Does God protect his people? Whenever a tragic event occurs—and they seem to be coming at an ever increasing rate—it’s hard not to wonder if God really cares. But God does care, and he wants us to know it. That’s why Psalm 91 is such a strong comfort. It describes God’s deeply personal concern with the trials his people face—and he wants them to know that they have reason to hope. And the psalm does it in three ways:
- Reminding us of God’s protection in our common temptations
- Pointing to his providential protection
- Humbling us with is miraculous care
God’s protection from “common” temptations
Psalm 91:3–6 uses imagery that may be confusing to us, but when properly understood, is the grounds for great hope and confidence:
3 he will certainly rescue you from the snare of the hunter
and from the destructive plague.
4 He will shelter you with his wings;
you will find safety under his wings.
His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall.
5 You need not fear the terrors of the night,
the arrow that flies by day,
6 the plague that stalks in the darkness,
or the disease that ravages at noon.
It’s tempting to read these verses and dismiss the idea that God protects and cares for us at all. After all, we all sometimes get sick. None of us is immune to harm, sickness, and death. But we’d miss something amazing if we did.
But these verses point to God’s protection from the unseen dangers that all of us are prone to: the dangers that those we might consider strong in their faith are as equally prone to succumb to as those whose faith seems to be hanging on by a thread. The varied temptations that exist to derail our faith, take us off course, and compromise our character, integrity, and loyalty to the Lord.
These come to us through ordinary or extraordinary means, including:
- People we know
- The box of temptation in our pockets (aka our smartphones)
- Supernatural agents working against us
No matter the source, we all experience temptation to sin. We are all prone to wander and succumb to our particular weaknesses.
But we can find shelter from every temptation, every weakness that threatens to overcome us. We find shelter in him. He wants to help us. What’s more, He does help us, even when we’re entirely unaware of it.
God’s protection through providence
Psalm 91:7–10 describe God’s providential care and protection on a deeply personal level:
7 Though a thousand may fall beside you,
and a multitude on your right side,
it will not reach you.
8 Certainly you will see it with your very own eyes—
you will see the wicked paid back.
9 For you have taken refuge in the Lord,
my shelter, the Most High.
10 No harm will overtake you;
no illness will come near your home.
By “providential,” I mean God’s unseen hand at work in the world, guiding the events of human history according to His purposes. This can be difficult for many of us to understand because God’s providential protection and care doesn’t mean that we’re going to live pain and difficulty free lives. If anything, it seems that we are beset with sorrow, trial, and difficulty. After all, David, the man after God’s heart, was chased by his foes and was constantly surrounded by enemies. And Elijah was a fugitive waging a one-man war against an idolatrous nation. Even the Apostle Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, and imprisoned multiple times over. Yet, he could write that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
But Paul understood what we need to learn: God’s providential care doesn’t exclude the possibility of harm and even death. It means God will ensure that the work he began by saving us will be brought to its completion.
God’s protection in the miraculous
Psalm 91:11–13 bring the picture of God’s protection to a close:
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you in all you do.
12 They will lift you up in their hands,
so you will not slip and fall on a stone.
13 You will subdue a lion and a snake;
you will trample underfoot a young lion and a serpent.
God provides protection from the temptations which threaten to take us off course. He works providentially to accomplish his purposes. He even commands His unseen, supernatural servants to come to our aid in our times of greatest need and trouble—not even the devil himself can stand against the servants of the Lord!
These verses have a triumphal sort of power. In fact, it’s tempting to become puffed up, to start acting as though we are invincible. But this is the thinking that Satan tried to tempt Jesus with when He transported him to the top of the temple.
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” he said. “For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
The devil still tempts us like this today. with today. Remember, the devil is extremely dangerous, yet, he is also extremely unoriginal. He uses the same tricks over and over again—often to great effect.
When we read these verses—and not just verses 11-13, but all God’s promise of protection for you and me—for all who seek refuge in Him—if we become puffed up and arrogant, we’re reading them wrong. Instead, before we find our egos writing checks our bodies can’t cash, we need to say, as Jesus did in his temptation, “Yes, this is written. But it is also written: ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:6-7).
The fruit of knowing God’s protection
God’s protection of you and me ought to inspire a greater sense of humility. It should drive us to say along with David, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4, ESV). Because the truth is, the kindness that God shows us, the protection he provides us… all of it is of grace. It is a gift from our loving Father—our shelter and stronghold. And in times of difficulty, you can have hope because you know God protects His people—and He wants you to know it too.