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Psalm 91 - Introduction
October 2012

          Psalm 91, is a beautiful, poetical and encouraging Psalm filled with the promise of God's grace, provision and protection.  It is a Psalm in which no title or accredited author is given.  Its date of origin is speculative, and therefore the historical circumstance surrounding it is speculative at best.  However, when the author's name is not mentioned, many Jewish scholars assign the writing to the nearest preceding writer, which in this case would make Psalm 91 a psalm of Moses. 

            When we look at Psalm 90:1, Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations,” and compare it to Psalm 91:1, He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” the likeness is striking and gives us strong reason to believe that Psalm 91 was written by Moses. 

            Other reasons why Psalm 91 should be ascribed to Moses is that, many expressions used within the Psalm are similar to those of Moses’ writing of Deuteronomy. Also, the internal evidence taken from its peculiar language is similar with Moses writings.  Brethren please understand this is all speculative not doctrinal.  Though knowing the time of writing, the circumstances surrounding its writing and the author is important it does not change the beauty and importance of the many messages contained within it; all of which can cause spiritual growth and peace to abound in anyone that places its messages deep in their hearts.

            As far as the date and circumstances surrounding the Psalm is concerned, if Moses is the writer, the date would be about 1423 B.C.  Israel had just spent forty years in the desert.  They had experienced plagues of fiery serpents, the unceasing heat during the day and the freezing cold at night.  They always had to be on guard against the treacherous attacks of their enemies, savage beasts and venomous reptiles found in the “great and terrible wilderness,” as Moses described it in Deuteronomy 8:15, “wherein fiery serpents, and scorpions, and a thirsty land where there was no water.”  

            At the time this Psalm is suspected of being written, Moses was blessing the children of Israel, and recounting all the experiences of their wilderness journey.  While doing so he remembered the abundance of God's grace and favor bestowed upon them during these many years of wanderings (Ref. Deuteronomy 33).  Psalm 91 was the result of this recounting. 

            There is however, another theory surrounding the writing of Psalm 91.  That is that Psalm 91 is a psalm of David.  Verses like number two where David took God as his only resolve and keeper. Verse nine where David gives direction and encouragement to his people. Also the promises that are within the Psalm, in God's name, to all those that observe the directions and receive its encouragement in sincerity are similar to the message of King David the sweet psalmist of Israel.  These are just some reasons why Psalm 91 is ascribed to King David's writing.  It was thought to be written right after the pestilence that came upon Israel after David's sin of numbering the people (2nd Samuel 24).  If this theory is correct the date of writing would be around 988 B.C. 

            Whichever theory you embrace is really unimportant in respect to the beautiful and touching lessons brought forth in this psalm.  Psalm 91 is a psalm is for all who find them- selves in danger, overwhelming circumstances, or when one is challenging or being challenged by the power of the evil one.  Its references to strongholds and shields, remind us of the battles fought by Moses or King David against the enemies of darkness who were coming against the children of light.  It is one of the most excellent works found in any writing of any culture or period of time.  Psalm 91 in all its beauty demands us to ask ourselves some questions:  For example; 

1.      Do we abide in the presence of the Most High? 

2.      Is His truth our shield and buckler? 

3.      Is the place of the Most High our habitation? 

4.      Do we know His name in times of trouble? 

      This psalm is the perfect calm at the center of the storm.  There may be raging storms, snares, pestilences by day, and terrors, darkness and destruction by night, but when your soul is abiding under the shadow of the Almighty, it is safe, it is secure, and it is at rest!  Let those who are being victimized by all the evil that surrounds them embrace the promises contained within its sixteen magnificent verses.

            Let us take a look now at the way the Psalm is outlined. 

  The child of the Most High shall be taken under the personal care of the Almighty (verses 1-4).

  They shall be delivered from the hostility of the powers of darkness (verses 3, 5, 6). 

  Their deliverance will come in a mighty and pronounced way (verses 7-8). 

  They shall be in the charge of God's holy angels (verses 10-12). 

  They shall triumph over their enemies (verse 13). 

  They shall be the special favorites of God Himself (verses 14-16). 

  They shall be blessed with a satisfying long life that will culminate with the revelation of His salvation (verse 16).  Hallelujah!  Praise God!

            Psalm 91, like most of the psalms, are for all who are in need, the sick and suffering, the poor and needy, the prisoner and exile, the person in danger, and the persecuted.  It is a psalm for the sinner, telling him or her of God's great mercy and forgiveness. It is a psalm for the child of God, leading him or her into new experiences with the Lord.  It tells of God's law in its perfection, and pronounces blessings upon the one who keep them.  When we are in times of peaceful meditation or intense problems it is impossible to imagine anything more solid, more beautiful, and more profound, then this grand piece of religious poetry.

            When we take a close look at the first two verses of Psalm 91, we notice that they flow together like a perfect harmony sung in perfect pitch.  Listen to the innermost being of the writer, as he brings forth his heart felt trust and adoration for a loving and caring God.  “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 will I trust.” 

Notice the personal covenant that is filled with love and adoration between the writer and his God.  “He who dwells (remains seated or sits) in God's secret place  . . . shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”  And His steadfast assurance “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust.”

            The Hebrew for “shall abide,” signifies “stay through the night” or by implication “stay permanently.”  Abiding denotes a constant and continuous dwelling in the very presence of the Almighty.  The phrase “staying through the night” also signifies security and rest in time of darkness, temptations and calamities.  With God, Abraham passed the night, and as a result God told Abraham the affliction that would come upon his descendants in Egypt, and their ultimate deliverance (Genesis 15:12~).  God began this personal and reassuring conversation with Abraham by saying in Genesis 15:1, “fear not Abram, I am thy shield and your exceedingly great reward.”  Another important observation we must make is the word “dwells.”  He who dwells, or to sit down (specifically in quiet); by implication to remain causatively or for a purpose, to settle down, to marry: or to continue – shall abide!  In other words, do you wish to abide with the Almighty?  Then you must “dwell” with Him!

            In these magnificent opening verses the psalmist magnifies his declaration by using four figures of security.

 

1.      The secret place,

2.      The shadow of the Almighty

3.      A refuge

4.      A Fortress

 

            He then enriches his opening declaration by adding four divine names. 

 

1.      The Most High, a title that cuts every threat down to size,

2.      The Almighty (Shaddai) a name that sustains in all circumstances,

3.      The Lord (Yahweh) a statement that acknowledges who is in control of all things

4.      God (Elohim), who in the beginning spoke and all things came into being and who sustains all things.  The one who “alone made the heaven of Heavens with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and He preserves them all” (Nehemiah 9:6). 

             If that wasn't enough, the writer turns his trust and adoration for His God into an intimate declaration by using the possessive tense, “My.”  He proclaims that the God who has created all things is no stranger to him, and he is no stranger to God, He is My God!  Can you with this absolute sense of assurance say the same?

            Anyone that by faith chooses God for his preserver shall find all he needs or desires.  Is this not the character of a true believer that he dwells under the shadow of the Most high?  He is at home in God, and often returns to God, and takes his rest in Him?  The writer of this psalm understood this, and proclaimed it as His personal truth.  The writer starts out by proclaiming that “He” who dwells in the secret place shall abide.  And then in verse two he proclaims proudly and confidently that because he abides, God is His refuge and fortress.  He takes his statement from the personal pronoun “He,” to the personal possessive pronoun “My.”  He turns his proclamation from one that encompasses whosoever will, to one of personal experience and reality.  I will say of the Lord He is my refuge, my fortress, my God in Him will I trust.”

            Can you grasp the depth of what is being conveyed to us by the change in the pronoun form?  It changes from the personal, but non possessive, whosoever will, to the personal and possessive form, I and My.  What this says is that not all who believe will experience the depth and beauty of God's true loving nature.  It is only for those who believe and then choose to live in a close and intimate fellowship with the Almighty.  Every believer looks toward the veil that separates the Holy place that is nearest the outer court to the Holy of Holies, the place of God's very presence.  Only those that desire to dwell, or make their abode in the secret place of the most high, will pass through the rented veil that is before them; the place where God abides.  These are the ones that desire to travel beyond the place of prayer and provision and enter a covenanted intimate and personal relationship with God.  It is only in the Holy of Holies, which the true believer longs to abide. It is in the secret place, where the Mercy seat is revealed.  The Holy of Holies is only for those that hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God.  These true followers are the only ones who can gaze upon the very throne of God and remain without fear and with absolute peace. 

            Many believers run in from time to time and enjoy the magnificent beauty of His presence, but shortly thereafter, for a myriad of reasons, they exit.  They become all too satisfied with the place of prayer and provision.  They do not wish to reside habitually in the very presence of God.  Only those who habitually reside in the presence of God can see God (Exodus 24:9-10), and be called the friends of God (Exodus 33:11, James 2:23).  Which kind of believer are you?  Outside worshipers know little of what belongs to the inner sanctuary, or without a doubt they would press on until the place of nearness and divine familiarity becomes theirs.  Those that abide in the presence of God and are His constant companions will find that they will never suffer any loss, or injury within His presence.  God has pledged His right arm of protection and personal care to them in a covenant of salt, a covenant of permanence and preservation.  “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

            When the true believer presses into the now accessible Holy of Holies, the most conspicuous objects seen are the two cherubim standing opposite each other and above the Mercy Seat, their eyes focused on the Mercy Seat.  The impressive forms of the cherubim point to God's power, righteousness, goodness and mercy.  “Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.  Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne” (Psalm 89:13-14).  Seven times the Word of God tells us that the Lord sits “between the cherubim” (Psalms 80:1; 99:1).  From there Moses once heard the voice of the Almighty: “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony” (Exodus 25:22; cf., Numbers 7:89).  Do you long to hear the voice of God?  “Enter in and dwell My child, says the Lord.  For I wish to dwell in the midst of My people” (cf. Revelation 3:20).

            How solemn, yet beautiful and comforting is the picture laid before us.  Our loving and caring Lord will shield all those who dwell with Him.  They shall remain under His care as guests under the protection of their host.  In the most holy place this image, could have stirred the psalmist to pen the words here before us.  “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” 

            Remember the Almighty is where His shadow is; for there would be no shadow if the Almighty was not there.  Those who commune (abide) with God are safe with Him, no evil can reach them, for the outstretched wings of His power and love cover them from all harm.  This protection is constant because we abide under His shadow.  It is only when we come out from under His shadow that we become exposed too light and are seen by the enemy.  We are then exposed and vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy of our souls.  In other words, communion with God is safety.  The closer we cling to our Almighty Father the more confident we will become.

            Let me share one more thought about verse one –He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High. What intimate and unrestrained communion does this describe! The Christian in everything must make known his heart, with its needs and wishes, its thoughts and feelings, its doubts and anxieties, its sorrows and its joys, to God, as to a loving, perfect friend. But all is not on one side. This Almighty Friend has admitted His chosen one to His “secret place. It is almost too wonderful to be true. It is almost too presumptuous a thought for such creatures as we to entertain. But He himself permits it, desires it and teaches us to realize that it is communion to which He calls us. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and He will show them His covenant” (cf. Psalm 25:14).  What is this “secret?  It is that, in God  those that love Him, His plans, and ways He makes known His ways and His thoughts are opened to them (cf. Psalm 103:7). Yea, and things hid from angels are manifest to the least of His friends (cf. 1st Peter 1:12). He wishes us to know Him, and by His Word and by His Spirit He puts Himself before us. It is not His fault if we do not know Him. It is our own carelessness!”[1]

            There are many more blessings contained within the next fifteen verses, all of which are based on the central theme presented in the first verse.  “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” These additional blessings will be looked at in the months ahead.

            Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, (25) To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

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