Psalm 91:1-16 The Promise of God’s Protection
Actor Jimmy Stewart found comfort in Psalm 91. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Stewart enlisted in the Army Air Corps and prepared to go overseas. Stewart’s father, Alex, choked up when he tried to bid him farewell, so he wrote a note for his son to read en route. After being shipped out, Jimmy read the words his father had been unable to say aloud:
My dear Jim boy. Soon after you read this letter, you will be on your way to the worst sort of danger. Jim, I’m banking on the enclosed copy of the 91st Psalm. The thing that takes the place of fear and worry is the promise of these words. I am staking my faith in these words. I feel sure that God will lead you through this mad experience. I can say no more. I only continue to pray. Goodbye, my dear. God bless you and keep you. I love you more than I can tell you. Dad.
As a veteran of the Spanish-American War, Alex knew the comforting power of Psalm 91:3–5 (NIV) for those preparing for battle. “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare … You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”
Jimmy Stewart returned home a decorated war hero, unharmed even though his record included 20 combat missions. During the height of battle, Stewart said he learned to lean on the words of his tattered copy of Psalm 91, especially verses 1 and 2, which speak of God as a refuge and fortress.
Upon returning home, he told his father: “What a promise for an airman. I placed in his hands the squadron I would be leading. And, as the psalmist promised, I felt myself borne up.”1
This past week saw two amazing experiences in the history of the United States of America. The first was the election of the 45th President – Donald J. Trump. The second amazing experience was honoring our veterans on Veteran’s Day on Friday. I would like to ask all veterans to stand at this time.
Both the President and veterans have the responsibility of protecting the ideals and people of the United States. The president is involved in protecting and upholding the Constitution. Veterans have spent personal experience in protecting the ideals of the Constitution. They protect us like like the people who help us when one calls 9-1-1. Here in this psalm, we open up with that same kind of protection.
“The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1, HCSB)
This is called the 9-1-1 verse. When you have an emergency, you call 911 on your phone to get the help you need. Here in Psalm 91:1, you can get God’s emergency line in prayer.
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.2
The reason that God promises protection is because it is tough out there. The fact is that there are difficulties in life.
5 DIFFICULTIES I CAN ENCOUNTER IN LIFE
As I go through these examples, I want you to notice something. These disasters are not random events. As Psalm 91 describes, there are plagues, pestilence, night terrors, and they all have supernatural origins. Behind the veil of this physical is a spiritual world. Difficulties and dangers have a cosmic origin. You can’t blame the devil behind every bush. Some things happen because I sin. But these difficulties in Psalm 91 have supernatural connections.
1. Sudden and unexpected disasters (Psalm 91:3, 13)
“He Himself will deliver you from the hunter’s net, from the destructive plague.” (Psalm 91:3, HCSB)
“You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the young lion and the serpent.” (Psalm 91:13, HCSB)
Both of these disasters represent things that happen when don’t expect it. The flu goes around, or you catch something unexpectedly. You also walk into situations that can be disastrous and you don’t even know it. These are sudden and unexpected. What does God say about this?
“He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” (Psalm 91:4, HCSB)
He’s still going to be there for you. He is going to take you under His wings. He is going to be just as faithful a protective shield. If Captain America can depend on the Vibranium in his shield to protect him, then you have Someone who is stronger than Vibranium. God is eternally faithful to protect you.
2. Fears and anxieties (Psalm 91:5)
“You will not fear the terror of the night…” (Psalm 91:5, HCSB)
The second difficulty we can encounter are our fears and anxieties. You know, those pesky fears just get in the way. Have you ever been scared at night? People talk about things that go bump in the night. We are reminded that the night is a place and time that can terrorize us. We need to be reminded that the day is stronger than the night. Shirley Dobson recounts the following experience:
When Focus on the Family was in its early stages and our children were young, my husband, Jim, was often traveling. I had grown accustomed to his absences and was never really frightened while he was away. After all, I knew God was protecting us. Jim and I have prayed for our family throughout our marriage, and God always honored our simple trust with his protection. So even when Jim was away, I slept in peace. Except once.
One night about 2:00 A.M., I awoke with a start. I was afraid and didn’t know why. For a few minutes (it seemed like hours!), I lay in bed worrying. Finally, I forced myself out of bed and sank to my knees.
“Oh, Lord,” I prayed, “I don’t know why I’m so frightened. I ask you to watch over our home and to protect our family. Send your guardian angel to be with us.” I climbed back into bed, and in about half an hour I was able to fall back asleep.
The next morning our teen-aged babysitter, who lived across the street, came running over. “Mrs. Dobson, did you hear what happened? A burglar robbed your next-door neighbor’s house last night!”
It was true. A thief had broken in, entered the couple’s bedroom while they slept and snatched the husband’s wallet from a dresser. The burglar escaped with the family’s vacation money, about $500.
Then the baby-sitter told me the police had determined the time of the robbery: about 2:00 A.M., the same time I had awakened in fear!
My mind reeled at the thought. “If a burglar wanted to break into our house,” I said, “he would probably try to get in through the bathroom window near our children’s bedrooms. There’s a hedge, and he’d be shielded from view. Let’s go look.”
When we walked to the window on the other side of the house, we saw that the screen was bent and the sill was splintered. Someone had indeed tried to break in! The police later told me if the burglar had really wanted to get in, he would have. What had happened to stop him?
I am convinced God protected us through my panicked prayer. Something—or Someone—had discouraged the burglar from entering our house.3
That doesn’t just teach us that prayer discouraged the burglar from entering the house. That was the work of the Holy Spirit waking Shirley Dobson up to pray. But what about those other nights? She said she didn’t worry. She said: “After all, I knew that God was protecting us.” The same God Who can be your protective shield during the day can also protect you when you sleep.
3. Personal attacks (Psalm 91:5)
“…the arrow that flies by day,” (Psalm 91:5, HCSB)
Sometimes, life is difficult because someone is attacking me personally. Paul states in Ephesians that Satan attacks us personally.
“In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16, HCSB)
Isn’t it interesting that Paul uses the same image: a shield. He says that trusting God or faith is like a shield. This shield of faith can extinguish the flaming arrows of Satan. Satan is throw flaming arrows because He wants to really hurt you. His arrows include emotional accusations. He will try to get you down. He will try to insult you, and accuse you of doing wrong, or not doing good enough. Why? Because he is the “accuser.”
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Revelation 12:10, HCSB)
4. Destruction even when I am most productive (Psalm 91:6)
“the plague that stalks in darkness, or the pestilence that ravages at noon.” (Psalm 91:6, HCSB)
The plague at night and the pestilence at noon can both affect a person or a person’s work. Crops and animals can be destroyed by plagues and disease. This is another difficulty I can encounter. One can perhaps start to see how I need to trust God to help me. Because I can’t have everything working right all the time. There are too many variables, too many things that can go wrong.
5. Attacks that happen when I am not paying attention (Psalm 91:12)
“They will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:12, HCSB)
Attacks can happen when I am weak, and I start to lose my focus of attention. I can have difficulties when I am productive, and when I am distracted. In Psalm 91:7-11, we see that God uses supernatural means to protect His people. God promises to protect me supernaturally in life. Not even plague and pestilence, here personified as destroying angels walking through the earth, shall have power over him.4This is the background behind the temptation of Christ by Satan in the Gospels. In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan tempts Jesus. He tells Jesus that instead of trusting God, Jesus can trust Satan. Jesus resists at every turn. In the second temptation, Satan quotes Psalm 91:10-11 to tempt Jesus to trust in God’s supernatural abilities but in allegiance to Satan:
“Then the Devil took Him to the holy city, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: He will give His angels orders concerning you, and they will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”” (Matthew 4:5–7, HCSB)
Satan is saying to Jesus. Turn some angels away from God. Just as I took angels away from God, You can do it to. Fall off this ledge and see how many angels will follow You. Satan’s purpose in this temptation was to start a Civil War in the Trinity. Pit Jesus the Son against God the Father. But it didn’t work, because Jesus knew the purpose of the angels. They are servants who protect us, not pawns to be used in a heavenly civil war.
The fact that the devil took these verses in Psalm 91 and used them to tempt Jesus is ironic since this same psalm promises complete protection from malignant, supernatural evil.5
Notice one last characteristic of Psalm 91:12, these angels are guarding you, keeping you safe. The safety is not just physical, but eternal. When God provided salvation, it was for eternity. The angels don’t throw out of God’s kingdom, they guard you and help you to enter God’s realm.
The reality is that God is big enough to handle all of my difficulties.
HOW GOD HELPS ME IN MY DIFFICULTIES
God delivers (Psalm 91:3)
God covers and protects (Psalm 91:4)
God makes the believer safe when others fall (Psalm 91:7)
God can look at it and not experience it (Psalm 91:8)
We live in a culture of fear where people are worried about everything from flu epidemics to identity theft to terrorist attacks. Here, the psalmist exults not only in the saving power, but the keeping power of our God. Does this mean that believers will be immune from danger?
No. But it does mean that regardless of the physical, emotional, or financial battles surrounding us, the Lord Himself is our refuge. Therefore, what else do we need?6 The psalm ends with an eight-fold promise of protection by God. As if the psalm didn’t say it often enough, the psalmist reminds us how God protects His people.
EIGHT-FOLD PROMISE OF PROTECTION BY GOD
“Because he is lovingly devoted to Me, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he knows My name. When he calls out to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and give him honor. I will satisfy him with a long life and show him My salvation.” (Psalm 91:14–16, HCSB)
Debbie McDaniel, who hosts a “Best Day Ahead” Facebook page, lists eight promises that come when God protects us.7 God says:
1. I will rescue you
2. I will protect you
3. I will answer you
4. I will be with you in trouble
5. I will deliver you
6. I will honor you
7. I will satisfy you with long life
8. I will show you My salvation
This eight-fold promise is a great passage to memorize. How does this sound for a prayer of protection?
“Because I am lovingly devoted to God, He will deliver me; He will protect me because I know God’s name. When I call out to God, He will answer me; He will be with me in trouble. God will rescue me and give me honor. God will satisfy me with a long life and show me God’s salvation.” (Psalm 91:14–16, HCSB, personalized)
God speaks from His “secret place” to you.8 Because if you dwell in that secret place, it is because you love Him, and God will deliver you. God will be faithful to you as His beloved. No demonic presence can stand before Him. God has set you on high because you know His name. You develop your intimate relationship with God and He will promise to protect you.
1 PreachingToday.com, Perfect Illustrations: For Every Topic and Occasion (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2002), 215–216.
2 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 73–150, vol. 14, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 158.
3 PreachingToday.com, Perfect Illustrations: For Every Topic and Occasion (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2002), 216–217. Originally published in Decision (May 1999).
4 James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Ps 91:5–8.
5 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 73–150, vol. 14, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 161.
6 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 116.
7 Debbie McDaniel, “8 Powerful Promises of God from Psalm 91,” Crosswalk.com, 6 October 2016, Internet, http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/debbie-mcdaniel/8-powerful-promises-of-god-from-psalm-91.html, accessed on 11 November 2016.
8 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 73–150, vol. 14, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 162.