PSALM 91 - The Secret Place of the Most High
 
1. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, [He is] my refuge and my fortress:
my God; in him will I trust.
He that dwelleth...
The opening thought of this Psalm is somewhat similar to that of Psa 90:1. But there is a significant difference: Because God has created all men and given them life, it can be said that God is everyone's dwelling place. Even the heathen "live and move and have their being" in Him (Acts 17:28). But because the heathen worship false gods, they have not known "the most High" and cannot enter His "secret place." Sadly, this is also the case with many who profess to believe in the true and living God.
...in the secret place of the most High...
The 'secret place' {HB=sether, covered, hidden, protected place} is the position of confident assurance in the LORD. To 'dwell' in that place is to be continually aware of, and at home in, the Presence of God.
     Moses was a man who dwelt in that place. The LORD frequently called Moses aside to commune with him: at the burning bush, upon Mt. Sinai, and in the Tabernacle where God's glory dwelt between the cherubim. But the people of Israel had a more distant relationship. They trembled before the quaking mountain, but their confidence was shaken while the man they followed was hidden in God's Presence. When Moses came down from that place, he found the people worshipping a golden calf which they had made and called by the LORD's name. Because of their idolatrous apostasy, Moses rapidly returned to the LORD to plead for mercy for his sinful people. (Exodus ch. 32)
     Again and again, as He carried the nation toward the land of promise, the LORD intervened miraculously for the children of Israel. Again and again, they demonstrated their unbelief and rebellion. Again and again, Moses went to intercede for them, before the LORD. Moses knew the 'secret place of the most High.' Most of his people did not (see Psa 103:7).
     Moses wrote Psalm 90 from his experience of watching an unbelieving generation pass away under God's wrath, during their 40 years of wilderness wanderings. [See the Book Notes on Psalm 90, listed under 'Selected Psalms with other themes.'] Many scholars believe that Moses also authored the Psalm before us (Psalm 91). Others believe David wrote this Psalm, perhaps when he commissioned Solomon for his role as king and as builder of the Temple. David also knew this 'secret place' (eg., Psa 27:5; 32:7). With the voice of experience, he counseled his son to trust the LORD wholly (1Chr 28:6-10). Apparently, it is not essential to identify the human author of this Psalm, or the Lord would have told us. The important thing is to know and rest in Him.
...shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
'The shadow of the Almighty' is a place of perfect protection. The picture is of a hen overshadowing her chicks to guard them with her life (cp. v.4; Psa 17:8,9). With all that He is, the Almighty guards His own. But there is another aspect to the picture: Since a hen casts a very short shadow, her chicks must stay very near to her (cf. Mat 23:37).
     Moses earnestly prayed for that nearness, for he knew that he was fully dependent upon the LORD's Presence (Ex 33:15). But that was not all, Moses yearned to more fully know his Lord and Master. Under the shadow of His hand, the LORD made Himself known to His servant (Ex 33:18-23; 34:5-7).
I will say of the LORD...
  • [He is] my refuge...- my place to flee for escape from an enemy... from temptation...
  • my fortress...- my secure place when there is no escape from the battle.
    Though my Fortress is battered, in Him, I am safe.
  • my God, in him will I trust...-
    This word for 'God' {HB=Elohim} emphasizes His strength.
    But He is not only strong, He is 'my God.' My confidence rests on my relationship with Him.
    Having committed my heart to Him, I confidently commit myself to His keeping. eg., Deu 26:17-19; Psa 118:6
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler,
[and] from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers,
and under his wings shalt thou trust:
his truth [shall be thy] shield and buckler.
Surely he shall deliver {rescue} thee...
  • from the snare of the fowler...- ie., the traps laid, by any enemy (eg., Psa 124:7; 141:9),
    but especially by Satan (2Tim 2:26).
  • from the noisome {ie., evil, calamitous} pestilence {HB=deber, plague, disease}.-
    The LORD delivers those who turn to Him in repentance, from the plague of sin which afflicts Adam's race, and also from God's judgment upon sin. When God chose to judge Israel's unbelief and rebellion by means of a deadly disease, He also preserved those individuals who trusted in Him (eg., Num 14:37,38; 16:46-48).
He shall cover thee... under His wings shalt thou trust...- (see note on 'shadow' at v.1)
Whether fowler or pestilence, nothing can touch the one who has taken refuge in God's shadow, without first contending with Him. Psa 57:1
His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.-
God is faithful and unchanging. His Word is steadfast and true.
Those who trust in Him will not be disappointed. Gen 15:1; Psa 138:2; Heb 6:17,18
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night;
[nor] for the arrow [that] flieth by day;
6 [Nor] for the pestilence [that] walketh in darkness;
[nor] for the destruction [that] wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side,
and ten thousand at thy right hand;
[but] it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Thou shalt not be afraid...-
The text (v.5-8) describes real and terrifying troubles. It does not say that a person who takes refuge in God, will be immune to their effects, but that he will not fear in the midst of them. These things can touch those who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, only to the extent that He allows.
terror by night... arrow by day... pestilence in darkness... destruction at noonday...
  • These calamities may be the direct products of sin in the world (eg., wars, Jam 4:1,2).
    Jesus warned us that such things would characterize the age prior to His return... and that His followers would be caught up in the turmoil and in persection (Mat 24:6-9).
  • These calamities may be the deserved punishment of God's judgment upon sin.
    (eg., Ex 12:12-13,29-30; 1Cor 10:1-10).
a thousand shall fall at thy side... it shall not come near thee.-
Armed with God's truth as shield and buckler, the believer, free from paralyzing fear, can be bold in the Lord's service, even in troublous times. Psa 27:1-3; Pro 28:1; Heb 13:6; eg., Acts 4:19,20
only with thine eyes shalt thou... see the reward of the wicked {ie., the ungodly}.
God's wrath upon sin will not touch the believer, for the Savior took that wrath upon Himself. But the ungodly will not stand in the judgment. Psa 1:5,6; 37:34; Rev 19:1-3
9. Because thou hast made the LORD, [which is] my refuge,
[even] the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee,
neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
...thy habitation... thy dwelling...- These words have differing connotations.
  • habitation {HB=ma'on, a permanent dwelling place}. Examples of word useage:
    • God's permanent dwelling place (Heaven), Deu 26:15; Psa 68:5
    • God's earthly dwelling place (the Temple), Psa 26:8
    • Humanity's trans-generational dwelling place (in God), Psa 90:1
      (Like it or not, men are perpetually dependent upon, and accountable to, God.)
  • dwelling {HB='ohel, a tent, a temporary lodging, a home}. Examples...
...there shall no evil {HB=ra'ah, calamity, trouble} befall thee... no plague {HB=nega', stroke, wound} come nigh thy dwelling.-
Does this mean that if you stay close to God, you and your household will never get sick or suffer hardship? No. As we saw, in v.5-8, you may be swept along in the troubles of this world. But because no evil can overwhelm Him, no trouble can touch you, except to the extent, and at such time, that He allows. However, there is a pre-requisite...
Because thou hast made the LORD... [even] the most High, thy habitation...-
As noted above, the word for 'habitation' implies permanence. Likewise, in v.1, the words 'dwelleth' and 'abide' also connote permanence. Thus, the one who dwells and abides, is in a continuous condition of remaining in the secret place of the Most High.
     Does this describe you (or me)? Certainly not in our natural fleshly state. Even as children of God through the new-birth, we frequently waver as we learn to walk with God. He must nurture us, as He did Moses and David, to cause us to hunger for His Presence. Do we continually remain in confident communion with, and submission to, the Lord? If we are honest, we must confess that we do not. So, then, to whom does this refer?
     Consider John 1:35-39. Because of John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus, two of John's disciples approached Jesus and asked "Rabbi... Where dwellest thou?" They were requesting a private interview with Him, and He invited them to His lodging. "They came and saw where he dwelt..." but they discovered much more than His physical address. The very next day, they were declaring their conclusions: "We have found the Messiah... We have found Him of whom Moses, in the Law, and the prophets did write... Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel" (Joh 1:41,45,49). They had discovered "He who dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High..."
     In the Gospel of John, the Greek equivalent, of the Hebrew words for 'dwell' and 'abide', occurs frequently, translated variously: dwell, abide, continue, remain. It is as though John is continually exploring the earlier question: "Rabbi, Where dwellest thou?" Examples: Joh 1:32,33 (John's testimony about Jesus); 14:9-11 (Jesus' testimony concerning Himself); 15:4-10 (Jesus' instruction to His followers).
     Jesus was unique among men, for no one else naturally understands and seeks God (Rom 3:11). Jesus came to deliver us from our fallen state, and bring us into the Father's dwelling place (Joh 14:1-6). In His high priestly prayer, just prior to His crucifixion, He prayed: "Father, I will that they... which thou hast given me be with me where I am..." (Joh 17:24). That request will not be fully answered until we are with Him in Heaven. But there is an element of that request which applies to our earthly pilgrimage. Where was Jesus as He spoke those words? on the earth... in His body of flesh... yet, dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. Earlier in the same prayer, He prayed, not that His disciples would be taken out of the world, but that they would be kept and sanctified by God's Word, and become one with Him and with the Father. A few hours after His prayer, our High Priest offered Himself as our sacrifice, and opened the way for us to join Him in the secret place of the Most High (Heb 4:14-16).
     Because He sought the Father's will above His own (Joh 6:38), nothing would prevent Him from accomplishing the work of salvation for which the Father had sent Him into the world...
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee,
to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in [their] hands,
lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder:
the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Satan sought to disqualify or divert the Savior from accomplishing God's will.
Just prior to Jesus' earthly ministry, He was put to the test by Satan, with a series of three temptations (Mat 4:1-11; Luk 4:1-13). In every case, Jesus met the temptation by quoting from God's written Word. In one case, Satan incorporated scripture into his argument. In Mat 4:6 and Luke 4:10,11, Satan miss-quoted v.11-12 of this Psalm, as he tempted Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple, to His death. Satan twisted scripture to say that God's angels would miraculously protect Jesus from injury, thereby convincing onlookers that He was sent from God. [Can you see the miss-quote?]
for He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways...
Satan omitted that last phrase, reducing the role of angels to physical protection ('...lest thou dash thy foot against a stone'). Yet, angels have been known to crush feet, to hinder men from forsaking God's way (eg., Num 22:25).
     Jesus came out of eternity, delighting to do the Father's will (Psa 40:7,8; Joh 5:30). The angels would guard His steps to ensure that nothing would divert Him from the path to accomplish God's purpose. That path would lead to the cross, where His feet and hands would be pierced with nails.
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder {a serpent}: the young lion and the dragon...
All of these terms are used elsewhere of Satan (eg., 1Pet 5:8; Rev 12:9).
When Satan miss-quoted this passage, he stopped just short of this verse (v.13). He knows that Jesus' feet, for which he professed concern, will eventually crush his head (Gen 3:15).
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him:
I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:
I [will be] with him in trouble;
I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.
How did the Lord Jesus Christ dwell in the secret place of the Most High?
  • because He hath set His love upon Me...
    Read Joh 14:31. Having spoken those words, Jesus went out to Gethsemane, and from there to Golgotha. By this, He demonstrated His love for the Father, before the watching world. But He had 'set His love upon' {ie., was joined to, intertwined with} the Father, from eternity past.
    On what is your heart set? Joh 14:23; 15:10; 16:27; Col 3:1-3
  • because He hath known My Name...
    Read Joh 17:25,26. God's 'Name' is everything about Him, not a mere label. From eternity past, God the Son was in perfect union with the Father's Person and purposes. The religious leaders of Jesus' day knew the theological 'names' of God (eg., the LORD, the Most High, the Almighty, etc.), but they did not know God (eg., Joh 8:54,55). Christ came to make Him known (Joh 1:18). Although He taught His disciples about the Father, they would not truly know Him, until after Jesus' hour had come {ie., after His death and resurrection} (Joh 17:1-6).
    Do you know Him, whom to know is life eternal? Those who truly know His Name, trust Him completely (eg. v.2; Psa 9:10).
How would the Father reward His Son's trust in Him?
  • I will deliver him... (v.14 and v.15) - eg., Acts 2:32
  • I will set him on high...(v.14 and v.15 'honor him')- eg., Php 2:9-11
  • He shall call... I will answer him...- eg., Luk 23:46
  • I will be with him in trouble...- eg., Joh 12:27,28
    'With such a promise, should I seek anything but trouble?' [St.Bernard]
  • I will satisfy him with long life {lit., length of days}...- Psa 16:11; 21:4
    'Nothing is long that has an end. Nothing satisfies apart from Him.' [St. Bernard]
  • I will show him my salvation {HB=yeshua}. Isa 49:4-6; 53:11,12
    'Jesus' is the English pronunciation of 'Yeshua.' His name means salvation.
    The Savior rejoices with the saved, for the salvation from sin, which He has purchased for all who trust in Him. He is the way into the Presence of God. Are you in Him, there? Rom 5:1,2; Eph 2:4-7

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