Psalms

The book of Psalms, the songbook of God’s people, has been called an anatomy of all parts of the soul. This study will make your heart sing as you explore the different genres of Psalms. Designed to be completed in 20 minutes, each lesson’s commentary and interpretation will help you articulate the many emotional ups and downs of living as a human in a broken world. The observation and application questions will enable you to engage with these songs that Jesus sang at a heart level.

Psalms is a 13 week study which includes an introductory chapter and 12 individual psalms.

Sample Study

Study 8: Psalm 91

Read Psalm 91

Observation Questions

1. List the action words that describe what the Lord will do for the psalmist.

2. List the specific things the Lord will deliver the psalmist from.

3. In verses 14-16, the speaker changes from the psalmist to the Lord speaking. Rewrite those verses in your own words.

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Psalm 91 can be categorized as a song of confidence, which allows God’s people to express their trust in him even in dark and difficult circumstances. It is also a wisdom psalm. The author is unknown, though some have suggested Moses. We know neither the context nor the occasion for the writing, but we can be encouraged by its application to the life of anyone who belongs to the Lord.
Psalm 91 walks us through all manner of danger, assuring us that God is in control of every circumstance and that he uses even pain for our good. The instability of this world is real and engenders massive fear in us. But as Sinclair Ferguson has preached, “There is a fear that can deliver us from all other fears–the fear of the Lord.” Ferguson goes on to say that the fear of the Lord acts like a medicine, permeating to the roots of all our other fears. Here the psalmist takes our eyes off our circumstances and focuses them on the only one we need to fear–the Lord himself.

 

Verses 1-4

Before teaching us about what we should believe, the psalmist speaks of his own experience with God. He has made his home under the covering of El Shaddai. The Lord has been his haven and hiding place, his sanctuary and escape. And he will persuade us that the Almighty can be those things to us as well.

Verse 3 shifts voice, and the author starts to instruct us about this God. Unlike some other places in Scripture where the “you” employed is plural, “you” in verse 3 is singular. This is an intensely intimate and personal kind of protection that is both tender and strong. “The fowler,” or hunter, is a metaphor for unexpected evil plots of others, including Satan. “Pestilence” represents disease or deadly plague. We are protected from these dangers, both seen and unseen. We are covered like baby birds by the careful wings of a mother bird, shielding her young from sun, rain, and predators. God’s care for us is tender. But we also have a wall, a guard and barricade that is his firm and reliable commitment to us. His care is for us is strong.

 

Verses 5-8

The psalmist goes on to the next set of dangers. For those who struggle with anxiety, common fears of the day can magnify into huge, terrifying monsters at night. We have no control over sickness that surreptitiously enters our households and the beds of our children. War, heat, famine–none are under our command. The psalmist assures us that we need not fear any of these things. Even though we see a thousand others die right next to us, we will be kept safe. In fact, not only will we be secure, but we will eventually see the wicked punished. Because we abide in the Lord, no evil will come to us.
But wait a minute, you may be thinking. Evil does come to us in many forms. Friends die, parents get cancer, spouses have affairs. Is the psalmist lying to us? The next verses invite us to take a step back and see that while evil persists, it is only a tool in the hand of the one who both began and will finish a good work in us.

 

Verses 9-13

The key phrase in verse 10 is “shall be allowed.” Events in our universe, including even our everyday circumstances, are not haphazard or purposeless. Evil and suffering that come into our lives have been allowed by our Father to discipline and train us, to deepen our joy and our intimacy with him. He is not surprised by the terrible phone call or the doctor’s bad report. All has been authorized by the Almighty. And while physical suffering is inevitable, our souls and salvation are untouchable while under the care of God. Sometimes this is comforting. Sometimes, if we are honest, it makes us question God’s goodness. And so we must read on.

Believe it or not, one of the jobs of the angels is to protect the children of God. Matthew 18:10 and Hebrews 1:14 both tell us that these heavenly beings are sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. We may never know the number of times we have been saved from tragedy by one of these mighty spiritual beings. Even the lion and the snake, symbolic of the most physically dangerous creatures, cannot harm us unless God allows it. And therein lies the key. God does allow suffering, but it is suffering with a purpose, directed by the hand of a benevolent, protective Father, who has already written the glorious end of the story. God never wastes our pain.

Consider the ultimate sufferer, Jesus. When tempting him in the wilderness, Satan tried to twist verses 11-12 of this psalm to cause Jesus to act presumptuously by testing God. But Jesus understood that his Father’s love for him would not preclude his pain but would employ it for good. And in fact, God did not send his angels to spare Jesus from the cross. Instead, as Ligon Duncan points out, “He sent those angels to minister to him in the garden to prepare him for the cross.” God himself suffered, that we might not be alone in our suffering. And not only that, he utilizes our suffering for our own benefit. Romans 8:28, which tells us that for those who love God all things work together for good, is ultimately true. We do not know the timing, and we may not see the redemption of our suffering until the new heaven and the new earth, but we have been promised that we will see it.

 

Verses 14-16

But why? Why would the creator give such amazing, individualized attention to me, one small life among billions? Because I was good? Because I successfully controlled my anxiety? Because my faith was strong and I read, taught, or sang his Word? No, the Lord himself answers in verse 14, as the voice of the psalm changes once more: “It is only because he clings to me, knows me, and depends on me.” The Hebrew verb here is yada, “to know.” But this is biblical knowing, like the way Adam knew his wife and therefore conceived Cain. This is an intimate knowledge. Because of the way you cling to me, says the Lord, I will deliver you.

What will this deliverance look like? Like an ear that listens for his child’s voice in the midst of the crowd. Like answers in the form of practical help. Like immediate or eventual rescue. It will look like God’s presence, like him being next to his children when they are stressed, scared, or otherwise in trouble. It means that whatever suffering is allowed into their lives, God will walk through it with them. And in the end he will rescue them in the ultimate way, giving them long life,” probably referring to eternal life. The final and most decisive danger, death itself, is not to be feared by the one who clings to the Almighty.

 

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Reflection Questions

4. Psalm 91 is a song of confidence and a wisdom psalm. Define confidence and wisdom and write why you think this psalm fits into these two categories.

5. The psalmist transitions from telling the ways the Lord has been his hiding place to speaking to us as to how the Lord will be our refuge in each of our individual lives. Of the long list of things the Lord will protect you from, which one stuck out to you the most or made you wrestle and feel confused?

6. Suffering will come, in all kinds of forms, leaving its mark, and yet God promises not to waste it, to remain present and engaged with us in it, and to transform us through it. Is this comforting to you? Why or why not?

7. It’s remarkable to think that Satan used this psalm, the Word of God, to lie and try and tempt Jesus in the wilderness. In what ways currently is Satan using lies or misrepresenting the Word of God to you? What effect is it having on your life?

8. This deep, intimate knowing of the Lord, or yada, is what ultimately leads to deliverance over and over again for the psalmist. What do you think this type of intimacy with the Lord looks like? How does it differ from your current relationship with him?

 

Focus verse

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. Psalm 91:14

Reflections, curiosities, frustrations: