Daybreak: Psalms 90:1 through 91:16
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Psalm 91:11)
One of the greatest pleasures of my life is being a grandfather. When my first grandson was born, we became good buddies, and the two of us would go out to breakfast now and then. When his cousin was old enough, he joined our party, and the three of us enjoyed those occasions together.
After one of our pleasant breakfast outings, we went to a local department store to check out the toys. When we finally returned to the car, I instructed one grandson to stand by the door and wait while I placed the other boy in his booster seat. While strapping the first grandson into his seat, I accidentally shoved the front seat forward so it bumped the horn. Moving out of the car to get my other grandchild, I bumped the horn again. I was upset at my awkwardness, and hoped the unnecessary noise had not attracted any attention.
Then I noticed that there were two people inside the car next to me, and their motor was running. They clearly were waiting to see why I kept honking the horn! I motioned for them to wait as I looked around for my younger grandson. My heart nearly stopped beating when I realized he was bent over directly behind the neighboring car, trying to read the license plate! After I pulled him to safety at my side, I wholeheartedly thanked the ladies for patiently waiting. And you can be sure that I thanked God for allowing me to honk the horn twice, even though doing so was not intentional!
I am sure that God’s angels were on the scene that day — they were there to keep us in all our ways, and it was no accident that I honked that horn. Had the driver of the other car not heard it and paused to find out the reason, I am sure my grandson would have been injured.
In today’s focus verse, the psalmist reveals that angels watch over believers. I suspect that we really have no idea how often God’s angelic messengers are standing by, ready to intervene on our behalf. However, I am convinced the experience with my grandsons was one such instance. Let’s not lose an opportunity to thank Him for the protection He provides — both seen and unseen!
Book IV of the Psalms encompasses Psalms 90-106 and includes both the royal praise psalms (95-100) and the historical psalms (104-106), as well as others. This cluster of seventeen psalms was collected about two to three hundred years after the first three books, and probably was added during the time when Israel returned to their homeland under Ezra (458 B.C.) and Nehemiah (445 B.C.). This section focuses on Israel’s failure and time spent in the wilderness, echoing the theme of the Book of Numbers.
This song is classified as a communal lament — a psalm that expresses the anguish or sorrow of the worshiper. It also contains some elements of wisdom language (see verse 12 as an example).
According to its superscription, Psalm 90 is a prayer of Moses. This makes it the oldest of the psalms, as none of the others were written prior to the time of David. It is the only psalm ascribed to the great leader of Israel who delivered God’s chosen people from bondage in Egypt. Since the psalm is primarily a plea for God to restore the Israelites to favor, it likely was composed as the forty years of wandering in the wilderness came to a close. The psalm emphasizes the brevity of human life, and for that reason, it is often included in funeral programs.
Some scholars suggest that verse 10 (which establishes man’s normal lifespan as being seventy years) negates Moses’ authorship, since according to Deuteronomy 34:7 he lived to the age of 120. However, other Scriptures in the early books of the Bible indicate that Moses’ longevity was unusual. For example, in Joshua 14:10-11, Caleb alluded to his strength at the age of eighty-five as being out of the ordinary.
Psalm 90 is considered by many to be one of the greatest prayers of Israel, and one of the most precious “gems” in the Psalter (the compendium of Israel’s lyrical songs). It contains many great theological truths: that God is eternal and everlasting (verse 2), God calls sinful mankind to repentance (verse 3), God’s wrath is His moral response to disobedience (verse 11), and God extends mercy (verse 14). The psalm concludes with an appeal for God’s compassion and favor to rest upon His people.
Like most of the psalms in Book IV, the author of Psalm 91 is not given, and no specific setting is established in the text. This psalm is considered to be a wisdom poem, followed by a word from God (verses 14-16). It may have been used in the Temple liturgy.
The words of Psalm 91 express the security found in trusting the living God. Since it is not designated to any individual or restricted to any specific group of people, it is applicable to all who dwell “in the secret place of the most High” (verse 1) and who look to God as their refuge and fortress.
The author drew upon military imagery in several verses. He recognized that God was his defensive position (described as a “refuge” and “fortress” in verse 2) where security was found from the threats of the enemy. Allusion to weaponry provides another metaphor — God’s truth had proved to be a “shield and buckler” (verse 4). Although the enemy attacked with “arrows” (verse 5), verse 7 proclaims that destruction will not come near the one whose trust is in God. While on the surface this may appear to be a description of deliverance from human assault, the psalmist also may have been portraying the believers’ victory over demonic agents. (A parallel thought is expressed in Ephesians 6, where Paul instructed believers in how to stand against the “wiles of the devil.”) Jesus quoted verse 11 when resisting Satan in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:6).
The “snare of the fowler” and the “noisome pestilence” referenced in verse 3 are figures of speech which emphasize the elements of surprise and danger. A snare is not seen until it is too late to avoid entrapment; a pestilence is fatal. The point is that even when the danger is invisible or incurable, God’s protection avails.
In verses 14-16, God himself speaks, giving divine assurance to the person who dwells in intimacy with Him. These verses do not mean that the people of God will never suffer. The promise of help, honor, and hope are for those in peril, but Satan’s attempts do not need to be feared when one is under the divine protection of the Almighty. That one is safe in God’s keeping, even in the midst of danger.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In Psalm 90:5-6, what type of vegetation did the psalmist use in his illustration of the brevity of life?
- Given the promises in Psalm 91, how would you explain the fact that God’s people suffer affliction, trouble, and death?
- Based upon Psalm 90:12, what are some habits we could develop that would help make every day count?
We will all face difficulties — some more serious than others — but we have no reason to fear if we are abiding in the “secret place of the most High.”