PSALM 91 TALK: GOD IS OUR PROTECTOR IN THE BATTLES OF LIFE

PSALM 91 TALK: GOD IS OUR PROTECTOR IN THE BATTLES OF LIFE

 (A psalm that uses the images of ancient battles to convey the truth that if we trust in the God of the bible he will protect us and save us in our life’s battles.)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

George Vinell served as Bombardier in the Royal Artillery in the First World War. On 17th of July 1915, George was sleeping in his units sleeping compartment when he was awakened by the loud noise of a German shell exploding close to him.

George got up quickly slipped on his jacket and then as more shells exploded close to him threw himself to the floor. Then he got up and ran to a trench and waited for the bombardment to stop.

After the shelling stopped George returned to the now wrecked sleeping compartment to find ten of his unit dead and shell fragments shot through his pillow where he had rested his head and evidence of shell fragments on the ground where he had laid when the shelling started. Then he noticed that a shell fragment had struck his jacket but had not penetrated his body as the fragment had hit a bible he had in the top pocket of his jacket.

After examining the bible, which had protected his heart, as that is where the shell fragment would have ended up he noticed the shell fragment had stopped in the middle of his bible at Isaiah 49: 8, which reads in the King James Version as,

“Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages”.

George soon wrote to his mum and reminded her of a previous letter he had written to her in which he had expressed how he felt, “Safe in the hands of God” and now he was able to tell her how God had saved his life by using his bible and how he continued to trust in God for his protection while he fought for his country in the war.

Of course many believers would have perished on the battle fields of the first world war and all we can say is that it was God’s timing for their passing into eternal life with him. However George Vinell found in that same terrible conflict that God can and does help us even in miraculous ways to be protect and save us even in this life if we truly trust in him.

Tremper Longman 111 points out that Psalm 91 seems to be a Psalm that was probably written by a priest addressing his congregation saying,

“God is with them and will protect them from trouble”. Tremper goes on to point out that in Psalm 91,

“The trouble appears to be military, and so the congregation is likely the army, who face dangers in battle as well as from disease in the war camp”.

This explanation of the general origin of the Psalm explains beautifully why so much of the imagery used in the Psalm has a military connection. Of course I believe this Psalm like most of the Psalms has powerful spiritual applications.

The apostle Paul made it clear a number of times of how we, as believers are involved in a great spiritual battle, as he writes in Ephesians 6: 10 – 13,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, stand firm then”.

Temper Longman 111, sums up this spiritual application of this Psalm this way,

“Christians can pray Psalm 91, knowing that God is with them in the spiritual battle of this life and that in Christ, God will give them eternal life”.

 Other theories of the origin of this Psalm are that David wrote it and the Jewish Targum makes this claim. Many commentators suggest Moses and point to the facts that Psalm 91 follows Psalm 90, which we know from that Psalms heading was written by Moses and that many of the images and terms used in Psalm 91, are Moses like.

We cannot say for sure that Moses or even David wrote the Psalm as there is no Hebrew heading to tell us so and so their authorship is only speculation.

What we do know is that this Psalm has obvious military images and how once read from the perspective of The God of the bible offering his protection in the battles of life to all who truly trust in him opens up the Psalm in a wonderful way for me.

With this setting and application of the Psalm in mind my headings for the Psalm are:

  1. (1 – 2) TRUST IN GOD OUR MIGHTY PROTECTOR
  1. vs. 1   Dwelling and sheltering in God
  2. vs. 2   Trusting in God our refuge
  1. (3 – 8)   TRUST IN GOD OUR SAVIOR
  1. 3 – 7   Saved and protected in life’s battles
  2. 8 – 13   Saved and protected to see God at work
  1. (9 – 13) TRSUT IN GOD OUR ACTIVE PROTECTOR
  1. 9 – 10 God’s promise of protection
  2. 11 – 13 God’s promise of heavenly assistance
  1. (14 – 16)   TRUST IN GOD OUR SAVIOR AND PROTECTOR
  1. vs. 14   God saves those who love him
  2. 15 – 16 God promises salvation and protection to those who call on him
  1. (1 – 2) TRUST IN GOD OUR MIGHTY PROTECTOR

 This Psalm’s opening two verses seem to compliment the opening verse of the previous Psalm and Allan Harman points out that Psalm 90 also finishes a request for God’s favor to rest upon his people and then he points out that Psalm 91,

“Contains a multifaceted promise of God to believers”.

 He goes on to point out that Psalm 92 contains a right response to these promises. So the opening verses of Psalm 91 states clearly how God is his peoples mighty protector and I have broken this first section of the Psalm into two parts:

  1. vs. 1   Dwelling and sheltering in God
  2. vs. 2   Trusting in God our refuge

Lets have a close look at each of these two parts:

  1. vs. 1   Dwelling and sheltering in God

 The Psalm kicks of with two wonderful images of the protection believers have in the God of the bible. Both these two images have two ancient and powerful names of God going with them. The verse reads,

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.

The two images are:

  1. Dwelling in the Shelter
  2. Resting in the shadow

While the two ancient names of God are:

  1. Most High (Hebrew – “Elyon”)
  2. The Almighty (Hebrew – “Shadday”)

To get the full impact and meaning of this verse lets look closely at each of these four aspects of the verse 1.

  1. Dwelling in the Shelter

First of all, Dwelling in the shelter” is a reference in Old Testament terms to the inner sanctuary of the Temple as we read in Psalm 27: 5,

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon the rock”.

 Obviously the priest pronouncing these words to the congregation did not think they could all fit in the “shelter” or sanctuary but rather he is referring to the fact that the sanctuary represents God’s dwelling with his people and just as he promises to dwell with us represented by that sanctuary he wants us by faith to dwell with him and through that find shelter and protection.

David speak like this in Psalm 61: 4,

“I long to dwell in your tent (sanctuary) forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings”.

 It is an interesting fact that the precise symbolic dwelling place of God in the sanctuary is called the mercy seat, which sits between two winged angels called Cherubs. So the image of wings taken up in this Psalm also in verse 4 could be a reference to those winged angels found each side of the mercy seat.

So, I think, “Dwelling in the shelter” is an image of trusting in the God of the bible and through that we are engulfed by his divine protection.

The apostle John speaks about abiding in Christ and I like how he speaks of this in 1 John 4: 12,

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete”.

 Maybe John is remembering what he wrote down in his Gospel that Jesus said about remaining or abiding in him in John 15: 7 – 8,

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples”.

So if we trust in Jesus and seek to be in him, he promises to be in us and help us giving us answers to our prayers in all situations and at all times meaning that God through Jesus is our protector.

  1. Resting in the shadow

The second God protecting poetic image is “Resting in the shadow”, which Spurgeon explains with these words,

“The Omnipotent Lord will shield all those who dwell with him, they shall remain under his care as guests under the protection of their host”.

 David speaks of being in God’s shadow in Psalm 63: 7 and obviously refers to the Angels wings of the mercy seat as well,

“Because you are my help I sing in the shadow of your wings”.

 So to be in someone’s shadow is to be very close to them and to be very close to God means we are safe and protected from anything Satan and this world can throw at us. This is a very beautiful and amazing way of saying God will keep us safe and will protect us.

The New Testament promises the same kind of thing through being close to Jesus as Paul testifies in 2 Timothy 4: 16 – 18, to being protected and helped by the Lord obviously The Lord Jesus Christ,

“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.

18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

Paul probably was executed after his next trial but note that Paul speaks of God’s rescue, as brining him safely to God’s heavenly kingdom were he would be living fully in the shadow or presence of God. This is what we too can look forward to when God’s time for us to finish our earthly existence comes.

Obviously George Vinell’s time to depart and be with the Lord was not in 1915 during the first world war so God gave him special miraculous protection from the German shelling and used George’s bible to stop the deadly metal entering his body and his heart. God will do the same for us if we would but trust and believe in him.

Lets look then at the two special ancient names for God used in this verse:

  1. Most High (Hebrew – Elyon)

The first part of verse 1 says,

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High”

The words “Most High” is an ancient Hebrew name for God which in Hebrew is the word Elyon”. We first come across this special name for God in the remarkable encounter Abraham had with the ancient king of Jerusalem then called Salem in Genesis 14: 18 – 20,

“ Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything”.

Albert Barnes explains the meaning of the name “Elyon” this way,

“Of the Most High – Of God, represented as exalted above all; over all the universe”.

 If the God of the bible is exalted over all or is over everything in the universe then his ability to protect those who are connected to him is enormous.

Jesus in the New Testament is given great-exalted names that denote his unique power and strength and Matthew points out two of the great names for Jesus Christ and there meanings in Matthew 1: 21 – 23,

 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”)”.

Jesus is our Savoir who will save us from our sins and Immanuel – God with us.

Jesus is this “Eylon”, Most High God who came down to be one of us to save us from our sins and then he comes beside us and within us through his Holy Spirit to protect all who come to faith in him.

John 10: 27 – 30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

  1. The Almighty (Hebrew – “Shadday”)

Allan Harman points out that all of the three main Hebrew patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are recorded as having a encounter with God with the Name “Shadday” or “The Almighty”, Genesis 17: 1 (Abraham again), 28: 3 (Isaac) and Jacob in Genesis 35: 11.

So “Shadday”, The almighty and “Eylon”, Most high God are very similar powerful names for God and reveal his exalted status in the universe and as I said before if the God of the bible is exalted over all or is over everything in the universe then his ability to protect those who are connected to him is enormous.

We can lean on or trust in Jesus because he is that same God become flesh and through his death has made a way back to God and through his resurrection he has gone into glory for us and now sits at the right hand of God for us.

Paul declares in a number of places like Romans 8: 34,

 “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us”.

See also Ephesians 1: 20 and Colossians 3: 1.

  1. vs. 2   Trusting in God our refuge

The writer of Psalm 91 then makes it even clearer who he is speaking of and how The God of the Bible offers his protection to all those who truly trust in him with the next verse of his Psalm which says,

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

 This verse is very reminiscent of many statements about God by King David who for instance wrote these words about how he saw his God as his sure protector in Psalm 18: 2:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shied and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

David needed to be saved and protected by God all through his life starting with his battle with wild animals as a young shepherd boy, victory over the giant soldier Goliath, then eight years King Saul sought to kill and destroy him, victory over many nations who sought to overrun him and finally over his rebellious Son Absalom.

David’s life shows us what this verse is saying about what it means to have God as a refuge and fortress and “GotQuestions?org” sums up the concept of God being our refuge with these words,

“Knowing God as our refuge enables us to trust Him more freely. We need not fear situations or people who threaten our well being, whether in a physical or spiritual sense. There is no situation we will ever face that is out of God’s control, so the best place to be, always, is right with Him. “The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10)”

 As I have already stated Jesus is our refuge or protector and he says to us that if we need his help and protection we simply only need to go to him in prayer, Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

  1. (3 – 8)   TRUST IN GOD OUR SAVIOR

 We move now to the second section of this Psalm that contains so much ancient battle and war camp images that fit so well Tremper Longman 111 theory that this Psalm’s setting is the trouble caused by a war, as I quoted from his commentary earlier,

“The trouble appears to be military, and so the congregation is likely the army, who face dangers in battle as well as from disease in the war camp”.

 With this in mind I have applied the teaching of these verses to our battles in life particularly our spiritual battles.

 I have divided this section into two parts:

  1. 3 – 7   Saved and protected in life’s battles
  2. 8 – 13   Saved and protected to see God at work

 Lets have a closer look at each of these two parts:

  1. 3 – 7   Saved and protected in life’s battles

I count seven images of protection in this first part of the second section and at least 5 of those seven images are war or battle related images.

The eight images are:

  1. The fowlers snare (vs. 3a)
  2. Deadly Pestilence (3b and 6)
  3. The cover of a birds feathers of its young (vs.4a)
  4. The Shield and Rampart (vs. 4b)
  5. The fear of the terror of the night (vs. 5a)
  6. The arrow that flies by day (vs. 5b)
  7. Soldiers falling around you in battle (vs. 7)

Lets have a closer look at each of these seven images:

  1. The fowlers snare (vs. 3a)

The first image of protection is being saved from the fowler’s snare,

“Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare”.

 Leupold explains this image this way,

“The “snare of the hunter”, may well represent those hidden dangers that unexpectedly catch us and bring us to fall”.

 A fowler was a bird catcher in ancient Israel and he used a variety of traps to catch a poor un- expectant bird and kill it to be eaten by people who buy the bird from the fowler. So Leupold’s explanation is apt that God is promising those who truly trust in protection from hidden un- expectant dangers in life.

Many spiritual dangers sneak up on us like a work colleague suddenly verbally attacking our faith in God when we are not expecting such a thing to happen. I remember a work colleague who I had not told I was a Christian suddenly saying to me at morning tea one morning, “And your one of those stupid people who believes the world one day was totally flooded”.

It turns out the man I replaced in the new section of the company I worked for knew me and told his fellow workers I was a Christian also. After sending up a quick prayer to God I managed to give an answer to my work colleagues jest and this began a long period of challenging conversations with many other work colleagues at work at that time.

I had learnt by that time the advice of Peter when he wrote in 1 Peter 3: 15,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”.

Maybe the writer of Psalm 91 has military soldiers in mind here too as battle fields close to them could throw up all kinds of un – expectant dangers and traps and the promise of God to save the believing soldiers from these hidden un – expectant traps would have been a great comfort to them.

  1. Deadly Pestilence (3b and 6)

Disease’s or virus epidemics and warfare go hand in hand and sometimes these kill more people, for instance, 20 to 50 Million people died of the Spanish flu in 1918 at the end of World War 1 more than soldiers killed in battle on both sides. On top of this 2 Million soldiers died of illness during this war and this is understandable when one realises that men were locked up together in dirty disease infested trenches for months. The battlefields were littered with un- buried rotting corpses and this alone would have created devastating epidemics in and around the battlefield.

Ancient battlefields and war camps would have been much the same but the treatment for virus attacks would have been non – existent. Therefore the promise of God’s protection in such conditions would have been very comforting for the believing soldier.

We read of this promise of protection in verse 3b,

“(Save you), from deadly pestilence”.

 Also verse 6 says,

“Nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday”.

 In the spiritual battlefield of this life we too face a unseen and often unknown enemy as I pointed out in the introduction Paul spoke of the real but hidden from us enemies that fight against us in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

In this passage Paul speaks of two great resources God has given us, namely his strength and power, verse 10,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.

 Secondly God’s armor in verse 13,

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, stand firm then”.

Paul then spells out the spiritual armor or means of protection God has provided for us in verses 14 – 18,

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

Note how both Psalm 91 and Ephesians 6 do not tell us God will take the spiritual battles of life away from us but rather he will equip and protect us in the spiritual battles of this life.

  1. The cover of a birds feathers of its young (vs.4a)

Then we have the second non- battlefield or war image of protection in verse 4a, which says,

“He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge”.

 I once heard a lecture on the different types of literature found in the bible and the speaker used this verse to say, “If we read the bible as always being literal then this verse is saying God is a chicken”. No, of course the bible contains poetry style literature that contains images that must be interpreted for their meaning.

Here God is depicted like a bird or chicken pulling her chicks under the protection of her wings. This is a image used a number of times in the bible and the first instance of it is in the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 : 11.

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions”.

 This is Moses speaking of how God guided and protected his people the Israelites through their desert wanderings. David used this image also as we see in Psalm 17: 8b,

“Hide me in the shadow of your wings”.

 The writer of Psalm 91 speaks of God’s special protection through his angels in verse 11, which also are often depicted with wings. Finally Isaiah speaks of God’s wings and faith in him being like soaring on eagle wings in Isaiah 40 verses 28 to 31,

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

So through the image of “God’s wings” we have many wonderful promises of God’s help and protection in the battles of this life.

Finally Jesus uses this image of a bird taking its chicks under her wings in the Gospels, Like Matthew 23: 37 – 38, but here he longs to gather the Jews in Jerusalem into his protective care but because they mainly refused to believe in him they would face the judgment of God and in AD.70 this prediction of Jesus comes true,

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”.

What we can glean from this is that in the battles of life we can know Jesus protection and help like a baby chick is protected under its mothers wings. However if we fail to trust in Jesus we will surely face the coming judgment of God without his help and protection.

  1. The Shield and Rampart (vs. 4b)

The writer returns to another battlefield or war image of protection in verse 4b,

“His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart”.

 The shield is the personal piece of protection in a battle and the rampart or defensive wall is an army’s protection in a battle.

In this verse God and his faithfulness is both for us and in us in the battles of life. David speaks of God’s protection or refuge and its connection with the love and faithfulness of God in Psalm 57: 1 – 3,

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me.He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me—God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

Note how David also uses the image of the protective wings of God in this reference as well. I have a Psalm Talk on Psalm 57, which explores the wonderful concept of God’s love and faithfulness, and God inspired me to write a song for this talk and the chorus of the song goes like this:

“God’s love and faithfulness

In Jesus we see.

God’s love and faithfulness

He’s always with me”

 The Writer of Palm 91 and David both speak of the protective wings of God and his shield and rampart in life’s battles and both say this is not something we deserve but it comes only to us because of God’s amazing love and faithfulness.

  1. The fear of the terror of the night (vs. 5a)

 Verse 5a speaks of another frightening aspect of a war zone, namely the terror and fear that exists there in the cover of darkness, the verse reads,

“You will not fear the terror of night”.

 Most ancient battles ceased at night -fall but this did not stop smaller sneaky night time raids by either side. Those given the duties of guarding the front lines of armies in war zones faced the constant threat of these surprise attacks and they would always be in a state of fear or terror during those night -time guard duties.

However Psalm 91: 5a says that we need not fear the battles of life at night and again this is because God promises to protect us even at night. Many people suffer greatly at night from bad dreams or even laying in their beds experiencing many dark and disturbing thoughts.

The New Testament offers much help and advice for the battles of the night and day and I refer to two famous passages here as an example 1 Peter 5: 6 – 7,

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

 And Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

  1. The arrow that flies by day (vs. 5b)

So as I said most battles in the ancient world took place at day so the second half of verse 5 deals with protection during the battles of life in the day- light, the verse reads,

“Nor the arrow that flies by day”.

 Before the invention of gun -powder weapons of war were mainly hand-to-hand compact design like swords and spears but in ancient times bow and arrows were also used. I have seen movies that depict ancient battles and can remember with horror armies firing thousands of arrows into the air against opposing on coming armies and how many of these arrows felled soldiers with often horrific injuries.

It is said that King Harold II of England was killed at the battle of Hastings in 1066 by being shot in the eye by a Norman arrow. Psalm 91: 5a says that God would protect those who trust in him from the arrow that flies by day.

As we face a strong and powerful spiritual enemy in this life, non other than Satan and his many forces God offers those who trust in him and his Son, The Lord Jesus Christ his protection from this great enemy.

Here are two verses in the New Testament that say this, firstly 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

And secondly how we can have this protection over the evil one or the Devil, James 4: 7,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.

Finally Paul actually speaks in spiritual terms about the devil firing deadly arrows at us in Ephesians 6: 6 and then speaks of the Lords protective shield against these deadly spiritual arrows,

“ In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”.

  1. Soldiers falling around you in battle (vs. 7)

The final battlefield or war image of protection in this first part of the second section is the very battle ground itself where usually in ancient times thousands of soldiers fort hand-to-hand to their death or victory. We read this image in verse 7,

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

 Leupold explains this image,

“Men fall by the thousands and tens of thousands on every side, but the man of faith, exposed to the same dangers, comes through them all unscathed”.

 Alan Harman points out that,

“The use of a thousand and ten thousand in parallel phrases is typical of Hebrew poetry” he then sights a number of examples like Judges 20: 10, 1 Samuel 18: 7 and Psalm 144: 13.

This he goes on to explain its meaning as,

“The combined phrase points to a great magnitude without precise definition of the exact number”.

 So, as I have already said, Paul teaches in Ephesians 6: 12 that our daily spiritual battle is up against large and powerful spiritual forces,

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

However if we trust in the Lord verse 10 says we can be very strong,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”

And verse 13 says God can and does protect us with his armor,

“13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, stand firm then”.

  1. 8 – 13   Saved and protected to see God at work

 The second part of this second section of the Psalm has some even more remarkable claims of how God will protect his faithful people in the battles of life. This part speaks of two great promises of God for his faithful people in the battles of life:

  1. God will fight for you (8 – 10)
  2. God will send his Angels to protect you (11 – 13)

Lets have a closer look at each of these two promises:

  1. God will fight for you (8 – 10)

Verse 8 speaks of the faithful members of the army being addressed not even having to fight as God himself, it seems will fight for them,

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

Interestingly there are two clear examples in the bible where Israel faced an enormous army and instead of having to fight God went ahead of them to destroy the army for them and in doing so punished the wicked who opposed him and his people.

The first is in the reign of King Jehoshaphat and in 897BC three powerful nations of that era, Moab, Amon and Maon ganged up together to attack Judah and had a mighty army heading for Jerusalem. Jehoshaphat organizes a day of prayer and at a large gathering of the people a Levite or priest named Jahaziel a direct descendant of Asaph prophesizes that God would fight for them, 2 Chronicles 20: 15,

“He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s”.

He goes on to say in verses 17,

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

The next day the army of Jehoshaphat marches out against this mighty combined army and as instructed Jehoshaphat’s army sings a great praise to the Lord and then we read in 2 Chronicles 20: 22- 23,

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another”.

By the time Jehoshaphat’s army got to see the opposing armies they only saw thousands of dead bodies, 2 Chronicles 20: 24 – 26,

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. 25 So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day”.

The second time the Jews see God fighting for them against a mighty army is in the reign of King Hezekiah in 701 BC and is recorded in 2 Kings 18 and 19. The northern kingdom of Israel was overrun by the Assyrians 721 BC and was no more and now the mightiest army in the world at that time had surrounded Jerusalem and defied the God of the bible.

The field commander speaking on behalf of the powerful Assyrian King Sennacherib said this in the Hebrew tongue to the Jews on the walls of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 18: 31 – 35,

“The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They came up to Jerusalem and stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 18 They called for the king; and Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them.

 19 The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:

 “‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?

21 Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him.

22 But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?

 23 “‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! 24 How can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? 25 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”

 26 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.”

 27 But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”

 28 Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. 30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

 31 “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, 32 until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!

 “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ 33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

The people, hearing this stayed silent and three men one of which, is another Levite a direct descendant of Asaph named Joah report the field commanders words to King Hezekiah. When King Hezekiah heard this we are told in chapter 19 he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth a sign of repentance and humble trust in the God of the bible.

Hezekiah prays to God for deliverance and consults the prophet Isaiah who prophesizes that God fight for his people and the next day 2 Kings 19: 35 – 36 records God’s victory and judgment of the Assyrian army,

“ That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there”.

A few years later back in Assyria, as the prophet Isaiah also predicted the great king Sennacherib is killed by his sons when worshipping his God’s in their Temple.

Both these two-recorded incidents fit so well the words of Psalm 91: 8,

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

Although I favour the incident in King Jehoshaphat time as the Jewish army actually road out of Jerusalem to meet the large invading army while the Jews in Jerusalem in King Hezekiah’s time just sat behind the walls of Jerusalem and God probably through a viral attack killed many of the members of the Assyrian army that had defied God and therefore deserved his judgment.

The next verse of the Psalm, verse 9, seems to be a reminder, in summary form of the God’s promise of protection previously stated verses 1 and 2 of this Psalm,

“If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge”.

The basic same elements of what we looked at in the first section are here in this summary, namely the ancient name of God Most High (Hebrew – “Elyon”) is used along with terms, “Make your Dwelling” and “Refuge”.

Then the promise of God protecting his faithful people is protection is again made in verse 10,

“Then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent”.

The reference to a tent in this verse could mean the tents used by soldiers on the battlefield or it could be just another poetic term for “dwelling” or place of residence, which applies to the believer’s home. This is how the pulpit commentary interprets this with the words,

“The faithful man is to be preserved from evil of every kind. His very “dwelling” is to be protected so that his family may suffer no hurt”.

 Albert Barnes points out that,

“This also must be understood as a general promise, or as meaning that religion would constitute a general ground of security”.

This is true because many times in the Old Testament God calls for his faithful followers to go into battle and his people are killed in battle for him.

The teaching of the New Testament and especially the teaching of Jesus is that Christians should not go to battle for him as clearly seen in the incident in the Gospels when Jesus is arrested and Peter draws his sword and cuts of the ear of one of the high priests guards, Jesus says in Matthew 26: 52,

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword”.

Luke records that Jesus actually heals the guards injury, Luke 22: 51,

“But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him”.

Jesus taught that we should love our enemies on many occasions like Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

Before this Jesus steers his followers away from the Old Testament judgment system of an eye for an eye to a much higher way of love and mercy that his Gospel message brought to this world, Matthew 5: 38 – 42,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you”.

Later Jesus qualifies why we should act in such a way in Matthew 5: 45 – 47,

“That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

Christians who go to war in the name of their faith to fight the so-called enemies of God are out of line and not following the commands of Christ. I have been reading a historical account of the Christian crusades to the Holy land over a thousand years ago and am shocked to learn that the Popes of that time authorized and encouraged Christians to go to war in the name of Christ and used the symbol of the cross as their emblem. This goes completely against the teachings of Christ and still gives the Christian faith and Gospel message a bad name.

So far as Christians serving in the armed forces of their country I have a different view as in that sphere they are not fighting in the name of Christ but are defending their country and they should be like any Christian in any situation they should seek to be a witness for Christ in that environment.

I have heard how Christian soldiers have shown the love of Christ to their fellow soldiers and even to the enemy they have had to fight they have been shown mercy in certain situations like in the way they have treated them as their captives.

All I can say on serving in armed forces is a Christian should pray if this is God’s will for their lives and like any secular job do it as a faithful witness of the Love of God they know through Christ.

The spiritual application is a little different and all I will say on this is that the New Testament does offer spiritual protection for those who trust in God through Christ. I would like to give just two examples of this.

The first is our protection against the devil, 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one”.

The second is protection from all evil attacks in general, 2 Timothy 4: 18,

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

These promises are of course for those who truly trust in Christ.

  1. God will send his Angels to protect you (11 – 13)

The second part of this second section has some really remarkable promises that commentators have varying views on as its deals with the tricky concept of Angels.

These verses read this way in the NIV,

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will tread upon the lion and the cobra: you will trample the great lion and serpent”.

 To start with I am a firm believer in angels as they are part of the bibles message and story from beginning to end and therefore to deny there reality is to deny the authority of the scriptures.

Secondly I believe that the intervention of angels is more the unusual way for God to protect us but when needed God has and I believe will use them. I say this confidently because once in my life I personally believe I was saved by someone like an angel myself.

It happened when I was a young 26-year-old church youth worker and I had gone into the busy town centre in the suburb of Sydney I was working in. I was walking down a busy street and daydreaming not really watching for traffic, as I should have been. I decided to quickly cross a busy road and as I went to step onto the road to cross I was grabbed on the shoulder from behind and pulled back violently. As I fell backwards a car rushed past and who ever pulled me backwards saved my life. However when I turned round to thank the person who had saved me no one was there.

My only explanation was that God did not want me to die that day so one of his angels was sent to save my life.

Spurgeon points out that he does not believe in the concept of guardian angels but goes on to say,

“They (Angels) are the bodyguard of the princes of the blood imperial of heaven, and they have received commission from their Lord to watch carefully over all the interests of the faithful. When men have a charge they become doubly careful, and therefore the angels are representative as bidden by God himself to see to it that the elect are secured”.

 It is a very interesting fact that that verse 12,

“They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against the stone.”

Is the second part of God’s promise of the protection of Angels for the true faithful believers of the God of the bible is quoted by the Devil at Jesus temptation in Matthew 4: 6,

 “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.’

 This seems to indicate that God can and does save his people sometimes from danger using his Angels. However even though we have this promise of protection this does not give us license to go out and put ourselves in danger believing God’s angels will protect and save us as Jesus replies to the devils miss – use of this promise of protection with these words in Mark 4: 7,

“Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test”.

Jesus is quoting here Deuteronomy 6: 16, which shows us we cannot take one isolated verse in the bible and build a teaching from it. Instead we must seek to find the complementary teaching in the bible and build our understanding of God’s word and not just one verse in the bible.

We find a complementary teaching of God’s promise protection sometimes through Angels in Hebrews 1: 14,

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

This protection of angels for all true believers even comes when we die as we read in Luke 16: 22,

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side”.

Verse 12 speaks of how God’s Angels protect us by lifting us up like Jesus speaks in Luke 16: 22,

“They will lift you up in their hands”.

 In my encounter with an Angel I was not lifted up but pulled backwards to the ground to escape the speeding car that would have hit me if I were not pulled back from the edge of the road.

God will use Angels as he sees fit and I think we can conclude that verse 12 is a poetic image of any kind of protection needed as verse 13 says,

“You will tread upon the lion and cobra; you will trample the great lion and serpent”.

 This continues, I think, a poetic description of God protecting us, through his Angels from all kinds of deadly enemies and dangers in the battles of life. Spurgeon sums up this poetic picture of protection with these words,

Over force and fraud shalt thou march victoriously; bold opponents and treacherous adversaries shall alike be trodden down. When our shoes are iron and brass lions and adders are easily enough crushed beneath our heel.

The young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. The strongest foe in power, and the most mysterious in cunning, shall be conquered by the man of God”.

 Jesus used similar poetic images of God’s protection for his disciples as he sent them out on an evangelistic mission in Luke 10: 19,

“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you”.

Similar words or images of protection are given to all followers of Jesus who respond to his great commission to take the Gospel into all the world in Mark 16: 15 – 18,

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

I must confess I have avoided this last section of Marks Gospel and its version of the great commission because of two reasons:

  1. My bible tells me that this is an edition to Marks Gospel not found in earlier and older manuscripts.
  1. Because of its mention of picking up snakes and drinking deadly poison.

But maybe like the words in Psalm 91: 13 these are poetic examples of God’s protection that is made more clearly by Matthew’s account of Jesus words which simply say, Matthew 28: 20b,

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

  1. (14 – 16)   TRUST IN GOD OUR SAVIOR AND PROTECTOR

 We come then to the final section of this Psalm which I think, simply summarizes the central idea of this Psalm, namely that if we truly trust in God he promises us his protection in all the battles of life.

I have broken this final section into two parts:

  1. vs. 14   God saves those who love him
  2. 15 – 16 God promises salvation and protection to those who call on him

 Lets have a closer look at each of these two parts:

  1. vs. 14   God saves those who love him

The Psalmist makes it very clear in verse 14 what is his main message he wants to convey to his congregation who could be the army of Judah about to go out to face a very powerful enemy.

I have tried to relate this Psalmist message to our facing of our battles of life, particularly our spiritual battles of life that Paul calls, in Ephesians 6: 12, our battles or struggles not against flesh and blood,

12 “But against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

The central message is God’s promise of protection in the battles of life if we truly love and trust in the God of the bible as summarized by verse 14,

“Because he loves me, says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name”.

All bible promises contain two main elements and this promise of protection is not different and the two main elements are:

  1. The Promise
  2. The condition of God fulfilling that promise

Lets me open up this verse through the two elements of this wonderful promise of God:

  1. The Promise

God promises two things in this promise:

  1. Rescue
  2. Protection

Lets have a closer look at what these two things actually are:

  1. Rescue

God promises to “rescue” us and we might ask, from what?

In Old Testament terms this word “rescue” would be literally from evil forces or nations that threaten the lives of God’s people. David uses this word or term, “rescue” a lot as he faced enemies both within Israel and outside of it all his life. In both Psalms 40 and 69 David speaks of the attack of his enemies is like being trapped in a pit and in Psalm 40, it is a muddy or boggy pit he needs rescuing from, Psalm 40: 1 – 3,

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him”.

In Psalm 69: 1 – 4, David links the attack of his powerful enemies causes him to be like a drowning man needing rescue by God himself,

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.I sink in the miry depths,  where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.

Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal”.

The term, save, rescue and deliverance are interchangeable in the Psalms, particularly in the Psalms of David. In verse 1 of Psalm 69 David called on God to “save” him and in verse 14 he calls on God to rescue him and then in the parallel thought he uses the term “deliver” him,

“Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me,

 from the deep waters”.

All these terms are very familiar terms or concept to coastal Australians, like I am. This is because we have a proud tradition of “Life Savors” on the many beaches that surround our beautiful country. As beautiful as those beaches are they can be deadly traps for drowning and many unknowing tourists to our country loose their lives to drowning each year.

However the unsung hero’s of our beaches are our wonderful teams of men and women who volunteer each summer to act as life guards or life savors as we call them and thousands of lives each year are saved by them on our many beaches around the country.

Well this promise of God is that he will “rescue” us, he is our great spiritual life savor and David proved over and over again that God is his savior or deliverer as he states in Psalm 62: 7,

“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge”.

For us God’s salvation is spiritual and in the New Testament God promises to save us spiritually, like Hebrews 7: 25,

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them”.

So God is our spiritual life savor who saves us from eternal death and gives us, as a gift eternal life, as Jesus declares in John 5: 24,

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”.

  1. Protection

We are saved or rescued by God but the promise of God in verse 14 goes further to say,

“I will protect him”

This Psalm 91 has been filled with lots of powerful images of God’s protection,

Vs. 1, God is our dwelling place and we are safe in the shadow of his wings.

Vs. 2, God is our refuge and fortress.

Vs. 3, God protects us from the traps or snares of life.

Vs. 4, God is like a giant bird who will protect us by pulling us under his wings.

Vs. 5, God will protect us in the terror of the night and against the arrows of day.

Vs. 6, God will protect us from the unseen viral attacks.

Vs. 7, God will protect us against our many enemies in the battles of life.

Vs. 8, God will protect us because he will fight for us.

Vs. 9, God again is our safe dwelling place in the battles of life.

Vs.10, God will protect us in the battles of life.

Vs. 11, God will protect us by sending his angels, if needed to defend us.

Vs. 12, 13, God will protect us against the fierce enemies we face in the battles of life.

So all through the Psalm the concepts of God’s promise of protection in the battles of life has been coming to the fore, promising God’s help for us at all times. As I said earlier David spoke over and over again of God being his refuge or protector.

In Psalm 18: 1 and 2 David bring together a number of terms to describe how God is his savior and protector,

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

In the New Testament God promises to save and protect us spiritually as Peter speaks of so powerfully in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.

  1. The condition of God fulfilling that promise

However every promise of God in the bible has also a condition upon which this promise will be fulfilled. Some say there is as many as 5,467 promises of God in the bible and each of them has at least one condition and the two conditions for God’s promise of salvation and protection in verse 14 are:

  1. To love God
  2. To acknowledge his name

Lets have a closer look at each of these two conditions of God’s promise to rescue or save and protect us.

  1. To love God

The opening words of verse 14 says,

“Because he loves me”.

 To love God is to make him the most important person in out lives. If I said I loved my wife, and I do but then never sought to be with her, talk to her and even serve her then you would say, “You don’t love her”.

It is the same with God, if we love God we will wont to be with him as David declared many time in his Psalms like Psalm 63 verse 1, David expresses his longing to be with God,

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water”.

He seems to have said these words in Psalm 63 because he felt cut off from God, out in the desert away from Jerusalem and its Holy Sanctuary probably on the run from his rebellious son Absalom who wanted to kill him and his family.

David often expressed love for God in his Psalms as we heard him declare in the opening verse of Psalm 18,

“I love you, Lord, my strength”.

David is known as a man after God’s own heart, as Samuel said the next King after Saul would be and we know that was David in 1 Samuel 13: 14b,

“The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart”.

This is made clearer in the New Testament in Acts 13: 22,

“ After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”

 We know from many verses in the bible that the heart of God is love so to be after the heart of God is to be a person in love with God. This is not a romantic love but a devotion love that shows itself in love and obedience to God as John tells us in 1 John 5: 3,

“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome”.

John also tells us in his first epistle that,

“We love (God) because he first loved us” (1 John 4: 19)

There is a story that the very old apostle John who seems to be the only apostle who died of old age, was carried around the churches in the years before his death and often was reported as saying simply’ “Little children, love one another!”

So the first condition of knowing God as our Savior and protector is to love God by obeying him and loving others.

  1. To acknowledge his name

The second condition of God’s promise of salvation and protection to those who love and obey him is found at the end of verse 14,

“For he acknowledges my name”.

 Alan Harman points out that,

“Acknowledging his name implies understanding the revelation that God has given himself and demonstrating one’s commitment to it”.

 Harman offers Psalm 5: 11 as a verse that uses the concept of “acknowledging God’ name” in this way,

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”

Many religions, even today have followers who claim to love their God or their idea of him but the second part of verse 14 says God’s promise of salvation and protection is given to those who love the God of the bible by the way that love acknowledges him.

The New Testament is strong on this and we find in the epistles or letters by the apostles to the churches has this idea because even in the first century of Christianity false ideas about God and Jesus arose quickly and endangered the faith clearly given in the Old Testament revelation of God and particularly in the final great revelation of God through his son who John calls, “The word become flesh” (John 1: 14).

It is the epistles of the apostle John we call 1, 2 and 3 John that some of the strongest words of acknowledging God as he has revealed himself particularly through Christ appear. This is because a new and dangerous view of Christ had emerged in the churches probably in and around Ephesus were we know from the early church fathers writings the Apostle John ministered.

The heresy or false teaching John is combating was called “Gnosticism” which basically taught that the spirit is entirely good and matter is entirely evil. This led to many crazy and false ideas about who Christ is, how we are saved and even how we should relate to one another.

A good example of John calling his first century church believers back to the revealed word of God through Christ is 1 John 2: 7 – 8,

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining”.

A big problem for believers and the Christian church in the first century was the reliance of it to have access to the word’s of Christ through the fast passing of the apostles particularly through Roman persecution and this led to the writing of the Gospels and of course the epistles by the Apostles like Paul, John and Peter etc. which are merely letters written to churches to explain, apply the word of Christ and to counter the already growing false teachings of their day.

The problem during the middle ages was the lack of literacy of the general population, access to the bible writings and the reliance on the clergy to rightly teach and declare the message of the bible. Sadly often the church in the early centuries became corrupted and even lost interest in God’s word. However God always seemed to raise up truly Godly men and women who could read the revealed word of God and who faithfully called people back to the truth often at the cost of their very lives.

From the time of the reformation on we all have access to God’s true revealed word and for most of us we can carry it around with us in a book or on a portable computer device and with the blessing of modern education we can all read it and therefore,

“Acknowledges God’s name”

 Or true character or revelation of him.

So the two conditions verse 14 lays down for knowing and having the salvation and protection of God are to love him and to acknowledge him as he has revealed himself in the word of God which we call The Bible. I leave my last word on this promise of salvation and protection to the apostle John in 1 John 4: 7 – 12,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”.

  1. 15 – 16 God promises salvation and protection to those who call on him

 We come then to the last two verses of this Psalm, which I must confess seem to be another way of saying what the writer of Psalm 91 has already said in verse 14. However maybe it is a final summary of what he has been saying throughout the whole Psalm. Namely that God promises his salvation and protection to those who truly call on or trust in him.

These two verses read this way,

“He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation”.

 I would like to briefly comment on four aspects of these last two verses which are:

  1. Calling on God
  2. God’s promise of his presence in times of trouble
  3. God’s promise of deliverance or salvation
  4. God’s promise of long life.

I will now make some brief comments on each of these four aspects of these final two verses of Psalm 91.

  1. Calling on God

The start of verse 15 says,

“He will call upon me, and I will answer him”

What does it mean to call on God or the Lord?

In my research on this question I came upon a detailed answer to this question by a famous Asian Christian bible teacher named Witness Lee and his answer to this question started with these words,

“To call upon the Lord is to enjoy the rich presence of His divine Person. Both our initial contact as well as our continuing with Him depends in a large part on this simple opening and calling. Each time we call upon the Lord’s name, He comes to us and we receive Him in a fresh, new way. Our experience of His presence is renewed and enhanced when we audibly call His name”.

 This definition fits really well to other expressions of this concept I have studied already in the Psalms, particularly the Psalms of David. A good example of this is Psalm 34: 6, which says,

“This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles”.

 This would appear to be David speaking of calling out to God in prayer for deliverance from his enemies at that time which we believe was the Philistines in Gath and even King Saul who the Philistines of Gath had informed of David’s presence among them.

The next verse of Psalm 34 speaks of God sending his angel to help protect and deliver him, just as Psalm 91 speaks of this kind of thing in verse 11 of our Psalm 91.

Then in the next verse of Psalm 34, verse 8, David speaks of a new and fresh experience of God through I believe this calling on God,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”.

 The New Testament has a similar teaching on this and we read in Romans 10: 12 – 13,

“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

It must be said also that people wont call on the Lord unless they hear and respond to the message of the Gospel as Paul goes on to say in Romans 10: 14 – 15,

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

  1. God’s promise of his presence in times of trouble

The next part of verse 15 says,

“I will be with him in trouble”.

 Right through the Psalm the concept of God being with the faithful believer, saving them and protecting them can be seen.

Vs. 1, Speaks of dwelling in the shelter of God.

Vs. 2, Speaks of God sheltering the faithful believer.

Vs. 4, Speaks of being under the wings of God – which is an image of being close to God.

Vs’s 11 – 13, Speak of God’s Angels guarding faithful believers and figuratively carrying them over dangerous paths.

Now it simply says God will be with faithful believers especially in times of Trouble.

David spoke a lot about God’s presence with him particularly through times of trouble like Psalm 27: 5,

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock”.

In Psalm 31: 5 David commits his spirit, his spiritual essence into God’s hands,

“Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth”.

Finally David sees his future in the presence of God even in death in Psalm 23: 6,

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

We have the same promise of God’s presence through Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our earthly lives, Matthew 28: 20b,

“And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age”.

 We have Jesus presence in the gathering of praying believers in Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Finally we have God’s promise that when we die we too like David will dwell in God’s presence forever, John 14: 1 – 3,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”.

 And, 2 Timothy 2: 10,

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory”.

  1. God’s promise of deliverance or salvation

 The final part of verse 15 says,

“I will deliver him and honor him”.

 This is a simple promise of God for the salvation of the faithful believer in the God of the Bible. God will deliver him which is another key concept or idea of this Psalm as we have seen in:

Vs. 3, Speaks of God saving or delivering us from the traps of life.

Vs. Vs. 11 – 13, Speaks of God’s Angels delivering us from the powerful enemies of The battles of life, pictured as wild dangerous animals.

Vs. 14, Speaks of God’s rescue of those who love him and acknowledge him.

Now in verse 15 it simply says that God will delver us and honor us. To honor us Spurgeon explains this way,

“The man honors God, and God honors him. Believers are not delivered or preserved in a way which lowers them, and makes them feel themselves degraded, far from it, the Lord’s salvation bestows honor upon those it delivers”.

 As Paul speaks of in Romans 8: 31 – 39,

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Our salvation in Christ is a glorious process of honour from beginning to the end.

  1. God’s promise of long life.

The last verse completes God’s promises of salvation and protection to those who call on him in real Old Testament terms as it speaks of the promise of long life,

“With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation”.

 Long life in the Old Testament is a sign of God’s blessing on a person as Leupold points out,

“Long life is elsewhere in Scriptures stressed as a blessing which God gives to reward his own”.

 Leopold then sites five examples in the bible of this, Psalm 21:4, 23:6, Deut. 30: 20, Proverbs 3: 2 and 3: 16.

Long life is the closest term that the Old Testament comes to the New Testaments term of eternal life although some of the references above hint at eternal life as well like Psalm 21: 4,

“He asked you for life, and he gave it to him – length of days, for ever and ever”.

David wrote these words and he certainly believed that when he died he would live with God forever as the second Leupold reference reveals, Psalm 23:6,

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

 So we can safely conclude that God’s promise of salvation and protection extends even into our death and it is this extension of God’s salvation that the New Testament takes up with great force on many occasions.

I will conclude with two excellent examples of God’s promises of salvation and protection in the New Testament.

  1. 1 Peter 5: 10

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”.

  1. Revelation 21: 3 – 4

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 CONCLUSION

 Psalm 91 has explored the great theme of God’s promises of salvation and protection in the battles of life.

It started with a great declaration of what dwelling in the shelter of God almighty brings which is refuge and protection in the battles of life.

It then used a number of battle or war camp images to declare the extent of this salvation and protection offered to all who have true faith in the God of the bible climaxing with the promise of protection through the very Angels of God who live in heaven.

Finally it made it clear that for those who truly love God and acknowledge his name or expressed revelation of himself in the bible would be rescued or saved and protected in times of trouble even as we face the trouble or life battle of death itself.

I close as usual with a original poem and a prayer.

I LONG TO DWELL WITH GOD

(Based on Psalm 91)

 

I long to dwell with God

Through this life I trod

To shelter under his wings

And know the help he brings

To those who trust in him

And turn away from sin.

 

I long to dwell with God

And know his powerful rod

That helps me battle through

Satan’s forces who

Seek to take me down

But I am heaven bound.

 

I long to dwell with God

And see the might of God

Who always fights for me

To help to make me free

His Angels sometime come

To guard the path I’m on.

 

I long to dwell with God

Because it’s him I love

He protects and rescues me

And gives me liberty

I know him through his word

That in days of old was heard.

 

I long to dwell with God

Through this life I trod

He answers when I call

To help me not to fall

And he will deliver me

With him in eternity.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Dear Father up above I call on you to help me live this life as I battle the forces of Satan and the many temptations of this life. Help me to always love you by trusting in what your Son, Jesus Christ has done for me. How he died for my sins on the cross making a way back to you in heaven. Protect me Lord in the battles of this life and may your Holy Spirit and even your Angels help me through this life to one- day dwell in your house forever. In Jesus powerful name I pray, Amen.

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