Jehovah Is Our Refuge
“Because you said: ‘Jehovah is my refuge,’ . . . no calamity will befall you.”—PSALM 91:9, 10.
1. Why can we say that Jehovah is our refuge?
JEHOVAH is a true refuge for his people. If we are wholly devoted to him, we may be ‘pressed in every way, but not cramped beyond movement; perplexed, but not with no way out; persecuted, but not left in the lurch; thrown down, but not destroyed.’ Why? Because Jehovah grants us “power beyond what is normal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) Yes, our heavenly Father helps us to pursue a godly life, and we can take to heart the psalmist’s words: “Because you said: ‘Jehovah is my refuge,’ you have made the Most High himself your dwelling; no calamity will befall you.”—Psalm 91:9, 10.
2. What can be said about Psalm 91 and what it promises?
2 Those words of Psalm 91 may have been written by Moses. A superscription names him as the composer of the 90th Psalm, and Psalm 91 follows it without any intervening statement naming another writer. Perhaps Psalm 91 was sung antiphonically; that is, one person may have sung first (91:1, 2), with a choir responding (91:3-8). Possibly a single voice was heard next (91:9a) and was answered by a group (91:9b-13). Then one singer may have sung the final words (91:14-16). In any case, the 91st Psalm promises spiritual security to anointed Christians as a class and provides similar assurance for their dedicated companions as a group.* Let us consider this psalm from the standpoint of all such servants of Jehovah.
Secure in ‘God’s Secret Place’
3. (a) What is “the secret place of the Most High”? (b) What do we experience by “lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty One”?
3 The psalmist sings: “Anyone dwelling in the secret place of the Most High will procure himself lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty One. I will say to Jehovah: ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.’” (Psalm 91:1, 2) “The secret place of the Most High” is a figurative place of protection for us, and particularly for anointed ones, who are special targets of the Devil. (Revelation 12:15-17) He would destroy all of us were it not for the protection we enjoy as those who lodge with God as spiritual guests. By “lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty One,” we experience God’s protective shade, or shadow. (Psalm 15:1, 2; 121:5) There is no safer refuge or more formidable stronghold than our Sovereign Lord, Jehovah.—Proverbs 18:10.
4. What devices does “the birdcatcher,” Satan, use, and how do we escape?
4 The psalmist adds: “He himself [Jehovah] will deliver you from the trap of the birdcatcher, from the pestilence causing adversities.” (Psalm 91:3) A birdcatcher in ancient Israel often captured birds by using snares or traps. Among the snares of “the birdcatcher,” Satan, are his evil organization and “crafty acts.” (Ephesians 6:11, footnote) Hidden traps are placed in our path to draw us into wickedness and cause our spiritual ruin. (Psalm 142:3) Because we have renounced unrighteousness, however, ‘our soul is like a bird that escapes from the trap.’ (Psalm 124:7, 8) How grateful we are that Jehovah delivers us from the wicked “birdcatcher”!—Matthew 6:13.
5, 6. What “pestilence” has caused “adversities,” but why do Jehovah’s people not succumb to it?
5 The psalmist cites “the pestilence causing adversities.” Like a contagious epidemic disease, there is something that causes “adversities” for the human family and for upholders of Jehovah’s sovereignty. In this regard, historian Arnold Toynbee wrote: “Since the end of World War II nationalism has doubled the number of local sovereign independent states . . . Mankind’s present mood is increasingly divisive.”
6 Through the centuries, certain rulers have fanned the flames of divisive international strife. They have also demanded that reverence be directed to them or to various images or symbols. But Jehovah has never let his faithful people succumb to such a “pestilence.” (Daniel 3:1, 2, 20-27; 6:7-10, 16-22) As a loving international brotherhood, we give Jehovah exclusive devotion, maintain Scriptural neutrality, and impartially acknowledge that “in every nation the man that fears [God] and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35; Exodus 20:4-6; John 13:34, 35; 17:16; 1 Peter 5:8, 9) Although we suffer “adversities” in the form of persecution as Christians, we are joyful and spiritually secure “in the secret place of the Most High.”
7. How does Jehovah protect us “with his pinions”?
7 Having Jehovah as our refuge, we draw comfort from the words: “With his pinions he will block approach to you, and under his wings you will take refuge. His trueness will be a large shield and bulwark.” (Psalm 91:4) God protects us, even as a parent bird hovers protectively over its young. (Isaiah 31:5) ‘With his pinions he blocks approach to us.’ Broadly, a bird’s “pinions” are its wings. With them a bird covers its young, protecting them from predators. Like mere fledglings, we are secure under Jehovah’s figurative pinions because we have taken refuge in his true Christian organization.—Ruth 2:12; Psalm 5:1, 11.
8. How is Jehovah’s “trueness” a large shield and bulwark?
8 We trust in “trueness,” or faithfulness. It is like a large shield of ancient times, often doorlike in shape and big enough to cover a person’s entire body. (Psalm 5:12) Confidence in such protection frees us from fear. (Genesis 15:1; Psalm 84:11) Like our faith, God’s trueness is a large protective shield that stops Satan’s burning missiles and wards off enemy blows. (Ephesians 6:16) It is also a bulwark, a strong defensive mound behind which we stand firm.
‘We Will Not Be Afraid’
9. Why can the night be a fear-inspiring time, but why are we not fearful?
9 In view of God’s protection, the psalmist says: “You will not be afraid of anything dreadful by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in the gloom, nor of the destruction that despoils at midday.” (Psalm 91:5, 6) Since many evil deeds are committed under the cloak of darkness, the night can be a fear-inspiring time. Amid the spiritual darkness now covering the earth, our enemies often resort to covert acts in an effort to destroy our spirituality and stop our preaching work. But ‘we are not afraid of anything dreadful by night’ because Jehovah guards us.—Psalm 64:1, 2; 121:4; Isaiah 60:2.
10. (a) What does “the arrow that flies by day” seem to denote, and how do we react to it? (b) What is the nature of “the pestilence that walks in the gloom,” and why do we not fear it?
10 “The arrow that flies by day” seems to denote verbal attack. (Psalm 64:3-5; 94:20) As we persist in presenting truthful information, such open opposition to our sacred service proves futile. Moreover, we do not fear “the pestilence that walks in the gloom.” This is a figurative pestilence bred amid the gloom of this morally and religiously diseased world lying in Satan’s power. (1 John 5:19) It produces a deadly state of mind and heart, leaving people in the dark regarding Jehovah, his purposes, and his loving provisions. (1 Timothy 6:4) Amid this darkness, we are not fearful, since we enjoy spiritual light in abundance.—Psalm 43:3.
11. What happens to those who experience ‘despoiling at midday’?
11 “The destruction that despoils at midday” does not frighten us either. “Midday” may denote the so-called enlightenment of the world. Those who succumb to its materialistic views suffer spiritual destruction. (1 Timothy 6:20, 21) As we boldly declare the Kingdom message, we do not fear any of our enemies, for Jehovah is our Protector.—Psalm 64:1; Proverbs 3:25, 26.
12. At whose side do thousands “fall,” and in what way?
12 The psalmist continues: “A thousand will fall at your very side and ten thousand at your right hand; to you it will not come near. Only with your eyes will you look on and see the retribution itself of the wicked ones.” (Psalm 91:7, 8) Because of failing to make Jehovah their refuge, many “fall” in spiritual death at our “very side.” In effect, “ten thousand” have fallen at the “right hand” of today’s spiritual Israelites. (Galatians 6:16) But whether we are anointed Christians or their dedicated companions, we are secure in God’s “secret place.” We merely ‘look on and see the retribution of the wicked,’ who are reaping trouble in commercial, religious, and other ways.—Galatians 6:7.
‘No Calamity Will Befall Us’
13. What calamities do not befall us, and why?
13 Although this world’s security is breaking down, we put God first and take courage from the psalmist’s words: “Because you said: ‘Jehovah is my refuge,’ you have made the Most High himself your dwelling; no calamity will befall you, and not even a plague will draw near to your tent.” (Psalm 91:9, 10) Yes, Jehovah is our refuge. However, we also make the Most High God ‘our dwelling,’ where we find safety. We laud Jehovah as the Universal Sovereign, ‘dwell’ in him as our Source of security, and declare the good news of his Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) Therefore, ‘no calamity will befall us’—none of the calamities described earlier in this psalm. Even when we share with others in such calamities as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, famines, and ravages of warfare, these do not destroy our faith or our spiritual security.
14. As Jehovah’s servants, why are we not infected by deadly plagues?
14 Anointed Christians are like alien residents living in tents apart from this system of things. (1 Peter 2:11) ‘Not even a plague draws near their tent.’ Whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, we are no part of the world, and we are not infected by such spiritually deadly plagues as its immorality, materialism, false religion, and worship of “the wild beast” and its “image,” the United Nations.—Revelation 9:20, 21; 13:1-18; John 17:16.
15. In what respects do we enjoy angelic help?
15 Regarding the protection we enjoy, the psalmist adds: “He [Jehovah] will give his own angels a command concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they will carry you, that you may not strike your foot against any stone.” (Psalm 91:11, 12) Angels have been given power to protect us. (2 Kings 6:17; Psalm 34:7-9; 104:4; Matthew 26:53; Luke 1:19) They guard us ‘in all our ways.’ (Matthew 18:10) We enjoy angelic guidance and guardianship as Kingdom proclaimers and do not stumble spiritually. (Revelation 14:6, 7) Even ‘stones’ such as bans against our work have not caused us to stumble and fall out of divine favor.
16. How do attacks carried out by a “young lion” and a “cobra” differ, and how do we react to them?
16 The psalmist continues: “Upon the young lion and the cobra you will tread; you will trample down the maned young lion and the big snake.” (Psalm 91:13) Just as a young lion makes an open, frontal attack, some of our enemies show their opposition openly by passing laws designed to stop our preaching work. But unexpected attacks like those of a cobra striking from a place of concealment are also made upon us. Hiding behind the scenes, the clergy sometimes attack us through lawmakers, judges, and others. But with Jehovah’s support, we peacefully seek redress in the courts, thus ‘defending and legally establishing the good news.’—Philippians 1:7; Psalm 94:14, 20-22.
17. How do we trample down “the maned young lion”?
17 The psalmist speaks of trampling down “the maned young lion and the big snake.” A maned young lion can be quite fierce, and a big snake can be a reptile of great size. (Isaiah 31:4) Regardless of how fierce the maned young lion may be when making a frontal attack, though, we figuratively trample on it by obeying God rather than lionlike men or organizations. (Acts 5:29) So the menacing “lion” does not cause us spiritual injury.
18. “The big snake” may remind us of whom, and what do we need to do if we are under attack?
18 In the Greek Septuagint, “the big snake” is called “a dragon.” This may well remind us of “the great dragon . . . , the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan.” (Revelation 12:7-9; Genesis 3:15) He is like a monstrous reptile capable of crushing and swallowing its prey. (Jeremiah 51:34) When Satan is trying to wrap his coils around us, crush us with this world’s pressures, and swallow us, let us shake ourselves loose and trample down this “big snake.” (1 Peter 5:8) The anointed remnant must do this if they are to share in the fulfillment of Romans 16:20.
Jehovah—Our Source of Salvation
19. Why do we take refuge in Jehovah?
19 Concerning the true worshiper, the psalmist represents God as saying: “Because on me he has set his affection, I shall also provide him with escape. I shall protect him because he has come to know my name.” (Psalm 91:14) The phrase “I shall protect him” is literally, “I shall place him on high,” that is, out of reach. We take refuge in Jehovah as his worshipers especially because ‘we have set our affection on him.’ (Mark 12:29, 30; 1 John 4:19) In turn, God ‘provides us with escape’ from our enemies. Never will we be wiped off the earth. Rather, we will be saved because we know the divine name and call upon it in faith. (Romans 10:11-13) And we are determined to ‘walk in Jehovah’s name forever.’—Micah 4:5; Isaiah 43:10-12.
20. As Psalm 91 concludes, what does Jehovah promise his faithful servant?
20 As Psalm 91 concludes, Jehovah says of his faithful servant: “He will call upon me, and I shall answer him. I shall be with him in distress. I shall rescue him and glorify him. With length of days I shall satisfy him, and I shall cause him to see salvation by me.” (Psalm 91:15, 16) When we call upon God in prayer according to his will, he answers us. (1 John 5:13-15) We have already passed through much distress because of the hostility fomented by Satan. But the words “I shall be with him in distress” prepare us for future trials and assure us that God will sustain us when this wicked system is destroyed.
21. How have the anointed already been glorified?
21 Despite Satan’s rabid opposition, the full complement of anointed ones among us will be glorified in heaven in Jehovah’s due time—after a “length of days” on earth. Yet, God’s remarkable rescues have already brought spiritual glory to the anointed. And how honored they are to take the lead as Witnesses of Jehovah on earth in these last days! (Isaiah 43:10-12) Jehovah’s greatest rescue of his people will occur during his great war of Armageddon when he vindicates his sovereignty and sanctifies his holy name.—Psalm 83:18; Ezekiel 38:23; Revelation 16:14, 16.
22. Who will ‘see salvation by Jehovah’?
22 Whether we are anointed Christians or their dedicated companions, we look to God for salvation. During “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah,” those loyally serving God will be saved. (Joel 2:30-32) Those of us who will make up the “great crowd” of survivors into God’s new world and who remain faithful during a final test will be ‘satisfied by him with length of days’—life without end. He will also resurrect multitudes. (Revelation 7:9; 20:7-15) Jehovah will indeed take great delight in ‘causing us to see salvation’ through Jesus Christ. (Psalm 3:8) With such grand prospects before us, let us keep on looking to God for help in counting our days to his glory. By our words and deeds, may we continue to prove that Jehovah is our refuge.
Writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures did not discuss Psalm 91 from the standpoint of Messianic prophecy. Of course, Jehovah was a refuge and a stronghold for the man Jesus Christ, even as He is for Jesus’ anointed followers and their dedicated companions as a group in this “time of the end.”—Daniel 12:4.
How Would You Answer?
• What is “the secret place of the Most High”?
• Why are we not afraid?
• How is it that ‘no calamity will befall us’?
• Why can we say that Jehovah is our source of salvation?
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Do you know how Jehovah’s trueness is a large shield for us?
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Jehovah helps his servants to perform their ministry despite unexpected attacks and open opposition
Cobra: A. N. Jagannatha Rao, Trustee, Madras Snake Park Trust