(The following texts highlighted in this color of blue is taken from

The Treasury of David by Charles Haddon Spurgeon)  "Excerpted text

Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.  Materials are reproduced

by permission."

 

                                                Psalm 91

 

This Psalm is without a title, and we have no means of ascertaining either

the name of its writer, or the date of its composition, with certainly. The

Jewish doctors consider that when the author's name is not mentioned we

may assign the Psalm to the last named writer; and, if so, this is another

Psalm of Moses, the man of God. Many expressions here used are similar

to those of Moses in Deuteronomy, and the internal evidence, from the

peculiar idioms, would point towards him as the composer. The continued

lives of Joshua and Caleb, who followed the Lord fully, make remarkably

apt illustrations of this Psalm, for they, as a reward for abiding in continued

nearness to the Lord, lived on "amongst the dead, amid their graves." For

these reasons it is by no means improbable that this Psalm may have been

written by Moses, but we dare not dogmatize. If David's pen was used in

giving us this matchless ode, we cannot believe as some do that he this

commemorated the plague which devastated Jerusalem on account of his

numbering the people. For him, then, to sing of himself as seeing "the

reward of the wicked" would be clean contrary to his declaration, "I have

sinned, but these sheep, what have they done?" (II Samuel 24:17); and the

absence of any allusion to the sacrifice upon Zion could not be in any way

accounted for, since David's repentance would inevitably have led him to dwell

upon the atoning sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood by the hyssop.

In the whole collection there is not a more cheering Psalm, its tone is

elevated and sustained throughout, faith is at its best, and speaks nobly. A

German physician was wont to speak of it as the best preservative in times

of cholera, and in truth, it is a heavenly medicine against plague and pest.

He who can live in its spirit will be fearless, even if once again London

should become a lazar-house, and the grave be gorged with carcases.

 

DIVISION. On this occasion we shall follow the divisions which our

translators have placed at the head of the Psalm, for they are pithy and

suggestive.

 

 

 

1    “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High” - The

blessings here promised are not for all believers, but for those who live in

close fellowship with God. Every child of God looks towards the inner

sanctuary and the mercy-seat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place;

they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not

habitually reside in the mysterious presence. Those who through rich grace

obtain unusual and continuous communion with God, so as to abide in

Christ and Christ in them, become possessors of rare and special benefits,

which are missed by those who follow afar off, and grieve the Holy Spirit

of God. Into the secret place those only come who know the love of God

in Christ Jesus, and those only dwell there to whom to live is Christ. To

them the veil is rent, the mercy-seat is revealed, the covering cherubs are

manifest, and the awful glory of the Most High is apparent: these, like

Simeon, have the Holy Ghost upon them, and like Anna they depart not

from the temple (Luke 2); they are the courtiers of the Great King, the valiant men

who keep watch around the bed of Solomon, the virgin souls who follow

the Lamb whithersoever He goeth (Revelation 14:4). Elect out of the elect, they

have "attained unto the first three" (II Samuel 23:19,23), and shall walk with

their Lord in white, for they are worthy. Sitting down in the august presence

chamber where shines the mystic light of the Sheckinah, they know what it is to

be raised up together, and to be made to sit together with Christ in the heavenlies,

and of them it is truly said that their conversation is in heaven. Special grace

like theirs brings with it special immunity. Outer court worshippers little

know what belongs to the inner sanctuary, or surely they would press on

until the place of nearness and divine familiarity became theirs. Those who

are the Lord's constant guests shall find that He will never suffer any to be

injured within His gates; He has eaten the covenant salt with them, and is

pledged for their protection - “shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

The Omnipotent 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

the wings of the cherubim were the most conspicuous objects, and they probably

suggested to the psalmist the expression here employed. Those who

commune 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—they abide under it, and it is all sufficient, for it is

the shadow of the Almighty, whose omnipotence will surely screen them

from all attack. No shelter can be imagined at all comparable to the

protection of Jehovah's own shadow. The Almighty Himself is where His

shadow is, and hence those who dwell in His secret place are shielded by

Himself. What a shade in the day of noxious heat! What a refuge in the hour

of deadly storm! Communion with God is safety. The more closely we

cling to our Almighty Father the more confident may we be.

 

2  “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress:” -  To take up

a general truth and make it our own by personal faith is the highest wisdom. It is

but poor comfort to say `the Lord is a refuge,' but to say He is my refuge, is the

essence of consolation. Those who believe should also speak—"I will say", for such

bold avowals honor God and lead others to seek the same confidence. Men are apt

enough to proclaim their doubts, and even to boast of them, indeed there is a party

nowadays of the most audacious pretenders to culture and thought, who glory in

casting suspicion upon every thing: hence it becomes the duty of all true believers

to speak out and testify with calm courage to their own well grounded

reliance upon their God. Let others say what they will, be it ours to say of

the Lord, "He is our refuge." But what we say we must prove by our

actions, we must fly to the Lord for shelter, and not to an arm of flesh. The

bird flies away to the thicket, and the fox hastens to its hole, every creature

uses its refuge in the hour of danger, and even so in all peril or fear of peril

let us flee unto Jehovah, the Eternal Protector of His own. Let us, when we

are secure in the Lord, rejoice that our position is unassailable, for He is our

fortress as well as our refuge. No moat, portcullis, drawbridge, wall, battlement and

donjon, could make us so secure as we are when the attributes of the Lord of Hosts

environ us around. Behold this day the Lord is to us instead of walls and bulwarks!

(Isaiah 26:1) - Our ramparts defy the leaguered hosts of hell. Foes in flesh, and foes

in ghostly guise are alike balked of their prey when the Lord of Hosts stands between

us and their fury, and all other evil forces are turned aside. Walls cannot keep out the

pestilence, but the Lord can.  As if it were not enough to call the Lord His refuge and

fortress, he adds, “my God;  in Him will I trust.” Now he can say no more;

"my God" means all, and more than all, that heart can conceive by way of security.

It was most meet that he should say "in Him will I trust", since to deny faith to such

a one were willful wickedness and wanton insult. He who dwells in an impregnable

fortress, naturally trusts in it; and shall not he who dwells in God feel himself

well at ease, and repose his soul in safety? O that we more fully carried out the

psalmist's resolve! We have trusted in God, let us trust Him still. He has never failed

 us (Joshua 23:14), why then should we suspect Him? To trust in man is natural to

fallen nature, to trust in God should be as natural to regenerated nature. Where there

is every reason and warrant for faith, we ought to place our confidence without

hesitancy or wavering. Dear reader, pray for grace to say, "In Him will I trust."

 

3   “Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler,” -  Assuredly

no subtle plot shall succeed against one who has the eyes of God watching for his

defense, We are foolish and weak as poor little birds, and are very apt to be lured

to our destruction by cunning foes, but if we dwell near to God, He will see to it

that the most skilful deceiver shall not entrap us.

 

                        "Satan the fowler who betrays

                        Unguarded souls a thousand ways",

 

shall be foiled in the case of the man whose high and honorable condition

consists in residence within the holy place of the Most High - “and from the

noisome pestilence.”  He who is a Spirit can protect us from evil spirits, He who

is mysterious can rescue us from mysterious dangers, He who is immortal can

redeem us from mortal sickness. There is a deadly pestilence of error, we are safe

from that if we dwell in communion with the God of truth; there is a fatal pestilence

of sin, we shall not be infected by it if we abide with the thrice Holy One; there is

also a pestilence of disease, and even from that calamity our faith shall win immunity

if it be of that high order which abides in God, walks on in calm serenity, and

ventures all things for duty's sake. Faith by cheering the heart keeps it free

from the fear which, in times of pestilence, kills more than the plague itself.

It will not in all cases ward off disease and death, but where the man is

such as the first verse describes, it will assuredly render him immortal

where others die; if all the saints are not so sheltered it is because they have

not all such a close abiding with God, and consequently not such

confidence in the promise. Such special faith is not given to all, for there

are diversities in the measure of faith. It is not of all believers that the

psalmist sings, but only of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most

High. Too many among us are weak in faith, and in fact place more

reliance in a phial or a globule than in the Lord and giver of life, and if we

die of pestilence as others die it is because we acted like others, and did not

in patience possess our souls (Luke 21:19).  The great mercy is that in such a case

our deaths are blessed, and it is well with us, for we are for ever with the Lord.

(I Thessalonians 4:17) - Pestilence to the saints shall not be noisome but the messenger

of heaven.

 

4   “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt

thou trust:” A wonderful expression! Had it been invented by an uninspired

man it would have verged upon blasphemy, for who should dare to apply

such words to the Infinite Jehovah? But as He Himself authorized, yea,

dictated the language, we have here a transcendent condescension, such as

it becomes us to admire and adore. Doth the Lord speak of His feathers, as

though He likened Himself to a bird? Who will not see herein a matchless

love, a divine tenderness, which should both woo and win our confidence?

Even as a hen covereth her chickens so doth the Lord protect the souls

which dwell in Him (Luke 13:34); let us cower down beneath Him for comfort and

for safety. Hawks in the sky and snares in the field are equally harmless when

we nestle so near the Lord -  “His truth” —His true promise, and His faithfulness

to His promise, “shall be thy shield and buckler.”  Double armor has he who

relies upon the Lord. He bears a shield and wears an all surrounding coat of mail—

such is the force of the word "buckler." To quench fiery darts the truth is a most

effectual shield (Ephesians 6:16), and to blunt all swords it is an equally effectual

coat of mail. Let us go forth to battle thus harnessed for the war, and we shall be

safe in the thickest of the fight. It has been so, and so shall it be till we reach the

land of peace, and there among the "helmed cherubim and sworded seraphim, "

we will wear no other ornament, His truth shall still be our shield and buckler.

 

5   “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night;” -  Such frail

creatures are we that both by night and by day we are in danger, and so

sinful are we that in either season we may be readily carried away by fear;

the promise before us secures the favorite of heaven both from danger

and from the fear of it. Night is the congenial hour of horrors, when alarms

walk abroad like beasts of prey, or ghouls from among the tombs; our fears

turn the sweet season of repose into one of dread, and though angels are

abroad and fill our chambers, we dream of demons and dire visitants from

hell. Blessed is that communion with God which renders us impervious to

midnight frights, and horrors born of darkness. Not to be afraid is in itself

an unspeakable blessing, since for every suffering which we endure from

real injury we are tormented by a thousand griefs which arise from fear

only. The shadow of the Almighty removes all gloom from the shadow of

night: once covered by the divine wing, we care not what winged terrors

may fly abroad in the earth - “nor for the arrow that flieth by day;” Cunning

foes lie in ambuscade, and aim the deadly shaft at our hearts, but we do not fear

them, and have no cause to do so. That arrow is not made which can destroy the

righteous, for the Lord hath said, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall

prosper" (Isaiah 54:17).  In times of great danger those who have made the Lord their

refuge, and therefore have refused to use the carnal weapon, have been

singularly preserved; the annals of the Quakers bear good evidence to this;

yet probably the main thought is, that from the cowardly attacks of crafty

malice those who walk by faith shall be protected, from cunning heresies

they shall be preserved, and in sudden temptations they shall be secured

from harm. Day has its perils as well as night, arrows more deadly than

those poisoned by the Indian are flying noiselessly through the air, and we

shall be their victims unless we find both shield and buckler in our God.

0h believer, dwell under the shadow of the Lord, and none of the archers shall

destroy thee, they may shoot at thee and wound thee grievously, but thy

bow shall abide in strength. When Satan's quiver shall be empty thou shalt

remain uninjured by his craft and cruelty, yea, his broken darts shall be to

thee as trophies of the truth and power of the Lord thy God.

 

6   “Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness;” -  It is shrouded in

mystery as to its cause and cure, it marches on, unseen of men, slaying with

hidden weapons, like an enemy stabbing in the dark, yet those who dwell in

God are not afraid of it. Nothing is more alarming than the assassin's plot,

for he may at any moment steal in upon a man, and lay him low at a stroke;

and such is the plague in the days of its power, none can promise

themselves freedom from it for an hour in any place in the infected city; it

enters a house men know not how, and its very breath is mortal; yet those

choice souls who dwell in God shall live above fear in the most plague

stricken places— they shall not be afraid of the "plagues which in the

darkness walk." - “nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.”

Famine may starve, or bloody war devour, earthquake may overturn and tempest

may smite, but amid all, the man who has sought the mercy seat and is sheltered

beneath the wings which overshadow it, shall abide in perfect peace. Days of

horror and nights of terror are for other men, his days and nights are alike spent

with God, and therefore pass away in sacred quiet. His peace is not a thing

of times and seasons, it does not rise and set with the sun, nor does it

depend upon the healthiness of the atmosphere or the security of the

country. Upon the child of the Lord's own heart pestilence has no

destroying power, and calamity no wasting influence: pestilence walks in

darkness, but he dwells in light; destruction wastes at noonday, but upon

him another sun has risen whose beams bring restoration. Remember that

the voice which saith “thou shalt not fear" is that of God Himself, who

hereby pledges His word for the safety of those who abide under his

shadow, nay, not for their safety only, but for their serenity. So far shall

they be from being injured that they shall not even be made to fear the ills

which are around them, since the Lord protects them.

 

                        "He, His shadowy plumes outspread.

                        With His wing shall fence thy head;

                        And His truth around thee wield,

                        Strong as targe or bossy shield!

                        Naught shall strike thee with dismay,

                        Fear by night, nor shaft by day."

 

7   “A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand:” –

So terribly may the plague rage among men that the bills of mortality may become

very heavy and continue to grow ten times heavier still, yet shall such as this Psalm

speaks of survive the scythe of death – “but it shall not come nigh thee.”  It shall

be so near as to be at thy side, and yet not nigh enough to touch thee; like a fire it

shall burn all around, yet shall not the smell of it pass upon thee.(like the Hebrew

children in the fiery furnace – Daniel 3:27) How true is this of the plague of moral

evil, of heresy, and of backsliding. Whole nations are infected, yet the man

who communes with God is not affected by the contagion; he holds the

truth when falsehood is all the fashion. Professors all around him are

plague smitten, the church is wasted, the very life of religion decays, but in

the same place and time, in fellowship with God, the believer renews his

youth, and his soul knows no sickness. In a measure this also is true of

physical evil; the Lord still puts a difference between Israel and Egypt in

the day of His plagues. Sennacherib's army is blasted, but Jerusalem is in

health.

 

                        "Our God His chosen people saves

                        Amongst the dead, amidst the graves."

 

8   “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the

wicked.”  The sight shall reveal both the justice and the mercy of God; in

them that perish the severity of God will be manifest, and in the believer's

escape the richness of divine goodness will be apparent. (Romans 11:22) –

Joshua and Caleb verified this promise. The Puritan preachers during the plague

of London must have been much impressed with this verse as they came out of

their hiding places to proclaim mercy and judgment to the dissolute age which

was so sorely visited with the pest. The sight of God's judgments softens

the heart, excites a solemn awe, creates gratitude, and so stirs up the

deepest kind of adoration. It is such a sight as none of us would wish to

see, and yet if we did see it we might thus be lifted up to the very noblest

style of manhood. Let us but watch providence, and we shall find ourselves

living in a school where examples of the ultimate reward of sin are very

plentiful. One case may not be judged alone lest we misjudge, but instances

of divine visitation will be plentiful in the memory of any attentive observer

of men and things; from all these put together we may fairly draw conclusions,

and unless we shut our eyes to that which is self evident, we shall soon perceive

that there is after all a moral ruler over the sons of men, who sooner or later

rewards the ungodly with due punishment.

 

9-10  Before expounding these verses I cannot refrain from recording

a personal incident illustrating their power to soothe the heart, when they

are applied by the Holy Spirit. In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been

in London twelve months, the neighborhood in which I labored was

visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads.

Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost

every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful

ardor to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the

district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and

sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied

that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping

would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier

than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I

was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me

to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker's window in the

Dover Road. It did not look like a trade announcement, nor was it, for it

bore in a good bold handwriting these words: — “Because thou hast made

the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there

shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”

The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her

own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation

of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no

harm. The providence which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his

window I gratefully acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvelous

power I adore the Lord my God.  The psalmist in these verses assures the man

who dwells in God that he shall be secure. Though faith claims no merit of its own,

yet the Lord rewards it wherever He sees it. He who makes God his refuge shall

find Him a refuge; he who dwells in God shall find his dwelling protected. We must

make the Lord our habitation by choosing Him for our trust and rest, and

then we shall receive immunity from harm; no evil shall touch us

personally, and no stroke of judgment shall assail our household. The

dwelling here intended by the original was only a tent, yet the frail covering

would prove to be a sufficient shelter from harm of all sorts. It matters

little whether our abode be a gypsy's hut or a monarch's palace if the soul

has made the Most High its habitation. Get into God and you dwell in all

good, and ill is banished far away. It is not because we are perfect or highly

esteemed among men that we can hope for shelter in the day of evil, but

because our refuge is the Eternal God, and our faith has learned to

hide beneath His sheltering wing.

 

                        "For this no ill thy cause shall daunt,

                        No scourge thy tabernacle haunt."

 

It is impossible that any ill should happen to the man who is beloved of the

Lord; the most crushing calamities can only shorten his journey and hasten

him to his reward. Ill to him is no ill, but only good in a mysterious form.

Losses enrich him, sickness is his medicine, reproach is his honor, death is

his gain. No evil in the strict sense of the word can happen to him, for

everything is overruled for good. Happy is he who is in such a case. He is

secure where others are in peril, he lives where others die.

 

11   “For He shall give His angels charge over thee,” -  Not one guardian

angel, as some fondly dream, but all the angels are here alluded to. They

are the bodyguard of the princes of the blood imperial of heaven, and they

have received commission from their Lord and ours to watch carefully over

all the interests of the faithful. When men have a charge they become

doubly careful, and therefore the angels are represented as bidden by God

himself to see to it that the elect are secured. It is down in the marching

orders of the hosts of heaven that they take special note of the people who

dwell in God. It is not to be wondered at that the servants are bidden to be

careful of the comfort of their Master's guests; and we may be quite sure

that when they are specially charged by the Lord Himself they will carefully

discharge the duty imposed upon them - “to keep thee in all thy ways.”

To be a bodyguard, a garrison to the body, soul, and spirit of the saint. The

limit of this protection "in all thy ways" is yet no limit to the heart which is

right with God. It is not the way of the believer to go out of his way. He keeps

in the way, and then the angels keep him. The protection here promised is

exceeding broad as to place, for it refers to all our ways, and what do we

wish for more? How angels thus keep us we cannot tell. Whether they repel

demons, counteract spiritual plots, or even ward off the more subtle physical

forces of disease, we do not know. Perhaps we shall one day stand amazed

at the multiplied services which the unseen bands have rendered to us.

(Have not we experienced this?  I have, there is no other way to explain

the miraculous preserving of our lives!  – CY – 2011)

 

12   They, that is the angels, God's own angels, shall cheerfully become our servants.

“They shall bear thee up in their hands,”  as nurses carry little children, with

careful love, so shall those glorious spirits bear up each individual believer - “lest

thou dash thy foot against a stone.” -  even minor ills they ward off. It is

most desirable that we should not stumble, but as the way is rough, it is

most gracious on the Lord's part to send His servants to bear us up above

the loose pebbles. If we cannot have the way smoothed it answers every

purpose if we have angels to bear us up in their hands. Since the greatest

ills may arise out of little accidents, it shows the wisdom of the Lord that

from the smaller evils we are protected.

 

13  “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder:” -  Over force and fraud

shalt thou march victoriously; bold opponents and treacherous adversaries

shall alike be trodden down. When our shoes are iron and brass lions and

adders are easily enough crushed beneath our heel - “the young lion and the

dragon shalt thou trample under feet.”  The strongest foe in power, and

the most mysterious in cunning, shall be conquered by the man of God. Not

only from stones in the way, but from serpents also, shall we be safe. To men

who dwell in God the most evil forces become harmless, they wear a

charmed life, and defy the deadliest ills. Their feet come into contact with

the worst of foes, even Satan himself nibbles at their heel, but in Christ Jesus

they have the assured hope of bruising Satan under their feet shortly.

(Romans 16:20) - The people of God are the real "George and the dragon,"

the true lion kings and serpent tamers. Their dominion over the powers of

darkness makes them cry, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us

through thy name."  (Luke 10:17)

 

14   Here we have the Lord himself speaking of His own chosen one.

“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.”

Not because he deserves to be thus kept, but because with all his imperfections

he does love his God; therefore not the angels of God only, but the God of

angels Himself will come to his rescue in all perilous times, and will

effectually deliver him. When the heart is enamored of the Lord, all taken

up with Him, and intensely attached to Him, the Lord will recognize the

sacred flame, and preserve the man who bears it in his bosom. It is love, —

love set upon God, which is the distinguishing mark of those whom the

Lord secures from ill - “I will set him on high, because he hath known

my name.”  The man has known the attributes of God so as to trust in Him,

and then by experience has arrived at a yet deeper knowledge, this shall be

regarded by the Lord as a pledge of His grace, and He will set the owner

of it above danger or fear, where he shall dwell in peace and joy. None abide

in intimate fellowship with God unless they possess a warm affection

towards God, and an intelligent trust in Him; these gifts of grace are

precious in Jehovah's eyes, and wherever He sees them He smiles upon them.

How elevated is the standing which the Lord gives to the believer. We ought

to covet it right earnestly. If we climb on high it may be dangerous, but if God

sets us there it is glorious.

 

15   “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:” -  He will have need

to pray, he will be led to pray aright and the answer shall surely come.

Saints are first called of God and then they call upon God; such calls as

theirs always obtain answers. Not without prayer will the blessing come to

the most favored, but by means of prayer they shall receive all good things.

“I will be with him in trouble,”  or "I am with him in trouble." Heirs of heaven

are conscious of a special divine presence in times of severe trial. God is

always near in sympathy and in power to help His tried ones - “I will deliver him,

and honor him.”  The man honors God, and God honors him. Believers are not

delivered or preserved in a way which lowers them, and makes them feel themselves

degraded; far from it, the Lord's salvation bestows honor upon those it delivers.

God first gives us conquering grace, and then rewards us for it.

 

16   “With long life will I satisfy him,” - The man described in this Psalm

fills out the measure of his days, and whether he dies young or old he is

quite satisfied with life, and is content to leave it. He shall rise from life's

banquet as a man who has had enough, and would not have more even if

he could - “and shew him my salvation.” The full sight of divine grace shall be his

closing vision. He shall look from Amana and Lebanon. Not with destruction before

him black as night, but with SALVATION BRIGHT AS NOONDAY  smiling

upon him he shall enter into his rest.

 

 

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