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Psalm 91: Eternal Safety in a World of Danger

Where can safety be found? Whether it’s in a time of global panic as we face a terrifying new virus, or in times of relative peace, the search for security is a perennial preoccupation of the human heart. One of the reasons we seek safety is because the world is a dangerous place—something we feel especially acutely now, as African countries do all they can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As we read articles that highlight the vulnerability of our countries to COVID-19 ( Like the Guardian’s “Africa’s fragile health systems rush to contain coronavirus“) our hearts will be asking the question: where can safety be found? Well, into our fear and anxiety, Psalm 91 promises us eternal protection and guaranteed victory. Let’s look at it together:

The search for security is a perennial preoccupation of the human heart

Psalm 91 (NIVUK)

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2I 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 honour him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’

What is Psalm 91 Promising?

Did you notice how verses 1 and 2 repeat the same idea? An emphasis is being made to highlight the truth and central theme of the psalm—that the person who trusts in God will be genuinely safe. These first two verses introduce the point that will be illustrated in verses three onwards—namely, that the person who truly seeks security in God will find it. That person will be safe; Psalm 91 promises protection.

It really is a remarkable picture of total protection and final victory—all given to the one who trusts in God

So as we consider verses 3-13, we see a vivid picture of “protection at all times and from all threats” (Christopher Ash, Psalms For You). It’s a total and comprehensive protection—in night and day, from arrows and pestilence, lions and cobras—which highlights the point of the psalm: there is no possible danger which can threaten the security of this trusting believer. I’d encourage you to read it over again, slowly. Reflect on each promise. It really is a remarkable picture of total protection and final victory—all given to the one who trusts in God. Nothing can harm him. Reflect, for a moment, on just how remarkable that kind of promise is. In a world of danger, a promise of safety—of total safety—is being made.

Now, before we rush on to the application, there is another vital question we must ask of this psalm.

Who is Psalm 91 Promising Safety To?

One of the crucial things we must do when reading the psalms is ask ourselves: Who is speaking? Who is this psalm promising safety to? In Psalm 91, the speaker is Israel’s King, a righteous ruler who has put his trust in the God of the Bible. And these promises are, therefore, for that person—the king, the righteous king who always trusts God.

However, we know that King David didn’t always trust God. And neither did any other human king. In fact, the only One who ever fully trusted God is King David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus. When we recognise that Psalm 91 is fulfilled in Jesus, we can see the full truth of the final verses: intimate and committed love from God the Son to God the Father. These promises are his! The psalm is promising safety to God’s King—security and victory are his. In a world of danger, God’s King will be safe—safe from suffering and safe from the wicked.

Jesus experienced suffering in order to achieve our salvation and is now eternally secure and ultimately victorious. He is God’s King, who now rules and reigns in perfect safety

And yet… instead of being saved from the wicked, the Lord Jesus dies in the place of the wicked. These promises of safety seem to be disproven—because Jesus suffered immensely—until we realise that it was through his death, resurrection, and ascension that Jesus ultimately came to experience these promises in their fullness. Jesus experienced suffering in order to achieve our salvation and is now eternally secure and ultimately victorious. He is God’s King, who now rules and reigns in perfect safety!

Is this Promise of Safety for Me?

So is Psalm 91 and its promises for you and me? Are its promises for us, today? The glorious answer is yes—they are indeed ours in Christ! Through faith in God’s King, we can come into God’s eternal security. This promise of safety is yours in Christ.

Does this mean total security and prosperity in this life? Of course not—it didn’t mean that for the Lord Jesus, and it will not mean that for us. The fact that these promises are for us does not guarantee freedom from pain, illness or suffering in this life. It doesn’t mean that we won’t experience violence or plagues. And it doesn’t mean that we are promised immunity from contracting viruses or experiencing the painful economic consequences of COVID-19.

Like the Lord Jesus, we too will experience a resurrection! A final rescue from all danger. And we will be with him—and we will be safe

But it does mean, that, in the final analysis, we are safe. Genuinely safe. For, like the Lord Jesus, we too will experience a resurrection! A final rescue from all danger. And we will be with him—and we will be safe. Eternally safe.

Which means that when danger comes, or when pestilence strikes, we can face the threats realistically—knowing that ultimate safety is still ours. We can face risks sensibly, with both courage and composure, being prayerful and practical. This psalm, by promising eternal security, helps us live wisely now, in the midst of a dangerous world. Because, no matter what to happens to us as we battle this terrifying new virus, we know that we are safe—safe in the shadow of the Almighty.

Three Questions for Reflection:

  1. If we ignore how Psalm 91 is fulfilled in Jesus, how might we wrongly interpret it?
  2. Which of the promises in this Psalm 91 resonate most deeply with you right now?
  3. How might you use Psalm 91 to enrich your praying – so that you might increase your trust in God?

Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website here.

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