Theme: Dwelling in the Shelter of the Most High
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means to trust fully in God, and what the blessings are for those who do.
Scripture: Psalm 91:1-16
All the psalms are from God and are wonderful in their several ways. But there are some that have commended themselves to God’s people as being especially rich and comforting, and to which they have repeatedly turned in times of sickness, loneliness and trouble. Psalm 91 is one of these special psalms. It has been committed to heart by thousands of people, and millions have turned to it with thankfulness in the midst of life’s calamities.
Psalm 91 may be compared with Psalm 46, which calls God “our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Martin Luther loved that psalm and turned to it often because he had so many troubles. Psalm 91 may also be compared with Psalm 90, which immediately precedes it. Both call God the “dwelling place” of his people, which is probably why they have been placed together in the Psalter. There are verbal similarities between the two psalms, which has led some commentators to conclude that Psalm 91, as well as Psalm 90, was written by Moses, though there are no other truly substantial reasons for thinking that. Besides, the psalms differ greatly in their tones. As H. C. Leupold says, “The latter [Psalm 90] is somber and stately; this is bright and simple. The one breathes deep insight; the other cheerful trust.”1
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was not overstating the case when he wrote, “In the whole collection there is not a more cheering psalm; its tone is elevated and sustained through-out, faith is at its best and speaks nobly.”2
Psalm 91 has given us two great hymns as well as some additional verses by well-known writers such as Edmund Spenser (“And Is There Care in Heaven”) and Horatius Bonar (“He Liveth Long Who Liveth Well”). The hymns we sing are “Under the Care of My God, the Almighty” from the Bible Songs Hymnal of 1927, and “The Man Who Once Has Found Abode” from the Reformed Presbyterian Book of Psalms of 1940.
One striking feature of Psalm 91 is that it consists of three clear movements marked by a change in pronouns. The first movement is marked by the pronoun “I” (vv. 1, 2). It expresses the psalmist’s personal faith in God. The second movement is marked by the pronoun “you” (vv. 3-13). It is a word from the psalmist to the reader or listener; that is, it is his word to us. The final stage is marked by the divine pronoun “I” (vv. 14-16). Here God speaks to the reader to declare what he will be and do for the one who loves him and calls upon him. In the New International Version the second of these two major movements is divided into separate stanzas (vv. 3-8 and 9-13). The first speaks of God’s protection from many kinds of dangers. The second expresses the condition for such protection by God and the results if the condition is met.
The first verse of the psalm is a thematic statement, expressing what the remainder of the psalm will be about: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” However, as soon as the psalmist makes that statement he immediately breaks in to confess his own faith before commending it to us: “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (v. 2). This is the equivalent of the Apostle Thomas’s confession of faith after Jesus had appeared to him following the resurrection and Thomas fell at his feet, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)!
So here is a first point of application: Is Jesus Christ your Lord and God? Is the God of the Bible your refuge in times of trouble? The psalm’s promises are for you only if he is.
1H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids; Baker, 1969), p. 650.
2Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David vol. 2b, Psalms 88-110 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 88.
Study Questions:

What does Psalm 91 have in common with Psalm 46? With Psalm 90?
What is meant by calling God our dwelling place?
What are the three movements of the psalm?
How does the NIV divide the psalm? Why?
What does the psalm’s thematic statement tell us?

Reflection: Is Jesus Christ your Lord and God? Is the God of the Bible your refuge in times of trouble? How have you experienced God’s care in this way in the past?
For Further Study: If you or someone you know would enjoy reading James Boice’s published sermons on the Psalms, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is offering the three-volume set at 25% off the regular price.

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