Divine Protection

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I’ve heard this axiom before maybe you have too, that...
The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.
This of course sounds nice and it really feels like it should be true.
It just makes sense to us that if we do all that God asks of us then we should therefore experience safety and protection.
Psalm 91 is a favorite for many people. And in a time in history when we are living through a global pandemic, I’ve heard many cite this Psalm and pray it for people as a way to claim divine protection from the dangers we face today.
But is this how we should understand Psalm 91?
If not, then how should we understand this and rightly apply it to our lives?
We’re going to look at Psalm 91 through 3 lenses this morning.
We’ll see how this is commonly misunderstood
Then look at how it should be understood
And lastly, we’ll see how to properly apply its message to our lives
Psalm 91 ESV
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I 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, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor 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 recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”


There are some who look at Psalm 91 and believe that it supports a view that is sadly all too common in the west.
Some see Psalm 91 as a guarantee of divine protection from any and all harms...
From the traps and arrows of enemies
From wild animals
From plagues and disease — they will not come near our tent.
1,000’s will fall by our side, but NOT us because angels are commanded to guard us in all our ways.
The condition though is that we simply have a strong enough faith to believe and claim these promises.
Some have wed ideas from the “Power of Positive Thinking” movement with the scriptures and teach that our very words have the power to create — just as God used words to create the world and we are made in his image with a similar ability.
This is where “Word of Faith” and "Name It and Claim It" teaching has come from.
So with the measure of our faith and the power of our words if we claim a promise it is as good as ours.
Those who teach this approach Psalm 91 with such great vigor!
With the strength of our faith and the power of our words to claim and actualize God’s promises in our lives, Psalm 91 is wielded as magic wand to bring divine protection and healing into our lives...
As long as our faith is strong enough...
We will be protected from our enemies
No plague will come near our tent
1,000’s will fall by our side but not us
Angels themselves will guard all our ways
This sounds really great and is something we would like to be true.
If we trust God, He will protect us. We won’t get cancer and COVID will not come near our tents.
If you trust God, then nothing really bad will happen to you.
But is this how we should understand and apply these promises?
I think NOT and to do so is a serious error for at least two reasons.
FIRST, If you’ve ever read the book of Job, then you know that we cannot claim the promises of Psalm 91 in this way.
A lot of the things that Psalm 91 says won’t happen to you if you trust God, happened to Job.
Disease and pestilence attack his body. He experiences tremendous disaster.
And then Job’s “FRIENDS” come and tell him that he needs to repent because all of these things are happening to him because there is somewhere where he is not trusting God enough or where he is even harboring some secret sin.
THIS IS ON YOU!, his friends say. It’s your fault that you are suffering the way you are. Because if Job was right with God then he would have been protected.
Can we really go to someone who has cancer and tell them that, “Hey, this is on you. You need to repent and trust God more.”
NO WAY! I would even call that spiritually abusive.
Look, at the end of the book of Job, God brings clarity to the situation. He says to Job’s friends...
My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. (Job 42:7)
So, if you’ve ever read the book of Job, you’ll know that you simply cannot read Psalm 91 this way. Otherwise, you are no different than Job’s friends. If you read it this way, God says to you, “You are not speaking truth about me.”
SECOND, another reason that we shouldn’t understand Psalm 91 this way is because that is how the devil wants you to understand it.
In the New Testament, when Jesus is being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Satan actually quotes Psalm 91:11-12 in Matthew 4:5-6
Matthew 4:5–6 ESV
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
Satan is trying to derail Jesus. Satan points to Jesus’ identity — IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD — and claims the divine protection of Psalm 91 for Him.
Satan is trying to derail us too if we read any verse in the Bible this way.
Because if we do…if we believe that if we are trusting God, then He is not going to let anything bad happen to us…Satan knows where this leads to.
He knows that eventually you are going to experience suffering in this life and when you do, you will either pull away from God because He can’t be trusted or you will turn on yourself for not being spiritual enough.
Thirdly, look at what the rest of the New Testament says about suffering in the life of a follower of Jesus… There are examples of or promises of suffering in every New Testament book. Here’s just a sample...
Acts 5:40–41 ESV
and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Romans 8:16–18 ESV
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Philippians 1:29 ESV
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
1 Thessalonians 3:2–4 ESV
and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.
2 Timothy 1:8 ESV
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,
2 Timothy 2:3 ESV
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
2 Timothy 4:5 ESV
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
1 Peter 2:19–21 ESV
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 4:12–13 ESV
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
So, the New Testament will not allow us to read Psalm 91 this way either.
Before we move on, I want to show you something that Jesus himself promised his followers in Luke 21:16-18
Luke 21:16–18 ESV
You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish.
Some of you they will put to death…but not a hair of your head will perish.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? I think the key to this is understanding the meaning of Psalm 91.


First, who is this written to?
While this Psalm is not officially attributed to anyone in particular, there is good reason to understand this as a Psalm of David and therefore a Psalm that is speaking about an individual who is a Davidic King.
I think this is the correct way to understand this for several reasons...
First, this Psalm can be read as being written about a single person. All of the “you’s” are singular. All of the the other references are to a “HE”, a “MY”, or an “I”.
Secondly, the language used has a lot in common with other Davidic Psalms. This is especially so when you understand this Psalm as being directed to a Davidic King before going into battle.
There’s language of...
Refuge and Fortresses
There’s rescue from the traps of enemies
Shields and arrows
Pestilence was always a risk on the battle field
The tent that no plague will come near can easily be taken as the kings tent in a military campaign.
Thousands falling by his side in battle
John Eaton speaks for many commentators when he writes in his book, Kingship in the Psalms (p. 17)
The individual on whom such promises are lavished could hardly be any but the king.
So if this points to a Davidic King then this would ultimately be fulfilled by God’s promised anointed forever King — This is a Psalm about JESUS!
Thirdly, this is something that Satan knew because he cites Jesus’ identity when he applied Psalm 91 to Jesus.
Satan begins his second temptation with the words, If you are the Son of God...
And the title Son of God is a direct reference to the anointed king in David’s line.
We see this connection in Psalm 2, which is also a Psalm about the LORD’s anointed. Look at Psalm 2:7
Psalm 2:7 ESV
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
So, to properly understand this Psalm we must first see it as a Psalm about Jesus, God’s anointed king.
So, how does this apply to Jesus?
Wasn’t Jesus the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
Did Jesus suffer at the hands of sinners?
Beaten, mocked, flogged, and nailed to a Roman cross.
Jesus didn’t experience the kind of divine protection that some claim Psalm 91 promises.
So, how did Jesus experience these promises?
FIRST, Jesus was the only one lived who ever lived who could truly say he trusted in God completely as it says in verses 2 & 9.
SECONDLY, look at God’s direct promise to his anointed king in verse 15. He says,
I will be WITH him in trouble. I will rescue him and honor him.
Rightly understood, God is not promising his anointed that he will not experience trouble but that He will be WITH him in trouble and that he will be rescued from trouble and honored.
Jesus endured trouble when he fulfilled the promise of Genesis 3:15. I’m sure that this is what verse 13 is alluding to in our text.
Jesus was the promised seed of the woman Eve who would do battle against the serpent Satan and crush him underfoot.
This battle brought Jesus to the cross where He achieved victory over Satan, sin, and death by his resurrection from the dead.
This is where Jesus experienced the promises of Psalm 91 — at His resurrection!
And further at the end of history when he returns in power and glory to do battle against the nations of the earth that have rejected him.
He will be invincible and surely nothing will be able to touch him!


So, if Psalm 91 is about Jesus, God’s anointed king. How are we to pray this Psalm and apply it to our lives?
First look with me at Ephesians 1:3
Ephesians 1:3 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Paul is saying that EVERY spiritual blessing is ours if we are IN CHRIST.
Now look at Romans 8:32
Romans 8:32 ESV
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
All the promises of God are ours because of Jesus but they come to us “WITH HIM”.
If we are IN Christ and WITH Christ then his victory is our victory. His resurrection was a first fruits of what is to come for all who belong to Jesus.
There is a resurrection to come. And all those who are IN Christ will be given new immortal and imperishable bodies that will not grow old, break down, get sick, or experience pain.
WITH Christ we will look with our eyes on the recompense of the wicked. A thousand will fall by our side. Ten thousand at our right hand.
This is what Jesus meant when he said that some of you will be killed but not a hair on your head will perish.
Man may kill our bodies but God ensures that we will not perish.
God gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
So, how is it that we come to be IN and WITH Christ?
Verse 4 talks about finding refuge under God’s wings. This is a common word picture in the scriptures.
You may have heard something like this before. And it’s pretty relatable today given the forest fires in the west right now.
In one particular forest fire park rangers went in after the fires had died down. They came upon this particular tree that was just charred to a stump.
And at the base of the tree they found a bird — upright with its wings out and burned to a crisp. The rangers moved the bird aside to find 3 little chicks, alive who ran out from underneath this mother bird.
When the heat came, the mother bird did her thing and let the heat come down on her instead of her chicks.
In Luke 13:34 Jesus, thinking of the judgement to come and longing to protect his people laments over Jerusalem. He says...
Luke 13:34 ESV
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
When Jesus went to the cross and died, he was like that mother bird — burned to a crisp by the wrath of God poured out on our sin. He died in our place taking what was due to us.
Jesus invites all who will come, to come under his wings, and be found IN HIM.
And the direct promises of God in verses 14-16 can be yours. God will...
Ultimately deliver you from your enemy, sin, and death IN JESUS
He will protect you — IN JESUS
He will be with you in trouble
Rescue and honor you — IN JESUS
He will satisfy you and show you his salvation — IN JESUS
But how does one come to Christ to be found IN HIM? Again look at verses 14-16...
You must know his name — that is his character — namely his love for you that sent Jesus to die in your place for your sin.
Knowing his loving name, you must respond by holding fast to him in love by calling to him asking him to forgive your sins.
And the promise is that He WILL answer you and save you!
Indeed! All who call upon the name of the LORD will be saved!
And for those who are already in Christ, Psalm 91 gives us such rich promises in Christ. Especially if...
Your health is compromised by cancer or some other disease.
Or you feel unjustly oppressed by an enemy.
Or you’re suffering in any other way.
In 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed by a tribe in Ecuador that they were trying to bring the Gospel to. Jim was only 28 at the time.
His widow Elisabeth share this story in a book she titled SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY. This was an insightful title for a story about a man who died an untimely and violent death.
Because to be in the shadow of the almighty does not insulate us from suffering, sickness, or even a violent death. It means something so much deeper.
It means the assurance of our bodily resurrection.
This how Jesus received these promises — They came AFTER his suffering and death at his bodily resurrection.
It was THEN that he was finally and fully rescued from every attack and all suffering.
This Psalm never exempted Jesus from suffering as Satan suggested. But it guaranteed a final rescue from all trials. And it’s the same for us who are IN Christ.
Remember Christ’s kingdom is here but it’s fullness is still yet to come.
So it is with our salvation...
We have been saved from the penalty of sin. (Eph 2:8-9)
We are being saved day by day from the power of sin. (1 Cor. 1:18)
We will be saved at the resurrection from the presence of sin. (Rom. 5:9)
So as we await the completion of our salvation, remember Jesus’ words in Luke 21...
Some of you they will put to death…But not a hair of your head will perish.
And the very next verse says...
By your endurance you will gain your lives.
While we await the completion of our salvation — we endure suffering, affliction, and persecution — And Psalm 91 teaches us that God is with us in our troubles and in just a short while — at the resurrection, all the blessings of Christ in Psalm 91 will be ours completely!
This is the message of Psalm 91.
Be Found IN Christ
Persevere WITH Christ
Receive all the blessings OF Christ
Jude 24–25 ESV
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
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