This Bible study on Psalms contains outlines, extensive cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, lessons to learn, and applications. Visit our inductive Bible studies for more studies on this and other books of the Bible.
Psalm 91 Inductive Bible Study With Discussion Questions – God is Our Refuge
I. God is our refuge (1-2)
II. God will protect His people (3-13)
III. God’s people have a relationship with Him (14-16)
I. God is our refuge (1-2)
- What does it mean to dwell in the shelter of the Most High?
- In what way is God your refuge?
- What difficulties are you facing now that you can trust God to help you with?
- What will you do differently in the face of these difficulties if you are trusting in God?
Psalm 119:114 – You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
Psalm 27:5 – For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
Psalm 9:10 – And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Dwells in the shelter of the Most High – God is a shelter. He Himself is a protection from many evils in the world. We see throughout the Bible that God offers supernatural protection and help to His people. Daniel’s three friends were in the middle of the fire and not burned. David went up against Goliath and won. The Jews in Egypt were delivered from Pharaoh and his armies.
However, not every person receives God’s protection. He does not shelter everyone. Only the person who dwells with Him receives this protection. The word “dwell” denotes living. A person chooses where to live. When choosing a house, people look at the schools, transportation, taxes, price, etc. Finally they make a decision, and generally they will stay in that location. In a similar manner, people choose spiritually where to live. They can choose to live in God’s kingdom and obey His authority or they can choose to live in this world, in the realm of Satan. Dwelling in this world apart from God is easier in some respects. A person can do whatever he wants. He doesn’t need to give up anything. But the person who dwells in this world without God is on his own. When trouble comes, he has to face it alone, depending on his own strength and intelligence.
Believers choose to make God’s kingdom as their dwelling place. John describes this in a similar way.
A follower of Jesus chooses to abide with Him. We submit ourselves to His authority. We trust in His goodness and power. We give up things in the world and pursue the things of God. In return, He gives us His protection and care. We can live within the walls of His castle, which nothing can break.
Application: Where have you chosen to dwell? Are you abiding in Christ or enjoying the things of this world? Do you try to keep one foot in the world and the other foot in God’s kingdom? Is there something you need to give up in your life so that you can plant both feet firmly in God’s kingdom?
2. In whom I trust – Psalm 91 is a wonderful depiction of God’s love and care for His people. But in this chapter we are not devoid of responsibility. Our job is fairly simple, but not easy. Our role is to trust in Him completely, to cast all our worries and fears to Him.
The United State’s currency has the phrase “In God We Trust” printed on it. But one can quickly see that for most people it is not true. Merely saying the words as a tradition or habit is not enough. Trusting God is a lifestyle. It is making decisions that please God without fear of the consequences, knowing that He will take care of you.
Application: Is there an area of your life that is filled with stress or worry that you need to take to God and entrust to Him? If you truly trust God in this, how will it affect your actions and attitude?
II. God will protect His people (3-13)
- What does this passage teach us about God?
- What do you learn about what He will do for His people?
- What kind of situation may the author have been facing when he wrote this Psalm?
- In this passage most of the “work” is done by God. What specific things are His followers to do (or not do)?
- How can we understand the statements about God’s protection in this passage?
- Will a believer never suffer disease, death, or danger? Defend your answer.
- What cases can you see in the Bible where a faithful follower of God did suffer from war, disease, or other dangers?
- If faithful followers of God may still become infected or be injured or fall in war, then is this passage still comforting? How?
- What condition is seen in verse 9 if a person wants God’s protection?
- What then does this imply about one possible reason for suffering?
- Who does God send on our behalf (11-12)?
- Who quoted this passage in the New Testament (Satan)?
- What wrong application did Satan encourage Jesus to make based on this passage?
- What is a wrong application of the fact that God protects His children?
- What is the correct application of this principle?
Exodus 23:25-26 – You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.
Exodus 15:26 – Saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”
Proverbs 17:22- A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Jeremiah 14:12 – Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.
Deuteronomy 5:33 – You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.
Proverbs 10:27 – The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.
Deuteronomy 28 – In this chapter God promises to bless (in many physical ways) those who are obedient to Him and curse (in many physical ways) those who are disobedient.
Matthew 4:5-7 – Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. God’s character – In this passage we learn about God and about His character. Several of His attributes are clearly seen.
Firstly, we that He is sovereign. God’s power extends over and above all natural and man made disasters. Natural disasters seen in this chapter include pestilence. Disease and sickness is frightening today, even in the era of modern science. It is generally true that when you don’t understand something you will fear it even more. At that time in history, people did not understand about the science behind viruses. Germs and bacteria were unknown to them. Sickness would come and kill and then leave with no warning and no explanation. But God was sovereign over these mysterious forces of nature, divinely protecting His people.
Man made disasters are also mentioned including the “snare” (verse 3), the “arrow” (verse 5) and warfare in general (verse 7). God could and would protect against the violence of men as well.
Secondly, we see that God is faithful. Verse 4 says that his faithfulness is “a shield and buckler.” Trusting in people leads to disappointment. Sooner or later, even close allies and friends may let you down. But God is faithful. His promises are sure. His shield has no weaknesses or holes.
Thirdly, we see God’s justice. Verse 8 mentions the “recompense of the wicked.” God could, in His sovereignty, direct the forces of nature or war to punish the wicked and spare the righteous. In fact, He did so on many occasions. Pharaoh’s evil army was destroyed. Abraham’s motley band of three hundred eighteen household servants defeated five kings (Genesis 14). Haman was hanged on the same gallows he built for Mordecai.
Fourthly, we see that God is personal. He desires a personal and intimate relationship with us (14.) Those who love and trust Him will receive His help. Those who call to Him will be answered. Those who abide with Him will be protected. God is not a mysterious force. He is a personal being. And He wants a relationship with you.
2. God will deliver you – Read through the passage and take note of all the things it says God will do.
- He will deliver you (3)
- He will cover you (4)
- It will not come near you (7)
- Evil shall not be allowed to befall you (10)
- He will command his angels to guard you (11)
- I will deliver you (14)
- I will protect him (14)
- I will answer him (15)
- I will be with him (15)
- I will rescue him (15)
- I will honor him (15)
- I will satisfy him with long life (16)
- I will show him my salvation (16)
Next time you are feeling down, take a look at this list! God cares for and protects His people.
However, this brings us to a question:
3. Does God always deliver? Does God guarantee long life?
We look at this list and all the promises in this passage and we cannot help but wonder, “Does God really do that?” We all know of faithful believers who have gotten sick, who feel pain, who have perhaps even died young. Did God forget about them? Did He break His promise?
There are a few things we must consider.
Firstly, this was written in the Old Testament. The way God worked with believers in the Old Testament is different than the way He works now. If you do not thing so, read Deuteronomy 28. Israel was a physical kingdom. God promised physical blessings as tangible manifestations of His good pleasure on those who obeyed Him and kept the covenant. He gave military victory (even against great odds), health, and even long life to those who He was pleased with. The physical blessings were visible evidences of a spiritual reality. These blessings were designed to show the world that God is pleased with those who worship and follow Him faithfully and displeased with those who do not.
However, when the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God began to work with His people on earth in a spiritual way through a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36). When that happened, blessings from God became primarily spiritual blessings. And physical problems such as poverty or sickness or persecution were not indications of God’s displeasure. Jesus Himself died at an early age of 33. That makes it clear that God does not universally promise old age to those who are pleasing to Him.
Secondly, some of God’s promises are general. The promise of old age to those who honor parents is a general promise, just as the promise of long life to the person who follows God is. God is not guaranteeing that every believer will live to a certain age. Even faithful believers in the Old Testament did not universally live to an old age. King Josiah was one of the best kings in the history of Judah, but died in warfare (2 Kings 23) at the age of 39.
Simply put Psalm 91:7 did not apply to Josiah (or to Jesus). Why? Because God does not and never dead promise long life to every single believer. It is instead a general truth for Old Testament believers that may be over ruled in specific instances to bring about a bigger plan.
Thirdly, one aspect of the promise seen in verse 10 is that “no evil shall be allowed to befall you.” This statement goes hand in hand with the New Testament promise in Romans 8:28:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
God will cause even seemingly bad things which happen to us to accomplish good, in our lives or others’ lives. Paul’s imprisonment seemed evil certainly. But it gave him lots of time, which he redeemed by writing epistles. We are still reading these today.
What is something which seemed to be bad in your life, which God caused to work together for good?
Therefore the lesson of comfort in this passage is this: Life is not random. God does not allow forces of evil to randomly harm you. Nothing can happen to you, which God has not specifically permitted in your life. If God is for me, what can man to do to me? The answer is “nothing that God does not permit.”
There was once a medic named Desmond Moss who served in World War II. In the midst of a fierce battle he kept returning to Hacksaw Ridge to save other soldiers. Bullets flew all around. Every moment it seemed his life was in danger. But they didn’t hit him. He saved about seventy-five men, without ever carrying a weapon.
Many people who do not believe in God, believe in evolution. It is their belief that random chances created the universe and life. Since it comes from random chance, it then follows that other random forces can destroy life. Such people live in fear. They fear acts of nature such as asteroid strikes. And they also fear man-made catastrophe like nuclear war. If everything is random, then there is indeed much to fear.
But God is sovereign. He is all-good. He is all-powerful. Your life is in His hands. And that is a good place for it to be.
Application: How does knowing nothing will befall you that God does not allow, comfort you? How can this knowledge help you live without fear?
4. You have a responsibility while God does this – No doubt this passage is focused on God’s power and protection. Still, we have a responsibility. We are to dwell with Him (verse 1).We are to trust in Him (verse 2). We are to be bold and not fear (verse 5). We are to observe what God is doing (verse 8). We to hold fast to Him in love (verse 14). And we are to call on Him (verse 15).
Application: Think of a crises or difficult that you face. Which one of the above, do you need to do? How will you do it?
5. Satan twisted Scripture to encourage Jesus to be reckless – Verses 11 and 12 are quoted by Satan when he tempted Jesus in Matthew 4. In essence, he was telling Jesus that since God would care for Him anyway, He could live His life in a reckless manner and it wouldn’t matter. Also, he was trying to feed into whatever human feelings Jesus may have felt of loneliness. Satan encouraged Jesus to do something foolish and dangerous to “test” whether or not God would fulfill His promise.
It is interesting that Satan was encouraging application of Scripture! But applying Scripture is not always good. You have to apply it correctly!
I would argue that based on the passage, God does not deliver people who recklessly endanger their own lives and then seek His protection. Why? Verse 1 provides the premise for the entire idea that God protects His people. The premise is that His people must “dwell” with Him. He will protect those who are obedient and abiding in Him. But when a person goes outside of His will and engages in foolish and harmful behavior, God withdraws His protection.
This idea is consistent with the biblical principle “you reap what you sow.” A person who is obedient to God “reaps” protection. But a person who disobeys and acts in a foolish way “reaps” the natural consequences of that action.
A child may claim the promise that those who honor their parents will live a long life. But then if they don’t listen to their parent’s warnings about drugs and take them anyway, they may die. The promise is only applicable to those who fulfill the condition. In like manner, if Jesus jumped off the temple He would not be fulfilling the condition that this promise of angelic protection is based on.
Application: We should interpret Scripture correctly. Looking at the context is paramount. Do not take verses or promises out of context.
6. God’s protection does not mean that we should be reckless – Knowing that God will protect you, does not mean that you should be reckless. Paul was divinely protected from a poisonous snake bite (Acts 28). Some foolish sects take this example and promises of protection in the Bible, and then incorporate snake handling as part of Sunday worship. One such person was Gregory Coots. He practiced snake handling during a Pentecostal service. He began handling snakes at the age of twenty three. Over the years he was bitten a number of times. During one of these services, a twenty-eight year old in his “church” died from a snake bite. At the age of forty-four he was bitten again during a service. Paramedics came, but he refused help. Guess what happened to him? He died. There are many stories like this.
God’s promises are often conditional upon our obedience. Living in a wise manner is fundamental. And people who recklessly presume upon God’s mercy will face the due results of such foolishness.
III. God’s people have a relationship with Him (14-16)
- Who does the “he” and the “I” and the “him” refer to in verse 14?
- What does this verse show us about who God extends His protection to?
- Based on verse 15, who does God move to help?
- In ways is God “with” someone in trouble, even when that trouble is not taken away?
- Is long life a guarantee for believers now?
- Was long life a promise for Old Testament believers?
Exodus 20:12 – Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Proverbs 18:10 – The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
Isaiah 52:6 – Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. God desires a relationship with His people – Verse 14 tells us that He will deliver those who hold fast to Him in love (not those who hold fast to snakes!) In essence, the closer you get to God the farther you get from danger.
God is a personal God. He desires a relationship with you.
Application: Are you holding fast too God in love? How can you “hold” onto Him even more? You cannot hold on to God if you are holding on to the world. You must first release your grip on the world before you can hold on to Him. Is there something in this world you need to let go of?
2. When he calls to me, I will answer him – We should have God on speed dial. The line between us and Him is open all the time. One of the great blessings God gives to His children is 24/7 access to His throne room.
Imagine what it would be like to have a relationship with the president like that. At any time, you can call to get direct help for whatever you are facing. We have an even higher power on our side. And yet we often seek help from other sources instead of from Him. What other sources do we call on?
Application: Cultivate a lifestyle of prayer. The more you call on God the easier it will be. I was reading a book titled “The King of the Cannibals” about a Scottish missionary named John Patton. There was a man he ministered to who said, “I not only don’t know how to pray. I can’t pray!” But God changed his heart. The most difficult prayer he prayed was the first one. Once he started talking, it got easier. Opening up and talking is a habit. That is true in relationships like marriage and also your relationship to God. Set aside a time this week to spend alone with God. Just talk to Him. Open the lines of communication and your relationship will grow sweeter and sweeter.
Psalms E-book – If this study is helpful for you, download our Psalms Bible study guide the e-book version, or get the paperback from Amazon.
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