Life can be difficult and dangerous, but in the Psalms we see God’s faithfulness to us through the difficult and dangerous times. This excerpt, taken directly from the BE Series Commentary by Wiersbe, walks us through Psalm 91. Even when life is dangerous, in God we can have a hidden, protected, and satisfied life.
BE Exultant – Book IV, Psalm 91
The previous Psalm focuses on dealing with the difficulties of life, but the emphasis in this psalm is on the dangers of life. The anonymous author (though some think Moses wrote it) warns about hidden traps, deadly plagues, terrors at night and arrows by day, stumbling over rocks, and facing lions and snakes! However, in view of terrorist attacks, snipers, reckless drivers, exotic new diseases, and Saturday-night handgun specials, the contemporary scene may be as dangerous as the one described in the psalm.
The saints who abide in Christ (vv. 1, 9) cannot avoid confronting unknown perils, but they can escape the evil consequences. Moses, David, and Paul, and a host of other servants of God faced great danger in accomplishing God’s will, and the Lord saw them through. However, Hebrews 11:36 cautions us that “others” were tortured and martyred, yet their faith was just as real. But generally speaking, walking with the Lord does help us to detect and avoid a great deal of trouble, and it is better to suffer in the will of God than to invite trouble by disobeying God’s will (1 Peter 2:18-25). The psalmist described the elements involved in living the life of confidence and victory.
FAITH IN GOD–THE HIDDEN LIFE (vv. 1-4)
The most important part of a believer’s life is the part that only God sees, the “hidden life” of communion and worship that is symbolized by the Holy of Holies in the Jewish sanctuary (Ex. 25:18-22). God is our refuge and strength (46:1). He hides us that He might help us and then send us back to serve Him in the struggles of life. (See 27:5) The author of the psalm had two “addresses”: his tent (v. 10) and his Lord (vv. 1, 9). The safest place in the world is a shadow, if it is the shadow of the Almighty. Through Jesus Christ we find safety and satisfaction under the wings of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies (36:7-8). Jesus pictured salvation by describing chicks hiding under the wings of the mother hen (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34), and the psalmist pictured communion as believers resting under the wings of the cherubim in the tabernacle.
The names of God used in these verses encourage us to trust Him. He is the Most High (Elyon, vv. 1, 9), a name found first in Genesis 14:18-20. He is higher than the kings of the earth and the false gods of the nations. He is also the Almighty (SHADDAI), the all-sufficient God who is adequate for every situation. (See Gen. 17:1.) He is Lord (vv. 2, 9), Jehovah, the covenant-making God who is faithful to His promises. He is God (ELOHIM, v. 2), the powerful God whose greatness and glory surpass anything we can imagine.
This is the God who invites us to fellowship with Him in the Holy of Holies! This hidden life of worship and communion makes possible the public life of obedience and service. This God shelters us beneath the wings of the cherubim, but He also gives us the spiritual armor we need (v. 4; Eph. 6:10-18). His truth and faithfulness protect us as we claim His promises and obey Him. The shield is the large shield that covers the whole person. (See Gen. 15:1; Deut. 33:29; 2 Sam. 22:3.) Some translations give “bulwark” or “rampart” instead of “buckler.” The Hebrew word means “to go around” and would describe a mound of earth around a fortress. But the message is clear: Those who abide in the Lord are safe when they are doing His will. God’s servants are immortal until their work is done (Rom. 8:28-39).
PEACE FROM GOD–THE PROTECTED LIFE (vv. 5-13)
When we practice “the hidden life” we are not alone, for God is with us and compensates for our inadequacies. This paragraph emphasizes that we need not be afraid because the Lord and His angels watch over us. In the ancient Near East, travel was dangerous, unless you were protected by armed guards. (It is not much different in some large cities today.) “Terror by night” could mean simply “the fear of the dark” and of what can happen in the darkness. Contaminated water and food, plus an absence of sound health measures, made it easy to contract diseases by day or by night, although “the destruction that lays waste at noon” (v. 6 NASB) could refer to the effects of the burning rays of the sun.
Verses 7-8 read like the description of a battle and may have a direct relationship to the covenant promises God made with Israel (Lev. 26:8; Deut. 32:30). With their own eyes, Israel saw the grief of the Egyptians over their firstborn who died on Passover night (Ex. 12:29-30), and they also saw the Egyptian army dead on the shore of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:26-31), yet no harm came to the people of Israel. God’s angel went before them to prepare the way and to lead the way (Ex. 23:20). Satan quoted part of verses 11-12 when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:6), and the Lord responded with Deuteronomy 6:16.
If the Father had commanded Jesus to jump from the temple pinnacle, then the angels would have cared for Jesus, but to jump without the Father’s command would have been presumption, not faith, and that would be tempting the Father. In Scripture, the lion and serpent (cobra) are images of Satan (1 Peter 5:8; Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9; 20:2; and see Luke 10:19; Rom. 16:20). In the ancient Near East, both were dangerous enemies, especially for travelers walking along the narrow paths.
LOVE FOR GOD–THE SATISFIED LIFE (vv. 14-16)
The Lord spoke and announced what He would do for those of His people who truly loved Him and acknowledged Him with obedient lives. The word translated “love” is not the usual word but one that means “to cling to, to cleave, to be passionate.” It is used in Deuteronomy 7:7 and 10:15 for the love Jehovah has for His people Israel. (See John 14:21-24.) Among His blessings will be deliverance and protection (“set him on high”), answered prayer, companionship in times of trouble, honor, satisfaction, and a long life (see 21:4; Ex. 20:12; Deut. 30:20).
The salvation mentioned at the end of the psalm may mean help and deliverance during life, as in 50:23, or the joy of beholding the glory of God after a long and satisfied life. To the Jewish people, living a long life and seeing one’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was the ultimate of blessing in this life. Like Abraham, they wanted to die in a good old age and “full of years” (Gen. 25:8), which means “a fulfilled life.” It’s one thing for doctors to add years to our lives, but God adds life to our years and makes that life worthwhile.
QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER THINKING
- What two addresses did the psalmist have (vv. 1, 9, 10)? Which one is everlasting? How should you live, knowing which address is everlasting?
- Do you agree or disagree that the believer who does the will of God is safer in a war zone than in a house in the suburbs? Explain.
- How would you define “high quality of life” according to this psalm? What is the good life?
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