What does love have to do with protection? Quite a lot, as it happens. Parents shield their children from danger out of instinctive and intense devotion. Friends defend each other due to their sense of brotherly affection. We tenderly watch over our pets because we care so much for them. Well, God’s protection has something in common with all this. He watches over those whom He loves.
Illustration by Adam Cruft
The psalms are often categorized into several types, including songs of praise, of lament, and of thanksgiving. Today’s chapter is a wisdom psalm—one that shares an important truth.
God’s promises are generous, loving, and for all believers—but that doesn’t mean we passively receive them. We have to be actively connected to God in order to experience the benefits of knowing Him.
Psalm 91 is usually thought of as a prayer of protection. But in fact, it presents protection as a result of something arguably more important. Reread the first line. What activity is the psalm’s starting point?
In verse 1, the Hebrew verb translated “dwells” is yashab, which means literally “to sit down; to stay.” The Bible says that as believers in Christ, we are part of God’s household (Eph. 2:19). So we already “dwell” in His shelter. But it’s possible to share living space without speaking or interacting much. Consider the literal meaning of yashab. Are you one who “sits down” together with God?
Reread the second half of Psalm 91:1. The Hebrew verb translated “lodge” is luwn, meaning literally “to pass the night.” A loose interpretation of lines 1 and 2, then, might be “one who sits down with God will pass the nights with Him.” List a few experiences that could be considered “nights.” How has private time with the Lord helped you to get through dark periods in the past?
In verse 2, the psalmist calls God his “refuge” and “fortress.” Think again about the meaning of the word yashab in verse 1. What does “staying” have to do with a “fortress”? As you consider your answer, recall that Jesus referred to the enemy (Satan) as “the ruler of this world” (John 16:11).
CONTINUING THE STORY
God promises to protect us and to be with us in trouble.
Of the dangers listed (Ps. 91:3-13), choose one you’ve seen God shelter you from, and give thanks. Next, choose one for which His care may have been undetectable. Acknowledging God’s unseen kindnesses shows humility and a grateful heart. Take time to praise Him now for that protection.
By living in intimacy with the Lord and continually seeking His presence, we discover a deeper level of His affection and loyalty (vv. 11, 14-16). Does this surprise you? Consider where you’d like to find yourself on this continuum. What are some ways you can develop your relationship in that direction?
However closely we walk with God, we’ll still experience trials, suffering, and, of course, physical death. How does verse 15 help you understand the seeming contradiction of Christian suffering?
Psalm 91 describes blessings that God grants when doing so is best for us, according to His will.
If God allows us to experience trouble, He’ll use it for our good (Rom. 8:28). Joy is found in rejoicing when He chooses to shield us from danger and also when He walks with us through it. (See James 1:2-3.)
Consider deeper aspects of this study.
At the end of Psalm 91, the psalmist stops speaking in his own words and directly quotes God, indicating that in a close relationship with the Lord, we’ll hear what He has to say (vv. 14-16). This won’t necessarily happen audibly—rather, it’s common to have an “inner knowing” that God has expressed something. Notice something else: God appears to be pleased that the psalmist knows His name (v. 14). Have you ever experienced an affectionate relationship in which you and your counterpart have special names for each other? This can be a sweet and pleasant expression of love. Let’s look at names the psalmist uses for his—and our—God:
Most High (v. 1): This name simply indicates God’s supremacy over all. What feeling does it evoke in you? Fear? Reverence? Awe? Joy? Examine your reaction.
Almighty (v. 1): The Hebrew meaning of El Shaddai is related to fields and land. How does God’s ultimate sovereignty give confidence as you walk through life knowing you belong to Him?
My God (v. 2): The psalmist uses the possessive “my” with Elohim. Do you find this daring? Touching? Relatable? Ask yourself whether you’ve achieved this level of intimacy with the Lord.
As a believer, you live in God’s fortress, where He’s always available. The more you seek Him out, the closer to Him you’ll grow. What joy it will be to hear Him say of you, “This child of mine loves me!” If you’ve heard this already, consider yourself profoundly and richly blessed.