Today’s Scripture Lesson: Psalm 91
Once again, I encourage you to read through this Psalm in its entirety and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you through His Word.
The author of the 91st Psalm remains unidentified; scholars have debated about who wrote this Psalm, with David and Moses being the most prominent possibilities.
Because the authorship is veiled to us, it may be interesting to read this Psalm through the lens of your understanding of Moses and his relationship with God, as well as David and his relationship with God, using their stories to create the backdrop against which this Psalm was set.
However, it is also important to read this Psalm without either backdrop and read it through the lens of a servant and child of God who loves the Lord God and revels in His glory and lovingkindness.
If you’ve gone through this Psalm on your own, you may have noticed that this Psalm contains the scripture satan quoted when tempting Jesus in the desert. Admittedly, because of this connection to the New Testament, it is difficult for me to focus on anything else. But, when you consider that Satan only wanted to point to a small snippet, doesn’t it seem logical to assume that’s all he wants you to see?
This makes me want to see the rest of the Psalm more clearly.
God is Our Refuge
Take notice of the words used in the first 10 verses:
- shelter of the Most High
- in the shadow of the Almighty
- my refuge
- my fortress
- He will cover
- under His wings
- bulwark (rampart)
- dwelling place
Throughout these Psalms, we have seen time and time again, from one psalmist after another, that God is the refuge, dwelling place, fortress, and shield where His children abide/dwell. Things are no different here.
Take a moment to notice how the psalmist personalizes the words. Rather than saying “a refuge,” the psalmist says, “my refuge.”
How do you understand your standing in the kingdom? Do you personalize or do you generalize? The answers to those questions have everything to do with how you view His mercy and grace in your own life versus your personal actions and behaviors. God’s mercy and grace will always lead your heart into confidence and security, while a focus on personal behavior and action will always lead your mind to a place of fear and insecurity.
God is Our Protector
In verses 5,6,7,8 and 10, the psalmist reveals all the calamity from which the righteous will be protected:
- terror by night
- arrows that fly by day
- recompense of the wicked
This can be dicey territory at this point. Of course, the argument is, “If this is true, does that mean that no righteous men or women have fallen to plague, disease, violence, etc? Does that mean that anyone who has fallen to such maladies wasn’t saved?”
The answer to these questions is an emphatic “NO.” And, we should never be quick to assume an “if/then” relationship in such cases as a litmus test for faith and salvation. Jesus was never physically safe, and neither were any of the apostles.
What it does mean is that when God gives us, believers, a specific calling or charge and we walk in obedience, we should do so without fear of losing our standing in His kingdom.
Mission work isn’t a call to safety in this world. It is a call to obedience and kingdom work which happens on both physical and spiritual battlegrounds. Many missionaries have succumbed to disease and violence on the mission, as well as faithful followers who were simply serving within their own community. We must not narrow the scope of God’s faithfulness and truth to our finite earthly timelines. The shadow of His wing stretches well beyond your physical existence on planet earth.
God Almighty is in Control
Verses 11 and 12 are familiar words for those who know the story of Satan tempting Jesus in the desert. Let’s read what is written in these verses and then we will look at Luke’s account of the temptation.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.
Now, let’s look at the temptation in the desert.
And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,’ and, ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”
Read over those to excerpts again.
Did you catch the difference? Did you see what Satan left out?
Yep, he left out, “to guard you in all your ways.” In our journey of faith, God walks with us and directs us down paths of righteousness. Satan says, “try out my way” rather than remaining on the pathway God has placed before us, or in Luke 4, placed before Jesus.
Most importantly, in the desert temptation, Satan was focused on one element in particular. If you read the entire account of Luke 4:1-13 and take a look at each temptation, identity was ultimately on the line.
For 2 of the 3 temptations, Satan introduces the temptation with “IF You are the Son of God…” In the other temptation, it wasn’t Jesus’ identity under attack, it was God’s. Satan attempted to entice Jesus into making satan himself the focus and object of worship. Satan isn’t interested in getting you to sin, he’s most interested in getting you to deny your God-given identity and/or the identity of God Almighty. Satan wanted to steal God’s glory because Satan is a thief.
It’s almost comical that Satan chose the 91st Psalm to tempt Jesus. Verse 3 tells us that “He (God)…delivers you from the snare of the trapper.” Clearly, Satan is the metaphorical “trapper.” Jesus knew these words were left out of Satan’s quoting of Scripture. Jesus also knew this Scripture contains His heavenly Father’s promise in His own words, “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:14-15)
Jesus understood that when God says, “You are my Son, in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:23), it was so, and no amount of questioning or tempting from Satan or anyone in the world could change the identity His heavenly Father established in Him. Jesus knew God’s promise “to be with Him in trouble,” and God’s promise to “rescue Him” and “honor Him.”
Do you understand He says the same thing to you, “You are My child.”? Do you understand that God looks forward to the day He says to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”? (Matt 25:23)
Before we get into the “Play Call,” I want to redirect you to the opening sentiments about God being our refuge. The psalmist speaks with great command and authority as he sets forth his charge. Why do we find such authority in his writing of these promises? Why did Jesus have such authority in denying the devil who stood before Him? Was it because they leaned into the promises of God? Well, only sorta.
A promise is only as good as the one who makes the promise. Rather than faith in the glory of the promise, the psalmist and Jesus beheld the glory, strength, and authority, revealed in the Word of the Almighty One who made the promise. Do you lean into the promises or do you lean into the One making the promise? Do you look first to your identity or do you first look to Who HE IS – the Great I AM – and allow Him to establish your identity?
So, What’s the Play Call?
Let me offer a “do” and a “don’t.”
Don’t use tiny snippets of Scripture and tiny snippets of the promises of God in Scripture as a litmus test for your salvation and standing in the kingdom of God. The same goes for working with and ministering to others.
Do lean into the fullness of God’s Word, seeking refuge and deliverance under the shadow of His wing. When He says, “Forgiven.” When He says, “Chosen.” When He says, “Mine.” When He says, “Free.” When He says, “Redeemed.” When He says, “Holy.” You must trust Him and receive the free gift of His love and trumpet that love and the Good News in your walk and ministry.