By Lisa Leidenfrost
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.'” (Psalm 91:1-2)
This is a Psalm about why we can trust in the Lord and just how secure we are in Him. We are positionally very secure since we dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. In other words, we are in the hollow of His hand and covered by the God who is the Most High over all. That is a pretty secure place to be. Then the text goes on to give another metaphor of our secure position as being in a fortress and refuge. A fortress is a place of strength that protects from the onslaught of the enemy. And because of all this, the Psalmist states the theme of this Psalm, “My God, in Him I will trust.” He could have put this first with the rest of the Psalm explaining why we can trust Him. Look at the next verses of what He does for us.
“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” (3-4)
This passage gives two specific examples of His protection from the dangers that can come after us. But He shows His care over us by using still another metaphor to show what that protection is. It is our being placed under his wings, and also behind His shield of truth which is His promises. Believing the promise of who He is and what He will do for us, acts as a shield of protection. And this is what we get:
“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. 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.” (5-7)
Because of our secure position under the refuge of His wings, the result is that we don’t need to be afraid by day, by night, in darkness and at noon. In other words, all the time. You are covered 24/7. The outcome of the wicked is contrasted to our position. The wicked will get their reward, while we don’t need to fear because we are protected.
This next part states some cause and effects in verses 9-13:
“Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, (then) no evil shall befall you. Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 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.”
Now God shows that even His envoys, His angels, will be deployed to protect us and keep us in all our ways. This shows God’s great care of us. We are kept in all our ways, even to the minor detail of not letting our feet be dashed against a stone. The last sentence lists some known dangerous things which seem to represent all dangerous things. And, note that we have victory over them.
In verse 14 we have some more cause and effects:
“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.”
Then we reach His direct statements to us on what He will do for us to complete the picture of security:
“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.” (15-16)
This whole psalm states the very secure position we are in as His children. So that brings us to the next question, so why, then, do bad things happen to good people? What about the martyrs, were they protected from evil? What about those who die early from disease or accident who are God’s children? These are good questions because bad things do happen to God’s children. I don’t believe this psalm is stating that bad things never happen to good people. Look at verse 15 where it states, “I will be with him in trouble.” This means that there is trouble and that God is with us. And I think this is the answer to the above question, but let’s look again at verse 10 where it states “No evil shall befall you.” There is a cross reference to Proverbs 12:21
“No grave trouble will overtake the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil.”
Look at the word ‘overtake’. It does not mean trouble doesn’t come, it means that through God’s presence, trouble doesn’t ‘overtake’ the righteous. That is a different meaning from trouble not coming at all. To overcome is to have victory over a trial or hardship.
Calvin writes in his commentary;
“God stands between him and the violence of every assault so as to preserve him from being overwhelmed.”
We are never alone when God is standing with us. The reward of the wicked is to fall at His side. God’s presence keeps us standing no matter what comes at us. Bad things do happen to God’s people but we need never be overcome by them. There is good in what He does and He turns all things to His glorious purposes. He alone can turn ashes into beauty (Is 61:3). He has the power to protect in such a way that either a bad thing will not come to us, or when something hard does come to us, He also has the power to turn that into victory and strengthen us and others, by giving us the power to overcome, to His glory. This happened with the martyrs and we were blessed by it and the world wasn’t the same after. When we overcome through victory, God acts and moves and brings his glorious kingdom one step further in. Whether it is the one type of protection or the other, we remain in His fortress.
It is one kind of faith to actually believe that God can answer our prayers to keep us from hard things. And this faith is commendable. It looks to God and expects a favorable answer in hope. But it is quite another type of faith that still trusts in Him when He chooses not to answer us the way we had expected. This faith is a higher and harder faith because it believes in God’s goodness and protection contrary to all outward evidence. “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed” (Rom. 4:18). When things are not going the way we want and it seems God is not protecting us, this type of faith still believes He is in perfect control and has our good in mind and it will all end in victory. This faith believes that God only deviated from the answer we had hoped for because He had a specific reason for a higher good, not because He was incapable of saving us, nor because He didn’t care. (Even Satan had to ask God’s permission to attack Job because Job was under God’s shadow of protection.) Trusting in God that no matter what course He ordains for our lives, is knowing that it is going to be all right.
It is faith either way, and Daniel 3:16,17 gives us an example of how we should view an impending trial:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
In other words, even if God didn’t deliver them, they had cast their lot with Him the whole way, trusting that He knew what He was doing. And God delivered them and the king believed.