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Psalm 91

Assurance of God’s Protection

1

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,

who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,


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1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the High One. Some Hebrew interpreters read the three first verses as one continuous sentence, down to the words, he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler The whole would then run thus — “He who dwells in the covert of the Most High, and abides under his shadow, to him will I say of Jehovah, that he is his hope and defense, and the God in whom he may safely rest, for he shall deliver him from the snare,” etc. This is evidently a forced construction to put upon the verses, and the reason which has led some to adopt it is weak and insufficient. They consider that the first verse repeats the same thing twice, and therefore conveys no proper meaning. But this is a great mistake; for the inspired penman of the psalm, whoever he may have been, states two ideas quite distinct, That he who is hid under the Divine protection occupies a safe and secure position, where no hostile weapon can reach him. Or should the verse be read — He who has God to be the guardian of his safety shall rest under the shadow of God; still the second clause would retain an emphatic meaning, for the power of God would be contrasted with that weak defense which man is able to extend. Those, too, who dwell in the secret place of God are here said by the Psalmist to dwell under his shadow, in the sense that they experience to what a rich extent his protection reaches. Men generally seek out a great-variety of hiding-places, having recourse to one or another, according as the calamities are different which threaten to overtake them; but here we are taught that the only safe and impregnable fortress to which we can betake ourselves is the protection of God. He contrasts the security of those who trust in God with the vanity of all other confidences by which we are apt to delude ourselves.

In the second verse he repeats the truth which he had already inculcated, showing at the same time that he speaks from his personal feeling and experience as a believer. This is very necessary in one who would be a teacher; for we cannot communicate true knowledge unless we deliver it not merely with the lips, but as something which God has revealed to our own hearts. 576576     This psalm is allowed to be one of the finest in the whole collection. “Could the Latin or any modern language,” says Simon de Muis, “express thoroughly all the beauties and elegancies as well of the words as of the sentences, it would not be difficult to persuade the reader that we have no poem, either in Greek or Latin, comparable to this Hebrew ode.” It is supposed by some to have been composed by Moses on the same occasion as the preceding; but others think it was written by David on the occasion of the pestilence which was inflicted upon the people as a punishment of his sin in numbering them, (2 Samuel 24.) It is ascribed to David in the Septuagint, Chaldee, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, and Æthiopic versions. Its subject-matter affords us no assistance in determining who was its inspired author, or on what occasion it was written. “There is, however, no reason,” says Walford, “to regret our unacquaintedness with these particulars, as the poem is so clear and intelligible, that nothing in it can be mistaken or misunderstood. The purpose of it is to illustrate the safety and happiness which result from the knowledge of God, and the exercise of a steadfast dependence upon his promise and grace. The sentiments are expressed with great force and beauty; and dead indeed must be the soul to every emotion of spiritual and heavenly delight that fails to be impressed by its truth, or to aim at the acquirement of such faith and reliance upon it as will alone render it productive of the peace and tranquillity of mind which it is intended to bestow. The learned Michaelis is of opinion that this psalm was to be recited in alternate parts by two choruses or sets of singers responding to each other, and that God himself is introduced in verse 14 as taking part of the performance.” It is supposed by the Jews to relate to the Messiah. See Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10, 11. The Psalmist accordingly gives evidence, that what he had taught in the preceding verse accorded with his own inward experience. Some read, I will say concerning the Lord, and the Hebrew prefix, ל, lamed, may be so rendered; but the other translation which I have given conveys the more forcible meaning. The believer does more than simply resolve to make God his fortress; he draws near in the trust of the Divine promises, and familiarly addresses God. This confidence in prayer affords an additional proof how securely the people of God can dwell under his shadow. This holy species of boasting constitutes the very highest triumph of faith, when we betake ourselves to God without fear under our worst trials, and are fully persuaded that he answers all our prayers, nay, that we have in him a sufficiency and a superabundance of help.




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