Psalm 91

Psalm 91
The Preservation of He Who Abides in the Presence of God
Psalm 91. This Psalm was probably written by Moses when passing through the wilderness, along with the previous Psalm. In Psalm 90 we have the consuming of Israel in the wilderness, but Psalm 91 gives us the preservation of a remnant all along the journey through to Canaan; e.g. Joshua and Caleb. It is sometimes called “the traveler’s psalm” because it deals with preservation from dangers on every side of a pathway. Prophetically, this Psalm speaks of the preservation of the faithful remnant through the great tribulation, bringing them into the Millennium. It is also a Messianic Psalm in that it refers to the preservation of the Messiah. In Psalm 90 we have the mortal man, and in Psalm 91 the dependent man.1 It has a practical applications to us as well, in that communion with God leads to spiritual preservation.
Names of God. J.N. Darby remarked about Psalm 91: “In connection with the earth and His people at different times, God has revealed Himself by different names, which are characteristic of different relationships. It is, of course, always the same God, although known in a different relation. In Psalm 91 we get all these names of God (except Father, which was not then revealed) grouped together in their proper connection.”2
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I say of Jehovah, My refuge and my fortress; my God, I will confide in him.
vv.1-2 The Secret of Preservation. The opening verses of the Psalm give us the secret of preservation; dwelling in presence of God. The Lord’s presence is sufficient to preserve us from every evil and danger. No doubt prophetically there will be a physical protection, but we can apply it to a moral or spiritual protection. We have four names of God in vv.1-2; El-Elyon (“the Most High”), El-Shaddai (“the Almighty”), Jehovah, and Elohim. All of these are different connections of God to His earthly people. Most High is His absolute supremacy in comparison with false gods which will be fully displayed in the Millennium, Almighty is His power of protection over His saints which was first revealed to Abraham, Jehovah is His covenant relationship with Israel, and Elohim is His creatorial power. The expressions here are those of Divine protection; e.g. “the shadow of the Almighty”. This is the voice of Christ, who confided in Jehovah. 
3 Surely “he” shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the destructive pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou find refuge: his truth is a shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, for the arrow that flieth by day,
6 For the pestilence that walketh in darkness, for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, and see the reward of the wicked.
vv.3-8 Preservation from Numerous Evils. Various evils are mentioned. The “snare of the fowler” would refer to specific, targeted attacks such as the attacks of Satan, or Antichrist against the remnant. The “destructive pestilence” would be a broader attack, such as the general temptations that surround us. But in abiding in the presence of God, the man of God is sheltered and comforted by God, as the feathers (soft) and wings (strong) of a bird, or like the shield and buckler of a reliable armor. Thus protected, the man of God can continue without fear of “the terror by night” (a secret assault), and “the arrow that flieth by day” (an open assault). A comparison is made in v.7 of the one who abides in the shadow of the Almighty and those who do not; “a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee”. It is like a battlefield, where soldiers are falling all around, but one remains upright… seemingly invincible! This was our Lord; a man who never faltered nor failed. And we can be preserved too, in the measure that we abide in communion with God. In addition to being preserved, the faithful will live to see the destruction of the wicked (v.8).
9 Because “thou” hast made Jehovah, my refuge, the Most High, thy dwelling-place,
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent.
11 “For he shall give his angels charge concerning thee,” to keep thee in all thy ways:
12 “They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” [quoted Matt. 4:6]
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under foot.
vv.9-13 Trust in God, and its Results. In these verses we have the protection of God over the faithful because of trust in God; “Because thou hast made Jehovah, my refuge, the Most High, thy dwelling-place”. These verses are words addressed from Jehovah to His Son. In vv.11-12 we have the familiar words that Satan quoted to our Lord in the wilderness (Matt. 4:6). But he handled the Word of God deceitfully, and used them in a crafty way, omitting part of the quotation. The Devil would twist the promises made to the Messiah, to get the Messiah to seek His own glory, instead of waiting on God’s time, and trusting God to glorify Him in due time. Satan is never more dangerous than when he is using the scriptures, although he takes them out of context, and twists them into a wrong use. He left out seven words of that verse; “to keep thee in all thy ways.” The context of the quotation is that of a faithful man walking in God’s ways – of Messiah Himself – who can have the assurance of God’s help. How could Christ expect the preservation of God of His life (casting Himself down from the temple) if He was trying to glorify Himself? It was twisting the scripture. But in the light of His Father’s presence, Christ could indeed expect that loving protection, even in the most dangerous circumstances such as dealing with Satan himself; “the lion and the adder; the young lion and the dragon”.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him.
16 With length of days will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.
vv.14-16 Love for God and Its Results. The second person pronouns are exchanged for third person pronouns. The expressions in vv.9-13 were to Christ, and those of vv.14-16 are about Christ, although they also include the faithful remnant. Again we have the assurance of God’s deliverance, answer in the time of trouble, etc. for Christ, but now the reason is deeper; “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him, etc.” How wonderful to see that not only communion, but linked with it the heart’s affection for God will lead to the moral preservation of the soul! The “length of days” refers to Millennial life; to like for the thousand years (c.p. 70 or 80 years, Psa. 90).
  1. Smith, H. The Psalms.
  2. Darby, J.N. On the Government of God and His Counsels in Grace.