Psalm 91: How Not to Use It

Photo of funeral came from Rhodi Lopez at Unsplash.

Psalm 91 is a beautiful psalm that’s filled with incredible promises. But this psalm is not a lucky charm. Its promises are based upon extreme intimacy with Christ, strong trust in the Lord, and consistent obedience to the slightest of His promptings.

Does this describe you?

It is a dangerous thing for people to claim the promises of Psalm 91 without fulfilling its requirements. To do so is to place one’s self in danger.

It is far safer to humbly live within the boundaries of the faith you have and not claim the promises of faith you don’t have. There is no such thing as a faith credit card.

If you are on medication for diabetes or high blood pressure…

If you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without fear of having a heart attack…

If you have arthritis or insomnia…

If you have allergies or a bad back…

There is no such thing as a

faith credit card.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Foolish Christians are claiming to have miracle-working, plague-defying faith (specifically, Covid-19 resistant faith) when they know good and well there’s not a free three inches of space in their medicine cabinet for another container of pills.

If the bully’s little brother is kicking your butt, why do you think it’s wise to taunt the big brother? Wouldn’t it be wiser for you to simply take another route home?

I offer this advice because I believe many Christians act in presumption and call it faith. A lot of ministers have attended their own funerals because Covid-19 is not dissuaded by pride, presumption, or foolishness.

Psalm 91 and Divine Judgment

If the above sounds like fear, please check the Scriptures for how God’s people are to respond during times of divine judgment, which I believe Covid-19 is. There is a particular way we are to behave when God’s judgment is active among us.

During one such time, God sent King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian kingdom against Judah (Southern Israel). This was during the ministries of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

God was explicit in His descriptions of how terrible this judgment would be. It would come in phases.

Phase 1 of Judgment

The first would be a suffocating siege as the Babylonians surrounded the city. Food would be so scarce people would eat one another!

And I shall make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them.

Jeremiah 19:9

Phase 2 of Judgment

The second phase of punishment would be a bloody slaughter once the Babylonians broke through the city walls:

And I Myself shall war against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm, even in anger and wrath and great indignation. I shall strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they will die of a great pestilence.

Then afterwards, declares the Lord, I shall give over Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people, even those who survive in this city from the pestilence, the sword, and the famine, into the hand of

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their foes, and into the hand of those who seek their lives; and he will strike them down with the edge of the sword. He will not spare them nor have pity nor compassion.

Jeremiah 21:5-7

Phase 3 of Judgment

The third and final phase was God would send them as captives to Babylon to remain for seventy years.

The judgment coming upon Israel through Babylon could not be averted by now claiming the promises of Psalm 91. For God had said this:

Therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them.

Jeremiah 11:11

This is the reality we must face when we claim the promises of Psalm 91 or any of God’s promises. There comes a time when God’s irrevocable law of sowing and reaping comes into play.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

Galatians 6:7

The promises of God are not lucky charms to be rubbed or magic words to be spoken in times of trouble in the hope of shielding us from the effects of our disobedience to His commands.

Psalm 91 was no longer an option for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Psalm 91 Does Not Replace Explicitly Following God’s Instructions

God’s fury against His people had been building and bubbling hot for centuries. It had finally reached the point where it boiled over the sides of restraint and poured into their land through the armies of Nebuchadnezzar.

Nothing could hold back his fury now. Not even prayer and cries for mercy.

It is telling that wicked King Zedekiah who had done so much to provoke this judgment now was trying a last minute appeal to God for a Psalm 91 type of deliverance.

Look at this audacious request for a miracle:

Please inquire of the Lord on our behalf, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is warring against us; perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all His wonderful acts, that the enemy may withdraw from us.

Jeremiah 21:2

I’m really shocked at this request. How does a wicked king who has defied the warnings of Jeremiah for eleven years and has led his nation into extreme disobedience against God now ask that same God for a Psalm 91 miracle–and at the last minute?

God’s answer through Jeremiah can provide us great insight into the rules that govern Psalm 91 and other promises of God. He first goes into great detail reaffirming that the nation had crossed a line of no return (Jeremiah 21:3-7).

The nation itself was about to be brutalized and lost to Nebuchadnezzar.

Nonetheless, even now with devastating judgment literally banging on the city’s walls, God extends mercy. But it’s critical for you to see this mercy was not for the nation.

The nation was lost.

(Sometimes sin causes you to lose something you can’t recover until God’s determined time of restoration. That may be in this life or the life to come.)

Rather, this was limited mercy available only to certain individuals. What individuals? Only those who would humble themselves and explicitly follow God’s instructions:

You shall also say to this people, “Thus says the Lord, Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who dwells in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence; but he who goes out and falls away to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live, and he will have his own life as booty.

“For I have set My face against this city for harm and not for good,” declares the Lord. “It will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire.”

Jeremiah 21:8-10

When Psalm 91 is Guaranteed Not to Work

The instructions for limited mercy were explicit. Stop fighting, throw down your weapons, go out to the Babylonians and Chaldeans and beg for mercy.

This offer was problematic, however. It posed two life-threatening problems to anyone who would take God up on His offer. First, there was no guarantee the enemy would show mercy, except God’s word. Second, the besieged King Zedekiah considered this treason.

There was a third option, too. Fight to the death.

I’m not surrendering. I trust in Psalm 91!

What if someone behind the walls memorized Psalm 91 and he is full of faith? What if he says to himself, “A thousand shall fall at my side, and ten thousand at my right hand; but it will not come near me!” (Psalm 91:7).

He lifts his sword above his head in courageous defiance of the Babylonians and Chaldeans and rush them as he screams, “No evil will befall me!”

I can tell you exactly what happens. He loses weight the hard way. Babylonian and Chaldean swords chop him into several pieces.

Did Psalm 91 fail? No. It’s not a formula. It can neither succeed or fail. Nor is the word of God a force, as some errant Charismatics teach. It can’t be manipulated.

So what happened?

This guy appeared to be full of faith because he quoted Psalm 91 and rushed into battle. But faith is not quoting a Scripture and then taking action as though God has granted you your desire.

Book cover of You Can Get Answers to Your Prayers

Faith means simply to believe what God has told you to such a degree that it causes your behavior to agree with your belief. This is what is meant by “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

This hearing is not hearing yourself quote a Scripture you select for your purposes. It is you hearing God speak.

The problem with the guy in our story is God did not tell the nation of Judah to fight Nebuchadnezzar. He told them the only way they would receive mercy was to stop fighting and submit to their enemies.

So depending upon the safety of our favorite Bible verse as we disregard the explicit instructions of the Lord is not faith. It’s a presumptuous suicide mission done in the name of faith.

Even if we’re trusting in Psalm 91.

Eric has written a bunch of books. Check them out here on Amazon.

Eric M Hill

Eric M Hill is an author, blogger, YouTuber, and Bible teacher. He has written sixteen books. He is a member of the Authors Guild and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

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