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1. The security God provides 91:1-2
God Himself is the One who is the believer’s security. The unknown psalmist described Him as the Most High (Sovereign Ruler) and the Almighty (One having all power). Those who rely on Him find that He is a shelter from the storms of life and a shadowy place of security, much like the area under a bird’s wing. He is a refuge where we can run for safety in times of danger and a fortress that will provide defense against attacking foes.
This wisdom psalm focuses on security in life, an idea present in Psalms 90. The writer knew that God provides security. It is a psalm for situations involving danger, exposure, or vulnerability.
"This remarkable psalm speaks with great specificity, and yet with a kind of porousness, so that the language is enormously open to each one’s particular experience. Its tone is somewhat instructional, as though reassuring someone else who is unsure. Yet the assurance is not didactic, but confessional. It is a personal testimony of someone whose own experience makes the assurance of faith convincing and authentic." [Note: Brueggemann, p. 156.]
God saves us from those who insidiously try to trap us and from deadly diseases. He does this as a mother bird does when she covers her young with her wings, namely, tenderly and carefully. He provides as sure a defense as a shield or large rampart can.
Consequently, the believer can be at peace and not fear attacks at any time (Psalms 91:5-6). Those who fall by our side (Psalms 91:7) are those who do not trust in the Lord. The believer is invincible until his or her time is up. We will see the wicked fall around us, but God will sustain us. Nothing can touch us except what He permits, nor can any rebel escape His retribution (Psalms 91:8).
2. The deliverance God provides 91:3-13
Those who trust in the Lord can rely on His protection. He will commission angels to watch over and protect His own. This is one of the passages in Scripture that reveals the existence and activity of "guardian angels" (cf. Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14). The writer was using hyperbole when he wrote that the believer will not even stub his or her toe (Psalms 91:12). Psalms 91:13 also seems to be hyperbolic. It pictures overcoming dangerous animals. God has given some believers this kind of protection occasionally (e.g., Daniel 6; Acts 28:3-6), but the writer’s point was that God will protect His people from all kinds of dangers.
Satan quoted Psalms 91:11-12 when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). He urged Him to interpret this promise literally. However, Jesus declined to tempt God by deliberately putting Himself in a dangerous situation to see if God would miraculously deliver Him.
Jesus referred to Psalms 91:13 when He sent the disciples out on a preaching mission (Luke 10:19). Again, it seems clear that His intention was to assure the disciples that God would take care of them. He was not encouraging them to put their lives in danger deliberately.
3. The assurance God provides 91:14-16
The writer recorded God’s promise to deliver those who know and love Him. He will eventually answer the cries for help that His people voice (cf. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). He will not abandon them in their distresses (cf. Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28:20). The promises of rescue and honor normally find fulfillment in this life, but they always do the other side of the grave. God usually blesses people who follow His will by allowing them to live longer. This was a special blessing under the Mosaic Law (cf. Exodus 20:12). Furthermore, God promised the godly the satisfaction of seeing His deliverance.
"It’s one thing for doctors to add years to our life, but God adds life to our years and makes that life worthwhile." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p. 259.]
How can we explain the fact that God has apparently not honored these promises consistently? Some godly people have died young, for example. Others have perished at the hands of their enemies, as was and is true of some Christian martyrs. Does this indicate that God is unfaithful and His promises are unreliable? If we view life as extending beyond the grave, which it does, we should have no trouble with these promises. God will grant ultimate deliverance to His own, even if He allows them to suffer and die at the hands of enemies in this life. Even believers who die young have eternal life.
"In life the Lord may permit many terrible things to happen to his children (cf. Job), as he did to his own Son, our Lord. But his children know that no power is out of God’s control." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 601.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 91". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany