My Safe Place!

Psalm 91

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 91

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Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

Words in brackets, ( ), are not in the Hebrew Bible.

The notes explain words with a *star by them.

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Jesus said, "Jerusalem, I often wanted to get your children together as a mother bird gets her babies under her wings" (Matthew 23:37). (A bird uses its wings to fly.)

In Psalm 91, many Bible students think that there are three people, or groups of people, that speak. We have shown this in the letters. This makes the psalm easier to study. The three are:

    A crowd of people (called the "chorus") in the usual letters: verses 1, 3 - 8, 9b - 13. (9b means the second part of verse 9).

    One person (called the "psalmist") in leaning letters: verses 2 and 9a.

    God himself in dark letters: verses 14 - 16.

Psalm 91

v1   Whoever stays in the secret place of the *Most High
  will remain under the shadow of the *Almighty.

v2   I will say to the *LORD,
  "(You are) my safe place and my strong *castle.
  (You are) my God and I am *trusting in you".

v3   He (God) really will save you from the *trap that the *bird-catcher (hid).
  And (God will save you) from illnesses that cause death.

v4   He will cover you with his *feathers.
  You will be safe under his *wings.
  (God) will do what he promised.
  And he will be like big and small *shields over you.

v5, v6  Do not be afraid of:
    *bad spirits at night,
    or the *arrow that flies in the day,
    or illnesses that come when it is dark,
    or something bad that may destroy you at midday.

v7   A thousand (people) may die by your side.
  Ten thousand (people may die) by your right hand.
  But (the danger) will not come near to you.

v8   Your eyes will see it and watch,
  while it destroys bad people.

v9, v10   For you, *LORD, make me safe.
  (Because) the Most High is your home,
  bad things will not happen to you.
  And there will be no fighting near where you live.

v11   For (God) will tell his *angels what to do for you.
  They will make you safe everywhere that you go.

v12   Their hands will give you help
  so that you will not (even) hurt your feet on a stone.

v13   You will walk on the *lion and the *cobra.
  The young lion and the *serpent will be under your feet.

v14   (God says) I will make the person safe that loves me.
  Danger will not hurt him that knows (and trusts in) my name.

v15   He will pray to me and I will answer him.
  When he has trouble, I will be with him.
  I will save him and make him famous.

v16   I will make him happy with a long life.
  He will enjoy what I will do for him.

The Story of Psalm 91

There is nothing in Psalm 91 that tells us who wrote it or when. It may be "words that Moses prayed", as Psalm 90. The two psalms do have the same feeling.

Jesus knew this psalm. He repeated words from it when his enemy (Satan) tried to tempt him. "Tempt" means "try to make someone do what they should not do". The story is in Matthew 4:11.

What Psalm 91 means

Bible students study this psalm as if three people are speaking.

    a priest (one of Godís servants in his house) speaks in verses 1, 3 - 8 and 9b - 13.

    someone praying to God speaks in verses 2 and 9a.

    God speaks in verses 14 - 16.

(9a means the first part of verse 9; 9b means the second part.)

There are 4 names for God in the first 2 verses of this psalm: Most High, Almighty, LORD and God. Some of them come again later. They are 4 different words in the Hebrew Bible. Hebrew is the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the psalms. Jews are people that were born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children. This is what the words mean:

    Most High means that God is more important than anyone else.

    Almighty means that God is more powerful than anyone else.

    LORD means that he will never die.

    God means that he decides what will happen.

The priest says that everyone will be safe with the Most High, who is the Almighty. The person that he says it to replies. He replies that the LORD is his castle. He trusts in God. A castle is a strong building where you are safe from your enemies. He does not mean that God is a castle. He means that God is as a castle. So, he trusts (or believes that he will be safe) in God.

The priest answers that God will make him safe. He puts this into picture language:

    a trap is what people catch birds in. The bird cannot see it. But God will not let anything catch his servant (verse 3a).

    God will not let illness destroy his servant (verse 3b).

    Verse 4 gives us a picture ... of God as a bird! A bird has wings (that it flies with) and feathers (on its wings). It makes young birds safe under these feathers and wings. God does the same for his servants. He makes them safe. Another word for "make safe" is "protect".

    there are two shields in verse 4 also, big and small. Shields are what soldiers protect themselves with. God protects ... or makes safe ... his people. But the shield is only a picture. It is a picture of Godís loyalty. Loyalty means that you do not stop being a friend to someone. You do not stop giving them help whatever happens. Wings and feathers are pictures of big and small shields. Here is an example of Hebrew poetry. The *Jews wrote the psalms in Hebrew. Poetry is a special and beautiful way to use words. The *Jews said the same thing with two different sets of words!

In verses 5 - 10, we read about dangers, arrows, illnesses, bad things and fighting. Arrows are sharp sticks that bows shoot. Today we have guns! Bible students have two ideas about all these things:

    they are a plague. A plague is an illness that people catch from each other. If one person becomes ill, many other people that live near become ill also.

    they are bad (or evil) spirits. An evil spirit is a servant of Godís enemy Satan. We cannot see them, but we can see what they do. They make people ill in their minds and their bodies.

These verses tell us not to be afraid! If we trust in God (ask God for help and believe that he will give it) then he will protect us from illness and evil spirits. It is important to know that the psalm does not mean the illnesses that we often get, like colds. It means plagues. Even if we become ill through a plague, God will protect us after we die. We will live with him in heaven, his home. And God will always protect us from evil spirits. In verse 7, "by your side" may mean "by your left side". In verse 9, it says "the Most High is your home". This is picture language while we live on earth. It means we can go to God any time and anywhere. We can pray to him and he will hear and answer us. As it says in verse 15. When we die and get to heaven then Godís home will be our home. But we must love and obey God for this to happen.

In verse 11, the angels are Godís servants. We cannot always see them, but they are always there to give us help. In verse 13, lions are animals that eat other animals. They even eat people! Cobras and serpents are snakes. When they bite you, they put poison into you. But "walk on" and "under your feet" mean that lions and snakes will not hurt us if we love and obey God. But this does not mean that we have to walk on snakes to see if the psalm is true. It means that if we walk on it without knowing that it is there, we will be safe.

The last three verses are words of God. "What I will do for him" in verse 16 means "the things I do to save him". We call this "his salvation". Salvation means "saving" or "making safe". In the psalm, it means while we are alive on earth. Christians believe it means after we die also.

Something to do

1.  Get a group of people together. Make one of them be the priest and say verses 1, 3 - 8 and 9b - 13. Make another say verses 2 and 9a. Make the whole group say Godís words, verses 14-16.

2.  Learn to say Psalm 91:2 by heart. (This means, without looking at the words.)

3.  Study some verses from the psalms ... any psalms. Look for Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry says the same thing more than once with different words. Or else it says the same thing twice, with words that are more powerful the second time.

4.  If you have a Bible, read Revelation 12. Here is a story about people who were safe while they did what God wanted them to do. Then he took them to be with him in heaven.

 

© 2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).

June 2002

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