Psalm 91

The constant theme of Psalm 91 is summarized best in the very first verse: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” We can be confident entrusting our safety to God, knowing that he never fails to watch over his people.

VERSES 1-6

The first verse of Psalm 91 contains two similar, almost repetitious phrases, which sets the stage for an overwhelmingly unified presentation of the complete and unfailing care provided by God alone. In verse 2, the psalmist reaffirms the same truth, but also speaks from personal feeling and experience. The idea that God is our refuge is not merely some abstract theological principle; it’s a game-changer.

Three of the next four verses list a variety of dangers and troubles, highlighting the comprehensive nature of God’s protection. 1 The covering of his wings beautifully expresses his tender care for his children, 2 while the shield and buckler of truth show his uncompromising strength against the enemy. 3

  1. Romans 8:38-39 (ESV): For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

  1. Deuteronomy 32:10b-11 (ESV): [The Lord] encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions,

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

  1. Ephesians 6:13-14 (ESV): Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

VERSES 7-13

This next section makes it clear that the believer enjoys particular care. Although God shows his goodness to all people, 4 he distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked. The believer will still experience troubles in this world, but God stands between him and the violence of every assault, so as to preserve him from being overwhelmed. Although the present world is full of darkness, God does give his children eyes of faith to see that ultimately his judgments will prevail. 5

It can be tempting to use these verses as carte blanche for virtually any kind of reckless living. 6 After all, these are some pretty extravagant promises! But the key idea underpinning this extreme confidence is re-established in verse 9: dwelling in the refuge of God, not man. While heavenly protection always accompanies God’s divine calling, his ways often direct us into the path of earthly tribulation. 7 Christ did indeed crush the head of the serpent, 8 but he did it by suffering and dying. If we are to “trample serpents and lions,” we can only expect to follow in his footsteps. 9

  1. Matthew 5:45b (ESV): For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

  1. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV): For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

  1. Matthew 4:5-6 (ESV): Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

  1. John 16:33 (ESV): “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

  1. Genesis 3:15 (ESV): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

  1. John 15:20 (ESV): Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

    The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

VERSES 14-16

The voice in Psalm 91 changes frequently. The major theme of God’s protection is presented first in verse 1 abstractly with “he,” personally in verse two with “I,” engaging “you” in verse 9, and now finally speaks from the perspective of God himself. There can be no more convincing argument than that which comes from the very mouth of God. He assures us directly that even though troubles may come, he will be with us through it all, and in the end, show us his great salvation!

Emily Moore