physically and emotionally exhausted and sick at heart. He was ready to sink under this heavy load of pastoral care. But as God would have it, one day he was returning home sadly from a funeral when he noticed a sign in a shoemaker’s shop on Dover Road. It was in the owner’s own handwriting, and it bore these words: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling,” a quotation from Psalm 91:9–10 (kjv).

Spurgeon was deeply and immediately encouraged. He wrote, “The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to put those verses in his window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous power I adore the Lord my God.”

Verse 4 contains two appealing images of God’s protection: first, that of a mother bird, sheltering and protecting her young (“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge”) and second, that of a warrior’s armor (“his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart”). The exact meaning of the word rampart (niv) is uncertain. The Hebrew word signifies something that is wrapped around a person for his or her protection; hence, it can mean “buckler,” “armor,” or, as in the niv, a “rampart” or fortress. It may be that something of each of these ideas is in the Hebrew word.

Jesus appropriated the first of these two images for himself, saying as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37). Jesus would have saved and sheltered Jerusalem and its inhabitants, but the people were not willing. They would not come to him. They would not “dwell” in the shelter of the Most High. They cried out for his crucifixion instead.

As for the second image, we may recall God’s words to Abraham when he was returning from his attack on the kings who had raided Sodom and Gomorrah and carried off Abraham’s nephew Lot. Abraham had won the battle, recovering Lot, the women, and their possessions. But Abraham was in danger of retaliation by these kings. It was then that God spoke to him in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Gen. 15:1). That is what God will be to us, if we will trust him.

Here is an important question: What exactly is it that is said to be the believer’s “shield and rampart” (v. 4). God, of course! But in what respect? The King James Version says, “His truth will be your shield and buckler.” In my view, the New International Version is richer at this point, for the Hebrew word means more than mere truth. It has to do with God’s entire character, described as faithfulness. Still something is lost if we do not also realize that the Hebrew word for faithfulness is based on the word for truth and that what is involved here is God’s faithfulness to his promises—that is, to his word. In other words, 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.

Verses 7–8 describe thousands falling on either side of those who trust God, noting, “You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” This interprets the death of the thousands as God’s punishment for sin and places the deliverance of God’s people in that context. In other words, it is not a promise that those who trust God will never die of disease or even in some military conflict, but that they will not suffer those or any other calamities as God’s judgment against them for their sin. Their sin has been atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Protection from Dangers: The Condition

Much of what is found in the third stanza of this psalm (vv. 9–11) is like what we have seen already. It tells us that “no harm will befall” us and that “no disaster will come near your tent” (v. 10). But there are a few new elements.

One of them, probably the chief idea because it comes first, is that there is a condition to the kind of protection the psalm has been promising—that the individual “make the Most High [his] dwelling” (v. 9). This is more than merely believing in God or coming to God occasionally when danger threatens. It means resting in God continually and trusting him at all times. It means living all of life “in God.” Martin Luther wrote that this refers to “one who really dwells and does not merely appear to dwell and does not just imagine that he dwells” in God.

The second new element reinforces the first and, by means of its use in the New Testament, is an illustration of it. It is the reference to angels, the psalmist saying,

For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone
(vv. 11–12).

This is the verse the devil quoted as part of his temptation of Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 4:1–11 and Luke 4:1–13. It is the only verse of Scripture actually quoted by the devil, at least that we have a record of. But he misquoted it! He left out “in all your ways”—that is, in the ways marked out for us by God and not our own willful ways. For that was the very essence of the temptation; he wanted Jesus to go his own way rather than trusting God and being contented with God’s way, even if it meant going to the cross. The devil wanted Jesus to test God by jumping off a pinnacle of the temple, trusting his Father to send angels to bear him up so he would not be dashed to pieces when he fell and thus impress the people. Jesus replied rightly, saying, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ ” (Matt. 4:7, quoting Deut. 6:16). Testing God by jumping off a pinnacle of the temple would not be going in the way God had given him to go. It would be the very opposite of trusting God; it would be “baiting” him or “putting him to the test.”

The Lord’s trust in his Father also resulted in Satan’s defeat, another part of the psalm the devil omitted (v. 13). The psalm tells us that if we go in God’s way, trusting him to uphold us, then we will “tread upon the lion and the cobra”; we will “trample the great lion and the serpent.” The Bible elsewhere describes Satan as “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) and that “ancient serpent” (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). Jesus triumphed over him by trusting God. Likewise, in Christ the righteous will be victorious over Satan too.

Here is one more thought about this incident. When Jesus replied to Satan, he rejected the temptation to jump from the temple, trusting the angels of God to keep him from being killed. But the angels were there anyway, though invisibly. For after Satan had completed his temptation we are told God’s “angels came and attended him” (Matt. 4:11). In other words, God was upholding Jesus even in the temptation.

God’s Promises for Those Who Trust Him

The last three verses of this psalm contain a confirming oracle of God in which the controlling pronoun switches from you, which dominated in verses 3–13, back to I, as in verse 2. Only here the I is God himself. In these verses God adds his seal to what the psalmist has been saying. God promises three things to those who trust him.

1. Protection for the one who is in danger (v. 14). The psalm speaks throughout of the many dangers that threaten God’s people, but its central message is that God will rescue and protect from all such dangers those who trust him. Those who have trusted God know this and praise God constantly for his help and protection.

2. An answer for the one who is in trouble and prays to God about it (v. 15). One of the great blessings of following hard after God is knowing that when we call upon him he will hear and answer us. These verses say that God will deliver and honor such a person. They also say that God will be with the believer “in trouble,” which is a way of acknowledging that God does not always lift a Christian out of troubles. Sometimes it is his will that we endure them and profit from them. We are told in Romans that we acquire hope, develop character, and learn perseverance from what we suffer (Rom. 5:3–4). When we go through such circumstances, God goes through them with us. He sustains us in our sufferings.

3. Long life and salvation for the one who seeks God’s satisfaction (v. 16). Long life is a blessing frequently promised to the righteous in the Old Testament (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 30:20; Pss. 21:4; 23:6; Prov. 3:2, 16), but the promise is not necessarily for a prolongation of days but rather for a complete or full life. Here there is the added promise of a “salvation” in heaven, yet to come.

These verses also make a point that has been developed several times already—the promises are for those who trust in or love God. Therefore, they are blessings that some believers miss out on, simply because they are always fretting and do not trust God as they should. Here the psalmist quotes God as saying that the blessings are for those who love God and acknowledge his name (v. 14), call upon him (v. 15), and seek satisfaction in what he alone can provide.

Do you do that? Or are you still trying to find satisfaction in the world? Do you love the world more than you love Jesus? John R. W. Stott reminds us of Romans 8:28, observing that “God is the supreme object of the believer’s love as well as faith, and it is to those who love God that the assurance is given that ‘in all things God works for their good.’ ”

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This psalm, like the majority in the present Book, is without a title. Jewish tradition, however, ascribed it to Moses—a conclusion which Dr. Kay and others accept as borne out by the facts, especially by the many close resemblances between it and Deut. 32, 33. Other critics, and they are the majority, trace in it a different hand, but regard it as suggested by Ps. 90.

The subject is the security of the man who thoroughly trusts in God. This subject is worked out by an “antiphonal arrangement” (Cheyne)—the first speaker delivering vers. 1, 2; the second, vers. 3, 4; then the first responding with vers. 5–8; and again the second with vers. 9–13. In conclusion, a third speaker, making himself the mouthpiece of Jehovah, crowns all by declaring the blessings which God himself will bestow upon his faithful ones (vers. 14–16).

This psalm is, apparently, liturgical, and is “the most vivid of the liturgical psalms” (Cheyne). It has a certain resemblance to the speech of Eliphaz the Temanite in Job 5:17–23, but stands at a higher elevation.

Ver. 1.—He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High (comp. Ps. 90:1). He who has his thoughts always on God is said to “dwell in him”—to “make his adode with him”—to “sit down in his secret place.” He has the Almighty, as it were, for his constant companion. Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. This is not “tautology.” What is meant is that “loving faith on man’s part shall be met by faithful love on God’s part” (Kay). God will extend his “shadow” over the man who places himself under his protection.

Ver. 2.—I will say of the Lord. The general sentiment is followed by a personal application. “I, at any rate,” says the first speaker, “will place myself under this powerful protection.” He is my Refuge and my Fortress (comp. Pss. 18:2; 144:2). My God; in him will I trust (comp. Pss. 29:2; 31:6; 55:23; 56:3; 61:4, etc.).

Ver. 3.—Surely he shall deliver thee. The second speaker takes up the word, and naturally changes the person. Addressing the first speaker, he says—Yes, assuredly, God shall deliver thee from whatever dangers beset thee: as, first, from the snare of the fowler (comp. Ps. 124:7; Prov. 6:5); and, secondly, from the noisome pestilence (comp. ver. 6), i.e. from all dangers whatsoever—not more from these than from others.

Ver. 4.—He shall cover thee with his feathers; rather, with his pinions (see the Revised Version; comp. ver. 1; and see Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11). And under his wings shalt thou trust; rather, shalt thou take refuge. His truth—i.e. “his faithfulness, his fidelity”—shall be thy shield and buckler; i.e. “thy protection.”

Ver. 5.—Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night. Robbers constituted the chief “terror by night” (see Job 24:14–16; Jer. 49:9; Obad. 5); but night attacks on the part of a foreign enemy were not uncommon (Cant. 3:8; Isa. 15:1). Nor for the arrow that flieth by day. Open war is probably intended, not sirocco, or pestilence, or “the arrows of the Almighty” (Job. 6:4). The man who trusts in God will be specially protected in the peril of battle.

Ver. 6.—Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness. The plague-god is personified and represented as stalking through the land in the hours of darkness. Parallels have been found in the literature of the Babylonians (see ‘Babylonian and Oriental Record,’ vol. i. p. 12) and elsewhere. Nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. The rare word, קטב, translated “destruction” here and in Deut. 32:24, is rendered by the LXX. δαιμόνιον and the entire phrase, “for the destruction that westeth at noonday,” becomes ἀπὸ συμπτώματος καὶ δαιμονίου μεσημβρινοῦ—“from ruin and the demon of the midday”—by which sunstroke would seem to be meant (comp. Ps. 121:6, “The sun shall not smite thee by day”).

Ver. 7.—A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand. The meaning is, “Though a thousand, or even ten thousand, should fall beside thee, in battle, or through pestilence, or sunstroke,” yet—It shall not come nigh thee—the danger, whatever it be, shall not touch thy person; thou shalt be protected from it.

Ver. 8.—Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward (or, “the recompense”) of the wicked; i.e. without suffering anything thyself, thou shalt look on, and see the punishment of the ungodly. So Israel in the land of Goshen “looked on,” and saw the calamities of the Egyptians.

Ver. 9.—Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my Refuge, even the Most High, thy Habitation; literally, for thou, O Lord, art my Refuge; thou hast made the Most High thy Dwelling-place, which can scarcely be made to yield a tolerable sense. It is supposed that a word—אָמַרְתָּ—has dropped out, and that the verse originally ran thus; “Because thou hast said, Jehovah is my Refuge, and hast made the Most High thy Dwelling-place” (comp. vers. 1, 2). The second speaker for a second time addresses the first.

Ver. 10.—There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. The faithful man is to be preserved from evil of every kind. His very “dwelling” is to be protected so that his family may suffer no hurt.

Ver. 11.—For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways (comp. Ps. 34:7). The faithful are under the constant care of angels (Heb. 1:14), who guide them and direct them perpetually. Satan made a crafty use of this promise when he tempted our Lord (Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:10, 11). No doubt it applies to him pre-eminently, as the specially “Faithful One.”

Ver. 12.—They shall bear thee up in their hands; rather, upon their hands—lifting thee over difficulties and stumbling-blocks. Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone (comp. Prov. 3:23, 24). Moral impediments are, no doubt, chiefly meant.

Ver. 13.—Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder. Conquered enemies prostrated themselves before their conquerors, who, to mark the completeness of the subjection, placed a foot upon the prostrate form. From this practice the metaphor of “treading under foot” for conquering became a commonplace (see Pss. 7:5; 44:5; 60:12, etc.). The “lion” here represents all open and violent foes; the “adder,” all secret and malignant ones. The young lion (kěphir, the lion in the height of his strength) and the dragon (tannin, the most dreadful form of serpent) shalt thou trample under feet. An emphatic repetition, with a certain heightening of the colour.

Ver. 14.—Because he hath set his love upon me (see Deut. 7:7; 10:15). “By a sudden and effective transition,” as Professor Cheyne remarks, “Jehovah becomes the speaker” of the concluding strophe. It is not enough that the faithful should encourage each other by their anticipations of God’s coming mercies, God himself now speaks by the mouth of his prophet, and makes promises in his own Person. I will deliver him. A ratification of vers. 3, 7, 10–15. I will set him on high; i.e. “exalt him above his fellows”—“bring him to honour.” Because he hath known my Name. “Knowing God’s Name” is nearly equivalent to knowing him. It implies, besides knowledge, faith and trust in the Almighty.

Ver. 15.—He shall call upon me, and I will answer him. This is equivalent to, “Whenever he calls upon me, I will answer him,” or “I will grant all his prayers.” I will be with him in trouble (comp. Ps. 46:1). I will deliver him (see above, ver. 14). And honour him; or, “bring him to honour” (compare “I will set him on high,” in the preceding verse).

Ver. 16.—With long life (or, length of days) will I satisfy him. Length of days is always viewed in the Old Testament as a blessing, and a special reward for obedience (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; 2 Kings 20:6, 2 Chron. 1:11; Ps. 21:4; Prov. 3:2, 16, etc.). It is only in the New Testament that we learn how much “better” it is “to depart, and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). And show him my salvation (comp. Ps. 50:23); i.e. “make him experience what salvation is.” “Salvation,” as Professor Cheyne observes, “is both an act and a state”—an act on God’s part, a state on man’s.

HOMILETICS

Ver. 11.—The angels. “He shall give his angels charge,” etc. The restful spirit of absolute trust in God rises in this psalm to its loftiest height. It is a glorious commentary on Isa. 26:3. The Divine answer at the close (vers. 14–16) shows how near the Lord is to the soul that trusts him. Compare, as an equally glorious New Testament parallel, Rom. 8:31–39. St. Paul defies “angels and principalities” of evil to harm God’s children. Here holy angels are declared to be their watchful helpers and guardians.

I. His angels. Angels sustain a most close, happy, exalted relation to God, of nearness, love, service (Ps. 103:20; Luke 1:19; Rev. 5:11).

II. They are our fellow-subjects and fellow-servants in the heavenly kingdom of our risen Lord. (1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 22:8, 9.) Jesus, who received their ministry on earth (Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43), commands it now (Rev. 22:16).

III. Their mighty powers are willingly and obediently exercised in ministering to the welfare of God’s children. (Heb. 1:14.) Note: They minister to God for his children. Their power is inconceivably great. One angel was able to destroy Sodom and the other guilty cities. The same angel gently, though firmly, led Lot out. One angel smote the firstborn (comp. Matt. 28:2, 5; Acts 11:7, etc.; Matt. 26:53).

IV. Angels are to be our fellow-worshippers and associates in the eternal home. (Luke 20:36; Heb. 12:22.)

Remarks. 1. This case is minute as well as mighty (ver. 12). One false step may be fatal. Angels are examples of that thorough obedience which is “faithful in that which is least.” 2. It is our Father’s care we are to recognize. “He shall give his angels charge.” All their power, wisdom, care, love, flow from him as their Source. His care and love are over each one of his children every moment. “Over thee to keep thee.”

Ver. 15.—True prayer. “He shall call,” etc. This is the simplest view of prayer. And in our present weakness, sin, need, that which comes most home, suits us most. Prayer may extend far beyond the range of our own need, as in the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. It may rise above petition into converse with God, adoration, thanksgiving, consecration. But this is the alphabet of those loftier lessons, “Ask and receive” (Luke 11:9, etc.; Ps. 50:15).

I. Prayer is a law of God’s government. He has ordained it among the conditions of the blessings he is ready to bestow, as surely as he has ordained sowing as the condition of reaping, or the dependence of the child on the parent (Matt. 7:11). We hear much in our day of laws; and no wonder, for the progress of science depends on the discovery of the laws which regulate nature. Rightly understood, they are the glorious witness of which Ps. 19:1 speaks. The mischief and folly come in when men erect “laws” into an imaginary self-existence, and worship them as a sort of fetish, just as in old times people worshipped imaginary powers in nature. A strange idolatry! Laws can have no existence but in mind. In our minds they are truths which we discover as constant amid the infinite, ever-changing variety of nature. In the Divine mind they are the principles and rules according to which the Creator has made, upholds, and rules the universe. Now, if prayer be one of the great laws which God has ordained for human life, it must needs be in perfect harmony with all nature’s laws. God’s laws cannot contradict one another. The so-called “scientific” objection against prayer (which has really nothing scientific in it) amounts to this—that if God is influenced by prayer, so that he causes events which would not have happened had prayer not been offered, nature must be irregular, and God irresolute. The answer is—It is God’s will that “men pray everywhere,” as much as that the sun shall shine and rain fall. He has built this universe as a temple. All nature is so under his eye, hand, will, that it is no more deranged by his granting our petitions than by a parent granting a child’s request (1 John 5:14, 15). Men can disobey, disbelieve, despise, this great law of prayer. The difference between natural laws and laws for intelligent beings is just this—things cannot disobey God. Men can; but they must take the consequences.

II. That God answers prayer is a fact of experience. The truth of any law is verified by experience. So God says, “Prove me.” The law of prayer is established by the teaching of the whole Bible, by abundant express promises, by our Saviour’s example as well as teaching. It has been tested constantly for thousands of years; is being tested hourly—nay, every minute. And the immense witness of experience is, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” If experience can establish any fact, it is this. But here is a difficulty. All prayers are not answered.

HOMILIES BY VARIOUS AUTHORS

Vers. 1–16.—The man that trusts in God. I. We have his description. 1. He dwells in the secret place, etc. 2. He abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

II. His confession of faith. (Ver. 2.) The Lord is his Refuge, Fortress, the Joy of his soul, his God, his constant Confidence.

III. His commendation of God to others. (Vers. 3–13.) 1. As a sure Deliverer from the hidden foe and from the devouring pestilence. 2. As Protector; like that of the mother-bird over her young; like that of shield and buckler to the soldier. 3. As the Inspirer of confidence. (Ver. 5.) Against the midnight attack—the terror by night (cf. Judg. 7). Against open war, when the flight of arrows almost darkened the sky. Against secret disease (ver. 6) and sudden death—the sickness that wasteth at noonday. 4. As rescuing from the very jaws of death. Thousands falling all around, but God’s servant kept unharmed (ver. 7). Seeing only, but never experiencing, the awful recompense of the wicked (ver. 8). 5. He gives the reason of this. (Ver. 9.) He made the Lord his Refuge and his Habitation; there no evil could come, nor any plague. 6. He tells of the angelic ministries through which God thus guards his people; they keep and they upbear, so that no hurt shall come. Still more, they render the man invulnerable (ver. 13). Forces terrible as the lion and subtle like the adder cannot harm. Thus, from his own experience, the man that trusts in God commends him to his fellow-man. And next—

IV. The Divine approval and delight in both the man and his testimony. At ver. 14 God begins to speak. 1. Declaring his mind towards his faithful servant. We may regard these verses (14–16) as a Divine soliloquy, in which God, well-pleased, meditates what he will do, and why, for his servant. He will deliver, exalt, answer, keep near to, honour, satisfy with long life, and reveal to him the fulness of his love. 2. Endorsing the testimony in the mind of him to whom it has been given. Making him feel that it is all true, and that much more is true. Thus does God deal with his faithfully witnessing servants, and for and through them to others. This psalm is as true for to-day as for the day when it was written. Let us but thus trust in God, confess, and commend him.—S. C.

Vers. 1–3.—Abiding under God’s shadow. In order to understand this most precious promise, inquire—

I. What is the secret place of the Most High? The idea of this “secret place” is frequently met with. 1. Sometimes it tells of some secret hiding-place, such as David often resorted to when a fugitive; and the sure protection of God is likened to such safe shelter. 2. At other times, the central tent of the commander of an army seems to be meant, as in Ps. 27:5, “He shall hide me in his pavilion,” etc. The enemy would have to break through rank after rank of the encamped army ere he could reach the well-guarded central tent of the leader. So inaccessible to the foe, so strongly placed was it, that it is taken as an emblem of our security in God. 3. But it is to the most holy place of the tabernacle and temple that we think allusion is here made. That sacred chamber was emphatically the secret place of the Most High. It was entered but once a year, and then only by one person, the high priest, bearing the blood of atonement. For all the rest of the year no footfall was heard in that secret place, no eye looked upon the glory of God that shone forth there. That loneliness told of the sad alienation that had sprung up between God and man through man’s sin. But that secret place was the earthly dwelling-place of God. There, between the cherubim, his glory shone forth, and there he was said to dwell.

II. But what is it to dwell there? Literally, no man ever dwelt there. We are driven, therefore, to seek the spiritual meaning of this word. And we note that: 1. Israel entered there in the person of the high priest, when he bore in his hand the atoning blood, which he was about to sprinkle upon the mercy-seat. All Israel found entrance there in their high priest, their representative. And whilst they continued in the faith of God, obeying and trusting him, they spiritually dwelt in that secret place, and, as a fact, were under the shadow—the high priest was so literally—of the Most High. No evil befell them, no plague came nigh their dwelling. It was well with them indeed. 2. And we enter and dwell there when, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we come to God, pleading his all-sufficient sacrifice and atonement, of which the blood borne by the high priest told. And we dwell there as we continue in that precious faith. Then we, too, are under the shadow of the Almighty. The Law’s condemnation, sin’s power, earthly care, death, and the grave, can do us no harm; we are under the sure and blessed shelter of our God. Next let us note—

III. The characteristics of this indwelling. 1. The Lord is to us our Refuge. The Law’s condemnation would fasten upon us but for this. And he is our Fortress—the place of vantage whence we fight successfully the spiritual warfare. And he is our God, in whom we trust; he is the confidence, the delight, the joy of our souls; so that we say of him, “He is my God.” 2. And all this we take personally, each of us individually appropriating it. The Lord is not merely “a Refuge,” but “my Refuge,” “my Fortress,” etc. 3. And we confess it. “I will say of the Lord,” etc.; “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

IV. The sure fruit of such dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. We shall commend God to others. The rest of the psalm is one prolonged testimony to the blessedness of thus dwelling in God. “Surely he shall deliver thee,” etc. Are we, then, thus individually and avowedly dwelling in God?—S. C.

Ver. 2.—A sacred resolve. “I will say of the Lord.” Consider—

I. Such resolves generally. It is good to make them; for: 1. They are really prayers. Underlying them there is the desire of the heart that God may give the help needed to fulfil such resolve. 2. They are a blessed stirring up of the grace of God that is in us. The will summons the soul to energy by means of such holy resolves. 3. They are well-pleasing to God, for they are an actual endeavour to do his will.

II. This resolve. 1. See its nature. He would take the Lord as his “Refuge.” It is a confession of need and of trust. And as his “Fortress.” He would need help in his warfare; he would rely on the Lord for it. As his God, his soul’s Centre, Strength, and Joy. 2. He would do this now. 3. Openly. 4. Personally. 5. Habitually.

III. What led to this resolve. The experience of God’s sheltering love of which he tells in the first verse. He was dwelling in the secret place, was abiding in Christ, and he found, as a fact of his experience, that he was sheltered from all evil.

IV. How this resolve was sustained. By going and telling others of what God had done for him, and would do for them.—S. C.

Ver. 2.—“My God.” These words come as a climax to all that profession of faith which the former part of the verse contains. It is good to say of the Lord, “He is my Refuge”—to have gone to him, and found in him deliverance from all the guilt and condemnation due to our sin, which otherwise would have overwhelmed us. But it is better to have him as “our Fortress,” so that, strong in his strength, we may fight successfully the great battle against all the might of the wicked one. But it is best of all, because a yet higher attainment, to be able to say of God, “He is my God,” as the psalmist does here. All that is contained in the former declarations is included in this, and much besides. Blessed, indeed, is he who can say of the Lord, “He is my God.” We all know what a charm belongs to that which we can call our own. Even a child delights in any gift far more if it can call what is given its very own. And it is the same with men. Possession enhances preciousness, and causes what is our own to be clung to with a tenacity that would be wanting were it not “our own.” We know the poet’s challenge to our patriotic pride when speaking of “my own, my native land.” And the man who will delight in God and cleave to him at all times is he who most of all is able to say of him, “He is my God.”

I. Let us explain the meaning of such saying. 1. It does not mean that any man can have a monopoly of God so as to exclude all others. It is so with many of our earthly possessions, but not at all so in our possession of God. On the contrary, he who says of the Lord, “He is my God,” is generally one who has learnt to say this by the blessed influence of some other who himself has been able to say it. And he is always one who desires that all others should be able to say it likewise. 2. But it means that he has such conscious possession of and delight in God that he could not have more were God his God only, and not the God of any one else. As with the eye, it could not enjoy more of the light of the sun even if no other eye rejoiced in its light. The joy of the light is not lessened, but greatly increased by, yea, is largely dependent on, others enjoying it also.

II. Observe some of those who have said this. 1. Jacob. At Bethel he had been made to feel his deep need of God, and hence he vows that if God would bring him back in peace, “then God shall be my God,” etc. And this is the deep longing of every convinced soul. 2. Miriam and Israel at the Red Sea. They sang, “He is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation,” etc. They knew of his redemption, and in the joy of it claimed God as “my God.” It is the spontaneous utterance of the redeemed soul. 3. Nehemiah, and many others, who thus continually speak of God. They show how God is the abiding Trust of the believer. 4. Our Lord on the cross cried, “My God, my God,” etc.! And in him we learn how this precious truth is the solid rock on which, in times of extremest distress, the soul rests itself. 5. And it is the seal of salvation. In the Apocalypse we read amongst the promises “to him that overcometh,” there shall be written on him “the name of my God,” as if the fact that he had so regarded and rejoiced in God were, as it is, the sure token of his belonging to the city of God. Thus from the dawn of the Divine life in man to its consummation in glory, the people of God have ever said of the Lord, “He is my God.”

III. What is involved in such saying. 1. The man feels it; he has the witness of the Spirit to the fact that God is his God. 2. He asserts it—openly confesses and professes this truth. 3. He delights in it. It is no mere abstract proposition, but a perennial spring to him of peace, purity, and power. 4. And others recognize it. When no one but ourselves believes that that which we call ours is so, our possession of it is doubtful and insecure; but when all acknowledge our possession, then it is ours. And so with him who rightly says of the Lord, “He is my God.”

IV. How may any man come to say this? The steps are: 1. Conviction of your need, leading to fervent desire. 2. Consecration. This includes the renunciation of all that would displease God, and the prompt obedience to all his will so far as you know it. 3. Confession of this to God first, and then to man, that God is your God. 4. Confidence. You are to keep believing that God accepts the surrender you have made. And then comes: 5. Consciousness that it is so. The Spirit testifies to you. May we all make this blessed ascent!—S. C.

Ver. 3.—The fowler’s snare. It is a frequent usage of the psalmist’s to compare the soul of man to a bird (cf. Pss. 11, 84, etc.). In the next verse God himself is likened to the mother-bird that shelters her young under her wings. And, like a bird, the soul of man is exposed to many dangers. Not alone such as are open and known, but such as are hidden, secret, and subtle; not alone from the hovering hawk, but also from the crafty snare of the fowler. And with such souls as are contemplated in this psalm, it is this latter peril which is the true image of that against which they need to guard, and from which God alone can deliver them. The snare of the fowler—it is a very suggestive similitude. Consider, therefore—

I. The danger that threatens the believer. It is as a snare. 1. A concealed peril. For the fowler to show himself, or to spread his snare in the sight of any bird, would be to defeat the very object he has in view. Hence he conceals himself and his snare both. And so also doth that crafty hunter who seeks for souls that he may destroy them—

“Satan, the fowler, who betrays

Unguarded souls a thousand ways”—

he does not venture to display openly the evil which he intends by the suggestions he plies us with and the temptations which he puts in our way. Rather he transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Thus craftily does he hide away from us the real nature of the sin into which he would betray us. 2. Adapted to our nature. The fowler does not seek to snare all birds in the same way, but he studies their nature and likings and haunts, and so sets his snare. And is it not just thus with our great adversary? He knows our weak points, where the chink in our armour is through which his darts may enter. He knows where we are vulnerable, how we may be best ensnared. That which would tempt one man would have no attraction, or but little, for another. And Satan knows that. Ah! where should we be were it not for the safe keeping of God? 3. Attractively baited. How the devil lured Saul to persecute the Church, by persuading him that he was “doing God service”! How Christian people are often led to mingle in strange scenes, and to associate with those who are no friends to Christ in their amusements and ways, on the pretext that so they may bring these ungodly ones under good influence, and thus lead them on to something better! The result is generally the reverse of what was expected. Satan has a vast variety of these baits, and the souls are not a few that he has snared by means of them. “It is only for once;” “Don’t listen to narrow, prejudiced people;” “You can’t help your nature and disposition;” “You can repent, and get forgiveness;”—these are some of the fowler’s baits with which he tempts us into his snare. 4. Sometimes he uses decoys. “Religious people do such things: why shouldn’t you?” 5. Sometimes he employs several of them together. Old Master Quarles says—

“The close pursuers’ busy hands do plant

Snares in thy substance; snares attend thy want;

Snares in thy credit; snares in thy disgrace;

Snares in thy high estate; snares in thy base;

Snares tuck thy bed, and snares surround thy board;

Snares watch thy thoughts; snares attack thy word;

Snares in thy quiet; snares in thy commotion;

Snares in thy diet; snares in thy devotion;

Snares lurk in thy resolves, snares in thy doubts;

Snares lie within thy heart, and snares without;

Snares are above thy head, and snares beneath;

Snares in thy sickness; snares are in thy death.”

There is not a place in which a believer walks that is free from them. Therefore let us watch and pray.

II. Our rich consolation in view of these dangers. God will “surely” deliver us from them. 1. He has promised to do so. 2. He has done so for his people in all ages who have sought such deliverance. 3. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil; therefore, certainly, these snares.

III. The nature of his deliverance. How does the Lord fulfil this word? 1. By not letting us fall into them. He keeps us from the evil, that it shall not touch us. This is very blessed—more blessed than to be delivered out of the snare when we have fallen therein. The elder brother was, after all, more to be envied than the restored prodigal. We too much forget this. God has many means of holding us back from sin. Chief of all, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, giving us, as to Joseph, a holy fear and an abiding love of God. 2. By rescuing us out of the snare. Yes, he stands ready to do this. You fallen ones, he will do this for you.—S. C.

Ver. 4.—“Just as a hen protects her brood.” This is undoubtedly the image here. Not the outspread wings of the cherubim, which overshadowed the ark of the covenant. Nor the mighty pinions of the eagle, whose home was on the lofty crag, and her path through the sunlit sky. But it is the homely image taken from the familiar scenes of the farmyard and the barn. It is in keeping with the gracious condescension of God to employ such an emblem; it is like the Lord himself, “full of grace and truth.” We would not have dared to make such a comparison; but he has done so, likening himself to the mother-bird, which fosters, cherishes, and protects her young. Let us note—

I. The special blessing here promised. It is the gracious protection of God. In the closing sentence of this verse it is likened to “shield and buckler.” To Israel it meant protection from outward calamity, such as pestilence and the destruction caused by war; but to us it tells of all that spiritual guardianship we enjoy. From all the guilt of former sin; from the power of sin now; from the might of temptation; from the crushing power of sorrow; from the misery of a useless and, still more, a harmful life; from the fear of death; from all these, and, when it will be well for us, from outward ill as well.

II. The manner of its bestowment. It comes through; 1. The all-availing atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. When this is pleaded and trusted in by the sinner, his guilt is all taken away. 2. From the power of sin, by the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, cleansing the heart and sanctifying our whole nature. 3. From sorrow, by his providence keeping it away; or giving, as to Paul, grace sufficient to sustain it; or by removing its cause. 4. From the misery of a useless life, by inspiring the soul with a desire for others’ good, and by his Spirit, fitting for service. 5. From fear of death, by the revelation of the far better life with Christ, to be entered on at once when this life is done.

III. Other blessings that come along with this one. For the emblem employed suggests not only protection from enemies, but much more than that. Picture to yourself what the shelter of the wing of the mother-bird is to her young, and it will tell of what the precious promise of our text means to the believing soul. 1. It means happy content and comfort. “My soul shall be satisfied,” and that richly—so Ps. 63 declares. And the emblem of our text suggests it, even as the experience of God’s saints confirms it. The soul is happy in God. Dungeons as at Philippi and Rome, deathbeds, and desolations of all kinds have been irradiated with the blessed content of those whom God has covered with his feathers, and who have put their trust under his wings. 2. A life hidden with God. See how the young brood are hidden away under their mother’s wing! A life hidden from strife and malice and the world. 3. Nearness to the heart of God. The young birds can feel the beat of their mother’s heart. So the soul of the sheltered one beholds and feels the love of God. 4. Perfect peace.

IV. To whom all this is promised. Not to any and everybody, but to those only who dwell in the secret place of the Most High; that is, who abide, ever trusting, in the Lord Jesus Christ.—S. C.

Vers. 11–13.—“His angels.” The mention of them is introduced here in order to show how the blessed promise of ver. 10 is fulfilled. The angels are continually spoken of in Scripture. First of all, we read of them in connection with the story of Hagar, and from thence onward the pages of Holy Scripture make perpetual references to them. It, therefore, cannot but be important to us that we should understand, so far as we may, what is written concerning them. For we cannot think that their work and ministry are finished, and that now they have nothing to do with us, nor we with them. We feel sure that the reverse is the truth. True, there has been much of mere imagination in the representations that have been given of angels by poets, painters, and preachers alike. They have been the makers of men’s common ideas concerning the angels, and have caused not a little misunderstanding and loss thereby. But a careful study of the Scriptures will show that truth on this confessedly mysterious and difficult theme is both attainable and full of profit. Consider—

I. The reality of the angelic world. 1. This the Scriptures plainly assert. They are spoken of there in clear and positive manner, as to their high dignity, their sanctity, power, blessedness, their heavenly home, their employments, vast numbers, and immortality. All this is told of the holy angels. But there are evil ones likewise, who are represented as serving under their prince, Satan, as the holy angels under God. They are evil, wretched, full of malignity, and reserved for everlasting punishment. 2. And this teaching is to be regarded as literally true. It is not, as some have said, an accommodation to the popular beliefs of the day. 3. Analogy also confirms this. Is not all life, from the lowest zoophyte up to the most gifted of the sons of men, one continual ascent? But why should the progression halt with man? Why should there not be an ascent beyond, as there is up to, ourselves? All analogy leads us to think there is, and to be on the look out and expectation for orders of beings that may span the vast distance that separates man from God. And the Bible confirms this.

II. Their nature. 1. Who and what are they? Much has been assumed concerning them; as that they existed long before the creation of man; that they are altogether different in nature from man; that some of them kept not their first estate, etc. 2. But may it not be that angels are perfected men? The poet Young thus writes—

“Why doubt we, then, the glorious truth to sing?

Angels are men of a superior kind;

Angels are men in lighter habit clad,

High o’er celestial mountains winged in flight,

And men are angels loaded for an hour,

Who wade this miry vale, and climb with pain

And slippery step the bottom of the steep.”

Why may not this be true? For there is no being higher in nature than man, except God himself. If angels be different from men, why, then, were men created at all? If, without all man’s toil and pain, beings existed who could render to God the love, worship, and service he desired, wherefore man’s much sorrow and misery? But if, on the other hand, it be true that there is no other entrance on the angelic state than by this weary life of ours, the mournful mystery of life has some light shed upon it. And angels are often called men, and appeared as such. And our Lord said that in the resurrection we shall be as angels; and in the Epistle to the Hebrews (12) we are said to have come to myriads of angels, and the following sentence shows that they are the same as “the Church of the Firstborn, and the spirits of just men made perfect.” And the quotation by the writers of 2 Peter and Jude, from the same passage in the apocryphal and unauthoritative Book of Enoch, need not stand in the way of the reasonable and helpful belief we have been maintaining. Milton—that mighty manufacturer of so much mischievous mistake—is the real author of men’s common beliefs about the angelic world. And they who hold such beliefs lose much.

III. Their office. They are said, in these verses: 1. To have charge of the people of God. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth,” etc.? 2. They keep God’s servants in all their ways. Perhaps by suggesting thoughts, purposes, and resolves. But we do not certainly know. If we could see them at their work, we should be in peril of worshipping them, as St. John was. 3. They sustain them, upbear them, so that not alone by great ills, but by little ones, they shall be unhurt. 4. They give victorious power over all kinds of spiritual foes (ver. 13).

IV. The help that these truths render. 1. The heavenly world and its employments become more real to us. We know that our work shall not be perpetual singing, but high, holy, blessed service. 2. The mystery of life is lightened. We see whither we are going, and wherefore here we have to suffer. 3. One chief pain of death is lessened. For we are not debarred from rendering service to those we leave behind. The thought that we can no more help our loved ones is one of the pains of death. But by this blessed teaching it is taken away.—S. C.

Ver. 12.—The angels’ charge of little things. To whom is this promise addressed? Not to any and everybody indiscriminately, but only to those who dwell “in the secret placed of,” etc. (ver. 1). Therefore it was especially applicable to our Lord. Some have concluded, that, as this verse was made use of by Satan when he tempted our Lord, the psalm is to be limited in its application to him only. But this is an error. Satan quoted it; but, as he always does when he quotes Scripture—a not uncommon custom of his—he alters it; he left out the qualifying clause, “in all thy ways.” It is not in any ways that we can have the angels’ care, but only in those that are right. The promise is for all God’s people, as they go about their own proper and appointed ways. Next, let us ask, what is the meaning of the text? Our word “dash” is not a true rendering; the Hebrew word used is generally rendered as in John. 11, where our Lord speaks of a man not stumbling if he walks by day, but as sure to do so if he walks at night in the dark. It means that then he would be likely to strike against some stone in the way, and so be tripped up. There is no idea of violence in the word. When Satan used it, he meant to suggest to our Lord that if the promise was that he should not even stumble over a stone, how much more might he be sure of protection were he to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple! The word, therefore, points to a very small and ordinary matter—the being kept from falling over a stone, as a mother would hold up her child from such mishap. Now, the text teaches us—

I. Angels concern themselves about such little things as these. This is very wonderful. For think of who and what the angels are; how great, glorious, holy, blessed; how high and august the office they fill, and the employments in which they engage. And then think of their stooping to such work as this—the preventing of a man stumbling against a stone. We know they concern themselves about the salvation of the soul, for that is a great matter; the soul so precious, that Christ was content to die to redeem it. But that our feet may not even come in hurtful contact with a stone—surely that seems beneath and unworthy of them. But this same truth is told of in many other Scriptures; cf. “The very hairs of your head are all numbered;” “Not a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father,” etc. Therefore it is true the holy angels have charge over the minute details of our lives, as well as over great events. The Lord’s loving providence reaches down to all these little things, of which our life is mainly made up. How blessed this truth is! All our life cared for by the Lord!

II. But what is little in itself may not be so in its consequences. How mighty are little things in the results that often flow from them! For the body, a slight stumble may have lifelong consequences. For the soul, men fall little by little, not by great crimes, but by a series of little sins. And so, too, for the rise of the soul. We do not leap into heaven; but we “grow in grace”—ever slight increase and advance.

III. Our real difficulties are in connection with them. Otherwise angels would not be put in charge over us. Many can keep from great sins who allow themselves in little ones. “Take me the little foxes,” etc. We either think we can manage the little affairs of life, or we neglect them.

IV. Our strength against both little and great perils is in Christ. (Adapted from the late Canon Melville.)—S. C.

Vers. 14–16.—The beloved of the Lord. The marks and tokens of these are set forth here.

I. They have set their love upon the Lord. Their hearts have turned to him, away from sin, and now are “set,” firmly fixed, upon him. Numbers of people feel a passing affection for Christ; their hearts burn within them for a while; but the fire soon dies down and out. But these have set their love, not their mere thought or approval, upon him.

II. They have known his name. This is a higher degree. Their love has led to their keeping near to him, and to constant intercourse with him; and so now they have come to know him, as we say we know a dear and honoured friend, whom we have tested and tried and never found wanting. So these have come to know God; and, of course, they are “set on high.” Such knowledge lifts the soul above the cares and trials, the temptations and sorrows, of life. As the small birds, whom the hawk seeks to prey upon, avoid their foe by keeping high above him, so do these, the Lord’s beloved, live above where the sins, snares, and sorrows of this world can do them harm.

III. They pray effectually. “He shall call upon me, and I will answer.” The life of prayer, the walk with God, ever characterizes these people. And they have power in prayer—their prayers are answered. This cannot be said of all or most prayers, of which, so often, nothing seems to come. But it is otherwise here.

IV. In their troubles the Lord is with them. “I will be with them,” etc. They will have trouble. They are God’s jewels; but as the jewel needs to be put on the lapidary’s wheel and ground ere it will reveal its brilliancy and worth, so do God’s jewels. Therefore trouble cannot be escaped. But bearing it alone may be, and is, by these people. See Paul and Silas in the dungeon at Philippi, and the experience of all the saints in all the ages all along.

V. And because they are the Lord’s beloved, there comes to them: 1. Deliverance. How could it be otherwise? deliverance real, though not always visible to our eye. 2. Honour. See the golden cross on the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral: how that tells of what this nation thinks of the Crucified One! All the nations praise him. 3. Eternal life. Long life indeed! 4. Satisfaction. “Thou, O Christ, art all I want.” 5. The vision of the salvation of God. For himself; for those dear to him; for the world.—S. C.

Ver. 15.—The response of God to his people. I. What this response is. 1. That God will answer prayer. But on this, note: (1) That it is not the prayer of every man, but only of those who have set their love upon God, and who dwell in the secret place of the Most High. (2) That to them prayer is answered, but often in ways other than they have expected. God will always give to them what is best; but that may be far different from what they have thought. 2. He will be with them in trouble. God is always with us; but in our trouble he is more especially with us. This is shown sometimes by his providential help, or by his grace sustaining us. 3. He will deliver and honour. See this in such histories as that of Joseph.

II. What follows from it. That to the man of God the following things are impossible: 1. Disappointment; because God will answer. 2. Loneliness; for God is ever with him, and especially in trouble. 3. Disgrace; for how can that be to those whom he honours? 4. Defeat; for God will deliver.—S. C.

Ver. 1.—Our place of safety. The construction of this psalm is peculiar (see exegetical notes). Ewald gives the best suggestion concerning its structure. Partly the poet expresses his own feelings as from himself, and partly as if they were uttered by another. He seems to listen to the thoughts of his own spirit till they become clear and distinct, like some prophetic words, or some Divine oracle speaking to him from without, and giving him thus the assurance and the consolation afresh which had already sprung up in his heart. The associations of the psalm, and the authorship, cannot with any certainly be traced, but the Jewish idea that it belongs to the age of Moses deserves consideration. Certainly the experiences of the wilderness-life give the most effective illustration of both the figures and the sentiments of the psalm. Bishop Wordsworth says confidently, “The scenery of the psalm is derived from the circumstances of the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness.” Dean Plumptre says, “The psalm is an echo, verse by verse almost, of the words in which Eliphaz the Temanite describes the good man’s life (Job 5:17–23).” Perhaps the two sentences of ver. 1 would be better read as a repetition, according to the customary construction of Hebrew poets. “He that dwelleth…he that abideth…shall say unto the Lord.” Working, out the Mosaic association, show—

I. The wilderness-perils. As Moses would be impressed by them. Limited food. Dangers of pestilence by remaining too long in a place. Active enemies. Local difficulties, as from serpents. Temper of the people. Influence of mixed multitudes. Wearying effect of constant changes, etc. We seldom fully realize the persistent and exhausting anxieties of Moses. Sometimes even his life seemed to be in danger.

II. The wilderness-safeties. Moses could not help contrasting the holy quiet of those forty days he had spent in the “secret place” with God, and the forty years of strain and stress he had spent with the stiff-necked and rebellious people. He must often have yearned for a renewal of those restful hours. And yet the spiritual fact and truth for him was that he did still “dwell in the secret place,” he did still “abide under the shadow of the Almighty;” for this, in very truth, is a mood of soul-experience, and not a mere bodily relationship. Moses with God in the mount does but illustrate Moses with God always, resting and safe in his “shadow.”—R. T.

Ver. 2.—Many names for God. Finding various names is a common device of love. The names seem to express the many-sidedness of our relationship. It must be specially true of God that we stand in various relations to him, and are helped by a variety of terms and names, which express those relations. There are four names given to God in vers. 1, 2. God the Concealer is the “inaccessibly High One.” God the Shadower is the “invincibly Almighty One.” God the Covenant-maker is “Jehovah, the Lord.” And God personally appropriated is “my God.” Or it has been put in this way: 1. We commune with him reverently, for he is the Most High. 2. We rest in him as the Almighty. 3. We rejoice in him as Jehovah, or Lord. 4. We trust in him as El, the mighty God. Perowne’s suggestion is more directly in harmony with the psalm. “God is ‘Most High,’ far above all the rage and malice of enemies; ‘Almighty,’ so that none can stand before his power; ‘Jehovah,’ the God of covenant and grace, who has revealed himself to his people; and it is of such a God that the psalmist says, in holy confidence, ‘He is “my God,” in whom I trust.’” Trying to find the thoughts which one so circumstanced as Moses would attach to the terms, we may say—

I. The “Most High” is above all earthly changes. Unaffected by them in such sense as can weaken his relations to them. We cannot interfere in disputes and difficulties without prejudice. Often we cannot keep calm to form good judgment. God can.

II. The “Almighty” is able to deal with all earthly conditions. They can never be so complicated that he cannot unravel them; never so desperate that he cannot master them. “With God all things are possible.” If God does not interfere in a case, the reason must be that he will not, because he can if he please.

III. The “Lord, Jehovah” is under pledge to interfere for his people’s good. The name “Jehovah” was taken as the sign and seal of the covenant, as the rainbow was taken as the sign of the nature-covenant. God, as Jehovah, may be thought of as the “Faithful Promiser.”

IV. The term “my God” implies that God has been, in actual experience, what the psalmist felt confident that he was. It is an important advance to be able to say, “I know not only what God is, I know also what he has been to me.”—R. T.

Ver. 3.—Limitations of temporal protection. The fact is patent. It demands consideration. God does not always give protection from bodily evils to his saints. On a house at Chester, that was spared in the time of plague, is the inscription, “God’s providence is mine inheritance.” But the man who lived there was not the only good man in Chester at the time. Other good men were not thus protected. Evidently the psalmist “accepts in all simplicity the belief in that which, but for sin and its consequences, would be the law of human life—that visible blessing, and obedience to the Supreme Ruler of the world, must always go together. To us the faith is rather that whatever betides us of outward fortune cannot touch the true life which is hid in God.” What we need to see is that the psalmist asserts the ever-working law, and leaves us to find the limitations and exceptions that arise in its practical working.

I. The ever-working law. Temporal good attends upon piety. The world is constructed and arranged to give this law a sphere. Just so far as natural relations are kept simple, the law does work. “Honesty is the best policy.” Goodness does bring reward. Chastity does secure health. The fear of God does prove to be practical wisdom. The man of wise and restrained habits does stand the best chance in time of epidemic disease. The diligent in business do succeed. “Right is right.” Right comes right. “Godliness has the promise of the life that now is.”

II. The ever-manifest exceptions. These occasion the distress of men like Asaph, who are too keen to detect the dark side of things. Righteous Job suffers. The wicked are in great power. The exceptions come through the disturbance of Divine arrangements by man’s wilfulness and sin. He makes his law cross the Divine law. Then arises the necessity for modifications in the working of the Divine law. 1. The allegiance of the good must be tested. 2. The results of that testing must be used as persuasive example to others. The Book of Job really wrestles with this difficulty. The man who is “upright, fears God, and eschews evil” does not find himself protected from all harm. And yet it is still true, Job in trouble was abiding in “the shadow of the Almighty.”—R. T.

Ver. 4.—The shielding of God’s faithfulness. “His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” God’s truth here is the certainly that he will keep to his word; the psalmist’s conviction of his “truthfulness,” “faithfulness.” The “shield and buckler” represent the defensive weapons of the older day of hand-to-hand fighting. Both a large shield covering the whole body, and a light, quickly-moved shield, fastened to the left arm, are included; suggesting that the defendings of God are various, and in precise adaptation to his people’s need. He is their Defence, both in little perils and in great ones. Get at the thought suggested by this expression of the text, by realizing what our absolute confidence in the integrity of an earthly friend and fellow-worker does for us. Take the case of a trusted servant in a house of business. That man’s unquestionable uprightness is his master’s shield. It shields him from anxiety and care. It shields him from over-pressure of toil. It shields him from all robbery and wrong. So, too, with the faithful and honoured wife. Her “truth” shields her husband from home worries, and all home disabilities. “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her;” and so he can be shielded and at peace. Apply this to God. It is not possible to think be can ever be below himself, or forgetful of his word, “on which he has permitted us” to hope. We may get beyond all mere promises, and assure our hearts in what God is. Illustrate by Luther’s time of despondency. On returning home, he found the house shut up, as if some one was dead in it, and his wife dressed in mourning. He inquired what had happened, and she quietly and solemnly replied that “God was dead.” It was an object-lesson for the desponding Reformer, which he promptly learned. Long as God lives—and he lives for ever—he surely is the Hiding-place and Shield of his people. To remove God, to bring down our high thought of him, our absolute confidence in his eternal truthfulness and integrity, would be to take away our shield, and leave us helplessly exposed to the assaults of all our foes.—R. T.

Ver. 11.—Angel-agencies. For associations of “angels” with Moses and his times, we may recall the New Testament saying, that the “Law was given by the disposition of angels.” Moses had associated angels with Abraham and Jacob; and when God proposed to withdraw his personal guidance of Israel, he offered Moses to send “an angel” before them. It was a common belief, even among the heathen, that human beings have each their guardian genius; but the psalmist here does not appear to refer to any such belief. We should obtain a worthier idea of the Bible representations of angels, if we regarded their sensible appearances as designed to illustrate God’s abiding, unseen spiritual agencies in the blessing of men. The term “angel” is properly applied to any and every agency God uses to do his work of keeping, guiding, comforting, or correcting men. God has redeeming angels, afflicting angels, destroying angels. “He maketh winds his angels, flaming fire his ministers.”

I. The angel-charge. Illustrate from the time of the destruction of the Egyptian firstborn. Then Israel in Goshen was in the charge of God’s angel. Or refer to the preservation of Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua in the times of sudden pestilence in the desert. These were in the angel-charge. Or take the case of Elisha at Dothan, when, seemingly in the power of the Syrians, he was really safe in the angel-charge. Or see Peter in prison, likely enough to follow James to his fate. He really was in the angel care and deliverance. Or take the case of the Covenanter, who, escaping from his foes, climbed into the hollow of an old tree, over the hole of which a spider at once spun a great web, which made the pursuers feel sure no one could have crept inside. That spider was God’s angel.

II. The conditions of the angel-charge. These the tempter kept back when he urged Jesus to rely on, or rather presume on, the angel-charge. He repressed the words, “Keep thee in all thy ways,” which distinctly mean “a good man’s ways,” “the ways a good man ought to be taking.” “Only in the ways of God’s vocation, and with a view to progress in those ways, have we a right to the promise.” If we want to do right, we may be sure of God’s angel-help. We have no claim if we want to do wrong.—R. T.

Vers. 12, 13.—Typical perils of the saints. (See also vers. 5, 6, 10.) Those dealt with may be read in the light of wilderness-experiences. Then we have: 1. The common Eastern terror of the night, both as time of insecurity and time of spread of disease. Thieves work at night; sudden attacks of enemies are made at night; the angel of pestilence strikes at night; wild beasts roam at night; fires mostly break out at night. 2. The dangers of sunstroke and lightning-flash, which are the “arrows that fly by day.” 3. The diseases that breed in unsanitary conditions, and gain force to sweep thousands away. 4. The open and subtle attacks of the animals of the desert. The lion that attacks in front; the adder that bites the heel. Bonar tells us that “the putrid plague-fever often comes on in the night, while the patient is asleep; the solstitial disease seizes in heat of harvest upon a man in open air, and cuts him off, perhaps, ere evening. Now what of spiritual peril may these typify?

I. The perils that connect with the consciousness of helplessness. At night we can do nothing to ward off evils. So there are times in life when we feel to be in circumstances which we cannot even try to control. The good man would be hopelessly distressed if he were compelled to think he was at the mercy of circumstances. The psalmist knows that darkness and light are both alike to his protecting God.

II. The perils that come through the overmastering of our efforts. In the day we can watch, we can resist, we can order our conduct wisely, we can act promptly; and yet we are constantly finding the forces round us are bigger than we. Sunstroke and lightning typify the things that will not be “according to our mind.” But the psalmist knows nothing is beyond the Divine restraint. That which happens is permitted.

III. The perils that come to us vicariously. We are constantly suffering from the sins and neglects of others. If we do right and our neighbour does wrong, both may have to suffer the consequences that result. As in case of infectious diseases. So national troubles reach the evil and the good alike.

IV. The perils that come through wilful wrong-doers. Represented by the violent “lion,” and the insidious, treacherous “adder.” The psalmist believes in God as Restrainer of the wrath of men.—R. T.

Ver. 14.—Reasons in man for the Divine favour. “Because he hath set his love upon me.” This verse begins what may be regarded as a poetical setting of the answer which God gives to the fully-trusting soul. “God himself comes forward to establish the faith of his servant, writes deeper in the soul so great a consolation, and confirms the testimony of his servant. ‘He hath set his love upon me; he knoweth my name; he calleth upon me.’ These are the marks of a true servant of God.” It has been noticed that the words, “I will,” are repeated six times in the last three verses of this psalm: “I will deliver;” “I will set him on high;” “I will answer;” “I will be with him in trouble;” “With long life I will satisfy him;” “I will show him my salvation.”

I. The possibilities of our feeling toward God. We may feel toward God all we can feel towards our fellow-men—faith, admiration, devotion, etc. We may even go so far as to “set our love upon him”—make him to be our chosen one, our specially loved one. What we do to help ourselves, in the effort to “set our love” on our fellow-men, we may do to help in setting our love on God. Such things as (1) cherish the thought of them; (2) seek their company; (3) try in every way to please them.

II. The response God makes to men’s right feeling towards him. This response is found indicated in the assurances of this passage. 1. He gives to them an answering affection. 2. He guards them with an ever-watchful defence. 3. He accomplishes for them mighty deliverances. 4. He grants them gracious exaltations. The Divine favour comes on men because: 1. They make him their choice. 2. Because they seek intimacy with him (implied in “knowing his Name”). 3. Because they are ever making signs of their dependence on him. The signs being their daily and their special prayers.—R. T.

Vers. 15, 16.—God’s presence in time of trouble. “I will be with him in trouble.” Illustrate by presence of a friend in the time of sickness and distress. That friend may be unable to help, and yet the best of help comes from that friendly presence. If God is with us in trouble, we are sure he can help and deliver. If he does not, it can only be because he is doing kinder things for us, by letting the trouble stay. The strain of feeling alone in time of trouble may be illustrated by a lonely walk through a strange and dangerous country. “Have you ever walked on, mile after mile, until it grew very dark, and there were no stars overhead, and no friendly voice or guide anywhere; and, as you grew very tired and faint and footsore, did it not seem as if the way became more rough and stony at every step? You can remember each time you stumbled in the weary darkness against a stone, how the pain seemed to shoot hotly through every nerve; and the lack of light, and the uncertainty lest each step might bear you over the precipice,—all this unnerved you. But how different if a loved friend had been with you! and especially if it so happened that he knew the road and the country well!” God’s presence is the summum bonum. All we can need is included and involved in it. He really need not tell us what he will do for us; it is enough if he will be there. And so the Lord Jesus wrapped up everything for his disciples in this one assurance, “Lo, I am with you all the days.”

I. God’s presence with us means the best possible limitation of our trouble.

II. God’s presence with us means abundant comforting under our trouble.

III. God’s presence with us means the fulfilment of the mission of our trouble.

IV. God’s presence with us assures of a “happy issue out of all our afflictions.”

God with us in trouble is the fact; but everything for us depends on our sensible realization of the fact.—R. T.

Vers. 9, 10, 11.—The security of the saints. I. The Dwelling-place of the good man—God. In such an abode we find: 1. Shelter, protection. (John 14:23.) 2. Nutriment. 3. Rest. 4. Companionship.

II. The safety of this abode. 1. Omnipotent love encompasses him. 2. The power of the good man to convert all things to his welfare. “All things are yours.”

III. The guards and servants of the good man. The angels are God’s messengers and ministers. 1. God employs innumerable invisible ministries to serve us. Angels and unseen powers “that walk the earth both when we wake and when we sleep.” 2. Innumerable visible ministries. “More servants wait on man than he’ll take notice of” (see George Herbert’s poem).—S.

Vers. 14, 15.—The reward of trust in God. “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my Name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.”

I. What are the qualities that God values most in character? 1. The knowledge of his Name; i.e. of his nature and character, now revealed to us more fully than then, in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. 2. The setting our love upon him. Because he is what he is, and because our love is the surest pledge of obedience to his will. 3. Dependence upon God. Expressed by the habit of prayer—calling upon him.

II. In what way God honours and rewards those qualities. 1. He will deliver him in trouble. By giving him strength superior to all his trials. We cannot escape trouble, but we can conquer it by the aid of the Spirit of God. 2. He will exalt him to the possession of high honours. Give him a position of great security—high above all danger. And of great influence and usefulness. This is high honour. 3. He will answer his prayers. In the only ways in which a supremely good and wise Being will answer the prayers of the erring and sinful—by giving them what they need, and not always what they ask for.—S.

EXPOSITION

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Psalm 91. The Security of Trust.

     In this companion poem to Psalm 90 the psalmist sings a noble song of trust, but he has a didactic purpose as well. The prophetic oracle at the close adds a note of authority to the confidence expressed throughout. The depth of trust and the quiet confidence suggest that this is the meditation of an individual. However, its possible use as an antiphonal song adapts it for congregational use.

     1, 2. Divine Protection. He is my refuge and my fortress. The writer opens with a powerful presentation of his theme—the security of the one who trusts completely in God. The secret place may better be translated the shelter, which meaning better parallels the concept of the shadow.

     3-8. Divine Providence. Surely he shall deliver thee ... cover thee. The basic idea of protection is expanded to include many acts of providential care as well as active deliverance. Because of the references to pestilence and disease, many commentators treat the entire psalm as a polemic against the use of magic formulae for warding off demons. Indeed, the Talmud suggests that the psalm be used in the case of demonic attacks. The terror by night may refer to the night demon Lilith, while the arrow ... by day may describe the devices of the wicked demons. The pestilence ... in darkness may have affinity with the demon Namtar, while the destruction ... at noonday may refer to a one-eyed demon also mentioned in Rabbinical tradition. Even if these ideas were absent from the author’s thoughts, they were very much a part of the psalm in its actual Jewish use. The snare of the fowler is a reference to traps set by adversaries (cf. Ps 124:7). Noisome pestilence is literally, death of destructions, perhaps referring to a violent death. The psalmist was conscious of God’s care amid the varied circumstances of life.

     9-13. Divine Reward. Because thou hast made the Lord ... thy habitation. The psalmist, reverting to his main theme, carries forward the idea of reward alluded to in verse 8. The man of faith is assured that God will send guardian angels to protect him from plagues and stumbling. Satan quoted these words in tempting Jesus (Mt 4:6; Lk 4:10). According to the Talmud, every man has two ministering angels beside him during his entire life.

     14-16. Divine Promise. Because he hath set his love upon me. The authority behind the idea of reward is heightened by the oracle from God. The promise includes the blessings of deliverance, exaltation, answer to prayer, long life, and victory. These blessings and more are promised to the one who has come to love and trust God.

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Psalm 91 Security in the Lord

A wisdom psalm

The deliverance of God is promised for the one who loves and knows him (91:14). The “shadow of the Almighty” (91:1) suggests the image of a mother bird protecting her little ones under her wings (91:4). God will protect his own against danger and attack (91:5–7). Psalm 91:10 should not be taken as a personal promise for protection from every evil circumstance. It is a general principle, seen in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible, that the righteous will be spared unnecessary and avoidable difficulties. Satan quoted Psalm 91:11–12 in the context of Christ’s temptation (see Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:10–11).

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Verses 1-8

In these verses we have,

I. A great truth laid down in general, That all those who live a life of communion with God are constantly safe under his protection, and may therefore preserve a holy serenity and security of mind at all times (v. 1): He that dwells, that sits down, in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty; he that by faith chooses God for his guardian shall find all that in him which he needs or can desire. Note, 1. It is the character of a true believer that he dwells in the secret place of the Most High; he is at home in God, returns to God, and reposes in him as his rest; he acquaints himself with inward religion, and makes heart-work of the service of God, worships within the veil, and loves to be alone with God, to converse with him in solitude. 2. It is the privilege and comfort of those that do so that they abide under the shadow of the Almighty; he shelters them, and comes between them and every thing that would annoy them, whether storm or sunshine. They shall not only have an admittance, but a residence, under God’s protection; he will be their rest and refuge for ever.

II. The psalmist’s comfortable application of this to himself (v. 2): I will say of the Lord, whatever others say of him, "He is my refuge; I choose him as such, and confide in him. Others make idols their refuge, but I will say of Jehovah, the true and living God, He is my refuge: any other is a refuge of lies. He is a refuge that will not fail me; for he is my fortress and strong-hold.’’ Idolaters called their idols Mahuzzim, their most strong-hold (Dan. 11:39), but therein they deceived themselves; those only secure themselves that make the Lord their God, their fortress. There being no reason to question his sufficiency, fitly does it follow, In him will I trust. If Jehovah be our God, our refuge, and our fortress, what can we desire which we may not be sure to find in him? He is neither fickle nor false, neither weak nor mortal; he is God and not man, and therefore there is no danger of being disappointed in him. We know whom we have trusted.

III. The great encouragement he gives to others to do likewise, not only from his own experience of the comfort of it (for in that there might possibly be a fallacy), but from the truth of God’s promise, in which there neither is nor can be any deceit (v. 3, 4, etc.): Surely he shall deliver thee. Those who have themselves found the comfort of making God their refuge cannot but desire that others may do so. Now here it is promised,

1. That believers shall be kept from those mischiefs which they are in imminent danger of, and which would be fatal to them (v. 3), from the snare of the fowler, which is laid unseen and catches the unwary prey on a sudden, and from the noisome pestilence, which seizes men unawares and against which there is no guard. This promise protects, (1.) The natural life, and is often fulfilled in our preservation from those dangers which are very threatening and very near, while yet we ourselves are not apprehensive of them, any more than the bird is of the snare of the fowler. We owe it, more than we are sensible, to the care of the divine Providence that we have been kept from infectious diseases and out of the hands of the wicked and unreasonable. (2.) The spiritual life, which is protected by divine grace from the temptations of Satan, which are as the snares of the fowler, and from the contagion of sin, which is the noisome pestilence. He that has given grace to be the glory of the soul will create a defence upon all that glory.

2. That God himself will be their protector; those must needs be safe who have him for their keeper, and successful for whom he undertakes (v. 4): He shall cover thee, shall keep thee secret (Ps. 31:20), and so keep thee safe, Ps. 27:5. God protects believers, (1.) With the greatest tenderness and affection, which is intimated in that, He shall cover thee with his feathers, under his wings, which alludes to the hen gathering her chickens under wings, Mt. 23:37. By natural instinct she not only protects them, but calls them under that protection when she sees them in danger, not only keeps them safe, but cherishes them and keeps them warm. To this the great God is pleased to compare his care of his people, who are helpless as the chickens, and easily made a prey of, but are invited to trust under the shadow of the wings of the divine promise and providence, which is the periphrasis of a proselyte to the true religion, that he has come to trust under the wings of the God of Israel, Ruth 2:12. (2.) With the greatest power and efficacy. Wings and feathers, though spread with the greatest tenderness, are yet weak, and easily broken through, and therefore it is added, His truth shall be thy shield and buckler, a strong defence. God is willing to guard his people as the hen is to guard the chickens, and as able as a man of war in armour.

3. That he will not only keep them from evil, but from the fear of evil, v. 5, 6. Here is, (1.) Great danger supposed; the mention of it is enough to frighten us; night and day we lie exposed, and those that are apt to be timorous will in neither period think themselves safe. When we are retired into our chambers, our beds, and have made all as safe as we can about us, yet there is terror by night, from thieves and robbers, winds and storms, besides those things that are the creatures of fancy and imagination, which are often most frightful of all. We read of fear in the night, Cant. 3:8. There is also a pestilence that walketh in darkness, as that was which slew the first-born of the Egyptians, and the army of the Assyrians. No locks nor bars can shut out diseases, while we carry about with us in our bodies the seeds of them. But surely in the day-time, when we can look about us, we are not so much in danger; yes, there is an arrow that flieth by day too, and yet flies unseen; there is a destruction that wasteth at high-noon, when we are awake and have all our friends about us; even then we cannot secure ourselves, nor can they secure us. It was in the day-time that that pestilence wasted which was sent to chastise David for numbering the people, on occasion of which some think this psalm was penned. But, (2.) Here is great security promised to believers in the midst of this danger: "Thou shalt not be afraid. God by his grace will keep thee from disquieting distrustful fear (that fear which hath torment) in the midst of the greatest dangers. Wisdom shall keep thee from being causelessly afraid, and faith shall keep thee from being inordinately afraid. Thou shalt not be afraid of the arrow, as knowing that though it may hit thee it cannot hurt thee; if it take away the natural life, yet it shall be so far from doing any prejudice to the spiritual life that it shall be its perfection.’’ A believer needs not fear, and therefore should not fear, any arrow, because the point is off, the poison is out. O death! where is thy sting? It is also under divine direction, and will hit where God appoints and not otherwise. Every bullet has its commission. Whatever is done our heavenly Father’s will is done; and we have no reason to be afraid of that.

4. That they shall be preserved in common calamities, in a distinguishing way (v. 7): "When death rides in triumph, and diseases rage, so that thousands and ten thousands fall, fall by sickness, or fall by the sword in battle, fall at thy side, at thy right hand, and the sight of their fall is enough to frighten thee, and if they fall by the pestilence their falling so near thee may be likely to infect thee, yet it shall not come nigh thee, the death shall not, the fear of death shall not.’’ Those that preserve their purity in times of general corruption may trust God with their safety in times of general desolation. When multitudes die round about us, though thereby we must be awakened to prepare for our own death, yet we must not be afraid with any amazement, nor make ourselves subject to bondage, as many do all their life-time, through fear of death, Heb. 2:15. The sprinkling of blood secured the first-born of Israel when thousands fell. Nay, it is promised to God’s people that they shall have the satisfaction of seeing, not only God’s promises fulfilled to them, but his threatenings fulfilled upon those that hate them (v. 8): Only with thy eyes shalt thou behold and see the just reward of the wicked, which perhaps refers to the destruction of the first-born of Egypt by the pestilence, which was both the punishment of the oppressors and the enlargement of the oppressed; this Israel saw when they saw themselves unhurt, untouched. As it will aggravate the damnation of sinners that with their eyes they shall behold and see the reward of the righteous (Lu. 13:28), so it will magnify the salvation of the saints that with their eyes they shall behold and see the destruction of the wicked, Isa. 66:24; Ps. 58:10.

Verses 9-16

Here are more promises to the same purport with those in the foregoing verses, and they are exceedingly great and precious, and sure to all the seed.

I. The psalmist assures believers of divine protection, from his own experience; and that which he says is the word of God, and what we may rely upon. Observe, 1. The character of those who shall have the benefit and comfort of these promises; it is much the same with that, v. 1. They are such as make the Most High their habitation (v. 9), as are continually with God and rest in him, as make his name both their temple and their strong tower, as dwell in love and so dwell in God. It is our duty to be at home in God, to make our choice of him, and then to live our life in him as our habitation, to converse with him, and delight in him, and depend upon him; and then it shall be our privilege to be at home in God; we shall be welcome to him as a man to his own habitation, without any let, hindrance, or molestation, from the arrests of the law or the clamours of conscience; then too we shall be safe in him, shall be kept in perfect peace, Isa. 26:3. To encourage us to make the Lord our habitation, and to hope for safety and satisfaction in him, the psalmist intimates the comfort he had had in doing so: "He whom thou makest thy habitation is my refuge; and I have found him firm and faithful, and in him there is room enough, and shelter enough, both for thee and me.’’ In my father’s house there are many mansions, one needs not crowd another, much less crowd out another. 2. The promises that are sure to all those who have thus made the Most High their habitation. (1.) That, whatever happens to them, nothing shall hurt them (v. 10): "There shall no evil befal thee; though trouble or affliction befal thee, yet there shall be no real evil in it, for it shall come from the love of God and shall be sanctified; it shall come, not for thy hurt, but for thy good; and though, for the present, it be not joyous but grievous, yet, in the end, it shall yield so well that thou thyself shalt own no evil befel thee. It is not an evil, an only evil, but there is a mixture of good in it and a product of good by it. Nay, not thy person only, but thy dwelling, shall be taken under the divine protection: There shall no plague come nigh that, nothing to do thee or thine any damage.’’ Nihil accidere bono viro mali potest—No evil can befal a good man. Seneca De Providentia. (2.) That the angels of light shall be serviceable to them, v. 11, 12. This is a precious promise, and speaks a great deal both of honour and comfort to the saints, nor is it ever the worse for being quoted and abused by the devil in tempting Christ, Mt. 4:6. Observe, [1.] The charge given to the angels concerning the saints. He who is the Lord of the angels, who gave them their being and gives laws to them, whose they are and whom they were made to serve, he shall give his angels a charge over thee, not only over the church in general, but over every particular believer. The angels keep the charge of the Lord their God; and this is the charge they receive from him. It denotes the great care God takes of the saints, in that the angels themselves shall be charged with them, and employed for them. The charge is to keep thee in all thy ways; here is a limitation of the promise: They shall keep thee in thy ways, that is, "as long as thou keepest in the way of thy duty;’’ those that go out of that way put themselves out of God’s protection. This word the devil left out when he quoted the promise to enforce a temptation, knowing how much it made against him. But observe the extent of the promise; it is to keep thee in all thy ways: even where there is no apparent danger yet we need it, and where there is the most imminent danger we shall have it. Wherever the saints go the angels are charged with them, as the servants are with the children. [2.] The care which the angels take of the saints, pursuant to this charge: They shall bear thee up in their hands, which denotes both their great ability and their great affection. They are able to bear up the saints out of the reach of danger, and they do it with all the tenderness and affection wherewith the nurse carries the little child about in her arms; it speaks us helpless and them helpful. They are condescending in their ministrations; they keep the feet of the saints, lest they dash them against a stone, lest they stumble and fall into sin and into trouble. [3.] That the powers of darkness shall be triumphed over by them (v. 13): Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder. The devil is called a roaring lion, the old serpent, the red dragon; so that to this promise the apostle seems to refer in that (Rom. 16:20), The God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet. Christ has broken the serpent’s head, spoiled our spiritual enemies (Col. 2:15), and through him we are more than conquerors; for Christ calls us, as Joshua called the captains of Israel, to come and set our feet on the necks of vanquished enemies. Some think that this promise had its full accomplishment in Christ, and the miraculous power which he had over the whole creation, healing the sick, casting out devils, and particularly putting it into his disciples’ commission that they should take up serpents, Mk. 16:18. It may be applied to that care of the divine Providence by which we are preserved from ravenous noxious creatures (the wild beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee, Job 5:23); nay, and have ways and means of taming them, Jam. 3:7.

II. He brings in God himself speaking words of comfort to the saints, and declaring the mercy he had in store for them, v. 14–16. Some make this to be spoken to the angels as the reason of the charge given them concerning the saints, as if he had said, "Take care of them, for they are dear to me, and I have a tender concern for them.’’ And now, as before, we must observe,

1. To whom these promises do belong; they are described by three characters:—(1.) They are such as know God’s name. His nature we cannot fully know; but by his name he has made himself known, and with that we must acquaint ourselves. (2.) They are such as have set their love upon him; and those who rightly know him will love him, will place their love upon him as the only adequate object of it, will let out their love towards him with pleasure and enlargement, and will fix their love upon him with a resolution never to remove it to any rival. (3.) They are such as call upon him, as by prayer keep up a constant correspondence with him, and in every difficult case refer themselves to him.

2. What the promises are which God makes to the saints. (1.) That he will, in due time, deliver them out of trouble: I will deliver him (v. 14 and again v. 15), denoting a double deliverance, living and dying, a deliverance in trouble and a deliverance out of trouble. If God proportions the degree and continuance of our troubles to our strength, if he keeps us from offending him in our troubles, and makes our death our discharge, at length, from all our troubles, then this promise is fulfilled. See Ps. 34:19; 2 Tim. 3:11; 4:18. (2.) That he will, in the mean time, be with them in trouble, v. 15. If he does not immediately put a period to their afflictions, yet they shall have his gracious presence with them in their troubles; he will take notice of their sorrows, and know their souls in adversity, will visit them graciously by his word and Spirit, and converse with them, will take their part, will support and comfort them, and sanctify their afflictions to them, which will be the surest token of his presence with them in their troubles. (3.) That herein he will answer their prayers: He shall call upon me; I will pour upon him the spirit of prayer, and then I will answer, answer by promises (Ps. 85:8), answer by providences, bringing in seasonable relief, and answer by graces, strengthening them with strength in their souls (Ps. 138:3); thus he answered Paul with grace sufficient, 2 Co. 12:9. (4.) That he will exalt and dignify them: I will set him on high, out of the reach of trouble, above the stormy region, on a rock above the waves, Isa. 33:16. They shall be enabled, by the grace of God, to look down upon the things of this world with a holy contempt and indifference, to look up to the things of the other world with a holy ambition and concern; and then they are set on high. I will honour him; those are truly honourable whom God puts honour upon by taking them into covenant and communion with himself and designing them for his kingdom and glory, Jn. 12:26. (5.) That they shall have a sufficiency of life in this world (v. 16): With length of days will I satisfy him; that is, [1.] They shall live long enough: they shall be continued in this world till they have done the work they were sent into this world for and are ready for heaven, and that is long enough. Who would wish to live a day longer than God has some work to do, either by him or upon him? [2.] They shall think it long enough; for God by his grace shall wean them from the world and make them willing to leave it. A man may die young, and yet die full of days, satur dierum—satisfied with living. A wicked worldly man is not satisfied, no, not with long life; he still cries, Give, give. But he that has his treasure and heart in another world has soon enough of this; he would not live always. (6.) That they shall have an eternal life in the other world. This crowns the blessedness: I will show him my salvation, show him the Messiah (so some); good old Simeon was then satisfied with long life when he could say, My eyes have seen thy salvation, nor was there any greater joy to the Old-Testament saints than to see Christ’s day, though at a distance. It is more probably that the word refers to the better country, that is, the heavenly, which the patriarchs desired and sought: he will show him that, bring him to that blessed state, the felicity of which consists so much in seeing that face to face which we here see through a glass darkly; and, in the mean time, he will give him a prospect of it. All these promises, some think, point primarily at Christ, and had their accomplishment in his resurrection and exaltation.

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Psalm 91 , a psalm of trust, does not identify its author. The psalm is sufficiently similar to Ps. 90, a psalm of Moses, that it might also be by him. Alternatively, the experiences and ideas of Moses could have been used by an anonymous writer. This poem has a very strong messianic thrust, and God Himself speaks in vv. 14–16 (see also Ps. 12; 60; 75; 87). The development of the psalm is in four main sections: (1) a confession of confidence in the Lord (vv. 1, 2); (2) assurance that those who trust in the Lord need not fear evil (vv. 3–8); (3) promises of God’s protection to the coming One (vv. 9–13); (4) a description of the Lord’s protection of the coming One (vv. 14–16).

91:1, 2 in the secret place: The person who trusts in God is the one who lives close to Him. The title Most High emphasizes God’s majesty (92:1) and is parallel to the term Almighty, a translation of the divine title Shaddai. Together the terms Most High and Shaddai speak of God as a mountain-like majesty, in whose presence there is a “secret place” or a shadow. My refuge and my fortress may be rephrased as “my secure fortress.”

91:3 fowler … pestilence: The images of a bird trap and various types of disease are a general description of dangers that might come to helpless people.

91:4 His feathers … His wings: God is described as a mother hen under whose wings the psalmist can come for refuge (61:4; 63:7). Shield and buckler indicates complete protection from all harm. God is an all protective shield for the believer.

91:5, 6 The interplay of words for night and day in these verses indicates the universal nature of God’s protection. Terror, arrow, pestilence, and destruction together refer to evil in general.

91:7, 8 A thousand … ten thousand: Like the Israelites in Egypt who were spared the danger that touched their neighbors (Ex. 9:26; 10:23; 11:7), believers in the Lord are protected from any assault. look … and see: The punishment of the wicked is as sure as the deliverance of the righteous.

91:9, 10 In vv. 14–16, God describes directly the same person addressed by the psalmist in vv. 9–13. This person is the coming One. My refuge is the same word used in v. 2. Dwelling place is the same word used in 90:1. Most High: The psalmist indicates that the coming One’s faith in God is the same as the psalmist’s.

91:11–13 His angels … a stone: These words were used by Satan to tempt the Savior (Matt. 4:5, 6). the lion and the cobra: The animal and snake imagery in this verse pictures all kinds of evil that might threaten the coming One. The Father will protect Him no matter what the danger.

91:14 The verb used here for love is not the usual Hebrew word for love. It has the idea of “holding close to,” even “hugging tightly in love” (Deut. 7:7; 10:15). He has known My name speaks of an intimate, experiential knowledge of the Father (John 1:18).

Psalm 92 , a psalm of descriptive praise (Ps. 113), celebrates the person and work of God in an exuberant way. The psalm also includes several wisdom themes. The title is unusual in that it attaches the designation “for the Sabbath day.” The poem has four brief sections: (1) an encouragement for the people to respond to God in praise and worship (vv. 1–4); (2) a celebration of the wisdom of God in bringing judgment on the wicked (vv. 5–9); (3) an acknowledgment of the mercy of God who has established the believer’s present life (vv. 10, 11); (4) an anticipation of the mercy of God that will continue in the life to come (vv. 12–15).

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1 Sure protection. Most High (Gn. 14:18–22). How promptly Abram recognized that Melchizedek’s God must be his God—for he had proved his sovereign exaltation in victory! Almighty (Gn. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25). Consideration of these references shows that Shaddai (see niv mg.) is the God whose power is sufficient in every human weakness.

3–8 Protection from life’s threats. The emphasis here is on things which come unasked upon us. We should isolate the psalm from the rest of of Scripture if we understood it to promise immunity. Here, as elsewhere (e.g. Rom. 8:28), the promise is not security from but security in. 3 Fowler, ‘trapper’. Deadly, ‘chance’. 4 Feathers (61:4; Lk.13:34). Shieldrampart, two different sorts of protection summarizing every possible protection. 8 A plain implication that the simple trust which ensures protection also carries moral obligations.

9a Protection found. (Lit.) Indeed you, Lord, are my refuge! You have made the Most High your dwelling.

9b–13 Protection on life’s path. These verses stress the dangers that we encounter in all your ways, out and about in life. When Satan used these verses against the Lord Jesus, the reply he received was that genuine trust does not demand that the Lord prove himself but simply rests in God’s care (Mt. 4:5–7). 12–13 The lion and the snake represent respectively dangers in strength and insidiousness. The doubling of the names implies ‘in whatever guise they come’.

14–16 Divine promises of protection. The Lord’s eight promises: rescue (intervening action), security (protect, set on high out of reach of danger), answered prayer, companionship in need, deliverance (from threat), vindication (honour), personal fulfilment (satisfy) and the enjoyment of salvation. Note how these reach from initial saving action (rescue) right through to fully enjoyed salvation and cover all intervening needs. There are three conditions to be fulfilled: loves me (the yearning love which clings to the loved one), ‘knows my name’ (lives with the Lord in the light of what he has revealed about himself) and prayer (he will call).

[10]

 

Verses 1–8

He that by faith chooses God for his protector, shall find all in him that he needs or can desire. And those who have found the comfort of making the Lord their refuge, cannot but desire that others may do so. The spiritual life is protected by Divine grace from the temptations of Satan, which are as the snares of the fowler, and from the contagion of sin, which is a noisome pestilence. Great security is promised to believers in the midst of danger. Wisdom shall keep them from being afraid without cause, and faith shall keep them from being unduly afraid. Whatever is done, our heavenly Father’s will is done; and we have no reason to fear. God’s people shall see, not only God’s promises fulfilled, but his threatenings. Then let sinners come unto the Lord upon his mercy-seat, through the Redeemer’s name; and encourage others to trust in him also.

Verses 9–16

Whatever happens, nothing shall hurt the believer; though trouble and affliction befal, it shall come, not for his hurt, but for good, though for the present it be not joyous but grievous. Those who rightly know God, will set their love upon him. They by prayer constantly call upon him. His promise is, that he will in due time deliver the believer out of trouble, and in the mean time be with him in trouble. The Lord will manage all his worldly concerns, and preserve his life on earth, so long as it shall be good for him. For encouragement in this he looks unto Jesus. He shall live long enough; till he has done the work he was sent into this world for, and is ready for heaven. Who would wish to live a day longer than God has some work to do, either by him or upon him? A man may die young, yet be satisfied with living. But a wicked man is not satisfied even with long life. At length the believer’s conflict ends; he has done for ever with trouble, sin, and temptation.

[11]

 

Psalm 91.1–2.

The psalm opens with a statement of assurance of God’s protection, which he provides for all who avail themselves of it. The two lines of verse 1 are synonymous: dwells and abides; shelter and shadow; the Most High (see 7.17) and the Almighty (see 68.14). The verb in verse 1b translated abides means “spend the night” (see 55.7b). In verse 1b shadow is probably an allusion to “the wings” of Yahweh (see comments on 17.8b , and on verse 4, below). Shelter and shadow may be references to the Temple (Toombs). Translators in some languages may find it best to reduce both lines of this verse to one, as does spcl, which says “He who lives under the protecting shadow of the Most High and Almighty.” In some languages “to be in the shadow” is more related to being hidden than protected. In such cases it will be better to follow the lead of tev. However, in some languages a more active construction will be required; for example, “Whoever the Almighty protects” or “Anyone whom God takes care of.” tev “goes to the Lord” is not good, and something like the following can be said:

Whoever lives under the protection of the Most High,

whoever is kept safe by the Almighty..

In verse 2 tev uses the second person of direct address, “You are.” For refuge and fortress see comments on similar language in 14.6; 18.2. In verse 2 the Masoretic text has “I say”; rsv, tev, and others (following the Septuagint) mark the verb with other vowels to get the third person singular, “he will say.” It is possible to retain the first person, identifying the speaker as a worshiper. tob, niv, and njv take the psalmist to be the speaker and translate “I (will) say of the Lord ….” In many languages my refuge and my fortress, as well as tev’s “my defender and protector,” will have to be recast as verb phrases; for example, “you are the one who defends me and protects me.” My God must often be rendered “you are the God I worship.” I trust is often rendered idiomatically; for example, “I hang my heart upon you” or “I place you in my liver.”

Psalm 91.3–4.

The dangers listed in verses 3–5, 6 seem to include both human and nonhuman forces. The latter appear to include demons, but there is no agreement on their identification. In its footnote to verses 5–6, tob points out that the ancient Greek, Aramaic, and Syriac versions used “demon(s)” or (evil) “spirit” in verse 5b.

In verse 3 tev “all hidden dangers” in line a translates “the bird-catcher’s trap” (rsv the snare of the fowler). Many languages will prefer to retain the image of “hidden traps” rather than tev’s more generic “hidden dangers.”

All deadly diseases” in line b translates “the pestilence of destruction” (rsv deadly pestilence). The word for “destruction” is used in 5.9b. (kjv “noisome pestilence” means “a stinking plague.”) The reference is probably to epidemics. Some, however, following the Septuagint and other ancient versions, use other vowel marks with the Hebrew consonants of the word pestilence to get the word “word,” and understand the phrase to mean a plot, or a false accusation, or a witch’s spell. Dahood uses still other vowels to get the meaning “venomous substance”; neb translates the text “raging tempest.” It seems best, however, to follow the example of rsv (and tev) here.

The first two lines of verse 4 are synonymous: his pinions and his wings are figures of God’s protection. In many languages it will be necessary to recast the imagery in the form of a simile; for example, “he will cover you like a bird covers its young under its wings.”

In verse 4c God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises is the source of security; shield (see 5.12 and comments) and buckler provide protection. The Hebrew word translated buckler occurs only here in the Old Testament; it is variously defined as “tower, bulwark, wall.” Briggs and njv explain the term as the participle of the verb “to surround,” and njv translates “an encircling shield.” It is recommended that translators follow rsv buckler, which was a small shield carried in the hand or worn on the arm, for protecting the body. His faithfulness is a shield must sometimes be recast as two clauses; for example, “God is faithful and will protect you like a shield” or “God keeps his promises and will protect and defend you.”

Psalm 91.5–6.

In verse 5a the terror of the night may be a reference to night demons, such as Lilith, the name of a female demon in ancient Semitic legends. neb understands it to mean “hunters’ trap”; Dahood takes it to mean a pack of wild dogs; it is also possible to simply translate “an attack.” tev’s “dangers at night” may suggest in some languages only physical dangers. Since the meaning appears to be the unseen evil associated with darkness, it may be better to render this more specifically as such; for example, “you need not fear evil spirits that go about at night.” The arrow in verse 5b may be human or demonic dangers; Anderson suggests a sunstroke may be meant.

In verse 6 the pestilence and the destruction are identified by many as demonic forces (see Oesterley). In verse 6b the Septuagint translates “from the calamity and the demon of midday.” The Hebrew noun for destruction is explained in later Rabbinical commentaries as a demon, “covered with scales and hair, and which sees out of only one eye,” that stalked abroad between 10.00 a. m. and 3.00 p. m. (cited in Oesterley). frcl translates “sunstroke.” But it is possible that the words in verses 5–6 are used in a general sense of natural dangers and epidemics, with no thought of demons as their cause. If pestilence and destruction are taken to be evil spirits, then verses 5 and 6 are nearly synonymous and may be combined into one; for example, “the evil spirits that attack people and kill them in the dark or in the light” or “the evil spirits that go about during the night and the day to attack people and destroy them.”

Psalm 91.7–8.

In exaggerated fashion the psalmist promises absolute safety to those who trust in Yahweh. The figures thousand and ten thousand, which represent step-up parallelism, if taken literally, suggest either warfare or an epidemic; but it is probable that no specific danger is intended. Dahood, njv, and spcl translate, in verse 7a, b, “at your left” and “at your right.” “You will not be harmed” translates it will not come near you, in which it refers to whatever may have caused the deaths of the others.

In verse 8a only may be translated “Just open your eyes and you will see …” or “All you have to do is look, and you will see ….”

In verse 8b recompense translates a word found nowhere else in the Old Testament; it is here used in a bad sense of punishment, destruction; see a similar statement in 54.7b. In languages in which the passive is not used, God will have to be introduced as the subject of the action; for example, “see how God punishes wicked people.”

Psalm 91.9–10.

Verse 9 in Hebrew begins with ki Because; this may relate the verse either to what precedes (so bj, njb, nab) or to what follows (rsv, tev, tob, frcl, spcl, and others). Verse 9 in Hebrew is addressed to Yahweh in line a and to an Israelite in line b, with no marking to make the change explicit: “For you, Yahweh, (are) my refuge, the Most High you made your habitation.” njv’s handling of the Masoretic text is not convincing: “Because you took the Lord—my refuge, the Most High—as your haven.” tob is better: “Yes, Lord, you are my refuge! You have made the Most High your habitation.” (It is understood, of course, that “you” in the second line is addressed to someone other than “you” in the first line.) rsv emends the text to make line a parallel with line b. It seems better to follow rsv in line a and read your refuge, as do tev, spcl, frcl, and take “Yahweh” as accusative, the object of the verb, and not vocative (that is, not “You, O Lord”). The expression you have made the Lord … may be misinterpreted by some translators for whom English is a second language. The meaning is “you have accepted the Lord as the one who defends you” or “you have allowed the Lord to be your defender.”

For the Most High see verse 1; tev “protector” translates the word which in 90.1 appears as “home.” Here the parallel with refuge (as in verse 2) makes it likely that the meaning is “safeguard, protection,” and not “dwelling place” or habitation. This verse is a reference to the words in verse 2.

In verse 10b scourge translates a word meaning “stroke, blow, plague”; in 38.11 the word is used with the specific meaning of “disease, plague,” but here, in parallel with evil in line a, it probably has the general meaning of “calamity” (neb), “evil” (tob); njv, however, has “disease”; spcl “illness”; and njb “plague.” Tent in verse 10b means “dwelling place, home.”

Psalm 91.11–12.

Verses 11–12 are quoted in Matthew 4.6 and Luke 4.10–11 as they appear in the Septuagint; the quote in Matthew omits verse 11b, and in Luke the words “in all your ways” in verse 11b are omitted.

Verse 11 in the Masoretic text is “For he will order his angels concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.” The meaning is quite clear: “God will give his angels orders to protect you wherever you go.” Dahood takes in all your ways to mean “in all your marches,” in a military sense of the king in his campaigns; and in verse 10b he takes “the tent” to be the king’s military headquarters. This is not very convincing.

It is not easy to decide the exact sense of verse 12a; the text may mean that the angels carry the person in their arms (tob, njb, niv) or else help support him as he walks (so tev and most others). Some commentators refer to the language in Exodus 19.4, where God reminds the people of Israel, “I bore you on eagles’ wings.” Weiser comments that the language expresses “the almost motherly solicitude of God.” The angels “will carry him like a child, carefully and protectively.” For comments on angels see 34.7; 35.5, 6

The language of verse 12b reflects the harsh and sometimes dangerous condition of the roads in Palestine; the figure is probably used in a general way of not coming to any harm. See the language of slipping and stumbling in 35.15; 37.31; 38.16.

A literal translation of your foot may give the reader the impression that the angels are providing protection for only one part of the body, something like a restricted insurance policy. It may be clearer to say “to keep you from hurting yourself on the stones” or “to keep the stones from hurting you.”

Psalm 91.13.

The language in this verse is symbolic, the various animals representing enemies and other dangers. The two lines are synonymous; for lion … young lion see Fauna and Flora, pages 50–51; for adder … serpent see Fauna and Flora, pages 72–73. It should be noted that the word in verse 13b for serpent is ṯannin (see its use and meaning in 74.13b. In verse 13b the psalmist has chosen not to parallel line a syntactically. Because there are only two lines in most parallel verses, the result of not paralleling line a produces a form of chiasmus. Therefore, while the meaning of the two lines is nearly the same, the word order makes them different. In some languages the chiastic form will not be possible, and thus the parallel meaning plus the parallel word order may strike the reader as unnecessarily repetitive, and the translator may prefer in such a case to reduce the two lines to one. spcl has “You will be able to walk among lions, among wild animals and snakes.”

neb translates all the animals in verse 13 as snakes: “asp … cobra … snake … serpent.” This is possible, and a translator may choose to do the same, if there are four different words for “snakes” in the receptor language.

In Luke 10.19 there seems to be an allusion to the language of this verse.

Psalm 91.14–16.

In these verses God is the speaker, which tev has made explicit (see also niv, gecl, frcl). The Hebrew text throughout has the personal object, me, in the singular (see rsv), which tev has taken as generic and so translated by plural forms, “those who”; Dahood interprets the Hebrew singular as reference to the king.

In verse 14a cleaves to me in love is parallel with knows my name in verse 14b; here the verb “know” is used in the sense of “confess, accept.” The two verbs deliver (see 17.13) and protect (see 20.1b) are parallel.

It is possible to reduce verse 14 to say, for example, “I will save and protect those who love me and know me.”

For rescue in verse 15c see “save” and comments in 6.4. Honor means that God will provide blessings, such as victory or success, that will bring honor and fame to the person.

A long life (verse 16a) is an indication of God’s pleasure (see 21.4); Dahood takes it here to refer to immortality, which is possible. The verb satisfy is the one used in 90.14a.

Show … my salvation in verse 16b may mean, as tev has it, “I will save.” frcl translates “I will make him see that I am his savior.” However, the verb form translated show is understood by many to mean “drink deeply” in a figurative sense of “enjoy to the fullest” (neb, spcl, Dahood); this provides a better parallel for the verb in line a.

[12]

Psalm 91, a psalm of trust, does not identify its author. The psalm is sufficiently similar to Ps. 90, a psalm of Moses, that it might also be by him. Alternatively, the experiences and ideas of Moses could have been used by an anonymous writer. This poem has a very strong messianic thrust, and God Himself speaks in vv. 14–16 (Pss. 12; 60; 75; 87). The development of the psalm is in four main sections: (1) a confession of confidence in the Lord (vv. 1, 2); (2) assurance that those who trust in the Lord need not fear evil (vv. 3–8); (3) promises of God’s protection to the coming One (vv. 9–13); (4) a description of the Lord’s protection of the coming One (vv. 14–16).

91:1, 2 in the secret place: The person who trusts in God is the one who lives close to Him. The title Most High emphasizes God’s majesty (92:1) and is parallel to the term Almighty, a translation of the divine title Shaddai. Together the terms Most High and Shaddai speak of God as a mountain-like majesty, in whose presence there is a “secret place” or a shadow. My refuge and my fortress may be rephrased as “my secure fortress.”

91:3 fowler … pestilence: The images of a bird trap and various types of disease are a general description of dangers that might come to helpless people.

91:4 His feathers … His wings: God is described as a mother hen under whose wings the psalmist can come for refuge (61:4; 63:7). Shield and buckler indicates complete protection from all harm. God is an all protective shield for the believer.

91:5, 6 The interplay of words for night and day in these verses indicates the universal nature of God’s protection. Terror, arrow, pestilence, and destruction together refer to evil in general.

91:7, 8 A thousand … ten thousand: Like the Israelites in Egypt who were spared the danger that touched their neighbors (Ex. 9:26; 10:23; 11:7), believers in the Lord are protected from any assault. look … and see: The punishment of the wicked is as sure as the deliverance of the righteous.

91:9, 10 In vv. 14–16, God describes directly the same person addressed by the psalmist in vv. 9–13. This person is the coming One. My refuge is the same word used in v. 2. Dwelling place is the same word used in 90:1. Most High: The psalmist indicates that the coming One’s faith in God is the same as the psalmist’s.

91:11–13 His angels … a stone: These words were used by Satan to tempt the Savior (Matt. 4:5, 6). the lion and the cobra: The animal and snake imagery in this verse pictures all kinds of evil that might threaten the coming One. The Father will protect Him no matter what the danger.

91:14 The verb used here for love is not the usual Hebrew word for love. It has the idea of “holding close to,” even “hugging tightly in love” (Deut. 7:7; 10:15). He has known My name speaks of an intimate, experiential knowledge of the Father (John 1:18).

91:15, 16 The promises of Yahweh are to deliver the Coming One (v. 15), and to grant Him long life (v. 16). These words are a promise of the Father for the resurrection of the Son, and for the provision of His subsequent everlasting life (16:10, 11; 72:15; 118:17, 18). The salvation provided for the Coming One is not justification (as He is just in His person), but deliverance from death in the Resurrection (as in 118:21). Thus, Psalm 91 concludes in a dramatic manner, a direct promise from the Father to the Son concerning His ultimate victory over death itself (1 Cor. 15:20, 21).

[13]

Psalm 91, a psalm of trust, does not identify its author. The psalm is sufficiently similar to Ps. 90, a psalm of Moses, that it might also be by him. Alternatively, the experiences and ideas of Moses could have been used by an anonymous writer. This poem has a very strong messianic thrust, and God Himself speaks in vv. 14–16 (Pss. 12; 60; 75; 87). The development of the psalm is in four main sections: (1) a confession of confidence in the Lord (vv. 1, 2); (2) assurance that those who trust in the Lord need not fear evil (vv. 3–8); (3) promises of God’s protection to the coming One (vv. 9–13); (4) a description of the Lord’s protection of the coming One (vv. 14–16).

91:1, 2 in the secret place: The person who trusts in God is the one who lives close to Him. The title Most High emphasizes God’s majesty (92:1) and is parallel to the term Almighty, a translation of the divine title Shaddai. Together the terms Most High and Shaddai speak of God as a mountain-like majesty, in whose presence there is a “secret place” or a shadow. My refuge and my fortress may be rephrased as “my secure fortress.”

91:3 fowler … pestilence: The images of a bird trap and various types of disease are a general description of dangers that might come to helpless people.

91:4 His feathers … His wings: God is described as a mother hen under whose wings the psalmist can come for refuge (61:4; 63:7). Shield and buckler indicates complete protection from all harm. God is an all protective shield for the believer.

91:5, 6 The interplay of words for night and day in these verses indicates the universal nature of God’s protection. Terror, arrow, pestilence, and destruction together refer to evil in general.

91:7, 8 A thousand … ten thousand: Like the Israelites in Egypt who were spared the danger that touched their neighbors (Ex. 9:26; 10:23; 11:7), believers in the Lord are protected from any assault. look … and see: The punishment of the wicked is as sure as the deliverance of the righteous.

91:9, 10 In vv. 14–16, God describes directly the same person addressed by the psalmist in vv. 9–13. This person is the coming One. My refuge is the same word used in v. 2. Dwelling place is the same word used in 90:1. Most High: The psalmist indicates that the coming One’s faith in God is the same as the psalmist’s.

91:11–13 His angels … a stone: These words were used by Satan to tempt the Savior (Matt. 4:5, 6). the lion and the cobra: The animal and snake imagery in this verse pictures all kinds of evil that might threaten the coming One. The Father will protect Him no matter what the danger.

91:14 The verb used here for love is not the usual Hebrew word for love. It has the idea of “holding close to,” even “hugging tightly in love” (Deut. 7:7; 10:15). He has known My name speaks of an intimate, experiential knowledge of the Father (John 1:18).

91:15, 16 The promises of Yahweh are to deliver the Coming One (v. 15), and to grant Him long life (v. 16). These words are a promise of the Father for the resurrection of the Son, and for the provision of His subsequent everlasting life (16:10, 11; 72:15; 118:17, 18). The salvation provided for the Coming One is not justification (as He is just in His person), but deliverance from death in the Resurrection (as in 118:21). Thus, Psalm 91 concludes in a dramatic manner, a direct promise from the Father to the Son concerning His ultimate victory over death itself (1 Cor. 15:20, 21).

[14]

91:1, 2 Jesus is the One who in a preeminent way dwelt in the secret place of the Most High, and abode under the shadow of the Almighty. There never was a life like His. He lived in absolute, unbroken fellowship with God, His Father. He never acted in self-will but did only those things that the Father directed. Though He was perfect God, He was also perfect Man, and He lived His life on earth in utter and complete dependence on God. Without equivocation He could look up and say, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him I will trust.”

91:3 It seems that the Holy Spirit’s voice is heard in verses 3–13, assuring the Lord Jesus of the tremendous security that was His because of His life of perfect trust. What are the guarantees of security? There are nine:

Deliverance from hidden dangers. The snare of the bird-trapper speaks of the enemy’s evil plot to trap the unwary.

Immunity from fatal disease. In our Lord’s case, there is no reason to believe that He was ever sick at all.

91:4 Shelter and refuge in the Almighty. God’s tender, personal care is likened to that of a mother bird with her young.

Protection in the faithfulness of God. His promises are sure. What He has said, He will do. This is the believer’s shield and buckler.

91:5 Freedom from fear. Four types of danger are mentioned that commonly cause apprehension:

Attacks made by an enemy under the cover of night are especially terrifying because the source is hard to identify.The arrow that flies by day may be understood as a literal missile or as a figure for “the evil plots and slanders of the wicked” (Amplified Version).

91:6 The pestilence that walks in darkness may also be taken literally or figuratively. Physical disease thrives where it is shielded from the sun’s rays, and moral evil also breeds in the dark.The destruction that lays waste at noonday is unspecified, and perhaps it is best to leave it that way, so that the promise may have a more widespread application.

91:7, 8 Safety even in the midst of massacre. Even where there is slaughter on a wholesale basis, the Beloved of the Lord is absolutely safe. When the wicked are punished, He will be a spectator only, free from the possibility of harm.

91:9, 10 Insurance against calamity. Because the Savior made the Most High His refuge and His dwelling place, no disaster would strike Him, no calamity would get near Him.

91:11, 12 Guarded by angelic escort. This is the passage which Satan quoted to the Lord Jesus when tempting Him to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple (Luke 4:10, 11). Jesus did not deny that the verses applied to Him, but He did deny that they could be used as a pretext for tempting God. God had not told Him to jump down from the temple. If the Savior had jumped, He would have been acting outside the divine will, and then the promise of protection would not have been valid.

91:13 Victory over the lion and cobra. It is interesting that Satan stopped before coming to this verse. If he had quoted it, he would have been describing his own doom! The devil is presented in Scripture as a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8) and as an ancient serpent (Rev. 12:9). As a lion, he is the loud, horrendous persecutor using physical violence. As a serpent, he employs wily stratagems to deceive and to destroy.

And so the Holy Spirit has given nine guarantees of safe-conduct to the Son of Man during His life of perfect trust and obedience on earth. At this point God the Father confirms the guarantees by six tremendous “I wills.” In these perhaps there is a suggestion of the entire career of the Man Christ Jesus:

91:14 His spotless life on earth. “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.”

91:15 His suffering for sins. “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble.”

His resurrection and ascension. “I will deliver him and honor him.”

91:16 His present session at God’s right hand and His coming kingdom. “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”

So much for what the Psalm says! But wait! You are probably thinking of what it does not say, of important questions that it does not answer. For example, how can we reconcile all these promises of safe-keeping for the Messiah with the fact that men ultimately did put Him to death? And if we apply the Psalm to believers today, how does it square with the fact that some of them do succumb to disease, or fall in battle, or die in plane crashes?

Part of the answer, at least, lies in this: The one who trusts in Jehovah is immortal until his work is done. Jesus said as much to His disciples. When He suggested returning to Judea, the disciples said:“Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:7–10).The Lord knew that the Jews could not touch Him until He had finished His work. And this is true of every believer; he is kept by the power of God through faith.

Then the Lord may speak to a believer in a special, personal way through some verse of this Psalm. If He does, the person can claim the promise and rely on it. The personal incident at the beginning illustrates this.

And finally, it is true in a general way that those who trust the Lord are sure of His protection. We may tend to overemphasize the exceptions. The general rule is still true: there is safety in the Lord.

[15]

Ps 91:1–16. David is the most probable author; and the pestilence, mentioned in 2Sa 24:13–15, the most probable of any special occasion to which the Psalm may refer. The changes of person allowable in poetry are here frequently made.

1. dwelleth in the secret place—(Ps 27:5; 31:20) denotes nearness to God. Such as do so abide or lodge secure from assaults, and can well use the terms of trust in Ps 91:2.

3. snares … [and] … noisome pestilence—literally, “plagues of mischiefs” (Ps 5:9; 52:7), are expressive figures for various evils.

4. For the first figure compare De 32:11; Mt 23:37.

buckler—literally, “surrounding”—that is, a kind of shield covering all over.

5. terror—or, what causes it (Pr 20:2).

by night—then aggravated.

arrow—that is, of enemies.

7, 8. The security is more valuable, as being special, and, therefore, evidently of God; and while ten thousands of the wicked fall, the righteous are in such safety that they only see the calamity.

9–12. This exemption from evil is the result of trust in God, who employs angels as ministering spirits (Heb 1:14).

13. Even the fiercest, strongest, and most insidious animals may be trampled on with impunity.

14–16. God Himself speaks (compare Ps 46:10). All the terms to express safety and peace indicate the most undoubting confidence (compare Ps 18:2; 20:1; 22:5).

set his love—that of the most ardent kind.

16. show him—literally, “make him see” (Ps 50:23; Lu 2:30).

[16]

Ps 91:1–16. David is the most probable author; and the pestilence, mentioned in 2Sa 24:13–15, the most probable of any special occasion to which the Psalm may refer. The changes of person allowable in poetry are here frequently made.

1. dwelleth in the secret place—(Ps 27:5; 31:20) denotes nearness to God. Such as do so abide or lodge secure from assaults, and can well use the terms of trust in Ps 91:2.

3. snares … [and] … noisome pestilence—literally, “plagues of mischiefs” (Ps 5:9; 52:7), are expressive figures for various evils.

4. For the first figure compare De 32:11; Mt 23:37.

buckler—literally, “surrounding”—that is, a kind of shield covering all over.

5. terror—or, what causes it (Pr 20:2).

by night—then aggravated.

arrow—that is, of enemies.

7, 8. The security is more valuable, as being special, and, therefore, evidently of God; and while ten thousands of the wicked fall, the righteous are in such safety that they only see the calamity.

9–12. This exemption from evil is the result of trust in God, who employs angels as ministering spirits (Heb 1:14).

13. Even the fiercest, strongest, and most insidious animals may be trampled on with impunity.

14–16. God Himself speaks (compare Ps 46:10). All the terms to express safety and peace indicate the most undoubting confidence (compare Ps 18:2; 20:1; 22:5).

set his love—that of the most ardent kind.

16. show him—literally, “make him see” (Ps 50:23; Lu 2:30).

[17]

PSALM 91: Praise for Security

The psalmist testifies to the benefits of trust in God (91:1–2). God and His angels guard the believer (vv. 3–13), and the Lord Himself promises protection (vv. 14–16).

Key concepts. Trust Psalms 18-21. Faithfulness Deuteronomy 33-34. Angels Daniel 10, Hebrews 1.

[18]

Safety In The Secret Place

If there’s one thing that David knew well, it was the art of finding a good hiding place. He was the youngest of Jesse’s boys and no doubt got picked on as the “baby of the family”. As a young shepherded boy David would know the best places to keep a safe watch over the sheep. As a member of Saul’s court David found himself on the run, at times, by this insanely jealous king. And once on the throne of Israel, David would, time and again, retreat to safety from his enemies.

Every one of us face those seasons of our life when we are forced to seek shelter, a place of refuge from not only physical disaster but those emotional and sometimes spiritual storms as well.

Our nation watched as Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Alabama. We were moved as tens of thousands fled the storm to take refuge in the Louisiana Superdome. For days national news covered the scene as the place of shelter mutated into an all out fight for survival. We watched as thousands left the stadium convinced their chances of survival would be better in the storm than in the shelter.

It’s hurricane season again and what has become a household term is buzzing around in conversations all over area… “Hurricane preparedness”. People around here don’t want to get caught in the scenario we saw our neighbors to the West face. But the fact is, we will.

Whether or not Florida escapes a natural storm, none of us will escape every storm of life. Some might face a physical storm, some a spiritual storm, others an emotional storm and still others the storms of sorrow and loss. When you think about it, life, with all of it’s pleasures and joys, also comes with its’ share of crisis and disaster too.

This morning I don’t want to focus on the storms. They will come and go. I do, however want to give you my answer to another frequently asked question during this season, “Where will you go if a big one hits?”


Text: Psalm 91:1-2

“There is this place….”


A. It’s A Place of Dwelling “He that dwells”

1. Safety is on the inside
a. a lot of people look toward God in trouble
• “I hope to God…”
• When trouble comes I’m not going to hope to Him” - I’m going to run to Him!
Psalm 46:1c-5
Psalm 30:5

2. It’s a Secret place.
a. The thought is “a place of hiding the face”
b. When the bully comes

3. It’s a Safe place.
a. Shall abide – “lodge of resting”
b. Others might shutter at the noises of the night, but not you!
c. “under the shadow” – protection, shield
d. You’re sipping the umbrella drink while your enemy is sweating in the heat of the Son!

4. It’s a Secure place.
a. Look who’s guarding the door – He is the Door!
i. Elyon - Overwhelming One
ii. El Shaddai - The One who is enough
iii. Yahweh - I AM
iv. Elohim - The Trinity acting in unity
1. The Father in the power of His love
2. The Son in the provision of His grace
3. The Spirit in the potentiality of His strength

“It is not my hand, outstretched, but the Hand mine grasps that holds me up”.

b. God is not only with me in the cleft of the rock, He is the Rock!



Psalm 27:5
Psalm 31:20

B. It’s a place of Telling “I will say of the Lord”

You just can’t keep this place secret.

Ezekiel 33:2-5

C. It’s a place of Trusting “My God, in Him will I trust”

Ours is a God whose chief characteristic is faithfulness and trustworthiness!

Trust – a confident expectation that He will…
Provide, Protect, Deliver
Jesus Never Fails!


In the words of the hymnist W.J. Henry

When I travel the pathway so rugged and steep. When I pass through the valley so dark and so deep. When the snares for my soul by my foes have been set, Jesus never has failed me yet.

So I walk by His side in the heat of the day. Where He leads me I’ll follow, His will I obey. And He makes me to conquer the ills that beset. Jesus Never has failed me yet.

He never has failed me yet. He never has failed me yet. I have proven Him true. What He says, He will do. Jesus never has failed me yet.


A note from Pastor Terry,

Thanks so much for looking over this message. I trust that, in some way, you were blessed, encouraged and empowered on your own walk with Christ. Every message I prepare is bathed in prayer that God will draw, inspire, and challenge my listeners (or readers) into a more meaningful and power-filled walk with Him.

Pastors, how we need one another! We need to be encouraged, strengthened and built up in order to encourage, strengthen and build up. It’s my personal prayer that the message you’ve just reviewed has done that for you in a personal way. Use what you can on this message, toss what you can’t and above all, let God’s Spirit inspire it all!

Sometimes I feel like Peter and John at the Temple steps…”Silver and gold; I don’t have but what I do – I give to you”

Grace and peace to you, your family and the Flock you tend.
Pastor Terry

Verses 1–8. The rendering of verse 1 in the AV is most attractive: “He that dwelleth in the ‘secret place’ of the Most High”. Ps. 90, as we have seen, had been about the awesomeness and the greatness and the everlastingness of the Most High God over against man’s smallness and the brevity of his life. Yet, says the psalmist, this mighty God invites even such little persons as we are to share the secret of his love with him.

The Jewish Prayer Book suggests that this psalm be read “before retiring to rest”. Yet it is not so much a prayer as a sermon in verse. It appears to be the voice of a Temple minister assuring a private enquirer (for this idea see Ps. 27:4) that God can and will protect him or her from all, even the most sinister, threats of evil, the evil that leads to the death of the human spirit. In his talk with this ordinary person he explains that the opposite of fear is not courage, but faith.

The word abides in verse 1 means “to spend the night” as in a room in an inn. As Jesus put it, “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2). “Keep on coming back into the care of the Almighty each evening,” this minister is recommending his enquirer, then you will find yourself saying to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For you will have discovered that God has delivered you from what is threatening your life. His faithfulness, his unshakeability, is impregnable, it is a shield and buckler.

The subsequent poetic descriptions of the attacks of evil from outside of us are far more telling than any mention of wild dogs, or of thugs, or of “things that go bump in the night”, or, to be up to date, of bombs, flying-saucers, bacteria, or even the secret police. That eastern man did live in terror of evil powers outside of himself, even when he had locked his doors against them, is evidenced by an Assyrian bronze statuette now to be seen in the Louvre in Paris. It is of a demon with wings, naked, and with a malicious face. In contrast, the Lord too has wings (poetically speaking!, verse 4). Then the LXX, the Greek version of the OT, translates verse 6b as “the demon of midday”, possibly suggesting sunstroke. In a word, what our Temple minister is saying is “This is a risky world. You may quite possibly be hit by one of the arrows of the powers of evil (faith is not an insurance policy against sickness and death), but don’t fear these things when they come.” As Paul puts it at Rom. 8:28, “We know that in everything God works for good”, through nakedness, peril and all the rest. Consequently the language of this psalm is far removed from the silly self-centred cry of the person saved from the shipwreck when all others perished—“Now I have received proof of the existence of God, for he answered my prayer when I was struggling in the water.”

What has all this got to do with us today? Jung, the great psychologist, has written: “All one’s neighbours are ruled by an uncontrolled and uncontrollable fear just like oneself. In lunatic asylums it is a well-known fact that patients are far more dangerous when suffering from fear than when moved by wrath or hatred.” Or, as J. B. Priestley writes: “Heads of governments know that a frightened people is easier to govern and will agree to millions and millions being spent on ‘Defence’.” God knows all this about our frightened human nature. If we were but to look in a concordance to the Scriptures under the word “angel”, we would discover that, when the eternal world breaks in upon our human consciousness, the very first words that man hears with his heart and mind are “Do not be afraid”.

We have a picture here of a little child looking up trustingly into his father’s face, knowing that under his wings “it will all be all right”. The idea of God’s caring wings is as ancient as the earliest passages in the OT—see Exod. 19:4; 25:20; Deut. 32:12. In fact, the picture is as much that of God’s mother-love as it is that of his father-love.

Verses 9–13, Because. Why then should you fear? It works two ways: (1) Because thou, Lord, art my refuge (see RSV verse 9 ftn). God, in other words, has acted first, for he has invited me to come home to the place he has prepared for me. (2) Because you have made the Most High your “home” (compare Deut. 26:15); in other words, you have responded to God’s loving invitation by faith. You may be living in a tent (the “home” of the pilgrim in all ages), but God is in truth your real home. And he has always been so! Here we have the deliberate use of ancient epithets for God. This reminds us of two things: (1) It reminds us of what Ps. 90 has been saying about the “ancientness” of God, and (2) it reminds us that the Church of today is many thousands of years old, and not just a mere two thousand. But (3) he adds: “Don’t imagine that you have been ‘saved’ just in order ‘to be saved’.” God has now turned you into a St. George, as we might put it, and has enabled you to fight with all the dragons that haunt the life of human beings (verse 13), whatever they be, subtle temptations or powerful forces of communal evil.

Verses 14–16, Because, once again. This time God himself speaks: Because he clings to me in love, even “hugs” me, as the verb can mean, I will be to him what I promised to be to Abraham a thousand years before this period of the psalmist. “Don’t be afraid, Abraham, I myself am your shield; I myself am your very great reward” (Gen. 15:1). See also Ps. 34:7; Gen. 24:7, 40; Exod. 23:20; Matt. 4:6.

Then God adds: I will be with him in trouble, as we hear God say again at Isa. 43:1–3. There God proclaims, “I have called you by name, you are mine”. But here God says, “Because he knows my name”. So this very small human person is actually in intimate fellowship with Almighty God! (verse 1). We can say this with confidence, because to know the name in olden days meant to know the very essence of the personality of its owner. Faith then in this psalm is not an act of the intellect. If it were so, then many of us would be excluded, including all the mentally handicapped folk in our society. Faith is a passionate relationship of love that even a child can know.

This section uses powerful language. God promises an eightfold blessing. Perhaps we might count these up for ourselves. One of them is: With long life I will satisfy him. The idea of long life was meant to be understood as a sacramental promise of eternal life. God will actually “satiate” him with life! Jesus said: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), that is to say, be satiated with life. Another is when in the last line of the psalm we move even beyond faith to revelation: I will show him, or rather, “let him see into” my salvation, my saving love. That has always been the excited hope of the believer, that beyond death he will see into, see the meaning of, God’s saving love, and see it from within that home which God will give him for all eternity.

[19]


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[1]Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator's Handbook on the Book of Psalms, Helps for translators (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991). 801.

[2]H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999). Ps 91:1.

[3]Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 14 : Psalms 73-150, The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989). 156.

[4]James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, Pbk. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2005). 747.

[5]The Pulpit Commentary: Psalms Vol. II, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004). 267.

[6]Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary : Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962). Ps 91:1.

[7]Robert B. Hughes, J. Carl Laney and Robert B. Hughes, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, The Tyndale reference library (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001). 220.

[8]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991). Ps 91:1.

[9]Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen and H. Wayne House, The Nelson Study Bible : New King James Version (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1997). Ps 91:1.

[10]D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994). Ps 91:1.

[11]Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott, Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997). Ps 91:1.

[12]Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator's Handbook on the Book of Psalms, Helps for translators (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991). 801.

[13]Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen and H. Wayne House, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999). Ps 91.

[14]Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen and H. Wayne House, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999). Ps 91.

[15]William MacDonald and Arthur Farstad, Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995). Ps 91:1.

[16]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset, David Brown and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997). Ps 91:1.

[17]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset, David Brown and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997). Ps 91:1.

[18]Larry Richards, The Bible Reader's Companion (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1991). 371.

[19]George Angus Fulton Knight, Psalms : Volume 2, The Daily study Bible series (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, c1982). 94.

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