Living with God's Loving Assurance - Psalm 91:1-16

Songs that Glorify the God of Love  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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To understand that living faithfully carries risk and does not preclude dangers, but also that "nothing can separate us from God's love in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38)

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Introduction/Seeing the Need

People understand protection and security in different ways. Christians often feel most secure when in the strong and trusting arms of their parents, possibly holding a threadbare blanket or teddy bear. Parents might feel most secure in a safe neighborhood, with doors that lock and money in their savings account. As Christians, however, we know that our ultimate protection and security comes from God. It is no wonder that the Bible uses images of strength to describe him: rock, refuge, fortress. No blanket or padlock can compare with the strong protection available from God.
Elizabeth Elliott (1926-2015) was well known for sharing the gospel with an indigenous tribe in Ecuador some 60 years ago. The tribe of her book Shadow of the Almighty alludes to the description of God in . As such, it highlights her belief in God’s protective grace, even in dangerous circumstances. Elliot understood that God was not distant, but very close - a steadfast refuge. And she lived out her trust in radical ways. can teach us to live the same way.
As Christians, however, we know that our ultimate protection and security comes from God. It is no wonder that the Bible uses images of strength to describe him: rock, refuge, fortress. No blanket or padlock can compare with the strong protection available from God.
Bible commentator, Frank H. Ballard says, “We ought not to approach every psalm with the same mental attitude, for some are songs of praise, others songs of penitence. There are hymns which are primarily personal, others that are national, and much depends on our ability to repeat them in spirit as well as understanding.” We get a better understanding by looking at alongside . Ballard observes that both psalms begins with “blessedness of those who find a dwelling place in God. But [] the tone is more confident. The faith is not necessarily deeper, or even as deep, but it rises on easy wings and sings spontaneously.”
Whereas appears to be written by an aged person who has experienced disappointments and frustrations, says Ballard, ’s tone suggests a young person writing “with buoyancy and expectancy.” That psalmist’s lyrics are not the praise of self-confidence but the testimony of one “whose hope is rooted in God.” The psalmist knows that life has many perils; the fowler’s snare, the pit of destruction, the terror by night, and the arrow that flieth by day. Despite that knowledge, however, the psalmist’s “mind is obsessed, not by these things but by the security of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High.

Safe Place -

Psalm 91:1–8 NRSV
You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday. 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 punishment of the wicked.
These first lines of rhyme with the share imagery of the Lord’s protection for those who seek refuge in him. The Hebrew word translated shelter carries the idea of a secret place to hide. This fact relates to the burning questions of and 89:46, which ask why God is hiding. As the unidentified psalmist declares that God is a shelter, he implies that God is not hiding; rather we hide in him. The opening generalizes this fact. Everyone who seeks the protective shadow of the Almighty will find it.
Notice that the one protected must actively seek the protection of the Lord. God’s people are not passive participants in relationship with him, but active covenant-keepers. Throughout this psalm, the author alternates between the actions of the worshipper and the actions of God, thus highlighting the dynamic covenant relationship.
Practically speaking how can you rest in God’s “shadow” in the coming week?
Notice in verse 2, the transition of imagery from the previous verse, with those of refuge and fortress being more military in nature. These images bring to mind the confidence that the people of Judah once had in the protection and surety of Jerusalem and the temple. Before the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon, God’s people mistakenly saw the holy city and the temple as their security and as proof of God’s presence and protection. After the exile, however, the Israelites come to understand that God himself is their true protection and security.
What procedure can we adopt to ensure we thank God for his protection?
In verse 3 the psalmist now expands on the protective imagery introduced in the first stanza. In so doing, he likens the reader to a bird delivered from the fowler’s snare. The Lord is able to deliver his people from the trap of human enemies. Pestilence, by contrast, is not something we normally think of as being inflicted on one person by another. Rather, pestilence or plague is seen as being inflicted by God. Just as birds are helpless before a well-constructed trap set by enemies, so human beings are helpless before destructive pestilence.
In verse 4, God is now likened to a mother bird protecting her young in the shelter of her wings. If animals instinctively know how to protect their young, how much more does God know how to do so for those created in his image! Even when we are feeling helpless, he is the one who remembers us “in our low estate.”
In verse 4, it is specifically God’s faithfulness that is described in terms of these defensive armaments. God is trust to his promises. His faithfulness to these is seen nowhere more clearly than when he sends his own Son to take on human flesh, die for the sins of humanity, and rise again in triumph over sin, Satan, and death.
In addition to being strong and sure, God’s protection is constant; this is the idea behind these images; of might, by day, darkness, and midday. The terror is a general image of something deceitful. At first thought, we may conclude the arrow describes a threat from a human enemy, but the Bible sometimes uses that word figuratively to refer to flashes of lightning in storms. Thus it may not be far off to suggest that the expression the arrow that flies refers to what we call “the storms of life.”
What are some steps you can take to transform fear to trust the next time you feel threatened?
Unfortunately, God’s people are sometimes distracted by the fact that those who do wicked works are often prosperous. That fact is noted in the Bible. We can rest assured that God knows this and has plans to deal with it in his time. The important thing is not to question God’s justice in the meantime. Should we do so anyway, we may find our questions turned back on us, as in . God’s protection surpasses all human efforts at security in this world. Of course, that’s easy to say when threats seem distant. Whether we actually can rest on that assurance is proven only in the crucible of danger.

Trustworthy Protector -

Psalm 91:11–13 NRSV
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
This portion of today’s text takes us to observations regarding the role of angels in our protection. These are created, heavenly beings who can take visible forms to do God’s work. In addition to delivering messages, they are depicted as strong protectors and warriors. It is tempting to test God’s promises of protection to verify them. Satan tempted Jesus that way by quoting , to him in : “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 responded with : “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
What will you teach others about the concept of “guardian angels” as a result of studying ?
The previous two verses tell us that God will defend his people even to the extent of sending his heavenly agents to protect us. In verse 15, God’s protection moves from the defensive to the offensive: not only will God keep his people from harm, but he will empower us to defeat the fiercest of foes.
No one doubts that the lion is “king of the beasts.” The cobra is an extremely poisonous snake. The great lion is on that is in its prime. The serpent is a large snake. These creatures are used figuratively to represent any and all persons and powers that threaten God’s people.

Sure Promises -

Psalm 91:14–16 NRSV
Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
Here begins the final stanza of the psalm. This marks a transition of speakers from the psalmist to God himself. Here we see the result of trusting in the Lord, in parallel thoughts. The condition for receiving the promised deliverance from evil is to have placed full devotion in the Lord. The expression he acknowledges my name denotes intimacy of knowing about someone. God knows his true followers by their love for him and by their understanding of who he is. Those who actively trust, love, and serve him will find refuge in his protective salvation.
God knows his true followers by their love for him and by their understanding of who he is. Those who actively trust, love, and serve him will find refuge in his protective salvation.
How will you express your love for the Lord in the month ahead?
Verses 15 & 16 climax the psalm. They should be read together in order to appreciate the intensification of the Lord’s promises. The two opening phrases establish the relationship that is the focus of : when God’s people call on him, he is faithful to answer. God is not aloof or disinterested. He initiated the relationship with his people and established a means of communication. The lines of communication of prayer, worship, and reading God’s Word remain open today.
Several promises follow the opening phrases. These can be seen broadly as two categories: blessings for the present life and certainty of ultimate salvation. Notice that God does not promise that his faithful people will never experience trouble, but that He will be with them in the midst of it.
God already has secured our salvation in Christ, but he has not yet eradicated evil and suffering form his creation. That is why we can trust him in the midst of suffering. He is with us, he will deliver us, and he will honor us.


In the fallen world, God’s people are surrounded by evil, danger, and suffering. is an emphatic reminder that God is trustworthy and mighty to save. Christians should expect to share in Christ’s suffering, even unto death. But we should also expect God’s protective blessings. Rather than contradictory realities of the Christian life, the existence of persistent sin in the world alongside the victory of Christ is a dynamic tension.
Elisabeth Elliot understood this tension and fiercely trusted in God as her refuge. She knew firsthand that God’s protection did not preclude suffering and death in this life. Her book mentioned in the Introduction is a biography of her lat first husband, Jim Elliot, who was killed by the very people with whom he tried to share the gospel. After his death, Elisabeth Elliot returned to her husband’s murderers. She was frightened, but she was faithful. She knew of the dangers, but she also knew of God’s trustworthy protection and salvation.
For us Christians, it is all too easy to seek protection in something other than God himself. It is tempting to trust in financial security, military defenses, reputation, or even in church membership. Service to the church is an important responsibility of all Christians; but as we give of our time, talent, and treasure, we take care that our trust is in God himself and not in what we think our works earn.


Almighty God you are our true protection and salvation. Please strengthen our trust and protect us against the evil and danger that surrounds us. Equip us to be agents of your protection and bold proclaimers of your salvation to the ends of the earth. O God, help us to face life with neither foolhardiness, nor be overwhelmed by fear; but in all things to abide in the shelter your provide. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
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