A Devotional on Psalm 91



A Devotional on Psalm 91


At the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S., Psalm 91 came up in people's prayers, conversations, and on social media. The phrase "no plague will come near your tent" was relevant for the time.

Date Created

March 20, 2020


First Baptist Church of Sonoma


Southern Baptist Convention



extracted text

“Because you made the LORD your dwelling place–the Most High, who is my refuge–no evil
shall befall you, no plague come near your tent.”—Psalm 91:9–10
If you do a Google search and type the word “Psalm,” Psalm 91 likely appears—algorithmic
evidence that it is the most popular chapter in the Psalter. And why not? This passage speaks of
Yahweh being a “refuge” and “fortress,” of God’s gracious deliverance from enemies of all
kinds (snares, lions, adders). The vivid language drawn from nature and the battlefield conveys
promises of blessing to whoever “holds fast,” who calls on God’s name. The person who trusts in
him “dwells in the shelter of the Most High,” and will receive the most glorious benefits in
Scripture: (v. 16) “Salvation” and “long life” (Literally, “length of days.” This latter phrase is
often translated “forever” as in Psalm 23 “I will dwell in the house of the LORD length of days.”)
God will not only protect you from all physical disaster, but will grant eternal life.
It should perhaps come as no surprise that the devil tempts Jesus by citing this very Psalm. In
fact, verse 11 “he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways”
directly follows the tenth verse’s promise of protection from a plague!
And here Holy Scripture meets contemporary life. Our nation is being ravaged by its own plague
and Psalm 91 is trending.
If you’ve read the passage closely, you may be wondering how to rightly pray Psalm 91. I
believe that Satan’s (mis)use of Psalm 91 to tempt Jesus is the key to both understanding and
praying this Psalm.
One thing we cannot forget is that prayer is ultimately about knowing and communing with God.
If we lose sight of this, we will find ourselves attempting to manipulate Him for our own ends.
When we pray for protection and healing, it must always be for the purpose of God’s glory, not
ours. As finite humans, prayer is a mystery that must be done in humility. When we pray “Thy
will be done,” we acknowledge that God has plans we do not know about, that God’s will is
“revealed’’ but also “hidden.” (Deut. 29:29) Did God will that the Coronavirus exist and spread
across the globe? While our instinct is to shout “no!” The Bible’s answer is not that tidy. In an
oracle of judgment, the prophet Amos asked rhetorically (3:6), “Does disaster come to a city
unless the LORD has done it?” The answer is an inescapable (albeit uncomfortable) “yes.”
Yahweh’s purpose in judgment was to discipline Israel for their good.
On the other hand, God desires what is consistent with his perfect goodness. When it comes to
any disaster, it is appropriate to say God does not delight in what is destructive, harmful, and
evil. God is unequivocally opposed to sin. As James (1:13) teaches, God is not the author of evil.
And this is where Jesus’ temptation illustrates the inherent tension in praying Psalm 91. Satan
knew that Jesus’ divine status meant he possessed all power to avoid injury and death. Most
importantly, he recognized that God the Father had sent his Son on a mission that would be
accomplished only through death. There is a real sense that the adder and lion—two images
Scripture uses to describe Satan—would prevail when Christ died at calvary.

In the garden, Jesus faced a greater temptation to doubt the word of God and love of his father.
And yet, by submitting to the Father’s will, of “allowing the plague to come near his tent,” the
curse of sin and death was broken—the adder’s head was crushed (Romans 16:29).
We also face the twin temptations of claiming Psalm 91 as a surety that no physical harm will
befall us and likewise, doubting whether he is able to protect us if we suffer harm. If we are
afflicted or even lose our lives, Jesus shows us that only by losing our lives will we save it for
eternal life. On the other hand, we can and should pray with confidence that God grant us bodily
protection and not forget that “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
In the City of God, Augustine of Hippo asks the perennial question of why good and wicked
persons suffer alike in this life. He comments that,
…when one and the same force falls upon the good and the wicked, the former are
purged and purified, but the latter damned, ruin and destroyed. Hence, it is that, under
the same affliction, the wicked hate and blaspheme God while the good pray and praise
Him. What is important then, is not what is suffered, but by whom.
In prayer, what matters in affliction and deliverance, is that we are sanctified.
In every condition in sickness and health;
in poverty’s vale or abounding wealth.
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea,
as your days may demand may so my strength ever be. – “How Firm a Foundation” by John
Rippon (1751–1836)
Lord, we come before your throne and acknowledge that you are God. You possess all power to
answer our prayers in your perfect wisdom. May we never doubt your goodness nor fail to praise
you for every good and perfect gift. Cause our own nation’s trial to purify and increase your
church. In the name of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

This item was submitted on September 22, 2020 by Ryan Rindels using the form “Contribute Your Materials” on the site “Pandemic Religion: A Digital Archive”: https://pandemicreligion.org/s/contributions

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