Theme: The Believer’s Responsibility
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
Much of what is found in the third stanza of this psalm (vv. 9-11) is like what we have seen already. It tells us that “no harm will befall” us, and that “no disaster will come near your tent” (v. 10). But there are a few new elements.
One of them, probably the chief idea because it comes first, is that there is a condition to the kind of protection the psalm has been promising and it is that the individual “make the Most High his dwelling” (v. 9). As I said earlier, this is more than merely believing in God or coming to God occasionally when danger threatens. It means resting in God continually or trusting him at all times. It means living all of life “in God,” as it were. Martin Luther had some good thoughts on this condition, writing that this refers to “one who really dwells and does not merely appear to dwell and does not just imagine that he dwells” in God.1
The second new element reinforces the first and, by means of its use in the New Testament, is an illustration of it. It is the reference to angels, the psalmist saying, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
This is the verse the devil quoted as part of his temptation of Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. It is the only verse of Scripture actually quoted by the devil, at least that we have a record of. But he misquoted it! He left out “in all your ways,” that is, in the ways marked out for us by God and not our own willful ways. For that was the very essence of the temptation; he wanted Jesus to go his own way rather than to trust God and be content with God’s way, even if it meant going to the cross. The devil wanted Jesus to tempt God by jumping off a pinnacle of the temple, trusting his Father to send angels to bear him up so he would not be dashed to pieces when he fell and thus impress the people. Jesus replied rightly, saying, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matt. 4:7, quoting Deut. 6:16). Testing God by jumping off a pinnacle of the temple would not be going in the way God had given him to go. It would be the very opposite of trusting God; it would be “baiting” him or “putting him to the test.”
The Lord’s trust in the Father also resulted in Satan’s defeat, another part of the psalm the devil omitted (v. 13). The psalm tells us that if we go in God’s way, trusting him to uphold us, then we will “tread upon the lion and the cobra” and “trample the great lion and the serpent.” We can remember that the Bible elsewhere describes Satan as “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) and “that ancient serpent” (Rev. 12:9; 20:2) and that Jesus triumphed over him by trusting God. Likewise, in Christ the righteous will be victorious over Satan too.
Here is one more thought about this incident. When Jesus replied to Satan, he rejected the temptation to jump from the temple and trust the angels of God to keep him from being killed. But the angels were there anyway, though invisibly. For after Satan had completed his temptation we are told God’s “angels came and attended him” (Matt. 4:11). In other words, God was upholding Jesus even in the temptation.
1Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 2, First Lectures on the Psalms: Psalms 76-126, ed. Hilton C. Oswald (St. Louis: Concordia, 1976), p. 208.
What did Satan leave out of his recitation of Scripture? Why?
How was Jesus victorious over Satan? How can we claim victory?
Reflection: What are the results of going God’s way and trusting him?