Enemy attack? There was a time in my life when I had no enemies. Once I began ministry, however, that changed. It should come as no surprise that many who serve God in full-time ministry become targets of demonic assaults, especially those who serve in regions where the powers of darkness are commonplace. But enemy attacks are by no means limited to those dark corners of the world. The adversary is working overtime anywhere he can find a relational rift to exploit or a habitual sin to manipulate. How grateful I am for this song in Scripture. It, like few other scriptural passages, comes to grips with enemy attacks and gives us hope to get beyond them.
Every ancient song, like every great hymn, has its own special tone. The magnificent hymn "And Can It Be?" has a tone of assurance. The lovely "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" has a tone of dependence and trust. The moving strains of "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" carry a tone of passion and pain, while "I Am His, and He Is Mine" conveys love and acceptance. Psalm 91 has a unique tone in its message as well. We discover this by reading it through and looking for words or phrases that communicate similar thoughts. Let me list some:
Verse 1: shelter
Verse 2: refuge . . . fortress
Verse 4: refuge . . . shield
Verse 5: terror by night . . . arrow . . . by day
Verse 6: pestilence . . . destruction
Verse 7: a thousand may fall
Verse 9: refuge
Verse 11: guard
Verse 15: rescue
There can be little doubt about the tone of Psalm 91; it is warfare, battle, conflict, fighting. It is a song for battle in that it conveys an atmosphere of daily, oppressive enemy attack. And who is this enemy? Israel's national foes? No. A human being who opposes the writer? I don't believe so. An actual, visible war on a bloody battlefield? No, I doubt it. Look at several more verses as we identify the enemy:
Verse 3: the trapper
Verse 8: the wicked
Verse 10: evil
Then consider the promise of angelic assistance (91:11–12) as well as divine deliverance (91:14–15). When you put all the evidence together, I think it builds a strong case for a song about surviving the attacks of our spiritual enemies, Satan and his demons. It talks about a battle in the unseen spiritual realm. This explains our need for angelic and divine intervention. Because our supernatural enemy comes at us with supernatural strength, we need supernatural help.
Unfortunately, we have neither the space nor the time to examine the full spectrum of enemy attacks, but perhaps an example or two would help. There are certain people whose presence throbs with evil. Being near them unleashes depressing powers which are both frightening and unavoidable. I have encountered these individuals throughout my ministry and have never forgotten the attacks. Frequently the people have trafficked in mind-bending occult practices and/or have been heavily involved in the drug culture. I have seen weird, even bizarre things occur in my family during such times. Fitful nightmares, passionate outbursts of rebellion and arguments, a heavy cloud of depression, strange accidents, and uncharacteristic marital disharmony can follow in the wake of these attacks. I shudder as I recall those awful times.
Not all demonic attacks are overt. In fact, most take more subtle, insidious forms such as turning people against one another or keeping someone bound in habitual sin in order to destroy the lives of everyone they know. Several years ago, I witnessed the sin of just two people shake two otherwise stable ministries all the way to their foundations.
Keep this in mind when digging into Psalm 91. The tone is warfare and the enemy is our evil adversary who comes at us with persistent regularity. Let me suggest four distinct parts to this song about divine deliverance from supernatural evil:
I. Protection amid Evil (91:1–4)
II. Attitude toward Evil (91:5–10)
III. Assistance against Evil (91:11–13)
IV. Security from Evil (91:14–16)
From Living the Psalms by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.