Psalms of Comfort, Part 2 - Psalm 91
March 26, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Throughout the centuries, followers of God and Christ have looked to the Psalms for comfort and guidance in the midst of trials. Some Psalms have come to be dearly loved and memorized. These Psalms direct our attention to the rock-solid character of God and his promises. Each week we’ll reflect on one of these Psalms, training our hearts to trust in the Lord more and more.
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.”
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.”
When Elisabeth Elliot wrote about her husband’s life and martyrdom, she selected Psalm 91:1 as the title: Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. It’s a beautiful witness to the power of this psalm to sustain and comfort the people of God suffering under great trial. It also serves as a testimony to the providential care of God even in martyrdom. Jim Elliot abided in the shadow of the Almighty and continues to for eternity.
Psalm 91 assures the believer of God’s protection no matter what threat is faced. Even if the believer suffers harm or trouble (v. 15), “nothing can touch God’s servant but by God’s leave” (Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 365).
The Psalm contains three sections, separated by the different uses of personal pronouns. Verses 1-2 are a personal proclamation of faith and trust from the psalmist. In verses 3-13 the pronouns switch to the singular “you,” with an explanation of God’s gracious care of his people. Then the psalm concludes, in verses 14-16, with God’s voice speaking directly to his people, affirming his promises.
Like other psalms of comfort and confidence, the psalmist makes some bold claims in Psalm 91. “He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from deadly pestilence…no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” James Montgomery Boice, a pastor who died of liver cancer at age 61, explains, “This does not mean that those who trust God never die from infectious diseases or suffer from an enemy’s plot, of course. It means that those who trust God are habitually delivered from such dangers.” There also is the confidence of ultimate, eternal protection from the evil and condemnation of sin.
The confidence undergirding the psalm is rooted in the promises of God to preserve and protect that which is most valuable and precious for his people: communion with him for eternity. The psalm is an invitation to trust God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in and you will know his sheltering protection. Boice says, “The psalm is written to urge you to trust and cling to God in all circumstances.”
In the last three verses, as God directly speaks to us, we get a glimpse of what this trust looks like. Three characteristics are highlighted: hold fast to God in love, know his name, and call to God. We trust God when we delight in him as our greatest treasure; that’s what it means to hold fast to God in love. We trust God when we cling to his trustworthy character; that’s what it means to know his name, which represents his faithfulness. We trust God when we appeal to him in our troubles, looking for his help; that’s what it means to call to him.
The promises of Psalm 91 are rich and comforting, but they are offered to the one who leans into the shelter of God. Charles Spurgeon exhorts, ““The blessings here promised are not for all believers, but for those who live in close fellowship with God.”
Do you dwell in the shelter of the Most High?