Updated: Sep 9, 2020
The Word: Psalm 91:1-16
Today’s psalm is about being under the watch-care and love of God in the face of fearful circumstances. Begin this session with this word picture: Imagine a cliff in the middle of the wilderness. The cliff is high—50 feet or more—and very steep. The bottom of the cliff is littered with sharp, jagged rocks. It’s surrounded by lions, snakes, hunters and disease. About half way up the cliff is a small rocky shelf, upon which a mother eagle has built her nest. She has three baby chicks, who are just beginning to learn to fly.
What threats do the baby eagles face? How might the mother protect them?
The father is part of the protection plan. I used to tell my class the story of how a female bald eagle chooses her mate. (Eagles mate for life) I don’t have the space to tell the whole story, so you get the condensed version. I also got quite dramatic in telling the story. The male helps by relieving mother on the eggs, helps feed the eaglets, and his main job is to teach them to fly. (Yes, the eaglets have to be taught how to fly. Just as you were taught how to walk.) There’s a lot more to the story, but you get the drift of it. Did you just stand up in the middle of the room when you were a baby and start walking? No! I bet someone helped you.
Today’s psalm was written with this image in mind. God is presented as the protecting parent, and God’s people are the young hatchlings under the care of their parent. In it we find hope and encouragement when we face times of wilderness in our own lives.
A. Affirmation of Trust (Read Psalm 91:1-2)
View these verses in light of the cliff image from earlier. The nest built into the side of the rock is like a fortress. When the younglings rest in its shadow, they’re in the presence of the God in whom they can place their trust.
The wonderful promises of this chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting the conditions stated in these first two verses (Ex 15:26 NLT) God said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
These two verses contain the central theme of the psalm. They are packed full of significant terms, some of which appear again later.
What might it mean to trust in God in the future? (Remember, the baby chicks in the image of this psalm are helpless and hopeless if they are found outside the nest without their parent. So it is with us.)
God is described in verses 1-2 using what four names? (Most High, Almighty, Lord, My God) What do the names tell us about God? (The first two names speak of power; the third speaks of covenant relationship; the fourth of intimacy.)
What four terms are used to describe places of safety? (shelter, shadow, refuge, fortress) Why do you think the psalmist used this imagery?
In what ways have you experienced God as a shelter, shadow, refuge, or fortress?
B. Reasons for Trust (Read Psalm 91:3-13)
All the images used in this part of the psalm make more sense when viewed through the analogy of the cliff nest the psalmist is using. The threats listed in the passage might not be very threatening to a human, but to a fledgling bird, they are deadly.
What are some examples of “the fowler’s snare,” “the arrow that flies by day,” the “pestilence,” and the “plague” in our daily lives? (Notice not all fear happens in darkness; sometimes fearful events happen in the middle of the noonday sun.)
Does the Bible promise us a life completely free from fear and concern? Why or why not? (God does not promise to keep bad things from happening to us. God does promise to be with us according to Isaiah 43:1-7. God promises to walk through the chaos with us. If you only see one set of foot prints behind you, don’t worry, because God is carrying you.)
According to this passage, what can we expect from God in times of trouble? (God goes everywhere we go. So wherever you go today or this week, imagine God going with you. Imagine Him walking or sitting with you. Remind yourself that whenever you succeed, He is there. Whenever you share Christ, He is there. Whenever you sin—He is there.)
Imagine one of the fledgling birds fell from the nest, headed for the jagged rocks below. What does it mean for God to provide a way of rescue as in verses 11-12? (The male eagle would have soared down and caught the fledgling on his back.)
What might it mean for us to live lives set free from fear such as in verses 12-13?
We’re told in Duet. 31: 6 to be strong and courageous and not to be afraid. For the Lord our God will personally go ahead of us. That God will neither fail us nor abandon us.
C. God’s Affirming Oracle (Read Psalm 91:14-16)
The conclusion of the psalm contains words from the Lord. It contains some pretty serious promises, but it’s important to remember these promises are contingent upon our response.
What actions we are called to in verses 14-15? (We are called to love the Lord, acknowledge His name, and call on Him in trouble.)
What does it mean to love the Lord? (Look back at the baby chick-parent image here. What does it mean for the fledgling to love its parents?)
Protection is only the beginning for believers. According to verse 15, what else does God’s provision for those He loves include? (God will be with us in times of trouble, He will deliver us and He will honor us.)
What does it mean to call on the Lord in times of trouble? (It helps to have been calling on Him all the way along, even when we are not in trouble. It also means relying on God first and not in our own strength and way of doing things.)
D. Connect to My Life and the World
Read the following below from Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (Sing to the Lord, 30, v.2):
“Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing. Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He! Lord Sabaoth, His name. From age to age the same. And He must win the battle.”
Martin Luther describes the failure for which we are destined if we trust in our own strength. In the same way as Psalm 91, Luther calls us to place our trust in the “Mighty Fortress” who is our God.
In what ways do you need God’s presence in your life this week?
Get quiet before God and reread Psalm 91. Then, close in prayer, asking God to strengthen our faith and trust in God in every circumstance of life.
1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
"God Will Take Care of You" by Civilla D. Martin, Hymn 107.
“Be not dismayed whate’er betide; God will take care of you.
Beneath His wings of love abide; God will take care of you.
Thro’ days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you.
When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.
All you may need He will provide; God will take care of you.
Nothing you ask will be denied; God will take care of you.
No matter what will be the test, God will take care of you.
Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.
Chorus: God will take care of you, Thro’ ev’ry day. O’er all the way.
He will take care of you; God will take care of you.”