How do I apply Psalm 91 to Christians and God’s protection for us?
Psalm 91 is a messianic Psalm. It concerns God’s promises for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The images of protection, especially the image of angels protecting him so that his foot does not strike a stone (Psalm 91:11-13), are primarily meant for Jesus.
When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness the devil quotes part of this Psalm to him when he tries to get Jesus to jump off of a high place (Matthew 4:6). The devil quotes from this messianic Psalm because he knows it is about Jesus. He knows that God will protect Jesus but he tempts Jesus to test God’s promise to protect him until it is time for him to suffer as part of God’s plan.
Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly points out that his hour to fulfill God’s plan has not yet come. In the Gospels he is able to elude crowds of people willing to stone him (John 8:59). How was he able to elude them if God does not provide a way for him to escape?
Does this mean that God is not speaking about his children, the saints, at all in Psalm 91? In other places in Scripture God does protect his people from danger. In Revelation 7 and 14, God protects his people from danger by sealing them (Revelation 7:1-4; 14:1-5). God does protect us from wickedness and evil.
If we do take the promises from this Psalm that are originally meant for Jesus, we must take them lightly and not literally. The fact is that Jesus told us we would endure tribulation, persecution, and suffering while on this earth (Matthew 5:10-12; John 16:33; Revelation 2:10).
I have been struck with paralysis from the neck down and I know that God is going to heal me. But if I held literally to the promises in Psalm 91, this would create a problem for my faith. I claim certain verses in Psalm 91 from my own situation.
Psalm 91:1-6 I believe is a more general promise. God does protect us and he does provide a refuge under his wings and in his presence. Psalm 91:14-16 contain a promise that when we trust in God he delivers us, protects us, and answers us. I believe we can claim these promises because they are general promises we have seen answered.
We live between the cross and the second coming, between the promises and their total fulfillment. We can claim God’s promises for ourselves. Some of them have been fulfilled before us, others in our lifetime, and others in the future.
God takes care of us. The Bible, his word to us, tells us that he does this. We don’t need to remind him or throw these words back in his face. We enjoy his promises and see them fulfilled. The ones he fulfilled in the past prove that God does not forget his promises for us and they increase our faith.