1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of Shaddai.
2 I will say of the LORD, "He is 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 feathers. Under his wings you will take refuge. His faithfulness is your shield and rampart.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day;
6 nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, and 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 LORD your refuge, and the Most High your dwelling place,
10 no evil shall overtake you; no plague shall come near your dwelling.
11 For he will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands, so that you won't dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and the viper. You will trample the young lion and the serpent underfoot.
14 "Because he has set his love on me, therefore I will deliver him. I will set him on high, because he has known my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him, and honor him.
16 I will satisfy him with long life, and show him my salvation."
(Psalm 91, NHEB)
exploring the meaning of this famous psalm
The majority of this psalm is devoted to declaring God as a defender and protector of his people. Several beautiful images are deployed to paint this picture:-
• In verse 2 we read God is a fortress and stronghold. In the psalms, God's safety and security is often described in this way, and can also be linked with singing and worship. For example, in psalm 59 we read:-
But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.
Psalm 59:16, (NIV)
• In verse 4, God is also likened to the protection that a mother bird offers her offspring. The idea of God being like wings of protection is a common image in the scriptures. For example, in psalm 63, such is the psalmists feelings of security he is able to "sing in the shadow of (his) wings" (psalm 63:7) We may also compare this analogy to Christ and his longing to care for Jerusalem, "as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings". However, in this instance this offer was scorned. (Luke 13:34)
• Later in verse 4 God is also described as a shield - between us and the enemy. This suggests that God is actively engaged in our defense, shielding us when we are attacked. Here we may also think of the writings of Apostle Paul, who mentions the "shield of faith" by which we extinguish the arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)
• In verse 5 we read "you shall not be afraid...". God's command not to be afraid is a common theme throughout the scriptures. For example, in the Book of Joshua, God says to Joshua:-
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go".
(Joshua 1:9, NIV)
And in the New Testament, Jesus underscores this teaching. "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27), for it is Christ that offers us a peace that passes all comprehension.
• In verse 14, the voice in the psalm switches from being that of the priest to God himself. Here, God is responding to the love of his servant. Note the two instances of "because" here:-
1. "because he has set his love on me..." God will rescue him and
2. "because he has known my name.." God will lift him up.
When we call on God (verse 15), when we are dependent on Him, God promises several things - He will deliver us from evil (compare with this with the Lord's Prayer), be with us in trouble (Christ promises to be with us always), and reveal salvation to us.