Psalm 91 (ESV)
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 he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Day 1: Loving God
Verse 1 introduces the main theme of psalm: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Those who choose to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, will abide, or remain, in His protection. The same idea is expressed differently in verse 14, where God says, “Because heholds fastto me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.” In your suffering, struggles, and sins, where do you run to for shelter? To whom do you run for shelter? The psalmist says in verse 2, “I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
Verse 4 employs metaphors to describe God’s sheltering presence. He will cover you with his pinions, which is another word for a bird’s wings, and “under his wings you will find refuge.” Various type of birds, typically the mother birds, use their wings to shelter their young from rain and wind, as well as to protect them from predators. The image that is being painted here is of God who, like a mother bird, shelters His people and protects them. God’s “faithfulness” is also described in verse 3 as “a shield and buckler.” When the spears are hurled and arrows are flung in our direction, God is our shield and buckler.
For this reason, we need not “fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (v. 5) by day and by night, God is our shelter and shield. There is no moment in time when God is not with us, so even though ten thousand may fall beside us in the battlefield beside us, no arrow will come near us. If we really believe in the sovereignty of God, then we should know that we are just as safe in urban Roxbury and Dorchester as we are in wealthy, suburban Newton and Belmont. We are just as safe in war-torn Afghanistan as we are here in the United States.
- Renounce the things that you have turned to for shelter and comfort instead of turning to God. Thank God for His faithfulness, which is your shield.
- Pray that you might “hold fast to [God] in love” (v. 14), and grow in your faith in Him and your love for Him.
Day 2: Loving One Another
Most of this psalm uses second personal pronouns, because it is the psalmist exhorting other believers in the congregation to put their trust in God. When a Christian brother or sister is in difficult situations, do you point them first and foremost to God, or do you turn immediately to pragmatic solutions? Do you exhort other believers to live by faith or by sight?
- Pray for church members who are struggling with persistent, recurring sins, and consequent guilt and shame, so that they might put on the righteousness of Christ and experience victory and freedom.
- Pray that church members in difficult life situations would look to God as their refuge and fortress.
Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
Those who have not put their trust in Christ do not know God as their refuge and fortress. Jesus once lamented over Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37; cf. Luke 13:34). Verse 4 of this psalm said that “[God] will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.” Think about God’s longing to gather his children under his sheltering fold. Do you share his heart for the lost? Do you share the saving news of Jesus Christ with them?
Verse 13 promises us that in all of our ways God will protect us, so that “[we] will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent [we] will trample underfoot.” Just like the metaphor of the journey of life used in verses 11-12, these are metaphorical. Lions and venomous snakes were well-known and widely-feared in the Ancient Near East, and they represent dangers that lurk in hidden places that one might encounter on a journey. Unsurprisingly, lion (1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Tim. 4:17) and snake (Gen. 3; Rev. 12, 20) are sometimes used to represent Satan and his work. But we will be protected from these as God goes with us. So Jesus, when he sends out His disciples on a mission to share His saving message, promises them in Luke 10:19, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Do you know that God has given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and that you have nothing to fear as you partake in His mission to seek and save the lost?
- Pray that God would increase your love for unbelievers, so that you share His longing to gather His lost children to Himself.
- Pray for the salvation of specific family members, friends, and neighbors who are not yet under God’s sheltering fold.
- Pray that God would empower and embolden you to be His witness.