Under His Wings | Psalm 91

May 2, 2017

Book: Psalms

Scripture: Psalm 91


When we talk about a victorious Christian life, most people think of it as a trouble-free life. People dream of a life where everything falls into place and we move from one victory to another.

Is that the promise of the Bible? How do we make sense of God’s promises when we go through difficulties in our life?

We are going to read Psalm 91 which is loaded with promises. This psalm shows every possible calamity, dreadful attack circumstance a person can go through in his/her life, and in it, all the Lord shows his love for us, his protection and ultimately even our victory. Sometimes it does not even make sense to me.

Psalm 91:16 With long life I will satisfy him

and show him my salvation.”

What is this promise of long life for a believer who dies at age 20 of Cancer or an accident? So this psalm has a real problem of the reality of man’s life versus the promises of God and we are going to see how to understand them in light of the scripture.

Psalm 91 1Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

V1-2: The I is the psalmist. We do not know who the psalmist is.

V3-13: ‘You’ over and over again, in fact, 22 times? Who is the You? You is the prophet speaking to the psalmist.

3Surely he will save you

from the fowler’s snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

4He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5You will not fear the terror of night,

nor the arrow that flies by day,

6nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7A thousand may fall at your side,

ten thousand at your right hand,

but it will not come near you.

8You will only observe with your eyes

and see the punishment of the wicked.

9If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”

and you make the Most High your dwelling,

10no harm will overtake you,

no disaster will come near your tent.

11For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways;

12they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread on the lion and the cobra;

you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

The Psalm closes in V14-16: ‘I’ appears 10 times. This is the LORD speaking through the prophet to the psalmist.

14“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;

I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15He will call on me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will deliver him and honor him.

16With long life I will satisfy him

and show him my salvation.”

Psalms 91:1-2

1Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High..(El-Elyon)

El Elyon – Means the Lord of heaven and earth. God who is over everything. The shelter or the secret place means a place that is inaccessible. That only those who have access are allowed to that secret place. He is referring to the tabernacle or the temple that is secret place that is accessible only to the righteous. He lives in that domain, in the temple, in the presence of God.

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (El-Shaddai – The all-powerful/Almighty)

Shadow is a place of protection. He is protected there. He dwells there in the sanctuary.

2I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

The original meaning here is, “I say again and again and again that God is his refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”

The Psalmist says: God is his fortress. “My trust is in God. God is impregnable, therefore I am secure. I am living my life feeling secure in God. He lives in the presence of God where there is His grace but most do not have access.”


This is the picture of a mother hen gathering her back chickens under her feather.

Application: Can you tell this to yourself and says, “I am living in the presence of God, that place where the world cannot easily access. So God is my fortress and my refuge?”

Abiding in Christ.

If you use New Testament language, it is abiding in Christ. You experience God’s presence in your life and protection, help leading and guiding and giftedness and all the rest of it.

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:7-8 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

How Can One Abide In Christ?

How can you and I dwell in the shelter of God?

The condition of abiding in Christ can be explained in 3 different ways in this Psalm:

1. Loving God.

Psalm 91:14

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;

I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

MSG “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble…”

Do you love God in your situation whatever it is? Do you love God?

In fact, the word here for love is used to describe metal bands that were used to hold the lumber together. It is to cling onto him just like the metal bands that we read about in Exodus chapter 38, just grab a hold and not let go. The things that would just tightly connect you to God.

God is infinitely lovable unlike you and me. But he is altogether lovely. We love because he first loved us. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. We have every reason to love God. We often forget to love God in the struggles we are facing and so we don’t experience the comfort.

Illustration: Of someone loving God for dear life.

2. We Are To Acknowledge His Name.

Psalm 91:14

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;

I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

Another translation says ‘knows my name.’

Do you know God’s name?

You remember how Moses was sent to Pharaoh and he announced to Pharaoh:

Exodus 5:1-2 1Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”

2Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”

Clearly, Pharaoh knew the name, the Lord because Moses just used it and now he is using it. It is possible to know the name of the Lord but not know the Lord. To know the Lord and not know him.

To know him in a kind of theoretical sense I supposed Samuel must have when he was a youngster growing up an apprentice to Eli the priest. The Lord spoke to him and said Samuel, Samuel thought it was Eli. Bible says that the Lord had not yet revealed himself to Samuel. He knew about the Lord but he did not know the Lord.

Pharaoh is admitting I don’t know the Lord. So, how will God teach Pharaoh about who the Lord is. So God reveals himself by bringing plagues, rescuing his people out of Egypt with a great Passover and then the Exodus and that is how Pharoah knew him. In the OT, the nations knew the Lord because he intervened and rescued his people Israel.

When you come to the NT, this God has been revealed in Jesus Christ. Peter said to the beggar at the gate called Beautiful, “..in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

Acts 3:16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

No wonder Peter says: Acts 4:12

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

Do you know the name of the Lord? Do you know the God who is? Do you know him personally? Do you know him as the God who made you and redeemed you? Jesus shed his own blood on the cross for you and now he dwells in you by his Spirit.

3. Call on God.

Psalm 91:15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will deliver him and honor him.

Do we call on him? Have you called on the Lord?

Psalm 145:18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,

to all who call on him in truth.

Isaiah 55:6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

“Some will say our marriage is in trouble, my children are not studying well. I am facing a challenging situation and so on.” My question is: “Have you prayed about it?” Have you sat in the presence of God and communicated to God about it?

Plenty of folks call others even before they call on God.

AJ Gordon whose name was given to Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Pastor here in Boston said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

Our Lord Jesus said, “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ”

Given the all-sufficiency of the God who is asking us to ask to call upon him why do we not pray about them? Whether our problems are big or small, we are to pray about them, and cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us.


In Acts 16, Paul and Silas come to Philippi and cast out an evil spirit from a female slave. They were brought before the magistrates and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods.

Acts 16:23-24 23After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Here is the example of someone who is loving God, acknowledges his name, and calls upon the name of the Lord in trouble. God becomes their refuge in trouble.

Recap/Transition: The Psalmist has God as his refuge and is in the presence of God.

Benefit Of Being In The Presence Of God:

  • Deliverance, v3-4, 15
  • Protection, v5-6

He will be protected round the clock, v5-6 (night, day, midday, in the dark. All the time I am with you)

  • Destruction of the Wicked, v7-8

He will destroy the wicked even without you raising your finger, v7-8

  • God Will Answer, V15
  • Salvation, V16

Psalm 91:3-8 3Surely he will save you

from the fowler’s snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

4He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5You will not fear the terror of night,

nor the arrow that flies by day,

6nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7A thousand may fall at your side,

ten thousand at your right hand,

but it will not come near you.

8You will only observe with your eyes

and see the punishment of the wicked.

Transition: We are called to be in the shelter of the Most High, abide in God and we are promised his presence and favour.

There is a problem with this Psalm.

What is the problem with the Psalm? Well, the problem is again the promises are just too extravagant. This psalm poses a big trouble when a believer goes through trouble.

Maybe your life is going all well and everything is good for you. Praise God, these seasons of joy are a precious gift from God. But perhaps there are others who are not going through a good time. There are battles that you are dealing with, there are issues in your health, and perhaps that are some other battles raging in your life: Career plans, school issues, job challenges, and relationship issues have helped you to see your severe limitation and your desperate need from the God of mercy.

Probing Question: Tension in the Text:

  • How many of us can say that is true of our life now?
  • Did the psalmist win all battles?
  • Were all the prayers of the psalmist answered?

Since we do not have an author of this psalm it is good for us to look at this Psalm in two lenses:

  • One lens is the life of the Hebrews or the Israelites.
  • The other lens is the life of Christ. Because the Psalm is applied to both.

Did Moses and the Hebrews have a trouble-free life?

Certainly not always. The Hebrews in Egypt never got this so-called protection in the book of Exodus. Moses was a victim of attempted genocide from his birth, taken from his natural family, and raised by the family of the very household of Pharaoh who had pronounced genocide, a sentence of murder against all the male children of Israel. So there were children who died at birth.

He had to leave Egypt and go to Midian for 40 years. Later on when Moses came back to Egypt he was neither accepted by Pharoah nor by his people. Israel grumbled against him and rejected his leadership time and again in the wilderness.

Even Miriam at one point was struck with leprosy. The earth opened up and swallowed alive Korah and the sons who followed in his rebellion. Then there were the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

Does that look like the kind of life that is a life full of God’s protection?

Yet there are victories we can remember from Moses’ life.

God protected the Hebrews from the 10 plagues, the pestilence, and the calamities. When God punished the Egyptians he protected the Hebrews. When they covered the door post and lintels of their tents with the blood of lamb, then God hovered over their tent the scripture says and kept watch and kept away the destroying angel. The destroying angel that God sent through the land to take the lives of the firstborn did not come to the homes of the Israelites because God was standing guard against the angel he sent.

Serpents in Numbers 21. If you can remember the story in the book of Numbers where there were literal serpents for their rebellion against God and Moses. Many of them died and then Moses raised up a bronze serpent and those who looked at the serpent were saved.

How about long life?

Moses lived 120 years which puts him in the category of the oldest living people of his time.

See what he said about people’s lifespan during his time in Psalm 90:

Psalm 90:3-7 Our days may come to seventy years,

or eighty, if our strength endures;

yet the best of them are but

trouble and sorrow,

for they quickly pass,

and we fly away.”

Moses indeed lived a long life. But God wouldn’t let him into the promised land. He could get up on mount Nebo and he saw it from a distance, but he did not enter the Promised Land.

Then he turns to God and says:

Psalms 90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with

your unfailing love,

that we may sing for joy

and be glad all our days.

Moses is talking about the morning after talking about death. The morning that everyone talks about in the ancient, including the Egyptian book of the dead is the resurrection morning. We sleep the sleep of death, but in the resurrection, we will sing for joy and be glad all our days, original endless days.

So, this Psalm is pointing to the fullness of God’s blessings and protection in the resurrection.

Death puts an end to our physical existence, but not to our life if its a life of fellowship with God.

The Psalmist may be dwelling in the shelter of the Most High but he is certainly not living a sheltered life on earth. He has experienced the worst that life has seemed to have to offer and it is in the context of that that he affirms this wonderful promise of a God who is a refuge and a fortress and a shield and all the rest of it.

Psalm 91 does point to Jesus. Did Jesus have a trouble-free life?

I believe this Psalm is the anticipation of Christ because this King is invulnerable and invincible. None one can defeat him. This is a reference to Christ who is invincible and invulnerable. You could not touch Jesus until he laid down his life. He said no man takes it from me.

  • He could touch the leper. Leprosy did not make him unclean.
  • When Jesus preached, they wanted to stone him and he walked through them.
  • The devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus was victorious.
  • When he was in the storm, he calmed the storm.

The psalm says in V13, “You will tread on the lion and the cobra.”

The ancient serpent in Genesis 3 was trampled by Jesus on the cross. This is symbolic of Jesus’ victory over evil. Jesus tells his disciples you will trample snakes.

Luke 10:19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

The Psalmist is speaking of Jesus. This is a reference to Jesus Christ who is invincible unless he lays down his life.

Question: Did Jesus enjoy a long life? Absolutely No.

His young life was cut short around age 30-33. Did God forget his promise to have the angels keep the charge of Jesus? Surely not. The angels were there in the garden of Gethsemane strengthening him for the way of the cross. You see the promise of the angels would be dispatched, it is a promise not that no harm will come, but that no accidents will happen. Nothing will happen to us no matter how terrible will happen to us just by chance or by accident.

It is not a promise that you are going to be spared the way of the cross, the path of suffering.

There is no promise that we are going to have a life of ease. But there is a promise that you are not going to strike your foot figuratively, that nothing accidental will happen apart from God sending it with a deliberate purpose to bring about your good to accomplish his good and perfect will in your life so the promise is fulfilled.

The Bible says an angel appeared to him and strengthened him even after he rejected Satan’s temptation against sin and again in the garden. The Father was with Jesus in his temptation and at the Cross. What happened to Jesus was not an accident.

This tells us that He is with us and when things come into our lives it is because he willed it to be in our lives as he willingly laid down his life, it is not an accident. He is in control and we can trust him.

In John 8 everyone is furious with Jesus but no one seized him because his time had not yet come and everything changes after palm Sunday. Then Jesus says the time has come for the son of man to be glorified.

He says my heart is troubled, “Father save me from this time, this hour.” I know for this very reason I came to this time. It is not a promise of protection that no adversity will come, but that nothing accidental will come apart from coming out of God’s loving hand, and so the angels that protected the precious feet of Jesus from stumbling against the stone are held in the bands as they nailed those precious feet to the tree, so that

Psalm 91:15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will deliver him and honour him.”

The promise that the scripture is making here is of a God who is with us when we are in trouble, not a God who prevents all trouble. It is the promise of a God who will be with us in the trouble.  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” that is when God is the closest to us. The scripture says “the righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers them from them all.”

Isaiah 43:2-3 When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.

There is no promise that you are not going to, in fact, it assumes you will.

Proverbs 14:32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down,

but even in death the righteous have a refuge.

May you and I in every death experience that God allows us to go through putting to death the old man and taking up our cross and following Jesus, all the adversities of life that can be viewed as cross may we experience the resurrection, the promise that even in death we have a refuge in him. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.