Psalm 91:5

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 5. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night. Such frail creatures are we that both by night and by day we are in danger, and so sinful are we that in either season we may be readily carried away by fear; the promise before us secures the favourite of heaven both from danger and from the fear of it. Night is the congenial hour of horrors, when alarms walk abroad like beasts of prey, or ghouls from among the tombs; our fears turn the sweet season of repose into one of dread, and though angels are abroad and fill our chambers, we dream of demons and dire visitants from hell. Blessed is that communion with God which renders us impervious to midnight frights, and horrors born of darkness. Not to be afraid is in itself an unspeakable blessing, since for every suffering which we endure from real injury we are tormented by a thousand griefs which arise from fear only. The shadow of the Almighty removes all gloom from the shadow of night: once covered by the divine wing, we care not what winged terrors may fly abroad in the earth.

Nor for the arrow that flieth by day. Cunning foes lie in ambuscade, and aim the deadly shaft at our hearts, but we do not fear them, and have no cause to do so. That arrow is not made which can destroy the righteous, for the Lord hath said, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper." In times of great danger those who have made the Lord their refuge, and therefore have refused to use the carnal weapon, have been singularly preserved; the annals of the Quakers bear good evidence to this; yet probably the main thought is, that from the cowardly attacks of crafty malice those who walk by faith shall be protected, from cunning heresies they shall be preserved, and in sudden temptations they shall be secured from harm. Day has its perils as well as night, arrows more deadly than those poisoned by the Indian are flying noiselessly through the air, and we shall be their victims unless we find both shield and buckler in our God. 0 believer, dwell under the shadow of the Lord, and none of the archers shall destroy thee, they may shoot at thee and wound thee grievously, but thy bow shall abide in strength. When Satan's quiver shall be empty thou shalt remain uninjured by his craft and cruelty, yea, his broken darts shall be to thee as trophies of the truth and power of the Lord thy God.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 5. The true remedy against tormenting fear is faith in God; for many terrible things may befall men when they are most secure, like unto those which befall men in the night: but for any harm which may befall the believer this way, the Lord here willeth him to be nothing afraid: Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night. Many sadder accidents may befall men when they are most watching and upon their guard, but the Lord willeth the believer to be confident that he shall not be harmed this way: Thou shalt not be afraid for the arrow that flieth by day. Many evils are men subject unto, which come upon them men cannot tell how, but from such evils the Lord assures the believer he shall have no harm: Thou shalt not be afraid of the pestilence which walketh in darkness. Men are subject to many evils which come upon them openly, and not unawares, such as are calamities from enemies and oppressors; the Lord willeth the believer to be confident that he shall not be harmed this way: Thou shalt not be afraid for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. David Dickson.

Verse 5. Thou shalt not be afraid. Not only do the pious stand safe, they are not even touched with fear. For the prophet does not say, Thou shalt not be seized; but, Thou shalt not be afraid. Certainly such a confidence of mind could not be attributed to natural powers, in so menacing and so overwhelming a destruction. For it is natural to mortals, it is implanted in them by God the author and maker of nature, to fear whatever is hurtful and deadly, especially what visibly smites and suddenly destroys. Therefore does he beautifully join together these two things: the first, in saying, Thou shalt not be afraid; the second, by adding, For the terror. He acknowledges that this plague is terrible to nature; and then by his trust in divine protection he promises himself this security, that he shall not fear the evil, which would otherwise make human nature quail. Wherefore, in my judgment, those persons are neither kind (humani) nor pious who are of opinion that so great a calamity is not to be dreaded by mortals. They neither observe the condition of our nature, nor honour the blessing of divine protection; both of which we see here done by the prophet. Musculus.

Verse 5. Not that we are always actually delivered out of every particular danger or grievance, but because all will turn (such is our confidence in God) to our greater good; and the more we suffer the greater shall our reward and our glory be. To the same purpose is the expression of Isaiah: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Isaiah 43:2 . So also Habakkuk 3:17-18 , "Although the fig tree shall not blossom," &c.; and Job 5:19-20 , etc. And therefore here is no ground, if the words be rightly understood, for any man absolutely to presume or conclude that he shall actually be delivered out of any particular danger; much less upon such a presumption wilfully to run into dangers. If such figures, the ornament of all language; such rhetorical, emphatic amplifications be allowed to human writers, and well enough understood in ordinary language; why not to holy writers as well, who had to do with men, as well as others; whose end also was to use such expressions as might affect and move? That human writers have said as much of the security of good and godly men, I shall need to go no further than Horace his Ode, Integer vitae scelerisque purus, &c. Most dangerous then and erroneous is the inference of some men, yea, of some expositors, here, upon these words of the psalmist, that no godly man can suffer by the plague, or pestilence: nor is old Lactantius his assertion much sounder, Non potest ergo fieri, quin hominem justum inter descrimina tempestatum, &c., that no just man can perish by war, or by tempest. (Instit.

  1. v, c. 18). Most interpreters conclude here, that the godly are preserved in time of public calamities; which, in a right sense, may be true; but withal they should have added, that all godly men are not exempted at such times; to prevent rash judgments. Westminster Assembly's Annotations.

Verse 5. The arrow. The arrow in this passage probably means the pestilence. The Arabs denote the pestilence by an allusion to this flying weapon. "I desired to remove to a less contagious air. I received from Solyman, the emperor, this message; that the emperor wondered what I meant, in desiring to remove my habitation; is not the pestilence God's arrow, which will always hit his mark? If God would visit me here with, how could I avoid it? is not the plague, said he, in my own palace, and yet I do not think of removing." Busbequiu's Travels. "What, say they, is not the plague the dart of Almighty God, and can we escape the blow that he levels at us? is not his hand steady to hit the persons he aims at? can we run out of his sight, and beyond his power?" Smith's Remarks on the Turks, 1673. Herbert also, speaking of Curroon, says, "That year his empire was so wounded with God's arrows of plague, pestilence, and famine, as this thousand years before was never so terrible." See Ezekiel 5:16 . S. Burder's Scripture Expositor.

Verse 5-6. Joseph Scaliger explains, in Epis. 9, these two verses thus, thou shalt not fear, dxkm, from consternation by night, xm, from the arrow flying by day, rgdm, from pestilence walking at evening, kymqm, from devastation at noon. Under these four he comprehends all the evils and dangers to which man is liable. And as the Hebrews divide the twenty-four hours of day and night into four parts, namely, evening, midnight, morning, and midday, so he understands the hours of danger to be divided accordingly: in a word, "that the man who has made God his refuge," is always safe, day and night, at every hour, from every danger. Bythner.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 5-6.

  1. The exposure of all men to fear.
    1. Continually, day and night.
    2. Deservedly: "conscience doth make cowards of us all."
  2. The exemption of some men from fear.
    1. Because of their trust.
    2. Because of the divine protection.