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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 91

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verse 1


The New Testament quotation of Psalms 91:11-2 Kings : shows that this psalm is about the Lord Jesus (Matthew 4:5-Joshua :). The previous psalm, Psalm 90, describes the perishableness of the first man in contrast to the eternal God. This is depicted by the dying of the people of Israel in the wilderness. Psalm 91 describes the complete surrender to God of the Lord Jesus, the second Man. He is the true Joshua, Who brings the remnant into the promised land.

After the weak, mortal man of Psalm 90 on whom the anger of God rests, in this psalm we see the perfect Man at whom God looks with great joy. Christ is the perfectly dependent second Man in contrast to the perishable man. In this He is an example for the remnant who will be spared during the great tribulation and during the judgment and wrath of God.

In Psalms 91:1-1 Chronicles :, the psalmist and the remnant are speaking alternately. This is evident from the alternation of the person forms first, second and third person:
Psalms 91:1 The psalmist.
Psalms 91:2 The Messiah as Example for the remnant.
Psalms 91:3-Ruth : The psalmist speaks to the Messiah.
Psalms 91:9 The Messiah as Example for the remnant.
Psalms 91:9-1 Chronicles : The psalmist.
Psalms 91:14-Nehemiah : The LORD about the Messiah.

Dwelling Place and Shadow

The psalm begins with a beautiful statement by the psalmist that sounds like a confession of faith. It is a truth that we see in the life of Christ and that also applies to the believing remnant who have Christ as their Example and follow Him. This confession of faith also indicates the theme of this psalm. The remnant is safe and sealed, as it were, in the midst of the dangers of the great tribulation and the judgments of God.

God is represented here as “the Most High” and “the Almighty”. The name “Most High” is the name of God in the realm of peace. We have a picture of this in Melchizedek’s encounter with Abraham (Genesis 14:18-Song of Solomon :). What will then be seen by all is already true for the believer who is going through a time of severe trial. Therefore, he “dwells in the shelter of the Most High”.

God is also ‘the Almighty’, which means the guarantee that He will fulfill all His promises. With that name He made known Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom He made His promises (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 28:3Genesis 35:11; Exodus 6:2). Not much seems to come of the fulfillment of the promises. However, those who abide “in the shadow of the Almighty” do not doubt for a moment that fulfillment will come.

The great assurance of this first verse applies to every believer without exception. Every believer who does this will experience it. It applies in perfection to the Lord Jesus as Man on earth. He dwelt “in the shelter of the Most High”. ‘Dwell’ denotes rest, feeling at home. He spent His time in this hostile world “in the shadow of the Almighty”.

The believing remnant will have this experience in the great tribulation. We New Testament believers, in whom the Spirit of Jesus dwells, may know God as Father. As Father, He is to us the Most High and Almighty. We may take refuge with the Father from danger and spend day and night in His shadow in the darkness in which the world is enveloped.

A “shelter” provides protection from a variety of dangers. Here the emphasis is on the hostile environment. The “shadow” brings close to the Person of Whom the shadow is. ‘Shadow’ is a Hebrew expression for ‘protection’ (cf. Lamentations 4:20). ‘The shadow’ we also see in the wing of a bird under which it hides and keeps warm its young (Psalms 91:3-Numbers :; cf. Psalms 17:8; Psalms 36:7Psalms 57:1; Psalms 63:7). Here the thought of the Protector and His care for His own is more prominent. Those who abide in the shelter of the Most High may say to God, “My God” (Psalms 91:2).

The great encouragement of this verse is an introduction to the entire psalm. The psalm will illustrate this encouragement in more detail. It describes the circumstances that lead the believer to seek shelter with the Most High and experience the shadow of the Almighty.

Verses 2-8

Protection in Danger

In Psalms 91:2 we hear a Person, namely Christ Himself, Who personally answers what the psalmist says in Psalms 91:1. Following Him, each individual believer of the remnant of Israel will so answer. The writers and the reader of this commentary will also have to be able to give each one personally this answer.

It begins with the utterance of an open confession, a statement spoken aloud. It is the expression of what is in the heart. The believer says “to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!”” Those who can say this with all their heart will, as it were automatically, gain the experience of Psalms 91:1.

It is personal, first person singular, “my” and “I”. This is perfectly true with Christ. He is an example in this both for the faithful remnant of Israel in the future and for us. The teaching of faith trust is never collective, but is personal. We see it, for example, in the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins: you cannot give oil to another (Matthew 25:1-1 Kings :). Likewise, in terms of faith, you cannot rely on the faith of another.

Three times he uses the word “my”. This speaks of a personal relationship with “the LORD”, Yahweh, the God of the covenant with His people. He is, he says, “my refuge and my fortress”. A “refuge” is a temporary shelter from immediate danger for the time of danger (cf. 1 Samuel 22:3-Numbers :). A “fortress” is a place of refuge because of constant danger. The Hebrew word matsuda refers to a safe place among rocks. This is not a particular structure that you can defend. It is a natural mountain fortress (cf. Psalms 71:3). The two shelters reinforce each other. They represent the impenetrable protection and invincible strength against the attack of any enemy.

This is “my God, in Whom I trust”. What peace and safe security speaks from this confession. We may well speak of an open proclamation of God’s protective power in the face of all possible enemies and trials. There is no stronger protection, rest and safety imaginable than to be aware of a personal relationship with God in complete trust in Him. What could still confuse or despair someone living in this relationship?

Also Psalms 91:2, like Psalms 91:1, is perfectly true of the Lord Jesus during His entire life on earth. He came to earth to be accepted as Messiah by His people. But He was hated and rejected. His response to that is what this verse says. He says as a Man to the LORD, Yahweh, that He is His refuge and His fortress. He says to God “My God”, He lives in close fellowship with His God. He knows God as the One in Whom He can completely trust in all that he does.

We hear the Lord Jesus as Messiah of His earthly people speaking to the LORD as His God. We hear the faithful remnant speaking to the LORD in imitation of Him. We who are the New Testament people of God, the church, speak to the Father. We also do so in imitation of the Lord Jesus, for He is also the Son of the Father. He has brought us into that relationship through His work on the cross (John 20:17). Who God is as the LORD to His earthly people, God is as Father to His heavenly people.

Beginning in Psalms 91:3, we hear the answer to the trust the Messiah expressed in His God. The answer is an enumeration of protection from all kinds of evil. The LORD Himself – “He”, emphatically – will “deliver” Him “from the snare of the trapper” (Psalms 91:3). This response also applies to the believer who has made this statement. In particular, this section is meant to encourage the remnant of Israel who will have to go through a very difficult period and severe persecution during the last week spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 9:27).

That this is specifically about the Messiah is evident from what is said in Psalms 91:11-2 Kings :. How often, under the devil's instigation, men have tried to catch Him like a bird in a snare (Matthew 22:15; Mark 12:13; Luke 20:26). It all failed because He trusted in His God.

That He was finally captured and even killed has nothing to do with a failure of protection, but with the plan of God. That plan continues, precisely through the capture and killing of the Messiah. God’s purposes for His own can never be undone by any snare. It is a trap, a net using a lure (cf. Amos 3:5). It is treacherous, but the LORD gives deliverance even from this dangerous trap (Psalms 124:7-Ruth :).

In the same way, He will save the believer from people who are out to eliminate him (cf. Psalms 38:12). God ensures that the testimony concerning Him continues by protecting His own. Even if they are taken captive, they are not prey to the enemy. He can bind their hands, but not the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:9). God delivers from the snare of evil intentions. People can harm and even kill the body, but not destroy God’s plan. Against their will, they help to fulfill that.

God also saved Him “from the deadly pestilence”. The pestilence – a highly contagious, life-threatening disease; compare in our day Covid-19 – is given by God as a judgment to people who rebel against Him. This invisible judgment is at the same time a call from God to return to Him.

But God preserved the Messiah from the deadly pestilence because He trusted in Him. Likewise, God is always near the believer when the “deadly pestilence” threatens him. Again, although a person may be felled by a severe disease, this in no way thwarts God’s purposes.

The Lord Jesus healed the sick and in the process took that sickness upon Himself. He was not sick, but He did identify Himself with the sick (Matthew 25:36; Matthew 25:40). In doing so, He carried out God’s plan, for in doing so He fulfilled one of the prophecies about Him (Matthew 8:16-Esther :). The source of it, sin, He removed on the cross by being made sin. The consequences of sin, including sickness, He sometimes takes away or He helps us bear.

God’s protection of His chosen Messiah and also of His chosen people is compared to a bird that shelters her young under her wings from imminent danger (Psalms 91:4). To that shelter Messiah and His own take refuge. They take refuge under His protective wings (cf. Ruth 2:12; Matthew 23:37). His protection consists of “His faithfulness”. He is faithful to His covenant. For the believing remnant, and for us, His faithfulness is based on the blood of the new covenant. God is faithful on the basis of the work of Christ (cf. 1 John 1:9).

Every attack by the enemy is designed to lead the believer to question God’s faithfulness, or trustworthiness, or truth. That has always been the enemy’s tactic since Paradise. He succeeded in doing so with Eve, and that is how sin came into the world.

However, whoever has taken refuge under God’s wings will not doubt His faithfulness for a moment. God’s soft wings under which he dwells secure, safe and warm, have against the attacks of the enemy the power of “a shield and bulwark”. They are impervious to his infiltrations, whether cunning or violent. The shield is not a small shield, but a large shield behind which your body is safe. The bulwark is more of a surrounding shelter, a safe and secure area where you are communally safe.

Psalms 91:5-Joshua : deal with various parts of the day. It talks about the night, the day, darkness and noon. It covers a twenty-four hour period and means always. We don’t have to be afraid of the unknown for a moment of the day or the night, of what awaits us, what may happen to us in terms of suffering and sorrow. In the night you have to deal with invisible dangers, during the day with visible dangers (Psalms 91:5). Pestilence is invisible, while destruction is visible through its ravages (Psalms 91:6).

The night makes everything unrecognizable and has something frightening. Those who have to go out in the night are afraid of the dangers hidden in the dark. Those who are under God’s wings receive the assurance that they will not fear what is hidden in the future. Those who trust in God walk in the light, while in the world it is night.

It is not only the night that harbors suddenly emerging suffering. In application, we can think of slander spread about us behind our backs. Visible things can also happen during the day that damage us. For example, there is “the arrow that flies by day”. Here we can think of a sudden confrontation with someone who accuses us of something to which we have no part. Those who take refuge in God do not need to be afraid of this. God is there, therefore they do not get excited or upset. They surrender it to God with confidence. He hears it and will deal with it justly in His time (1 Peter 2:23).

Then again “the pestilence” is mentioned (Psalms 91:6; Psalms 91:3), now as a disease “that goes around in the dark”. There is a threat here. It is present, but it is unknown when it will strike. There is also the threat of “destruction that lays waste at noon”. This is an overt, visible threat. These two threats will not frighten them because they trust in God.

What can also cause fear is mass deaths of people immediately around them (Psalms 91:7). As the next verse says, these are wicked people. This is about the disciplining hand of God over Israel when the antichrist is in power. When the wicked are punished by God with all kinds of plagues, there is the assurance that this calamity will not come to the sealed God-fearing ones. They remain unharmed (cf. Revelation 7:3). This makes the wonder of God’s protection great.

Only their eyes will partake of it, for they will behold it (Psalms 91:8; cf. Isaiah 66:24). In the plagues that kill the wicked, they see God’s recompense to them (cf. Psalms 37:34). God retaliates to the wicked for what they deserve because of their wicked behavior. It may seem so now, that the wicked can go about their business undisturbed and always get away with it. Those who trust in God know that the moment of recompense will come when God will judge righteously (cf. Revelation 6:10-1 Kings :).

Verses 9-13

Protection of the Messiah

This section is particularly about the Messiah. First we hear the Messiah speak to the LORD (Psalms 91:9). Then the psalmist speaks to the Messiah (Psalms 91:9-1 Chronicles :). This is evident from the fact, as mentioned in the introduction, that the devil quoted and applied these verses to Christ during the temptation in the wilderness. This section does deal specifically with the Messiah, but it also applies to the faithful remnant of Israel and we can apply it to ourselves as well.

With the word “for” with which Psalms 91:9 begins, this verse connects to the previous section and transitions to the next section. Because the LORD is His refuge (Psalms 91:2), He is protected from all the dangers mentioned in the previous section. This new section also begins with the LORD being His refuge. It is a repetition of Psalms 91:2, and like that verse, it is an introduction to the section that follows. Because the LORD is His refuge, He is also protected from the dangers mentioned in this section. Always the LORD is with Him for protection and safety. This is the secret to a life without fear and anxiety for every believer.

As mentioned above, in Psalms 91:9 the speaker changes. The Messiah is no longer speaking, but the psalmist who, through the Spirit of Christ, passes on to the Messiah promises of God. It is a repetition and summary of previous promises of Psalms 91:3-Ruth :. With “the Most High” is not only a refuge for the Messiah (Psalms 91:1), but He has made “the Most High” Himself His “dwelling place”. There He finds not only protection, but a home. It speaks of complete and undisturbed rest. That is the Most High for Him.

Therefore, the assurance can be expressed that “no evil” will befall Him and not “any plague” will come near His tent (Psalms 91:10). His “tent” speaks of His temporary stay on earth. He “dwelt” on earth in a body (John 1:14), which literally means “tabernacled”, that is, dwelt in a tent.

He is untouchable during His life as a Man on earth from any evil and any plague because He has full rest in God. We see an example in the storm on the lake. He can sleep peacefully during the storm (Mark 4:36-Zechariah :). He is not in the storm but in the Most High as His dwelling place, where no storm can come, where there is complete rest.

Psalms 91:11-2 Kings : are quoted by the devil in one of his temptations of the Lord Jesus. That is when he takes the Lord to the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5-Joshua :; Luke 4:9-2 Kings :). As the Lord stands on the pinnacle of the temple, the devil tells Him to prove now that He is the Son of God by throwing Himself down from the pinnacle.

Psalms 91:11 begins with the word “for”, then is told how the Messiah will be kept from evil and plague. For God will give His angels charge to guard Him in all His ways. Those ways are the ways that God wants Him to go. On those ways God assures Him of His protection through His angels. God gives them charge to bear Him up in their hands, so that He will not strike His foot against a stone (Psalms 91:12).

The word “strike” means “to be crushed” (cf. Psalms 89:23). It is not just stubbing your toe against something and getting a bruise, but stumbling on a dangerous mountainside with the result that you are crushed by the fall. Therefore, we see the devil’s application of that verse to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. The pinnacle of the temple is the highest eave of the colonnade that lies over a deep abyss. From there the Lord should throw Himself down to thereby demonstrate to the Jews that He is the promised Messiah. After all, “Jews ask for signs” (1 Corinthians 1:22).

If He is truly God’s Son, the devil challenges Him, according to these verses from Psalm 91, God will give His angels charge to guard Him. Is He not the object of the angels’ worship? The Lord does not deny that these verses are about Him. He also knows that He can ask His Father for angels, as He says on another occasion (Matthew 26:53).

But the Lord sees through the true meaning of this temptation. It is in reality a temptation to self-exaltation in the things that God has given. However, there is no seeking of Himself with the Lord Jesus. He knows the Word too, and perfectly, for He has given it. He dwells, as this same psalm says, in the shelter of the Most High (Psalms 91:1). That is the place He occupies and therefore there is no thought in Him to tempt God. He trusts God completely. There is no need for Him to test God as to whether what He has said is true.

Added to this, as always, the devil is selective in his quoting of the Bible. The devil knows the Bible. He quotes from Psalm 91. However, we can be sure that when quoting from the Bible he always distorts verses or quotes only partially. Here he deliberately leaves out the words “in all thy ways”. The devil does not speak of the ways of the Lord, for He goes His way in obedience to God.

The nature of this temptation is to make the Lord doubt the faithfulness of God. It is a test of whether God will do what He has said in His Word. In the answer the Lord gives – which, as with the other temptations, comes from Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16) – His complete trust in God is evident. The Lord resists the temptation with the Scripture that warns against tempting the LORD, His God. It is an insult to God if we do not trust Him in His Word, no matter how perhaps the circumstances may seem to indicate that God could not be trusted.

The devil does not quote Psalms 91:13 of this psalm. This is because that verse is about him and his utter and humiliating elimination by the Messiah. The devil or Satan is “the lion and cobra” and “the young lion and the serpent”. He is the roaring lion who wants to impress and devour by force and he is the cunning serpent who wants to cunningly deceive and kill (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 12:9).

The lion and the cobra are life-threatening animals that strike from their hiding places. Unexpectedly, they attack you. One will tear you apart and the other will poison you. One does it with violence and the other with depravity. These are the two characteristics of this world of old: “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).

The Messiah not only survives, He overcomes. This also applies to all who follow Him in His example to resist the devil. Those who follow His example not only escape the raw violence and deadly poison of the adversary, but subdue him. We see the end result when the Lord Jesus casts the devil without trial first into the abyss and then into hell (Revelation 20:1-Leviticus :; Revelation 20:10). The followers of the Lord Jesus are involved in the execution of this judgment. God will “soon crush Satan under” their “feet” (Romans 16:20).

Verses 14-16

What God Will Do

In this section, God speaks to the Messiah. He guarantees that He will reward the Messiah’s trust in a mighty way. He makes eight promises to Him for this purpose. This section also applies to all who are joined to Christ by faith.

“Has loved” and “known My Name” (Psalms 91:14) form the basis of the eight promises of God. “Has loved” is one word, chasaq, and means devoted.

1. God will “deliver him” because the Messiah loves Him (Psalms 91:14). The expression “has loved” implies the power of the love that Messiah has for His God and that He trusts in Him alone. In that expression, therefore, the thought of “adhering to, clinging to Him” is present. It indicates the great confidence that the Messiah has in His God, Whom He loves. Therefore God will deliver Him from every danger that threatens Him and fulfill His promises to Him.

2. God will “set him [securely] on high” and gives as the reason “because he has known My name” (Psalms 91:14). After deliverance, He sets Him securely on high, making Him invulnerable to attack. This is primarily about the name Yahweh, the covenant name of God. That means an intimate relationship based on Who He is and what He has promised and done as expressed in the covenant. That the Messiah knows His Name means that He knows Who God is in the fullness of His attributes. It points to an intimate knowledge through fellowship with Him (Matthew 11:27).

3. God will “answer him”, for He “will call upon Me” (Psalms 91:15; Psalms 50:15). Because of that intimate fellowship, of knowing His Name, the Messiah will call upon Him. He will call to no one else, for the One to Whom He calls will answer Him. We can apply this to the calling of Messiah at Gethsemane. And He was heard because of His piety (Hebrews 5:7).

4. God will “be with him in trouble” (Psalms 91:15). This is a precious promise for the Messiah, and for all who are in trouble, but have their refuge in God. God does not leave Him, but is with Him, stands beside Him. He is not alone. That God is with Him ensures that trouble does not become suffocation. We can also apply this to Gethsemane.

5. God will “rescue him” (Psalms 91:15). God is not only with Him, but helps Him out of the trouble. Not only is His presence in the trouble a pledge, but God also pledges His help to rescue Him. We can apply this to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

6. God will “honor him” (Psalms 91:15). This is what God has done after Christ has risen. He has taken Him up in glory and crowned Him with glory and honor (John 13:31-Jonah :; Hebrews 2:9).

7. God will “satisfy him with a long life” (Psalms 91:16). The Lord Jesus has risen into an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:16). He has conquered death and will never see it again. On the contrary, God gives Him as a reward “a long life”, that is, a life to which there is no end.

8. God says He will “let him see My salvation” (Psalms 91:16). This refers to the end result of God’s ways with the Messiah on earth in the realm of peace. Then God’s salvation on earth will be a fact. This salvation will be seen by the Messiah and distributed to all who partake of it through faith in Him.

This is how Psalm 91 ends in response to the problem in Psalm 90. In Psalm 90 we see the volatility of life and the trouble and suffering under the anger of God during the wilderness journey and the great tribulation. In Psalm 91, the volatility of life changes to being satisfied with a long life, and the trouble and suffering change to seeing the salvation of the LORD.

We can also see in these eight promises the course of the life of the Lord Jesus, from His coming on earth to His glorification in heaven and His reign in the realm of peace. At the same time, this is the path that every believer goes through because of his connection with Him. He first went that way so that every believer can go that way too. The secret of the blessing of that way we see in Him: complete trust in God (cf. Isaiah 7:9) with Whom He lived as Man on earth in an intimate relationship.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 91". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-91.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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