The ninth installment in URC Psalmody’s Introduction to the URC/OPC Psalm Proposal
To the LORD I’ll say, “My Refuge!”
In my God my trust abides.
This setting of Psalm 91 is beloved by psalm-singing congregations across the globe. The well-known tune HYFRYDOL, composed by Welsh textile worker Rowland Hugh Prichard at the age of nineteen, lends beauty and confidence to the powerful words of this psalm.
In congregational singing, look for ways to emphasize particular words and phrases in the text of Psalm 91B. Consider pausing slightly before the cry, “My Refuge!” in stanza 1, and taking quick breaths anytime a comma appears in the text (“serpents, lions, tread” in stz. 4). Bring out the earnestness of Psalm 91 by varying the volume and intensity of your voice: perhaps draw back on the more contemplative words of the third stanza, then build up again to the climax at the close of stz. 4. Most importantly, reflect on how the Lord has been your own refuge and fortress as you sing, and let personal application breathe added life into this awe-inspiring psalm.
Suggested stanzas: All
Source: Psalm 91A in The Book of Psalms for Singing and The Book of Psalms for Worship, Psalm 91 in the Trinity Psalter
Tune only: Blue Psalter Hymnal 151, Revised Trinity Hymnal 196, 498
Listen to a recording:
Themes for Studying Psalm 91
- The godly one’s words to the Lord (vv. 1,2)
- Safety from enemies (vv. 3-6)
- Safety from judgment (vv. 7,8)
- Safety from plagues (vv. 9,10)
- Safety from stumbling (vv. 11-13)
- The Lord’s words to the godly one (vv. 14-16)
Seeing Christ in Psalm 91
Satan twisted the words of Psalm 91:12 when he tempted Jesus to show his authority by casting himself off the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:5-6, Luke 4:9-11). Jesus’ response revealed his wholehearted obedience to his Father: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” But there is more: Christ went to the cross in order to trample the serpent underfoot (v. 13). He suffered the afflictions of Psalm 91 in order to deliver us from our bondage to sin. His life was cut short so that ours could be redeemed. Through his death and resurrection we have been shown God’s salvation (v. 16).
Applying Psalm 91
- What kinds of snares and pestilences do Christians face today (v. 3)?
- Why do you deserve to “only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked” (v. 8)?
- How have you seen God’s protection and deliverance in your life (v. 14)?
- What do you do when God’s deliverance seems far away despite your cries to him (v. 15; cf. Ps. 22:2)?
Think about these two considerations—first, our own weakness, and second, the roughness, the difficulties, the thorns which lie along our way, along with the stupidity of our hearts and the subtlety of the evil one who lays snares for our destruction—and you will see that the Psalmist is not exaggerating. We could not proceed one step if the angels did not bear us up in their hands in a way beyond the normal course of nature. Through our own fault, we often stumble when we depart from our Head and Leader. But even though God allows this in order to convince us how weak we are in ourselves, he never permits us to be crushed or completely overwhelmed, and then it is virtually as if he put his hand under us and bore us up.
—paraphrased from Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 91:12
West Sayville URC
Long Island, New York
(A PDF version of this post, formatted as a bulletin insert, is available here.)