The Righteous One’s Enjoyment Of
God’s Protection & Blessing

a brief study of Psalm 91, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 9 Oct 2009

Psalm 91 is often associated with Psalm 90 not only because they are next to each other in the Psalter, but also because they share the idea of God being our dwelling place (Ps 90:1, 91:1, 9);

However, the two psalms carry different themes and are written in very different ways.[1] While Psalm 90 reflects on death, Psalm 91 reflects on God’s blessing and protection. We may entitle it the “The Righteous One’s Enjoyment of God’s Protection and Blessing.”

Bishop George Horne suggests that this psalm “is addressed primarily, to Messiah.” “That it relateth to him”, he adds, “Jews and Christians are agreed; and the devil, Matthew 4:6, cited two verses from it, as universally known and allowed to have been spoken of [Messiah].”

But we must remember that there is a mystical union between Christ and all believers, in that as He is the Righteous One, we are righteous ones imputed with His righteousness. Therefore, whatever applies to Him as the Righteous One would usually apply to all believers too. Therefore, most words in the psalms that address Christ directly would also address all believers.

With this in mind, we can divide the psalm into 4 parts:

·   The first part, verse 1-2, is an introduction in which Christ addresses the church and all who hear concerning the comfort and security of those who find shelter in God.

·   In the second part, verses 3-8, the Church replies to Christ, and all united to Him, that in so far as he has trusted in the Lord, he will experience the Father’s protection.

·   In the third part, verses 9-13, are mutual words of encouragement between Christ and the believer that God will not allow him to be harmed.

·   In the fourth part, verses 14-16, we have God the Father addressing the church, and confirming that He will protect and bless the Righteous One.

1. Christ & the Christian
to the Church

1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Why do I say this is Christ & the Christian speaking to the Church?

The reason is because of the nature of the Psalms. Psalms are meant not only for reading, but for congregational singing. The apostle Paul says:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16).

So the Psalms are not just meant for praise, but also for teaching and admonishing one another in song. So when the congregation sing, we are teaching and admonishing one another. And in Hebrews 2:12 we are taught that the Lord Jesus sings with us when we assemble for worship.

Putting these thoughts together, when we see the first person pronoun being used, it would be fitting for us to think of the words as from Christ and the individual believers united to him.

What would our Lord want us to hear Him say? What would the Lord want us to join Him to say to everyone in the Church?

1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Life in this fallen world is full of battles and storms. These may come by way of accidents, loss, illness, quarrels, disappointments, failures, or even temptations. Man, however strong, is but a creature of dust that can easily crumble physically, emotionally and spiritually.

But those who trust in the LORD will find Him to be a refuge and fortress to hide in the storm. And not only so, but they will find Him protecting them under the shadow of His wings like a mother eagle protecting her eaglets.

This is a truth that we need to be constantly reminded of as a church. But as we are reminded of this truth, let us do what the second part of this psalm reminds us to do, even to exhort one another to go to the Lord when the storm is blowing or the battle is raging.

2. The Church to Christ & Christian

3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. 7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. 8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

These words are composed in such a way that our Lord would have found comfort if it were sung by His people to encourage Him during His hours of suffering. The same words would be useful for us to encourage and admonish our brethren who are suffering in one way or another.

In my family, whenever one of us falls sick, we would sing this psalm, especially this portion. We call it the ‘pestilence psalm’, for it reminds us of how the Lord will protect us from ‘noisome pestilence.’ And we must believe this is true. And history is replete with examples of how God spared His people. We think of what happened during the bubonic plague in 1665 just before the Great Fire of London. We are told of how the clergy appointed by King Charles fled from their parish for fear of the plague, but the Puritan preachers banned by King Charles arose to minister to the needs of the people. And the Lord protected them and enabled them to continue to serve Him, through the most difficult times of danger and sorrow.

But not only are we promised deliverance from diseases, we are also being protected from being trapped by the wicked one, or harmed by diseases, or misled by lies.

We need not fear the dark and the unknown. We need not fear Satan’s darts. We need not fear the future, for the LORD holds tomorrow. We need not fear what the enemy of our souls may do to us (v. 7) for as Joshua promised:

“One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you” (Jos 23:10)

Rather than being harmed by the wicked one and his cohorts, you shall see, with your own eyes, justice meted out. It may be in this life, or it may be at the day of judgement. Whatever it is, God who is holy and just will see to it that tragedy does not happen to His children. All things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).

Trust in the Lord, beloved brethren and children. Hide in Him. Rest in Him. I don’t know what storm you are going through. I know some of us who are going through some severe storms and battles are not here. But perhaps some of you here are experiencing turmoil in your heart because of some difficulties you are experiencing which are not yet resolved. If so, may I urge you… hide in the Lord! Let the Lord be your refuge and shelter. Trust Him. Rest under the shadow of His wings. He alone is trustworthy.

3. Christ to the Christian & Vice Versa

9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. 11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. 13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Notice the singular pronouns ‘thou’ and ‘me’ (v. 9). This is why we speak of this portion as being the words of Christ to the individual believer and vice versa. In any case they apply to such as have made God his refuge. Our Lord would certainly have found refuge in the Father when the storm clouds gathered over Him. This was what He was doing in the Garden of Gethsamane.

But even before that, Satan already knew this psalm applies to Christ. In this he was not wrong. What was wrong was his misapplication of the text.

It was during our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness. Satan had first tempted our Lord to turn the stone into bread. The Lord had refuted him by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3—“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceed out of the mouth of God.”

Satan, not satisfied, had brought our Lord up to the pinnacle of the temple. How he got there, we are not told. But once there, Satan said to our Lord:

“If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Mt 4:6).

Satan is quoting from verse 11-12 of our text. And as Calvin suggests, “the devil did not wrest the words when, in his temptation in the wilderness, he applied them particularly to Christ.”

The problem was that Satan misapplied or misused the word in the circumstance. As Matthew Henry astutely observes:

The charge is to keep thee in all thy ways; here is a limitation of the promise: They shall keep thee in thy ways, that is, “as long as thou keepest in the way of thy duty;’’ those that go out of that way put themselves out of God’s protection. This word the devil left out when he quoted the promise to enforce a temptation, knowing how much it made against him.

Bearing this in mind, let us understand the promise that we are taught here and to use it to encourage one another in the Lord. This promise applies only to those who have made the most high their habitation (v. 9). The promise is that plagues will be kept away from our homes (v. 10). The promise is also that God will give His angels charge over us (v. 11). As Calvin noted, it is clear then that the idea of a guardian angel for each person is a false notion, for God appoints a multitude of angels to minister to His saints. What will the angels do? They will keep us from accidents and mishaps.

In ancient days this may happen when we trip against a rock or accidentally stumble into the hidden place of lion’s cubs or step on a poisonous snake (v. 12-13).

Today, accidents and mishaps may have to do with traffic or industrial accidents; or even accidents in the homes. We must not tempt the Lord by putting ourselves in dangerous circumstances knowingly, such as typing an SMS while driving, having a toddler stand at the stove while cooking or going for a dangerous bungee jump. But when we have taken all precautions, the angels will be our eyes to protect us from all harm.

This is the promise. Angels are not omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent. So their protection is not 100%. And though God has ordained all things and brings all things to pass by His providential power, He has appointed that all things happen according to the course of nature and the decision of rational beings. As such, it is still possible for us to fall into accidents. But we must believe that the angels have been given charge over us so that we may have confidence and assurance even in difficult circumstances, and so that we may learn to thank God for His protection that He wrought through the angels appointed to our care.

But finally, consider what the Father will say to us:

4. The Father to the Church 

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. 15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Notice that what the Father is saying concerns Christ and the Christian. But it is said to the church. This is why the third person pronoun is used to refer to Christ and the Christian.

And notice that what the Father is saying is essentially Romans 8:28. Compare with verse 14—

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

Those who are called according to God’s purpose will call upon the LORD. Those who love Him will know His love, for in the first place, we love because He first loved us.

Those who know the Lord’s love will experience His blessings, even the blessings that the Lord has determined to bestow. Look at the number of ‘I wills’ promised by the Lord:

·         I will deliver him;

·         I will set him on high;

·         I will answer him;

·         I will be with in trouble;

·         I will deliver him;

·         I will honour him;

·         I will satisfy him with long life;

·         I will show him my salvation.

If God will be for us, who can be against us? Beloved brethren and children, trust in the Lord. Hide in Him. Trust Him. Do not allow fears and trials and sorrows rob your joy and confidence in the Lord!


Some years ago, a young man told me that he was having trouble with his pastor writing uninspired songs for the church to sing. This man was not convinced of exclusive psalmody and I don’t think he is convinced of it today as he is worshipping in a church which does not sing the psalms as far as I know. But what was striking was that this man was upset that his pastor had written about how God will keep those who trust him in good health and protect them from all harm and danger. To this man, it was plain superstition and he told me that he could not sing such a song.

Well, I don’t think we have the warrant to write songs for public worship of God. However, I felt it necessary to tell the young man that actually what his pastor wrote is found in a number of places in the Scripture, including Psalm 91!

Why did this man have difficulty with what was written? The problem, I believe, is partly unbelief and partly a reaction to the superstitious thinking that plagues many modern Christians. Why do I say it is unbelief? I say it is unbelief because the word of God does teach us that God’s blessing does not only extend to the spiritual and eternal realm, but also to the temporal and physical realm. The fact that Christians also suffer from diseases is no indication that God’s promise has failed. The fact that things normally happen according to the course of nature,—such as if we share a cup with someone with flu, we are likely to catch flu,—does not mean that God’s promise is false.

But at the same time, many Christians simply ignore rationality, and forget that the Lord said to the devil: “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Mt 4:7). My friend, I believe, was reacting to what his pastor said because he felt that his pastor was entertaining the Charismatic superstition. Indeed, many fail to realise that the notion of protection from harm is scriptural, and supposes that anyone who propound these ideas are necessarily superstitious.

But beloved brethren and children, I trust you can see from this psalm that this is not the case. I trust that you can also see that it is not wrong to pray for protection from diseases—both spiritual and temporal. As the Father protected and blessed His Son, so He will do so for all who are united to Him. Amen. Ω

[1] Psalm 90 is very straightforward as to who is the speaker. The speaker is Moses, representing the Church or the believer in union with Christ. So when we sing Psalm 90, we can take every word as coming out of our heart, rather than speaking the words of God or of Christ like we do when we sing Psalm 22.

Psalm 91, on the other hand, is like Psalm 89, where it is sometimes difficult to determine who is speaking to whom. Who is the ‘he’, ‘I’ or ‘thou’ in this Psalm? Dr Henstenberg noted these changes in pronoun and suggests that we really do not need to pay too much attention to them. But I think it will help us to appreciate the psalm better if we observe the changes in the pronoun.