Psalm 91: The threats of the snare and pestilence

How ironic is it that the next verse in my Psalm 91 study is this one?  With the coronavirus sweeping around the world, pestilence and disease are on many people’s minds.  Ironic? Or His perfect timing?

We’ve already looked at who this person is and what their decision has been.  Those are really, really important, and far too many people try to “claim” this Psalm while ignoring the first two verses!  So if you haven’t been following along, please start at the beginning of this study.

But now the psalm moves on to actions and examples. Let’s look at verse 3:

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.


I think it’s easy to skip over this tiny word, but there is a wealth of meaning in it!  The word “for” tells us that the statement about to be made is tied to the previous one. Consider the difference between these two statements:
      He moved the car, and he was strong.
      He moved the car, for he was strong.
See the difference? The first is just making two statements that might be unrelated. It gives you the impression that the man got in the car and drove it somewhere else – something which anyone could do. And then it makes the apparently unrelated statement that he was strong. But the second statement, because of that little word “for,” tells you so much more. You know that the man didn’t drive the car. He moved it in some other way that required his strength. Your mind instead pictures him pushing the car from one place to another. All because of that little word change from “and” to “for.”

So in this small phrase, the word “for” is tying this verse to the one before.

…it is He…

This phrase is pointing to Him. Just in case you thought the deliverance that we’re going to talk about next came from other source. Just in case you think that the confession in the last verse is irrelevant. Even if other people think it “just happened.” Even when other people come right out and say that someone or something else gets the credit. Nope. “It is He” who does it. Not past tense in that He has done things once and won’t again. It is He who does it and is continuing to do it. Present tense, in every present moment for all of our lives, we can continue to say, “It is He…”

…who delivers you…

The word “delivers” is so very, very significant!  First, it is again present tense. This verse is not referring to that one moment when we accepted salvation and deliverance from eternal death. It’s not talking about one miracle in our past. It’s saying He delivers you now, in all your todays, over and over and over again. It is something He does on a continual basis.

And what does the word “delivers” really mean? It’s an action that applies only to a situation where someone is absolutely and totally stuck. We don’t say that a woman who paused willingly on a train track was delivered. We say she was delivered when something happened and she is trapped and the train is bearing down on her. She cannot get out on her own, she’s powerless, and she needs a superhero.

But then, in comes the superhero! Because delivering people from situations that they are powerless to get themselves out of is what He does! You breathe. You mess up. You find yourself in situations that you can’t get out of. You make dinner and eat and wash your clothes and go to work. He delivers. Over and over and over again. That’s what He does. It is He who delivers you!

…from the snare of the trapper…

This line assures us that there are people out there trying to trap us. There’s also an eternal enemy who is constantly laying traps for us. I think that many times, God’s deliverance from traps is as gentle and unassuming and amazing as a small nudge that adjusts our path. It’s easy to miss if we don’t ask Him for the eyes to see it. Complaining and worrying all the time will also blind us and stop us from seeing His protection from traps.

I’ll share a small example from this week.  Everyone who lives in the United States this week knows what a crazy rush on groceries and toilet paper there’s been at the grocery stores, starting Wednesday. I’ve had an unbelievably heavy workload at work the last few days and would not have been able to go get groceries if I had needed them. And I almost did need them, because on Monday, my refrigerator and freezer were almost empty. I just haven’t gone and gotten groceries in awhile!  But, on Tuesday, I sang at one of the nursing homes in town, so I went grocery shopping since I was already there in town. And even though I wanted to get in and out with just a few basics, I found myself thinking, “Wow, this is the best sale on this meat that I’ve ever seen! The freezer is empty; I’ll stock up.” And then, “They’ve got a lot more stock on these frozen vegetables than usual. I may as well buy extra so I don’t have to go shopping next week.” And then, “Well, I don’t really have to have more chicken immediately, but if I don’t buy it now, I’ll have to buy more next week, so I may as well just get it while I’m here.”  And so forth. So I wound up coming home with a whole freezer’s worth of food, even as I wondered why I had bought so much when my intention had been to just buy enough to get us through a few days, so I could go again this weekend.  Well, as the rest of the week unfolded, I realized that God had nudged me here and there, prompting me to buy what He knew we’d need and wouldn’t be able to get this weekend when shelves are empty. And toilet paper? No one seems to know why people are hoarding it, or even who is hoarding it. But we’re fine in our house, because two weeks ago, I forgot I’d already bought a big pack the week before, and I bought another. So no, I don’t have massive amounts of extra, but I do already have that pack that I would otherwise have needed to go buy this weekend. It’s down in the basement, because I “accidentally” bought an extra two weeks ago. God knew.

You see? There are also hundreds of tiny traps set for us every day by our eternal enemy. He wants us to fall into discontent and jealousy. He wants us to be caught in that envy and strife. He wants us to be stuck without toilet paper. Laugh if you want at my crazy little example here, because it is funny in one regard, but it’s not in another, is it? We really do count on toilet paper being available when we need it!

And yes there are massive, destructive, horrible traps out there. There are scammers trying to steal your credit cards, your identity, and your life savings. We never know if a car accident might be just about to happen up ahead. But God knows. If He loves me enough to make me buy extra toilet paper, then how much more will He save me from the big ones, when I trust Him! Because remember, this entire Psalm is about the person who choose to dwell in His shelter and abide in His shadow. We are entirely free and able to leave that shelter and shadow and run out and away. But we are also free and able to stay close to Him, within His shelter.

The person who chooses to say, “My God in whom I trust” will learn to see His deliverance from both the large traps and the small traps.  Just last week, I was starting to feel stuck by the amount of programming I had to do on the second half of a spreadsheet and the shrinking amount of time I had available to do it. Imagine how surprised I was, when I started it… and discovered that when I had written the first half months before, I had unknowingly set them up in such a way that I had saved myself hours of work. Even though I had not at the time had any idea how the second half would need to be done.  Except it wasn’t me doing it, was it? “It is He who delivers me.” It wasn’t by chance. He knew months ago what I did not, and without me even realizing it, He directed the methods that I’d choose for my programming so I’d choose exactly the methods that would save me hours of time He knew I would not not have months later.

It’s so easy to complain and worry, but this Psalm is about the one who chooses to say, “The Almighty God is my fortress, and in Him I will trust. I refuse to do anything other than trust Him!”  Even in the little things!  Maybe those five red lights you got in a row are saving you from the car accident up ahead that your eternal enemy is trying to arrange. Are you going to fuss and fret over the red lights, or will you say, “It is He who delivers me, and He knows all things, so if He chooses to make me have five red lights in a row, I will trust Him!” This is the life of a person who really knows that He is constantly delivering them!

…and from the deadly pestilence.

And what about pestilence? The Bible uses the word “pestilence” to indicate things that destroy. Things like viruses that bring down the stock market and shut down jobs and make parents feel stuck because their job can’t be worked from home and suddenly their kids have to stay home and how will they care for them? I need offer no explanations right now of what this verse refers to. The whole world is learning how easily something so tiny we cannot see it without a microscope can take over.

But this virus did not take God by surprise. This verse doesn’t say, “He delivers you from a deadly pestilence IF one comes along at some point or other. Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t. We’re just saying He can if it happens.” No, it says, “He delivers you from THE deadly pestilence.” It’s a fact that some sort or other of deadly pestilence is out there. Always. The way this line is written confirms that. But it’s surrounded by Him. His power, His might. His authority. His deliverance always, over and over and over again.

Does anyone need a deliverer?  Go back to verse 2 and make that your confession, over and over again. When fear strikes, stand. Say, “No! My Lord and Master is the Almighty God, and I WILL trust Him, for He is my rock and my fortress!”

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
– Psalm 42:11

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