1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
This Psalm portrays life’s potential crises. A snare, terror, arrows, pestilence, destruction, people falling by the way, evil, a plague, a lion and an adder (poisonous snake) are the dangers lurking about. Perhaps we would never literally face a lion or arrows or such like, but the troubles we do face can be just as harmful and just as painful.
The tremendous truth that stands out in this Psalm is that even though these pitfalls line our pathway, none of them can really destroy us as long as we walk with God. To be sure, they might set us back, but they cannot conquer us. Faithful followers of God have the Lord as their refuge and fortress. He is the cooling shadow in the noonday heat of Satan’s angry attacks. He is like the mother hen who shelters her young from the storm. He is the deliverer and the protector.
As we read this Psalm and consider the application of its message, it’s easy to think of the apostle Paul and the struggles he faced as a faithful Christian. He spoke of these difficulties twice in his second letter to the Lord’s church in the city of Corinth.
In II Corinthians 4:8-9 Paul wrote, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed.” In Paul’s mind, he could be touched by these challenges, but not defeated by them. Even though the troubles he faced left visible marks on his body (II Corinthians 4:10), his perspective on them is clearly seen a few verses later in his statement, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (II Corinthians 4:17).
In II Corinthians 11:23-27 Paul penned these words by Divine inspiration:
Paul considered none of these difficulties to be of permanent harm. Instead he saw them as opportunities to glorify God (II Corinthians 11:30).
Now let’s return to the Psalm under discussion. Is the Psalmist saying that he would never have any trouble in life? After all, verse ten says, “There shall no evil befall thee…” We know that the Psalmist was not trouble free. If David was the writer, he had family troubles as well as difficulties brought about by foreign enemies and even his own countrymen. If this was written by a Psalmist during the Babylonian captivity, just being held as a prisoner in a foreign land was trouble enough.
Is the Psalm a guarantee of no problems in life? No. Is it a reminder that in the midst of all of these troubles stands our God as the watchman who will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear? Yes. Is it a reassurance that God will keep a watch over us as we go through these challenges? Yes. Is it an affirmation that even though any one or even all of these dangers should befall us, we nonetheless cannot be permanently harmed by any trouble in this world because ultimately we will be delivered by the Lord, if not here, then in eternity? Indeed, it is.
As parents, we want our children to have all they need and to be safe. Because of our love for our children, we do all that we can to accomplish these ends in their lives. As our children grow, they begin to make their own decisions. Some are good while others are not so good. As we watch them mature, we give counsel and direction, but we do not so meticulously govern their lives that we rob them of their freedom. We do not keep them from everything that could harm them, but, as loving parents, we are always there for them when troubles come. This well illustrates the points made in the previous paragraph.
Notice verses 11 and 12. You might recall how Satan tried to misuse these in his face to face temptation of Jesus. “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, 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.” (Matthew 4:5-6). Satan’s ploy was to persuade Jesus that God would not allow anything harmful to happen to Him. Even if He were to jump from the top of the temple, He would be rescued and would not suffer the slightest bruise, Satan suggested. Jesus knew that this was not the intent of Psalm 91. The Messiah understood that the Psalm was not a guarantee of a trouble-free life. Instead, the Lord showed His confidence in the fact that whatever harm Satan might try to cause, his efforts would have only temporary effects. “Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Matthew 4:7). Jesus knew the trouble He would face during His earthly tenure, but He also knew that He would have the victory in His faithful service to the Father.
What harm can life’s troubles really do to us? They can discourage us. They can make us cry. They can cause stress. They can provoke fear and worry. If we allow them to turn us away from God they can lead us into much greater difficulties, even sin. But as we walk hand in hand with the Lord we again have to ask, “What can these trials and tribulations really do to us?” If we walk faithfully with the Lord and trust His will, can life’s challenges really have any power over us?
Consider the power of these two rhetorical questions penned by inspiration in Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Is there really anything in life that is so discouraging, so stressful, so heartrending that it can break us? “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13). Due to our human frailties, we may bend, but we need not break. Nothing can really harm us if we will trust God and faithfully follow Him.
Click here to download the entire book, "In the Lap of God - Comfort from the Psalms." The download is free.