Oh Psalm 91. Many people have recited these words and many people have misused them. Psalm 91 is a brilliant and beautiful song of trust and faith in God’s provision for God’s people, But that it can mistakenly be understood that those who profess a belief in God and a devotion to God will have God’s protection and God’s defense no matter their action (or inaction).
Psalm 91 is oft quoted: “You will not dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and serpent you shall trample under foot.” My experience with those quoting this passage of scripture is often someone who wants to have God or the Holy Scriptures cosign their beliefs or actions. They want the protect of the angels and the seemingly invincible power afforded to the psalmist in this framework. Psalm 91 is often offered up as a rationale in defense of the prosperity gospel or as proof that bad things will not happen to good, faithful people.
But Psalm 91 is not a historical account of lived events; Psalm 91 is a poetic expression of a truth that is at the core of God’s relationship with God’s people. This psalm is not about the actual shelter that a life of faith provides from all pain, harm, and uncomfortable situations; it is instead, about the very real truth that God is present in every part of our life. God responds to this poetic expression of what a life of faith and trust looks like in God with a divine promise: that God will be with them in trouble.
This, contrary to how this psalm is often used, implies that not only will faith not keep you from times of trouble, it almost guarantees that trouble will be part of life. But it also guarantees that God is present. Psalm 91 is reminder that God is present to God’s people, in the easy and happy times, of course, but also in times of trouble.