Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 91

Beneath God’s outspread wings

The daily news often covers enough potential threats to debilitate us. With life equally uncertain in ancient Israel, this psalm promises all who love God his presence and protection always.

Whoever lives in the shelter of God Most High
rests secure in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I declare this of YHWH:
he’s my refuge and fortress
the kind of God you can really trust.

3 He will surely protect you
from hidden snares and virulent plagues.
4 He’ll shelter you under his feathers
safe beneath his outspread wings.
His truth will be your shield and shelter.
5 You won’t fear the terrors of the night
nor the arrows that fly by day—
6 neither the plague that stalks in darkness
nor sudden death that devastates at high noon.
7 Though a thousand fall on your left
and ten thousand on your right
when it’s all over
you’re still standing—unscathed
8 a solemn witness
to how evildoers get repaid in full.
9 Because you’ve taken refuge in YHWH
and made your home in the Most High
10 no harm will come to you
and no tragedy track you down.
11 For he’s charged his angels
to take care of you
and protect you wherever you go.
12 They’ll lift you up in their hands
lest you bruise your foot on a stone.
13 You’ll step on lions and snakes unharmed
even lions in their prime and deadly serpents.

14 “Because they hold fast to me in love
I’ll rescue them.
I’ll set them in safety
because they know me by name.
15 When they call on me
I will answer them.
When they’re in trouble
I myself will be with them.
I’ll rescue them and honor them.
16 With long life will I satisfy them
and grant them my deliverance.”

Most of the psalms in Book III (Psalms 73-89) focus on Jerusalem’s destruction and Israel’s exile. As the second psalm in Book IV, it comes in response to the question Psalm 89:49 raises—namely, what happened to God’s unfailing love and all the promises he made to David?

Encouraging believers whose faith has been badly shaken, the psalm’s first thirteen verses declare God’s faithfulness and promise his protection in every possible situation. In the last three verses, God himself assures us it’s all true: he offers protection, on-call deliverance, honor, and long life to all who know him and take refuge in him. Who could ask for more?

Some today claim the psalm promises a pain-free life of endless prosperity and protection. But does it really? God literally protected Daniel from lions and Paul from a deadly viper, but Daniel and Paul clearly didn’t live trouble-free lives. Some view these promises as mostly hyperbole, while others think they point to God’s ultimate defeat of evil at the end of time. But if so, then what good are they to believers overwhelmed by life’s challenges now?

We might wish the psalm were a legal contract we could bind God to, always guaranteeing an easy life. But this isn’t law. It’s poetry, which takes us where no legal contract ever could. It inspires us to trust that God loves us, is in control, will walk with us through the fire, and will deliver us, even if deliverance looks way different or takes way longer than we expect. We may want law, but poetry soars high above law. Like all poetry, this psalm speaks to the heart, leaving the head to catch up as it can.


Heavenly Father, no one ever trusted you as Jesus did, yet it cost him his all. You promise here that you’ll always protect, rescue, and honor me. Help me believe your goodness and mercy will never fail me. Whatever your promise to me is right now, help me to trust you. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on God’s promise:

“Because they hold fast to me in love
I’ll rescue them.
I’ll set them in safety
because they know me by name.”


Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.