Psalm 91:1: He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Where is the “secret place of the Most High”? It is found in intimate fellowship with God. The phrase “shadow of the Almighty” symbolizes God’s protection. When you’re in close personal fellowship with God, you’re under His shadow, under His protection.
That’s a promise, but it comes with one condition: you must stay close to Him. You do that by reading His Word and doing your best to follow it, by keeping Him and His guiding spiritual principles in your thoughts.
Verse 2: I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
In Bible times, stone fortresses provided the best protection in times of trouble or war, but God is an even surer defense.
Verse 3: Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.
A snare is a trap, set for a bird in this case, and the devil is the fowler.
Verse 4a: He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.
The picture is of God keeping us safe, like a hen spreads her wings over her chicks to protect them.
Verse 4b: His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
A buckler was a small shield, about the size and shape of a dinner plate and fastened to the wrist, which soldiers used to protect their sword-wielding hand. A buckler was a lot more maneuverable than the full-size shields that most ancient soldiers also carried.
What is the truth of God? Jesus once said in a prayer to His Father, “Your word is truth.”1 Another passage tells us to carry “the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”2 Faith in God’s promises is our best protection.
Verses 5–6: You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
You have nothing to fear, whether physical or spiritual, because you have the following promise:
Verses 7–8: A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked.
Even if danger is on every side, God can bring you through it unscathed.
Verse 9: Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place…
If the Lord is your refuge and dwelling place, where does that put you? In a sense you’re already dwelling in heaven, because that’s where God lives and you’ve made your home with Him.
Verse 10: No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.
But, you may argue, bad things do happen, even to people who pray for God’s protection. They get hurt, seriously ill, and have plenty of other problems. How could the statement “no evil shall befall you” be true?
Well, consider what is “evil.” When the Lord lets seemingly bad things happen to His children, they’re often to teach us something or to strengthen and build our character. When our wise and loving heavenly Father allows this, He does so for our own good, and it “yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”3 If the purpose and outcome are positive, how can these things be evil? In fact, He also promises that all things work together for good to those who love Him.4
Verses 11–13: For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
Thank God for His angels, who watch over you continually, including your personal guardian angel, whose job is you.
Verse 14, God speaking: “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
Again, there are conditions attached to His promises: God protects those who know and love Him. Your love, trust, and faith in God and His ability to deliver you are what activate His power on your behalf.
Verses 15–16: “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”
As we fulfill these conditions, what are the five things the Lord will do for us when we call on Him for help? 1) He will answer us, 2) He will be with us in trouble, 3) He will deliver us, 4) He will honor us, and 5) He will show us His salvation.
—Adapted from David Brandt Berg, by Samuel Keating