Sermon Notes • April 26

2020 Psalm 91

Read Psalm 91. Like many passages of Scripture, we can return to it often and discover new truths. This Psalm expresses confidence in God, which is a message we certainly need to be reminded of at a time such as this. After the 23rd Psalm probably no Psalm is turned to more often than the 91st. It is a great Psalm of comfort and encouragement.  

As testimony to the beauty of this Psalm and the message it has for all of us, it is one of the few passages that Satan quoted, actually misquoted. Verse 11 was one of the Old Testament verses misused by Satan in the temptation of Jesus. In the way Satan uses it to mislead us, he uses it to bring doubts to our minds about the truth of Scripture and the goodness of God.

The Psalm itself does not identify the author. It is interesting, however, that this Psalm is grouped with Psalm 90 and probably Psalm 92. Over many years hundreds of poems were written for use in both private and public worship. Some were set to music and some were apparently used in a form of chant or litany. Along the way the rabbis, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, collected from those poems and hymns those that were to be included in the Holy Bible, those poems that had God’s hand upon their writing. In the process of collecting the Psalms they often grouped together those that seemed to form a unit. In Psalm 90 we have a testimony to the power and desire of God to care for and bless the nation of Israel. Then in Psalm 91 we have the same idea taken from a national level to a personal one and we see God’s loving care for all of His people individually.

Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses. Psalm 91 is not given an author but it is easy to see that if it was not written by Moses, it was written by someone who was thoroughly familiar with the life of Moses and all God did for His people under Moses. Almost every reference in this Psalm can be traced to a promise or a provision made by God to Moses. The symbols of what we are protected against, certainly understandable and applicable to all generations, had meaning to the people under Moses. Many phrases were taken directly from Deuteronomy. 

The Psalm itself is a great one of promise. It assures us of God’s care and protection in every danger or challenge of life. It can be outlined very simply with verses 1 and 2 being the promise and condition for receiving that promise. Verses 3-13 are a description of the specifics of the provisions available from God. Finally, in verses 14-16 we have God Himself reiterating those promises. 

Several things about this Psalm must be kept in mind if we are to understand the nature of the blessings being offered here. First, this is not a promise to everyone but rather it is a specific promise to those who meet the qualification of verse 1. That is, it is a promise to those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide or rest in the shadow of the Almighty. That same truth is repeated in verse 9 where we read the promises are possible because we have made the most High our habitation. Again. as God speaks in verse14, He says that because He has set his love upon us, we will, and then lists the blessings

Here we have a lesson repeated so often throughout the Bible. Spiritual benefits belong to those who trust in God. God’s promises are often missed. I hear people point out that the Bible says all things work together for good, but they leave off the half that says, “”to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.”

Spiritual blessings come to those who dwell continually, or literally sit down, in the presence of God. The concept is that of remaining, tarrying, having one’s abode with God. This is not a picture of a super spiritual giant but of one whose aim is to know God, to love God, to live for God, to depend upon God and to trust God for all things. Read Colossians 3:2-3. The promise of verse 1, which is then amplified in the rest of the Psalm, is dependent upon the response of verse 2 that says in all honesty, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; in Him will I trust.” Note carefully the personal nature of the confession. “I” will say, He is “my”, “I” trust. Faith that dwells in the presence of God is not second hand but personal. It comes first by a personal commitment to Jesus and then, as we begin to seek to live for Him. we discover His loving care for us. Our faith nurtures via Bible study and spending time with God. God can than bless us accordingly. God is at the heart of this Psalm. No passage combines, in so few verses, more names for God than we have in this Psalm. The names of God are description of Him and were given so we might have a glimpse of Him who is beyond our comprehension. 

In verse 1 God is describes as Elyon or Most High and Almighty or El Shaddai. Those two are names used to describe the God who can provide for all the needs of His people. In verse 2 we see Him described as “Lord” which is “Jehovah” and “God” which is “Elohim.” Jehovah is the personal covenant God and Elohim is the creator God who rules His creation. All men belong to Him by virtue of creation and His covenant people are His by virtue of recreation. The God who is making the promises of this Psalm is the eternal, living, unchanging, all-powerful creator, and covenant God. In addition, we find God described in this Psalm as a shelter and shadow, as a bird who protects its young under its wings, and as a warrior who defends within His fortress.

This is not a Psalm that promises that we will never face danger, never have difficulty, never suffer, never get sick, etc. Note verse 15 where we read that God will be with us in our troubles. He cannot be with us in it if we are not already in trouble. The idea that God will always take care of us and we should never be hurt is the same lie that Satan used to tempt Jesus. “Go ahead,” he said, “and throw yourself off the pinnacle, God will always take care of you. You won’t be hurt.” 

While many of us know that, there are many who believe the lie of Satan that nothing harmful should ever come our way and when hard times come, they assume that God has lied. We tend to ask if God promised to be with us in a pandemic where is He?  If God really has the power to stop it why hasn’t He? That idea is centered on the falsehood that God will always protect when in fact that is not the promise. The promise is that He will be with us in trouble and because of who He is and His power, we are ultimately on the winning side. That is the truth pictured from start to finish in this Psalm.  

The imagery of the opening verses of the Psalm are those of a bird who shelters her young under her feathers, and a father who draws his children unto himself in protection and love. Every parent can remember a time when his children were scared of something, perhaps thunder or a big storm, and all they wanted to do was pile into our laps and cling to us and have us wrap our arms around them and just hold them and talk quietly to them. That is the picture of God in relationship to His people as they pass through difficult and even scary times. The Psalm goes on to describe God as one who protects with references to a fortress and refuge. He is the one to whom we can go and find safety and security in an insecure and unstable world.

Satan cannot destroy us so he seeks to discourage us and cause us to fear so that we will focus our attention on something other than God’s goodness to us. But verse 5 declares that when we are focused upon Him then we do not fear. The opposite of fear is not courage but faith. It is not making man invincible but seeing the Most High God as invincible and in control. It is not escaping difficulty but facing it victoriously. When the difficulties of this world begin to surround us the very first words we hear from God are, “Fear not, I am with you always.” 

What don’t we need to fear? The phrases that follow, mostly taken from the life and experience of Moses, can best be summarized by saying we need fear nothing. The phrases are a collection of all-inclusive images that tell us nothing man made, nothing that nature throws at us, nothing that comes by day or by night, nothing that Satan tries to do should ever cause us fear when we face it with the Lord. Alone this world is pretty scary. There are so many unknowns as far as health, resources, loved ones etc. are concerned, but God is the same yesterday, today and forever and therefore the constant who drives away fear. 

Becoming a Christian does not exempt us from trials and difficulties but rather it gives us one who will walk with us through them. This Psalm, perhaps better than any, assures us of His presence and therefore His strength, His peace, His joy, His calmness, and His victory in every circumstance of life. The alternative to worry is to climb into His open arms and let Him wrap us in His love.