Psalm 91 bible study tools

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Psalm 91:1

Psalms 91:1

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High,
&c.] Or the Supreme; a title of God, who is superior to all beings, the Creator and Preserver of them, God over all, higher than the highest of angels or men; see ( Genesis 14:22 ) , "his secret place" is his heart, his bosom, where his only begotten Son lies; and into which he takes his people, where they are set as a seal, and who enjoy intimate communion with him; which is no other than his gracious presence, called "the secret of his presence", ( Psalms 31:20 ) , which none but saints are admitted to, when his everlasting love, which was a secret in his heart, is made known unto them, and in which they also dwell, ( 1 John 4:16 ) , as they likewise do in the eternal decree of election; which perhaps is meant by "the clefts of the rock, and secret places of the stairs", where the church is said to dwell, ( Song of Solomon 2:14 ) , unless rather Christ the Rock, and who may be signified by the cleft of that Moses was put into, when the goodness of the Lord passed before him, is intended; and who is the hiding place from the wind: mention is made of "the secret" of God's "tabernacle", ( Psalms 27:5 ) , in which he hides his people; alluding to the tabernacle, or temple, and the most holy place in it, called his secret place, ( Ezekiel 7:22 ) , and may refer to the ministry of the word and ordinances, where saints dwell, and enjoy much communion with God; and who are particularly under his special providence, protection, and power; which may here be designed:

shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty:
who is able to do all things for his people, and is "Shaddai", all sufficient, as this word is thought to signify; has a sufficiency of happiness in and for himself, and of provisions for all his creatures, and of power and grace for his own children: his "shadow" may be the same with his secret place, his power and protection, often in this book of Psalms called "the shadow of his wings", ( Psalms 17:8 ) ( 36:7 ) ( 57:1 ) , in allusion to birds that overshadow and protect their young with their wings; though perhaps the allusion here may be to the shadow of a tree, and design the word and ordinances of the Lord's house, which are a delightful, refreshing, reviving, and fruitful shadow, ( Song of Solomon 2:3 ) ( Hosea 14:7 ) , where gracious souls dwell, and abide with great delight and pleasure. Christ, the Son of God, is sometimes compared to the shadow of a rock, or tree, which screens and shelters from heat; as he preserves his people from the heat of a fiery law, the flaming sword of justice, the wrath of God, the fiery darts of Satan, and the fury of persecutors: under this shadow do they abide or lodge all night, safe and secure, as the word F15 signifies: the Targum calls this shadow the shadow of the clouds of glory; the Arabic version, "the shadow of the God of heaven."


Psalm 91 • The Protection of the Lord

Read verses 5-10

Q: This is describing what it’s like to be inside God’s refuge, safely in His protection. What do all of these activities have in common?

A: They are all the results of sin, the judgments and consequences that come upon those who choose a worldly lifestyle. You might say they’re the ultimate results of someone taking refuge in the world rather than God.

Q: Is dwelling in God’s refuge a guarantee of protection against anything and everything bad?

A: No, there may be physical hardships, test and trials—all of which are designed to toughen us spiritually—but more importantly there is the protection that results from living a life that embraces God’s righteousness while rejecting sin. The consequences of sin will not befall those who cling to the protection of His ways.

Application: Biblical “protection” is living like we should, free of sin and sinful behavior.

  • Do you ever make note that the most important “peace” in life is being free of sin and sinful behavior?
  • Do we assess “protection” as to whether we’re getting what we want or living like we should?
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Psalm 91

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,

10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges 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 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

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Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 91

Psalm 91

Some of the ancients were of opinion that Moses was the penman, not only of the foregoing psalm, which is expressly said to be his, but also of the eight that next follow it; but that cannot be, for Ps. 95 is expressly said to be penned by David, and long after Moses, Heb. 4:7. It is probable that this psalm also was penned by David; it is a writ of protection for all true believers, not in the name of king David, or under his broad seal; he needed it himself, especially if the psalm was penned, as some conjecture it was, at the time of the pestilence which was sent for his numbering the people; but in the name of the King of kings, and under the broad seal of Heaven. Observe,

  • I. The psalmist's own resolution to take God for his keeper (v. 2), from which he gives both direction and encouragement to others (v. 9).
  • II. The promises which are here made, in God's name, to all those that do so in sincerity.
    • 1. They shall be taken under the peculiar care of Heaven (v. 1, 4).
    • 2. They shall be delivered from the malice of the powers of darkness (v. 3, 5, 6), and that by a distinguishing preservation (v. 7, 8).
    • 3. They shall be the charge of the holy angels (v. 10-12).
    • 4. They shall triumph over their enemies (v. 13).
    • 5. They shall be the special favourites of God himself (v. 14-16).

In singing this we must shelter ourselves under, and then solace ourselves in, the divine protection. Many think that to Christ, as Mediator, these promises do primarily belong (Isa. 49:2), not because to him the devil applied one of these promises (Mt. 4:6), but because to him they are very applicable, and, coming through him, they are more sweet and sure to all believers.

Psa 91:1-8

In these verses we have,

  • I. A great truth laid down in general, That all those who live a life of communion with God are constantly safe under his protection, and may therefore preserve a holy serenity and security of mind at all times (v. 1): He that dwells, that sits down, in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty; he that by faith chooses God for his guardian shall find all that in him which he needs or can desire. Note,
    • 1. It is the character of a true believer that he dwells in the secret place of the Most High; he is at home in God, returns to God, and reposes in him as his rest; he acquaints himself with inward religion, and makes heart-work of the service of God, worships within the veil, and loves to be alone with God, to converse with him in solitude.
    • 2. It is the privilege and comfort of those that do so that they abide under the shadow of the Almighty; he shelters them, and comes between them and every thing that would annoy them, whether storm or sunshine. They shall not only have an admittance, but a residence, under God's protection; he will be their rest and refuge for ever.
  • II. The psalmist's comfortable application of this to himself (v. 2): I will say of the Lord, whatever others say of him, "He is my refuge; I choose him as such, and confide in him. Others make idols their refuge, but I will say of Jehovah, the true and living God, He is my refuge: any other is a refuge of lies. He is a refuge that will not fail me; for he is my fortress and strong-hold." Idolaters called their idols Mahuzzim, their most strong-hold (Dan. 11:39), but therein they deceived themselves; those only secure themselves that make the Lord their God, their fortress. There being no reason to question his sufficiency, fitly does it follow, In him will I trust. If Jehovah be our God, our refuge, and our fortress, what can we desire which we may not be sure to find in him? He is neither fickle nor false, neither weak nor mortal; he is God and not man, and therefore there is no danger of being disappointed in him. We know whom we have trusted.
  • III. The great encouragement he gives to others to do likewise, not only from his own experience of the comfort of it (for in that there might possibly be a fallacy), but from the truth of God's promise, in which there neither is nor can be any deceit (v. 3, 4, etc.): Surely he shall deliver thee. Those who have themselves found the comfort of making God their refuge cannot but desire that others may do so. Now here it is promised,
    • 1. That believers shall be kept from those mischiefs which they are in imminent danger of, and which would be fatal to them (v. 3), from the snare of the fowler, which is laid unseen and catches the unwary prey on a sudden, and from the noisome pestilence, which seizes men unawares and against which there is no guard. This promise protects,
      • (1.) The natural life, and is often fulfilled in our preservation from those dangers which are very threatening and very near, while yet we ourselves are not apprehensive of them, any more than the bird is of the snare of the fowler. We owe it, more than we are sensible, to the care of the divine Providence that we have been kept from infectious diseases and out of the hands of the wicked and unreasonable.
      • (2.) The spiritual life, which is protected by divine grace from the temptations of Satan, which are as the snares of the fowler, and from the contagion of sin, which is the noisome pestilence. He that has given grace to be the glory of the soul will create a defence upon all that glory.
    • 2. That God himself will be their protector; those must needs be safe who have him for their keeper, and successful for whom he undertakes (v. 4): He shall cover thee, shall keep thee secret (Ps. 31:20), and so keep thee safe, Ps. 27:5. God protects believers,
      • (1.) With the greatest tenderness and affection, which is intimated in that, He shall cover thee with his feathers, under his wings, which alludes to the hen gathering her chickens under wings,Mt. 23:37. By natural instinct she not only protects them, but calls them under that protection when she sees them in danger, not only keeps them safe, but cherishes them and keeps them warm. To this the great God is pleased to compare his care of his people, who are helpless as the chickens, and easily made a prey of, but are invited to trust under the shadow of the wings of the divine promise and providence, which is the periphrasis of a proselyte to the true religion, that he has come to trust under the wings of the God of Israel,Ruth 2:12.
      • (2.) With the greatest power and efficacy. Wings and feathers, though spread with the greatest tenderness, are yet weak, and easily broken through, and therefore it is added, His truth shall be thy shield and buckler, a strong defence. God is willing to guard his people as the hen is to guard the chickens, and as able as a man of war in armour.
    • 3. That he will not only keep them from evil, but from the fear of evil, v. 5, 6. Here is,
      • (1.) Great danger supposed; the mention of it is enough to frighten us; night and day we lie exposed, and those that are apt to be timorous will in neither period think themselves safe. When we are retired into our chambers, our beds, and have made all as safe as we can about us, yet there is terror by night, from thieves and robbers, winds and storms, besides those things that are the creatures of fancy and imagination, which are often most frightful of all. We read of fear in the night,Cant. 3:8. There is also a pestilence that walketh in darkness, as that was which slew the first-born of the Egyptians, and the army of the Assyrians. No locks nor bars can shut out diseases, while we carry about with us in our bodies the seeds of them. But surely in the day-time, when we can look about us, we are not so much in danger; yes, there is an arrow that flieth by day too, and yet flies unseen; there is a destruction that wasteth at high-noon, when we are awake and have all our friends about us; even then we cannot secure ourselves, nor can they secure us. It was in the day-time that that pestilence wasted which was sent to chastise David for numbering the people, on occasion of which some think this psalm was penned. But,
      • (2.) Here is great security promised to believers in the midst of this danger: "Thou shalt not be afraid. God by his grace will keep thee from disquieting distrustful fear (that fear which hath torment) in the midst of the greatest dangers. Wisdom shall keep thee from being causelessly afraid, and faith shall keep thee from being inordinately afraid. Thou shalt not be afraid of the arrow, as knowing that though it may hit thee it cannot hurt thee; if it take away the natural life, yet it shall be so far from doing any prejudice to the spiritual life that it shall be its perfection." A believer needs not fear, and therefore should not fear, any arrow, because the point is off, the poison is out. O death! where is thy sting? It is also under divine direction, and will hit where God appoints and not otherwise. Every bullet has its commission. Whatever is done our heavenly Father's will is done; and we have no reason to be afraid of that.
    • 4. That they shall be preserved in common calamities, in a distinguishing way (v. 7): "When death rides in triumph, and diseases rage, so that thousands and ten thousands fall, fall by sickness, or fall by the sword in battle, fall at thy side, at thy right hand, and the sight of their fall is enough to frighten thee, and if they fall by the pestilence their falling so near thee may be likely to infect thee, yet it shall not come nigh thee, the death shall not, the fear of death shall not." Those that preserve their purity in times of general corruption may trust God with their safety in times of general desolation. When multitudes die round about us, though thereby we must be awakened to prepare for our own death, yet we must not be afraid with any amazement, nor make ourselves subject to bondage, as many do all their life-time, through fear of death,Heb. 2:15. The sprinkling of blood secured the first-born of Israel when thousands fell. Nay, it is promised to God's people that they shall have the satisfaction of seeing, not only God's promises fulfilled to them, but his threatenings fulfilled upon those that hate them (v. 8): Only with thy eyes shalt thou behold and see the just reward of the wicked, which perhaps refers to the destruction of the first-born of Egypt by the pestilence, which was both the punishment of the oppressors and the enlargement of the oppressed; this Israel saw when they saw themselves unhurt, untouched. As it will aggravate the damnation of sinners that with their eyes they shall behold and see the reward of the righteous (Lu. 13:28), so it will magnify the salvation of the saints that with their eyes they shall behold and see the destruction of the wicked, Isa. 66:24; Ps. 58:10.

Psa 91:9-16

Here are more promises to the same purport with those in the foregoing verses, and they are exceedingly great and precious, and sure to all the seed.

  • I. The psalmist assures believers of divine protection, from his own experience; and that which he says is the word of God, and what we may rely upon. Observe,
    • 1. The character of those who shall have the benefit and comfort of these promises; it is much the same with that, v. 1. They are such as make the Most High their habitation (v. 9), as are continually with God and rest in him, as make his name both their temple and their strong tower, as dwell in love and so dwell in God. It is our duty to be at home in God, to make our choice of him, and then to live our life in him as our habitation, to converse with him, and delight in him, and depend upon him; and then it shall be our privilege to be at home in God; we shall be welcome to him as a man to his own habitation, without any let, hindrance, or molestation, from the arrests of the law or the clamours of conscience; then too we shall be safe in him, shall be kept in perfect peace,Isa. 26:3. To encourage us to make the Lord our habitation, and to hope for safety and satisfaction in him, the psalmist intimates the comfort he had had in doing so: "He whom thou makest thy habitation is my refuge; and I have found him firm and faithful, and in him there is room enough, and shelter enough, both for thee and me." In my father's house there are many mansions, one needs not crowd another, much less crowd out another.
    • 2. The promises that are sure to all those who have thus made the Most High their habitation.
      • (1.) That, whatever happens to them, nothing shall hurt them (v. 10): "There shall no evil befal thee; though trouble or affliction befal thee, yet there shall be no real evil in it, for it shall come from the love of God and shall be sanctified; it shall come, not for thy hurt, but for thy good; and though, for the present, it be not joyous but grievous, yet, in the end, it shall yield so well that thou thyself shalt own no evil befel thee. It is not an evil, an only evil, but there is a mixture of good in it and a product of good by it. Nay, not thy person only, but thy dwelling, shall be taken under the divine protection: There shall no plague come nigh that, nothing to do thee or thine any damage." Nihil accidere bono viro mali potest-No evil can befal a good man. Seneca De Providentia.
      • (2.) That the angels of light shall be serviceable to them, v. 11, 12. This is a precious promise, and speaks a great deal both of honour and comfort to the saints, nor is it ever the worse for being quoted and abused by the devil in tempting Christ, Mt. 4:6. Observe,
        • [1.] The charge given to the angels concerning the saints. He who is the Lord of the angels, who gave them their being and gives laws to them, whose they are and whom they were made to serve, he shall give his angels a charge over thee, not only over the church in general, but over every particular believer. The angels keep the charge of the Lord their God; and this is the charge they receive from him. It denotes the great care God takes of the saints, in that the angels themselves shall be charged with them, and employed for them. The charge is to keep thee in all thy ways; here is a limitation of the promise: They shall keep thee in thy ways, that is, "as long as thou keepest in the way of thy duty;" those that go out of that way put themselves out of God's protection. This word the devil left out when he quoted the promise to enforce a temptation, knowing how much it made against him. But observe the extent of the promise; it is to keep thee in all thy ways: even where there is no apparent danger yet we need it, and where there is the most imminent danger we shall have it. Wherever the saints go the angels are charged with them, as the servants are with the children.
        • [2.] The care which the angels take of the saints, pursuant to this charge: They shall bear thee up in their hands, which denotes both their great ability and their great affection. They are able to bear up the saints out of the reach of danger, and they do it with all the tenderness and affection wherewith the nurse carries the little child about in her arms; it speaks us helpless and them helpful. They are condescending in their ministrations; they keep the feet of the saints, lest they dash them against a stone, lest they stumble and fall into sin and into trouble.
        • [3.] That the powers of darkness shall be triumphed over by them (v. 13): Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder. The devil is called a roaring lion, the old serpent, the red dragon; so that to this promise the apostle seems to refer in that (Rom. 16:20), The God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet. Christ has broken the serpent's head, spoiled our spiritual enemies (Col. 2:15), and through him we are more than conquerors; for Christ calls us, as Joshua called the captains of Israel, to come and set our feet on the necks of vanquished enemies. Some think that this promise had its full accomplishment in Christ, and the miraculous power which he had over the whole creation, healing the sick, casting out devils, and particularly putting it into his disciples' commission that they should take up serpents,Mk. 16:18. It may be applied to that care of the divine Providence by which we are preserved from ravenous noxious creatures (the wild beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee,Job 5:23); nay, and have ways and means of taming them, Jam. 3:7.
  • II. He brings in God himself speaking words of comfort to the saints, and declaring the mercy he had in store for them, v. 14-16. Some make this to be spoken to the angels as the reason of the charge given them concerning the saints, as if he had said, "Take care of them, for they are dear to me, and I have a tender concern for them." And now, as before, we must observe,
    • 1. To whom these promises do belong; they are described by three characters:-
      • (1.) They are such as know God's name. His nature we cannot fully know; but by his name he has made himself known, and with that we must acquaint ourselves.
      • (2.) They are such as have set their love upon him; and those who rightly know him will love him, will place their love upon him as the only adequate object of it, will let out their love towards him with pleasure and enlargement, and will fix their love upon him with a resolution never to remove it to any rival.
      • (3.) They are such as call upon him, as by prayer keep up a constant correspondence with him, and in every difficult case refer themselves to him.
    • 2. What the promises are which God makes to the saints.
      • (1.) That he will, in due time, deliver them out of trouble: I will deliver him (v. 14 and again v. 15), denoting a double deliverance, living and dying, a deliverance in trouble and a deliverance out of trouble. If God proportions the degree and continuance of our troubles to our strength, if he keeps us from offending him in our troubles, and makes our death our discharge, at length, from all our troubles, then this promise is fulfilled. See Ps. 34:19; 2 Tim. 3:11; 4:18.
      • (2.) That he will, in the mean time, be with them in trouble,v. 15. If he does not immediately put a period to their afflictions, yet they shall have his gracious presence with them in their troubles; he will take notice of their sorrows, and know their souls in adversity, will visit them graciously by his word and Spirit, and converse with them, will take their part, will support and comfort them, and sanctify their afflictions to them, which will be the surest token of his presence with them in their troubles.
      • (3.) That herein he will answer their prayers: He shall call upon me; I will pour upon him the spirit of prayer, and then I will answer, answer by promises (Ps. 85:8), answer by providences, bringing in seasonable relief, and answer by graces, strengthening them with strength in their souls (Ps. 138:3); thus he answered Paul with grace sufficient,2 Co. 12:9.
      • (4.) That he will exalt and dignify them: I will set him on high, out of the reach of trouble, above the stormy region, on a rock above the waves,Isa. 33:16. They shall be enabled, by the grace of God, to look down upon the things of this world with a holy contempt and indifference, to look up to the things of the other world with a holy ambition and concern; and then they are set on high. I will honour him; those are truly honourable whom God puts honour upon by taking them into covenant and communion with himself and designing them for his kingdom and glory, Jn. 12:26.
      • (5.) That they shall have a sufficiency of life in this world (v. 16): With length of days will I satisfy him; that is,
        • [1.] They shall live long enough: they shall be continued in this world till they have done the work they were sent into this world for and are ready for heaven, and that is long enough. Who would wish to live a day longer than God has some work to do, either by him or upon him?
        • [2.] They shall think it long enough; for God by his grace shall wean them from the world and make them willing to leave it. A man may die young, and yet die full of days, satur dierum-satisfied with living. A wicked worldly man is not satisfied, no, not with long life; he still cries, Give, give. But he that has his treasure and heart in another world has soon enough of this; he would not live always.
      • (6.) That they shall have an eternal life in the other world. This crowns the blessedness: I will show him my salvation, show him the Messiah (so some); good old Simeon was then satisfied with long life when he could say, My eyes have seen thy salvation, nor was there any greater joy to the Old-Testament saints than to see Christ's day, though at a distance. It is more probably that the word refers to the better country, that is, the heavenly, which the patriarchs desired and sought: he will show him that, bring him to that blessed state, the felicity of which consists so much in seeing that face to face which we here see through a glass darkly; and, in the mean time, he will give him a prospect of it. All these promises, some think, point primarily at Christ, and had their accomplishment in his resurrection and exaltation.

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Psalm 91


I. God is our refuge (1-2)
II. God will protect His people (3-13)
III. God’s people have a relationship with Him (14-16)

I. God is our refuge (1-2)

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean to dwell in the shelter of the Most High?
  • In what way is God your refuge?
  • What difficulties are you facing now that you can trust God to help you with?
  • What will you do differently in the face of these difficulties if you are trusting in God?


Psalm 119:114 – You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

Psalm 27:5 – For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

Psalm 9:10 – And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Teaching Points

1. Dwells in the shelter of the Most High – God is a shelter. He Himself is a protection from many evils in the world. We see throughout the Bible that God offers supernatural protection and help to His people. Daniel’s three friends were in the middle of the fire and not burned. David went up against Goliath and won. The Jews in Egypt were delivered from Pharaoh and his armies.

However, not every person receives God’s protection. He does not shelter everyone. Only the person who dwells with Him receives this protection. The word “dwell” denotes living. A person chooses where to live. When choosing a house, people look at the schools, transportation, taxes, price, etc. Finally they make a decision, and generally they will stay in that location. In a similar manner, people choose spiritually where to live. They can choose to live in God’s kingdom and obey His authority or they can choose to live in this world, in the realm of Satan. Dwelling in this world apart from God is easier in some respects. A person can do whatever he wants. He doesn’t need to give up anything. But the person who dwells in this world without God is on his own. When trouble comes, he has to face it alone, depending on his own strength and intelligence.

Believers choose to make God’s kingdom as their dwelling place. John describes this in a similar way.

A follower of Jesus chooses to abide with Him. We submit ourselves to His authority. We trust in His goodness and power. We give up things in the world and pursue the things of God. In return, He gives us His protection and care. We can live within the walls of His castle, which nothing can break.

Application: Where have you chosen to dwell? Are you abiding in Christ or enjoying the things of this world? Do you try to keep one foot in the world and the other foot in God’s kingdom? Is there something you need to give up in your life so that you can plant both feet firmly in God’s kingdom?

2. In whom I trust – Psalm 91 is a wonderful depiction of God’s love and care for His people. But in this chapter we are not devoid of responsibility. Our job is fairly simple, but not easy. Our role is to trust in Him completely, to cast all our worries and fears to Him.

The United State’s currency has the phrase “In God We Trust” printed on it. But one can quickly see that for most people it is not true. Merely saying the words as a tradition or habit is not enough. Trusting God is a lifestyle. It is making decisions that please God without fear of the consequences, knowing that He will take care of you.

Application: Is there an area of your life that is filled with stress or worry that you need to take to God and entrust to Him? If you truly trust God in this, how will it affect your actions and attitude?

II. God will protect His people (3-13)

Discussion Questions

  • What does this passage teach us about God?
  • What do you learn about what He will do for His people?
  • What kind of situation may the author have been facing when he wrote this Psalm?
  • In this passage most of the “work” is done by God. What specific things are His followers to do (or not do)?
  • How can we understand the statements about God’s protection in this passage?
  • Will a believer never suffer disease, death, or danger? Defend your answer.
  • What cases can you see in the Bible where a faithful follower of God did suffer from war, disease, or other dangers?
  • If faithful followers of God may still become infected or be injured or fall in war, then is this passage still comforting? How?
  • What condition is seen in verse 9 if a person wants God’s protection?
  • What then does this imply about one possible reason for suffering?
  • Who does God send on our behalf (11-12)?
  • Who quoted this passage in the New Testament (Satan)?
  • What wrong application did Satan encourage Jesus to make based on this passage?
  • What is a wrong application of the fact that God protects His children?
  • What is the correct application of this principle?


Exodus 23:25-26 – You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.

Exodus 15:26 – Saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

Proverbs 17:22- A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Jeremiah 14:12 – Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.

Deuteronomy 5:33 – You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.

Proverbs 10:27 – The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.

Deuteronomy 28 – In this chapter God promises to bless (in many physical ways) those who are obedient to Him and curse (in many physical ways) those who are disobedient.

Matthew 4:5-7 – Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Teaching Points

1. God’s character – In this passage we learn about God and about His character. Several of His attributes are clearly seen.

Firstly, we that He is sovereign. God’s power extends over and above all natural and man made disasters. Natural disasters seen in this chapter include pestilence. Disease and sickness is frightening today, even in the era of modern science. It is generally true that when you don’t understand something you will fear it even more. At that time in history, people did not understand about the science behind viruses. Germs and bacteria were unknown to them. Sickness would come and kill and then leave with no warning and no explanation. But God was sovereign over these mysterious forces of nature, divinely protecting His people.

Man made disasters are also mentioned including the “snare” (verse 3), the “arrow” (verse 5) and warfare in general (verse 7). God could and would protect against the violence of men as well.

Secondly, we see that God is faithful. Verse 4 says that his faithfulness is “a shield and buckler.” Trusting in people leads to disappointment. Sooner or later, even close allies and friends may let you down. But God is faithful. His promises are sure. His shield has no weaknesses or holes.

Thirdly, we see God’s justice. Verse 8 mentions the “recompense of the wicked.” God could, in His sovereignty, direct the forces of nature or war to punish the wicked and spare the righteous. In fact, He did so on many occasions. Pharaoh’s evil army was destroyed. Abraham’s motley band of three hundred eighteen household servants defeated five kings (Genesis 14). Haman was hanged on the same gallows he built for Mordecai.

Fourthly, we see that God is personal. He desires a personal and intimate relationship with us (14.) Those who love and trust Him will receive His help. Those who call to Him will be answered. Those who abide with Him will be protected. God is not a mysterious force. He is a personal being. And He wants a relationship with you.

2. God will deliver you – Read through the passage and take note of all the things it says God will do.

  • He will deliver you (3)
  • He will cover you (4)
  • It will not come near you (7)
  • Evil shall not be allowed to befall you (10)
  • He will command his angels to guard you (11)
  • I will deliver you (14)
  • I will protect him (14)
  • I will answer him (15)
  • I will be with him (15)
  • I will rescue him (15)
  • I will honor him (15)
  • I will satisfy him with long life (16)
  • I will show him my salvation (16)

Next time you are feeling down, take a look at this list! God cares for and protects His people.

However, this brings us to a question:

3. Does God always deliver? Does God guarantee long life?

We look at this list and all the promises in this passage and we cannot help but wonder, “Does God really do that?” We all know of faithful believers who have gotten sick, who feel pain, who have perhaps even died young. Did God forget about them? Did He break His promise?

There are a few things we must consider.

Firstly, this was written in the Old Testament. The way God worked with believers in the Old Testament is different than the way He works now. If you do not thing so, read Deuteronomy 28. Israel was a physical kingdom. God promised physical blessings as tangible manifestations of His good pleasure on those who obeyed Him and kept the covenant. He gave military victory (even against great odds), health, and even long life to those who He was pleased with. The physical blessings were visible evidences of a spiritual reality. These blessings were designed to show the world that God is pleased with those who worship and follow Him faithfully and displeased with those who do not.

However, when the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God began to work with His people on earth in a spiritual way through a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36). When that happened, blessings from God became primarily spiritual blessings. And physical problems such as poverty or sickness or persecution were not indications of God’s displeasure. Jesus Himself died at an early age of 33. That makes it clear that God does not universally promise old age to those who are pleasing to Him.

Secondly, some of God’s promises are general. The promise of old age to those who honor parents is a general promise, just as the promise of long life to the person who follows God is. God is not guaranteeing that every believer will live to a certain age. Even faithful believers in the Old Testament did not universally live to an old age. King Josiah was one of the best kings in the history of Judah, but died in warfare (2 Kings 23) at the age of 39.

Simply put Psalm 91:7 did not apply to Josiah (or to Jesus). Why? Because God does not and never dead promise long life to every single believer. It is instead a general truth for Old Testament believers that may be over ruled in specific instances to bring about a bigger plan.

Thirdly, one aspect of the promise seen in verse 10 is that “no evil shall be allowed to befall you.” This statement goes hand in hand with the New Testament promise in Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

God will cause even seemingly bad things which happen to us to accomplish good, in our lives or others’ lives. Paul’s imprisonment seemed evil certainly. But it gave him lots of time, which he redeemed by writing epistles. We are still reading these today.

What is something which seemed to be bad in your life, which God caused to work together for good?

Therefore the lesson of comfort in this passage is this: Life is not random. God does not allow forces of evil to randomly harm you. Nothing can happen to you, which God has not specifically permitted in your life. If God is for me, what can man to do to me? The answer is “nothing that God does not permit.”

There was once a medic named Desmond Moss who served in World War II. In the midst of a fierce battle he kept returning to Hacksaw Ridge to save other soldiers. Bullets flew all around. Every moment it seemed his life was in danger. But they didn’t hit him. He saved about seventy-five men, without ever carrying a weapon.

Many people who do not believe in God, believe in evolution. It is their belief that random chances created the universe and life. Since it comes from random chance, it then follows that other random forces can destroy life. Such people live in fear. They fear acts of nature such as asteroid strikes. And they also fear man-made catastrophe like nuclear war. If everything is random, then there is indeed much to fear.

But God is sovereign. He is all-good. He is all-powerful. Your life is in His hands. And that is a good place for it to be.

Application: How does knowing nothing will befall you that God does not allow, comfort you? How can this knowledge help you live without fear?

4. You have a responsibility while God does this – No doubt this passage is focused on God’s power and protection. Still, we have a responsibility. We are to dwell with Him (verse 1).We are to trust in Him (verse 2). We are to be bold and not fear (verse 5). We are to observe what God is doing (verse 8). We to hold fast to Him in love (verse 14). And we are to call on Him (verse 15).

Application: Think of a crises or difficult that you face. Which one of the above, do you need to do? How will you do it?

5. Satan twisted Scripture to encourage Jesus to be reckless – Verses 11 and 12 are quoted by Satan when he tempted Jesus in Matthew 4. In essence, he was telling Jesus that since God would care for Him anyway, He could live His life in a reckless manner and it wouldn’t matter. Also, he was trying to feed into whatever human feelings Jesus may have felt of loneliness. Satan encouraged Jesus to do something foolish and dangerous to “test” whether or not God would fulfill His promise.

It is interesting that Satan was encouraging application of Scripture! But applying Scripture is not always good. You have to apply it correctly!

I would argue that based on the passage, God does not deliver people who recklessly endanger their own lives and then seek His protection. Why? Verse 1 provides the premise for the entire idea that God protects His people. The premise is that His people must “dwell” with Him. He will protect those who are obedient and abiding in Him. But when a person goes outside of His will and engages in foolish and harmful behavior, God withdraws His protection.

This idea is consistent with the biblical principle “you reap what you sow.” A person who is obedient to God “reaps” protection. But a person who disobeys and acts in a foolish way “reaps” the natural consequences of that action.

A child may claim the promise that those who honor their parents will live a long life. But then if they don’t listen to their parent’s warnings about drugs and take them anyway, they may die. The promise is only applicable to those who fulfill the condition. In like manner, if Jesus jumped off the temple He would not be fulfilling the condition that this promise of angelic protection is based on.

Application: We should interpret Scripture correctly. Looking at the context is paramount. Do not take verses or promises out of context.

6. God’s protection does not mean that we should be reckless – Knowing that God will protect you, does not mean that you should be reckless. Paul was divinely protected from a poisonous snake bite (Acts 28). Some foolish sects take this example and promises of protection in the Bible, and then incorporate snake handling as part of Sunday worship. One such person was Gregory Coots. He practiced snake handling during a Pentecostal service. He began handling snakes at the age of twenty three. Over the years he was bitten a number of times. During one of these services, a twenty-eight year old in his “church” died from a snake bite. At the age of forty-four he was bitten again during a service. Paramedics came, but he refused help. Guess what happened to him? He died. There are many stories like this.

God’s promises are often conditional upon our obedience. Living in a wise manner is fundamental. And people who recklessly presume upon God’s mercy will face the due results of such foolishness.

III. God’s people have a relationship with Him (14-16)

Discussion Questions

  • Who does the “he” and the “I” and the “him” refer to in verse 14?
  • What does this verse show us about who God extends His protection to?
  • Based on verse 15, who does God move to help?
  • In ways is God “with” someone in trouble, even when that trouble is not taken away?
  • Is long life a guarantee for believers now?
  • Was long life a promise for Old Testament believers?


Exodus 20:12 – Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Proverbs 18:10 – The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Isaiah 52:6 – Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.

Teaching Points

1. God desires a relationship with His people – Verse 14 tells us that He will deliver those who hold fast to Him in love (not those who hold fast to snakes!) In essence, the closer you get to God the farther you get from danger.

God is a personal God. He desires a relationship with you.

Application: Are you holding fast too God in love? How can you “hold” onto Him even more? You cannot hold on to God if you are holding on to the world. You must first release your grip on the world before you can hold on to Him. Is there something in this world you need to let go of?

2. When he calls to me, I will answer him – We should have God on speed dial. The line between us and Him is open all the time. One of the great blessings God gives to His children is 24/7 access to His throne room.

Imagine what it would be like to have a relationship with the president like that. At any time, you can call to get direct help for whatever you are facing. We have an even higher power on our side. And yet we often seek help from other sources instead of from Him. What other sources do we call on?

Application: Cultivate a lifestyle of prayer. The more you call on God the easier it will be. I was reading a book titled “The King of the Cannibals” about a Scottish missionary named John Patton. There was a man he ministered to who said, “I not only don’t know how to pray. I can’t pray!” But God changed his heart. The most difficult prayer he prayed was the first one. Once he started talking, it got easier. Opening up and talking is a habit. That is true in relationships like marriage and also your relationship to God. Set aside a time this week to spend alone with God. Just talk to Him. Open the lines of communication and your relationship will grow sweeter and sweeter.

Psalms E-book – Our Study Psalms Bible study guide e-book contains full lessons on 9 select chapters and is downloadable for use on any device.

More Bible Studies

I Never Noticed This in Psalm 91

What Does “No Harm Shall Overcome You” in Psalm 91:10 Mean for the Coronavirus?

“…no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.” -Psalm 91:10

What a promise that is, the promise of no harm—but do we have the right interpretation when we read it? Does no harm mean that nothing bad should ever happen to me, including things like the coronavirus? As with many verses in the Bible, if we try to dissect it on its own, we can easily lose the bigger picture and true meaning. It’s important to study Bible verses in proper context and that means we should:

  • Look at the full passage the verse is part of.
  • Look at the sections preceding and following the verse/passage.
  • Look at the book as a whole that the verse is located in: who is the human author, what’s the literary genre, what is the main theme and purpose, what was going on at that time in history, and who was the original audience?
  • Other great questions include: What does this passage tell me about man? And what does this passage tell me about God?
  • Additionally, we can access resources (articles, videos, books, audio, etc.) from sound theologians, pastors, and writers both past and present who put Scripture and the gospel first.

These elements provide important information for understanding the true meaning of a verse or Scripture passage. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand Scripture, but we need to use the tools that God has gifted us through literature, which is the medium He chose to use to record, keep, and spread His Word. Let us use the tools we have in prayer and with guidance from the Holy Spirit who lives in all believers.

Lord, as we study Your Word today help us to understand the meaning You have set in this psalm thousands of years ago. You have made sure that Your Word has remained strong throughout the centuries; guide us now, Holy Spirit, as we seek understanding and wisdom from Psalm 91. Comfort our hearts with your truth and cover us in your eternal peace. Remind us who You are and who we are in You. Give us strength in good times and bad and lead our hearts away from worry. In Your name, Jesus, by whom this prayer is possible, Amen. 

EDITOR'S NOTE:This article has become a resource for many as we face growing fear and anxiety due to the Coronavirus pandemic. God is ALWAYS our source of protection, strength and peace during unknown times. In addition, the following articles may offer more encouragement for all to remember as we face the trials of COVID-19 together:

Comparing Translations of Psalm 91:10

First, let’s start by comparing a few translations of the Psalm 91:10 verse:

  • “…no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.” - NIV
  • no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” – ESV
  • no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” CSB
  • No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;” – NKJV 
  • no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.” – NLT

These translations are very similar mostly using three sets of words: evil or harm, plague or disaster, and tent, home, or dwelling. 

And now let’s read the full Psalm 91 in the NIV as it’s the most used translation:

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, ‘The LORD is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. ‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’”

Taking a Step Back for the Bigger Picture of the Psalms

Every genre in the Bible attributes to Scripture’s Truth, but genres have different styles and use different literary tools to get their point across. Understanding the genre can help us understand the meaning.

What do we know about the Book of Psalms and its genre?

The Book of Psalms is a lyrical book of 150 poems; they were written as songs for worship of the Most High God by the people of God. The ESV Study Bible states, “The Psalter is fundamentally the hymnbook of the people of God at worship. The Psalms take the basic themes of OT theology and turn them into song.” Because the Psalms are written in the genre of poetry and song, the reader needs to remember that elements of this genre include imagery, metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole, and apostrophe. These tools provide an emotional structure for the words of the psalm.

Themes in the Psalms include monotheism, creation and fall, election and covenant, covenant membership, and eschatology. Many of the psalms have titles or notes, which tell us more information about the liturgy they were used in, the author, or the history behind it.

Who is the author of the Psalms?

The most common author listed in the Psalms is David; he is believed to have authored at least 75 (73 contain the phrase “of David” and two others are attributed to him by NT writers in Acts 4:25 and Hebrews 4:7.) We know that David, even before he was king, was an accomplished songwriter and lyre player (1 Sam. 16:16-23, 2 Sam 1:17-27, 2 Sam 22, 2 Sam 23:1-7). Additionally, the Sons of Korah (1 Chron. 9:19) are listed in 11 psalms, Asaph (1 Chron. 6:31) in 12, Solomon (1 Kings 4:32) possibly in two, and Moses (Ex. 15:1-18, Deut 31-33) in one. The remaining psalms do not mention a specific author in the text. 

What is the structure of the Psalms? 

The original Hebrew text divided the Psalms into five sections or books, possibly modeled after the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). The last psalm of each of the five sections includes a doxology before the start of the next section, with Psalm 150 concluding both Book Five and the entire Psalter (ESV Study Bible). Psalm 91 is in Book or Section Four, which includes Psalms 90-106. Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses and it discusses God’s active role with Israel long before David was king. The Psalms in Book Four proclaim the truth that God reigns. The NIV Study Bible explains, 

Book IV answers the despair at the end of Book III. It says, in effect, that if people were tempted to look for their security in the Davidic king, then they would end up disappointed; they needed to look to the Lord as their refuge and strength and as their great King.” 

The Overall Background and Theme of Psalm 91

The Matthew Henry Commentary suggests that David is the author of Psalm 91:

It is probable that this psalm also was penned by David; it is a writ of protection for all true believers, not in the name of king David, or under his broad seal; he needed it himself, especially if the psalm was penned, as some conjecture it was, at the time of the pestilence which was sent for his numbering the people; but in the name of the King of kings, and under the broad seal of Heaven.” 

As stated above, Psalm 91 is part of Book Four of the Psalms, which seeks to answer the darker questions of faith posed in Book Three. The response of the psalms in Book Four is that God reigns, God is our stronghold, and humanity can find refuge in God alone. Concerning Psalm 91, the NIV Study Bible relays, 

The psalmist’s chief theme is that the Lord is his refuge (vv. 1-2). This has three benefits: the Lord protects from danger (vv. 3-8), guards against calamity by providing supernatural assistance (vv. 9-13), rescues from trouble (vv. 14-15), and grants eternal life (v. 16).”

The ESV Study Bible goes on to describe the tender and intimate nature of Psalm 91, pointing out that the tone is one of confidence for the people of God—that through any danger or challenge the faithful may find refuge in the LORD, Yahweh.

The promise in Psalm 91—that God is our refuge—is for all the people of Israel and all believers today, but the circumstances in Psalm 91 (pestilence, terrors by night and arrows) are faced by particular people and the psalmist. But interestingly these circumstances would have been seen as metaphors, which the ESV Study Bible reveals:

The snare of the fowler (v.3) seems to be a metaphor for the schemes of those who hate the pious. Pestilence (91:3, 6) and destruction are diseases that God sends on his enemies or his unfaithful people (cf. Ex. 5:3; 9:15; Lev. 26:25; Deut. 32:24, ‘plagues’). The terror and arrow, together, with a thousand may fall, envision God’s people under attack. If the psalm were describing every situation of danger, it would clearly be untrue: faithful people have fallen prey to these and other perils. It is better to allow Ps. 91:8 to guide the interpretation, pointing to cases in which these events (plague, battle) are sent as God’s recompense on the wicked (whether Gentile or Israelite); in such cases, the faithful can be sure of God’s protection.”

The mention of a plague (v.10) is reminiscent of the plagues that fell on Egypt (cf. Gen. 12:17; Ex. 11:1), again clarifying that this is describing the safety of the faithful in a time of God’s judgment.”

The NIV Study Bible similarly states that the fowler’s snare is a metaphor for hidden danger and pestilence reflects the opposite, evident danger, and covenant curses (Deut. 28:21; see 1 Kings 8:37). The psalm is listing out dangers in the world and how God protects His faithful. And in “91:7-8 These verses teach that the Lord will shield believers from the judgment against the wicked, but they do not promise absolute protection from every harmful circumstance (v. 7).” 

What Does Psalm 91:10 Mean by “No Harm Shall Befall You”?

Psalm 91:7-11, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (ESV)

This psalm takes place during a time of God’s judgment, and the psalm is clear that the recompense for the wicked is the destruction in verse 7, but those belonging to God have refuge in Him.

Psalm 91 is written by one of the people of God, most likely David, for the people of God to grow spiritually. Psalm 91:9 says “because you have made the LORD your dwelling place”—it’s clear that we are talking about God’s people, those whom He dwells with. Because of that fact, no evil shall be allowed to befall God’s child in the next line. Does that mean that Christians should not have to suffer or struggle?  

The evil or harm spoken of in verse 10 is not the frequent trial or hardship that afflicts all humanity due to the fallen nature of this world, it is speaking of the harm that comes to God’s enemies or even eternal punishment. Though you find yourself in the middle of a storm, God is with you and your soul is safe in His hands. In using Scripture to interpret Scripture we know this must be the case for the usage of evil here, as Scripture is filled with the people of God suffering—and then growing in relationship to Him because of that suffering.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary states,

Whatever happens, nothing shall hurt the believer; though trouble and affliction befal, it shall come, not for his hurt, but for good, though for the present it be not joyous but grievous. Those who rightly know God, will set their love upon him. They by prayer constantly call upon him. His promise is, that he will in due time deliver the believer out of trouble, and in the mean time be with him in trouble. The Lord will manage all his worldly concerns, and preserve his life on earth, so long as it shall be good for him. For encouragement in this he looks unto Jesus. He shall live long enough; till he has done the work he was sent into this world for, and is ready for heaven. Who would wish to live a day longer than God has some work to do, either by him or upon him?

Let us not cling to the false promise that God will not let us suffer in this life, or that if we have enough faith we will not be afflicted, because Jesus’ words are clear that we will have trials in this life. 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Instead, let us cling to the real promise that though we will have hardship in this life, our soul is hidden with Christ, and when the time comes that we breath our last breath on this earth we will be with God our Refuge forever. This psalm teaches us that we have nothing to fear with God as our protector. Death is not to be feared by the believer.

Paul reminds us of the believer’s eternal security: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Col. 3:2-4 

The Treasury of David commentary on shares these two quotes: 

There shall no evil befall thee, etc. It is a security in the very midst of evils. Not like the security of angels -- safety in a world of safety, quiet in a calm; but it is quiet in a storm; safety amid desolation and the elements of destruction, deliverance where everything else is going to wreck. Cicaties Bradley, 1840.”

God doth not say no afflictions shall befall us, but no evil. Thomas Watson.”

What Does This Verse Mean for the Coronavirus?

Evil and harm cannot separate God’s children from Him and that includes pandemics, like the coronavirus, natural disasters, and wicked people among other things. God’s children are hidden with Him and their soul is safe with Him for all eternity. We are not guaranteed a pain-free or illness-free life, which is clear in Scripture from the Old Testament to the New Testament. We read in Scripture that it is often through strife and struggle that the believer grows spiritually with God and is an encouragement to others (Joseph, Jonah, Abraham, Moses, Esther, Paul, John, and so many others.). Contributor, Debbie McDaniel, shared,

Sometimes, maybe unintentionally, in the busyness or difficulties of living, we might strive to survive on our own. We forget that what we need most, God's protection and the comfort of His presence, are freely available to those who love Him and walk under His covering. This entire chapter of Psalm 91 is filled with the goodness and power of God. Great reminders that He faithfully works on behalf of those who love Him.”

Many of us are consumed right now by uncertainly and constantly changing news surrounding the coronavirus/COVID-19. But we can't fear what may or may not happen to us, God asks us to trust Him through all situations and Paul tells us God's grace is sufficient, whether that grace leads to healing or homecoming. Our focus should not be on fear and uncertainty but the Refuge that our God is even in circumstances of disease and trouble. We are called to hope and trust in God no matter what is happening in our world. And He can be trusted during this pandemic, He is sovereign over the world and your individual life. 

Avoiding illness is a fate no one can escape in this fallen world; what is important is that we know where our true home is and who our God is. Psalm 91 is clear that for those whom God dwells with, their Refuge is God alone. The true home of the believer is with the Triune God—and God is with all believers every step of their earthly journey. And when that last step comes, Jesus is there to usher our life into glory, a life He paid for. Therefore, let us remember that in the storms and diseases God is with us, and in our joys let us give thanks to the Holy Spirit, and when our last day comes may we cling to the promise of Jesus—the promise that evil cannot remove us from the hands of God either in this life or in death. We are bound to Christ and when we die, we will live with Him in glory.  

There is only one guarantee for the Christian in this life—that your life is hidden with Christ and you have been given eternal protection as an adopted child and heir of God. This is a glory we will not fully understand until we are standing before God our Redeemer. Home at last. The Psalms remind us of this hope. Psalm 91 points to God as our eternal Refuge and no evil or virus can take that away.


  • ESV Study Bible, Crossway. 
  • NIV Study Bible, Zondervan.

Photo credit: ©GettyImagese/SergioYoneda

Liz Auld is the managing editor for Salem Web Network; she edits and writes content across the editorial sites (,,, She has a B.A. in Religious Studies and has taken post-graduate classes in Theology and Global Studies. She enjoys reading books from a variety of genres, trying new recipes, and visiting family. 


Now discussing:

Bible Commentary: Psalm 91

Psalm 91 is without attribution in the Hebrew Masoretic Text. The Greek Septuagint version adds a superscription saying that the psalm is "of David." We should note a thematic connection between the previous psalm and this one. Psalm 90 begins with the words, "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations" (verse 1). This psalm begins, "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalms 91:1Psalms 91:1He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
American King James Version×; compare verse 9). The Zondervan NIV Study Bible refers to Psalm 91 as "a glowing testimony to the security of those who trust in God—set beside Psalm 90 as a counterpoint to the dismal depiction of the human condition found there" (note on Psalm 91).

The first two verses present four different designations for God: Elyown ("Most High"); Shaddai ("Almighty" though perhaps meaning All-Nourishing or All-Sufficient as the root shad means "breast"); Yahweh (translated "the Lord" but meaning "He Is That He Is," signifying Eternal, Ever-living or Self-Existent); and Elohi ("My God" or "My Strong One"). These distinctions communicate various aspects of God's nature. Note in verse 14 that God sets on high those who have known His name—not referring to Hebrew pronunciation but to understanding who He is and what He is all about, which His names help to reveal. (Many people have been led to believe that there is a single sacred Hebrew name for God that must always be used when addressing Him, a doctrine that contradicts what the Bible reveals. For more on this, see "The Sacred Name—Is a Christian Required to Use It?".)

Dwelling "in the secret place of the Most High" (verse 1) recalls David's words in Psalms 27:5Psalms 27:5For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up on a rock.
American King James Version×and Psalms 31:20Psalms 31:20You shall hide them in the secret of your presence from the pride of man: you shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.
American King James Version×, which mention God hiding His people in the secret place of His presence within His tabernacle or pavilion. Abiding "under the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalms 91:1Psalms 91:1He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
American King James Version×) is related to verse 4: "And He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge." This is a figurative picture of God as a mother bird sheltering its young—imagery found elsewhere in David's psalms (Psalms 61:4Psalms 61:4I will abide in your tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of your wings. Selah.
American King James Version×; Psalm 63:7). As noted before, the word for "wings" can also denote "skirts" or the borders of a garment—with the imagery of a man taking a woman under his wing as symbolic of marriage (see the Beyond Today Bible Commentary on Ruth). It is likely that parent-child and husband-wife metaphors are being blended in these various references to show the great care God has in protecting His people—as the imagery is also blended with the idea of God being the defensive refuge and fortress of His people (compare Psalms 61:3-4Psalms 61:3-4[3] For you have been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. [4] I will abide in your tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of your wings. Selah.
American King James Version×; Psalms 91:2Psalms 91:2I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
American King James Version×, Psalms 91:4Psalms 91:4He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust: his truth shall be your shield and buckler.
American King James Version×). Psalms 91:3Psalms 91:3Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
American King James Version×says God will deliver His people "from the snare of the fowler"—that is, traps laid by bird catchers (see also Psalms 124:7Psalms 124:7Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
American King James Version×)—again comparing God's people to young birds.

The psalmist goes on to explain various ways that God's people will be kept from harm. It is important to focus on this and hold tight to the scriptural promises here. However, we must recognize that while God's people have His certain promise of protection, this does not mean that no harm of any kind will ever come to them in this life. Note verse 7, where thousands will fall around you but you yourself as a servant of God will not be touched. This has often been the experience of God's people, just as declared here. But the verse does not say that God's people will never be touched by peril or death. Verse 10 should be understood in the context of verse 7—that when many around God's people fall, they will be spared. Here, too, it is not stated that no calamity will ever befall those who serve God. The psalm itself points out that they will experience trouble in life (verse 15). Consider what happened to Job, David, Paul and others—and even to Jesus Christ, the quintessential righteous person.

Verses 11-12 say that God has commissioned His angels with protecting His people—that they will carry you through life "lest you dash your foot against a stone." So do God's people never stub their toes? That is not what is meant here. It does not say, " that you will never dash your foot against a stone." Rather, the point is that God's angels often intervene to protect us, sometimes even from seemingly minor harm. In the monumental confrontation between Jesus and Satan prior to the start of Jesus' ministry, the devil resorted to quoting Scripture, twisting it to suit his aims. And he chose these verses among others to make his challenge. He told Jesus to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple because Psalms 91:11-12Psalms 91:11-12[11] For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. [12] They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
American King James Version×promised that God's angels would be there to catch Him (Matthew 4:5-6Matthew 4:5-6[5] Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, [6] And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.
American King James Version×). Jesus countered, "It is also written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test'" (verse 7, NIV)—quoting Deuteronomy 6:16Deuteronomy 6:16You shall not tempt the LORD your God, as you tempted him in Massah.
American King James Version×, referring to the negative sense of challenging God's grace. Clearly God's promise of protection does not mean that we may arrogantly presume on His favor through trying to set the terms of how He must intervene for us (by deliberately placing ourselves in harm's way).

Besides helping us to better understand Psalm 91, Jesus' response teaches us something else about comprehending the Bible in general by His words "it is also written." We should not base our understanding of a biblical subject on just one or a few verses when there are others that bear on the matter. Rather, we are to consider all of the verses that bear on a matter and deduce the truth from the whole of pertinent Scripture.

With all this in perspective, let's notice more specifically what Psalm 91 tells us. Verse 3 does not say that we will never fall into an enemy trap or experience deadly illness. Yet we can take confidence that God says here that He will deliver us from these. Sometimes this means keeping us from them (perhaps most of the time), but it may mean rescuing us after a period of affliction. And at times ultimate deliverance—salvation—is in view. Even if we should die, God will later resurrect us to be utterly impervious to harm, just as He is.

Verses 5-6 do not say that we will never experience terrifying situations, disease or devastation though He often spares us from these. But when these do come, confidence in God's care and His overall plan will help us to not "be afraid"—that is, to not live in fear. Even this does not mean that we will never go through doubting moments of worry and fright. Rather, the idea is that, if we earnestly seek God, our lives will not be characterized by fear but by faith (compare Psalms 94:19Psalms 94:19In the multitude of my thoughts within me your comforts delight my soul.
American King James Version×).

In the concluding verses, God Himself speaks within the words of the psalm (Psalms 91:14-16Psalms 91:14-16[14] Because he has set his love on me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he has known my name. [15] He shall call on me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. [16] With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.
American King James Version×). Verse 15 assures us that He will answer our prayers and that, whatever troubles do befall us, He will be with us in them—helping us to endure them. Moreover, we see again here that God will deliver us (verses 14-15), if not immediately then over time—and certainly when we are later resurrected to be in His Kingdom. "Long life" and "salvation" in the final verse applies most fully to that future time. God often does bless His people with longevity and deliverance in this life, but consider that Jesus Christ, the most righteous person to ever live, died at age 33. The ultimate long and satisfying life is that which is still to come—in contrast to the brevity and sorrow of life today as presented in Psalm 90.


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