Just a Bit O’ History…Psalm 91. A promise of God to those that love him, know him, and trust in him to deliver them, and give them immortal glory.

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Psalm 91

Theodore Beza relates that, in his younger years, he was one day in the church of Charenton, and heard the 91st Psalm expounded.

It came home to him with power, and he was enabled to close with the 2nd verse: ‘I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.’ At his death he declared to his Christian friends that, in the after changes of his life, he found the promises one by one fulfilled. In the civil wars, then so fierce in France, he was kept in a composed spirit, and had most convincing deliverances from most imminent hazards. ‘And now,’ he said, ‘I have no more to wait for but the fulfilling of these last words of the psalm, “I will show him my salvation,” which with confidence I look for.'” Beza was born 1519, and died 1605. In early life he was light-minded and devoted to worldly pleasure, but, after the change he records, he became, next to Calvin, the most influential leader in the Reformed Church. His long life was spent in preaching, writing and administration, with a diligence peculiar to that age. His translation of the New Testament into Latin came into universal use among Protestants; and the French Psalter, which had such an effect on the spirit of the Huguenots, owes more than a half of its version to his poetic genius, the rest being the work of Clement Marot.

The church of Charenton, associated with the memory of Beza, and many of the most eminent ministers of the French Reformation, was an immense structure in the suburbs of Paris, near the junction of the Seine and Marne, where liberty for Protestant worship was enjoyed. Few edifices ever gathered round them memories of so many eloquent and devoted preachers and pious worshippers. At last, when the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV., it was razed to the ground amid the tears and groans of the despairing Huguenots. A picture of the scene, struck off and circulated in numberless prints, with reference to Ps. 74, ver. 7, served to keep alive their grief and love: ‘They have cast fire into thy sanctuary; they have defiled by casting down the dwelling-place of thy name to the ground.’ A century afterwards the rebound of the blow shattered the French monarch’s throne.

Whether or not the imagery of the Psalm was in part drawn from the Passover Night when the destroying Angel passed through Egypt while the faithful and obedient Israelites were sheltered by God, we cannot say. 

This we do know that the Psalm is one of the most excellent of this kind ever written. “It is impossible to imagine anything more sober, more beautiful, more profound, or more ornamental. Could the Latin or any modern language express thoroughly all the beauties and elegancies as well as of the words as of the sentences, it would not be difficult to persuade the reader that we have no poem, either in Greek or in Latin, comparable to this Hebrew ode.

As the Psalm is without title, or name of author, or date of composition, we cannot with certainty assign it to a particular period or person.  Whoever wrote it sometimes speaks in the first person, 91:1, 2, 9 and sometimes addresses his promises to the godly man, or to the nation, in the second person, 91:3-8, 9-13.  Then God himself is presented as the speaker, 91:14-16. 

Jewish scholars in later Old Testament days felt that when the author’s name did not appear at the head of the Psalm that it could be assigned to the writer of the previous Psalm, which, in this case, would be Moses, The Man of God. 

In fact, many expressions used in Psalm 91 are similar to those Moses used in Deuteronomy, and the internal evidence, from the particular idioms, would point towards the Law-giver as the Composer.

D.L. Moody, the American evangelist who rocked two continents nearer to God, held Psalm 91 as his favorite.  When in November, 1892, he and his fellow passengers on the steamship Spree were threatened by a billowy grave, he preached to a most attentive audience from the words found in verses 14 to 16 of this Psalm.  They called upon the Lord and he answered them and delivered them.

Bryan W. Proctor’s poem on this last verse is most apt, the opening stanza of which reads—

They err who measure life by years,
With false of thoughtless tongue;
Some hearts grow old before their time,
Others are always young.
Tis not the number of the lines
Of life’s fast filling page,
Tis not the pulse’s added throbs
Which constitute their age.

When God satisfies those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High with His fore-ordained length of days, then, when Time ends and Eternity begins, He will show them His Salvation.   Theirs will be the full revelation of His Love, grace, and glory.  Now, we only know in part.  Horatius Bonar gave us this expressive poem on the phrase, With Long Life—

He liveth long who liveth well!
All other life is short and vain;
He liveth longest who can tell
Of living most for heavenly gain.
He liveth long who liveth well!
All else is being flung away;
He liveth longest who can tell
Of true things truly done each day.

Psalm 91

1599 Geneva Study Bible

1 Who so dwelleth in the secret of the most High, shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say unto the Lord, O my hope, and my fortress: he is my God, in him will I trust.
3 Surely I will deliver thee from the snare of the hunter, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He will cover thee under his wings, and thou shalt be sure under his feathers: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid of the fear of the night: nor of the arrow that flieth by day:
6 Nor of the pestilence that walketh in the darkness: nor of the plague that destroyeth at noon day.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come near thee.
8 Doubtless with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 For thou hast said, The Lord is mine hope: thou hast set the most High for thy refuge.
10 There shall none evil come unto thee, neither shall any plague come near thy tabernacle.
11 For he shall give his Angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee in their hands, that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt walk upon the lion and asp: the young lion, and the dragon shalt thou tread under feet.
14 Because he hath loved me, therefore will I deliver him: I will exalt him because he hath known my Name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will hear him: I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and glorify him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.  

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Taken adapted from, Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, written by Herbert Lockyer, Sr.
Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography,” written by John Ker,