If God Be For Us, Who Can Be Against US?

God the Father by Quellin

Psalm 91

Psalm 91 is the second movement in a stirring “trilogy of trust,” made up of Psalms 90, 91, and 92.  Read in order, Psalm 90 represents a cry for deliverance, Psalm 91 is an expression of trust and Psalm 92 rejoices in deliverance accomplished.  The present psalm combines the characteristics of a lament, of an affirmation of faith, of wisdom poetry and a divine oracle.

Like many psalms, this one has no title, so assigning a date and historical background to it is difficult.  Jewish tradition, however, credits Moses with its authorship, but as we read it, we can’t help but be reminded Paul’s words in Romans 8:31—

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

1.  Trust, verses 1—8

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

In this psalm, the author alternates between the first and third person; he describes his own confidence and security then that of his readers.  Believers have a common experience with God; we may all have the exact same experience with God as the psalmist had.  Sometimes we think that only the most spiritual or most saintly among us can feel what this psalmist wrote.  Peter knew this was not true—

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.”  (Acts 10:34)

Noteworthy in the first two verses are the four names of God:

  • Most High.  The Hebrew is El Elyon.  In the Canaanite religion, El was the creator god, the supreme deity from whom all their other gods proceeded.  The Hebrews, living in a land surrounded by worshipers of these god, believed that Yahweh was El Elyon, “God Most High,” or the God greater than all others.
  • The Almighty.  In Hebrew, Shaddai, describes the God of victory and triumph; an all-powerful God who cannot be defeated.
  • The Lord.  God’s personal name, Yahweh.  This was a name so sacred to the Hebrews none can say it or write it out.
  • My God.  Not only is Yahweh all powerful, all victorious, and above all other gods, He can be known personally by a human being.  He is not “the God up there,” He is the God who can be known by sinful man; the God who dwells among His people.

Not only do these “proper names” of God encourage us and inspire us to have confidence in Him, the psalmist goes on to describe His God as:

  • A refuge.  God is a “safe place” for His children to dwell in.  He is a place of “comfort” and “peace.”  In the presence of God, we cannot be touched by the enemy.
  • My fortress.  In His presence, we are surrounded by the battlements of Heaven!  When we dwell with Almighty God, He fights for us.
  • Trustworthy.   Our God is, above all, trustworthy.  He is everything His Names say He is.  God cannot let us down because it is not in His nature to do so.

There is an overriding theme of protection is these verses, highlighted by the words:

  • Shelter and Shadow.  These words paint the vivid image of a bird who shelters her young under her wings (see Psalms 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7).
  • Refuge and Fortress.  These words suggest a military stronghold, fortified and ready for offensive and defensive battle.

All believers may experience God like this, but the key is this confession:

I will say of the LORD…my God, in whom I trust.

Beginning with verse 3, the psalmist poetically expresses the conviction that God cares for and is completely involved in the safety of His people.  God protects us from almost invisible traps, like the “fowler’s snare” and deadly diseases.  The last phrase of verse 4 is such a powerful thought—

[H]is faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

The burden or responsibility for our safety is God’s!  He is faithful to us, therefore He protects us.  We belong to Him; we are His treasured possessions, and God cares for us as though we are rare, priceless jewels.

Verses 5 and 6 furnish a double parallelism:  the terror of night and the arrow…by day, the pestilence…in the darkness and the plague at midday.  What a descriptive way to say that God never ceases to watch over His people!   Only God can provide security from all that cause us to fear, both natural and supernatural causes, day and night.  There is not one evil thing that God does not have full authority over.

The greatness of God is further amplified by the graphic ratio of a thousand or even ten thousand to One.  Those are good odds to our Warrior God!

2.  Triumph, verses 9—18

If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

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.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will 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 will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

The Hebrew of verses 9 and 10 is difficult and a literal translation makes little sense.  If we take the NIV as accurate, then we must acknowledge that when we compare these two verses with many other passages in both the Old and New Testaments, verse 10 cannot be taken in a literal sense; of course, none are exempt from approaching “harm,” but for those who make their dwelling in the Most High, those who experience harm will not be harmed.

The beautiful promises of verses 11—13 are conditional upon how we respond to verse 9.  These verses are very well known because of their misuse by Satan.  He took them out of context when he tried to seduce Jesus during the wilderness temptation.  The promise of divine deliverance, however, is real, and is clear:  God would even use His angels to protect those who love Him.

In the harsh reality of life, we know that sometimes God allows very negative things to come into the life of His children.  Both Job and Jesus are prime examples of this.  However, we, who love God, know that no power is beyond God’s control.  We believe God when He proclaims His love for us and we trust Him when He says He loves us and He protects us, even while we act and live responsibly.  Knowing divine protection is ours is not a license to live recklessly nor is it permission to test the limits of God’s deliverance.  Satan, as you recall, tempted Jesus to act in way out of God’s will, but Jesus sternly rebuked him and was delivered.

Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”  (Luke 4:12)

In the final three verses of Psalm 91, God Himself is the speaker and He reinforces what the psalmist had written.  The conditions upon which everything depends are very simple:

  • “Because he loves me.”  It all begins with our genuine love for God.  In this instance, the word “love” suggests a deep and impassioned longing or desire for the Lord.
  • “He acknowledges my name.”  A key ingredient in experiencing the continuing deliverance and intervention of God is simply to give Him the glory when it happens!  We ought never to be ashamed to proclaim what God has done.
  • “He will call upon me.”  To activate the promises in this psalm, we must “call upon” God; we must avail ourselves of His attentiveness.   Implicit in this is a faith in God’s Word and in His ability to provide that which He has promised.  Why ask something of somebody is you didn’t think they had it to give?  When we ask, we are, in a sense, proclaiming our faith in God’s glorious provision.

Obedience and faith are a natural result of God’s love being poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit—

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  (Romans 5:5)

When we know God as personally as the psalmist did, his experiences become ours; if we are believers yet have not seen this side of our Heavenly Father, the problem is within ourselves.  Each one of us has as much of God as we desire.  If we are disappointed with His seeming indifference to us, it is because we are indifferent to Him.  Let’s reach out in faith and embrace God; let’s learn to take Him at His Word.  Let’s be passionate about Him, and as we do so, we will see just how passionate He is about those who love Him.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd
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