20 August 2018

2 Thessalonians 3
Psalm 91

Many people live their lives without God, but when trouble strikes, they run to Him for help: “God, please help me!” Psalm 91 promises God’s protection, but is that protection offered to all who ask, and is it guaranteed? Before we answer these questions, let’s take a quick look at the psalm. God is identified as the ‘Most High… the Almighty‘ and described as a ‘refuge and fortress’ (91:1-2), suggesting great strength and secure protection. He is able to save you from the ‘fowler’s snare’ and from deadly disease whenever these may threaten you –  day or night. (91:3ff. ). Ten thousand may succumb, but not you; you will find refuge under God’s ‘wings’; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart (91:4, 7).

This is an encouraging promise of divine protection from harm. But is it promised to all? According to the psalm, no harm will overtake those who trust in God and confess that ‘”the Lord is my refuge,” and make the Most High their dwelling (91:2, 9-10). God promises to rescue and protect those who love him and acknowledge His name (91:14). Clearly this is not a blanket promise of protection for all. But is it a promise of blanket protection to God’s people from all harm? Some verses seem to imply this (cf. 91:9ff.). Interestingly, Satan quotes from this psalm when he tempts Jesus to jump from the highest point of the temple (Matthew 4:5-7; cf. Psalm 91:11-12). But Satan distorts the teaching of Psalm 91 to mean that if you throw yourself in harm’s way, God will always protect you. Not true, says Jesus, for it is also written in Scripture, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ (quoting Deuteronomy 6:16). Jesus lays down an important rule of interpretation here: interpret Scripture with Scripture!

To be sure, God is a refuge and fortress to His children, and they should call on Him expectantly for protection in their time of need. However, the Bible elsewhere makes it clear that this promise doesn’t mean that God will keep us from all harm – just think of Paul’s apostolic ministry. But no harm can separate us from God’s presence or saving purposes, truths affirmed by this psalm: ‘I (God) will be with him in trouble … I will show him my salvation’ (91:15-16). In that sense, God will always protect His children (cf. Romans 8:17-39).