Psalm 91 is truly one of the most remarkable chapters in the entire Bible. For many, it's a favorite Psalm, and it provides believers with a profound sense of God's comforting care, security, and refuge. William MacDonald shared a story associated with this psalm in his one-volume commentary on the Bible, known as the Believer's Bible Commentary:
"In 1922, in the Western Hebrides, a five-year-old lad was dying of diphtheria. A mucous membrane was forming across his throat, and breathing was becoming increasingly difficult. His Christian mother turned her back so she would not see him take his last breath. At that very moment there was a knock at the door. It was her brother-in-law from an adjoining village. He said, “I’ve just come to tell you that you don’t have to worry about the child. He is going to recover, and one day God is going to save his soul.” She was distracted and incredulous: “Whatever makes you say that?” Then he explained he had been sitting at his fire reading Psalm 91 when God distinctly spoke to him through the last three verses:
"Because on me he set his love,
I’ll save and set him free;
Because my great name he hath known,
I will set him on high.
He’ll call on me, I’ll answer him;
I will be with him still,
In trouble to deliver him,
And honour him I will.
With length of days unto his mind
I will him satisfy;
I also my salvation
Will cause his eyes to see.
—from The Scottish Psalms In Metre.
"I was that boy. God delivered me from death that night; He saved my soul thirteen years later, and He has satisfied me with long life. So you will understand why I refer to Psalm 91 as my Psalm. I usually add, with tongue in cheek, that I am willing to share it with others—but it is definitely my Psalm!"
This Psalm holds a special place in my heart as well, mainly because of the last verse, which states, "With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." For many years, my dad would hold onto this verse, quoting it often, as he walked through physically declining years. His faith would be strengthened as he would remind me that he was holding on to this verse. So, I can say with William MacDonald that this is “my psalm” as well.
Psalm 91:1–16 (NKJV)
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”
We are currently living in a time where fear has a stronghold on many people's hearts. We need to distinguish between three types of fear: 1) a form of respect, which is healthy; 2) reverence for God, which is healthy; and 3) fear that God warns us to avoid.
First, there is a healthy fear that God has instilled in us to protect us from danger. This healthy fear should be viewed as a form of respect. For example, we should respect a hot stove, as it can burn us. We respect the danger of a rattlesnake or playing in traffic. These are examples of healthy fears or forms of respect.
Second, there is a healthy fear of God. According to Proverbs 1:7, this type of fear is the beginning of wisdom. It is not a fear of punishment but rather a healthy reverence for God. Hebrews 10:31 reads, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Similarly, Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” This kind of fear demonstrates a deep reverence for God.
Living fearlessly does not mean living recklessly. Living fearlessly doesn’t mean you no longer fear God, because that is actually positive. Healthy reverence for God actually builds courage as you trust Him and see Him in all His might and power.
There is a third kind of fear which this psalm can help you avoid. It is a kind of fear that God does not want you to experience. It paralyzes you as you think so much about the problems and challenges that you are facing. Do you have financial challenges? Are you lonely? Is sickness causing you to fear tomorrow? These kinds of fears focus on your difficulties more than on God, Who has promised to help you meet those challenges.
Someone has discovered that the Bible uses the phrase "Fear not" 365 times, once for each day of the year. We may hear this phrase “fear not” and think He is just trying to get us to “stop it.” We may respond, “I would stop it if I could!”
There's a hilarious video skit featuring Bob Newhart where he is essentially counseling someone by telling them to "stop it." I was shown this video during my counseling classes in seminary as an example of what not to do in counseling. You can find it on YouTube. In the skit, a woman comes in saying she's afraid of being buried alive in a box. His response is to counsel her by repeatedly telling her to "stop it." When she explains that she can't stop thinking about it and that it's controlling her, he just continues saying, "Stop it." Finally, in exasperation, he says, “Stop it… or I’ll bury you in a box!” Of course, just saying “stop it” doesn’t give anyone the strength to actually stop.
Now, this is not the approach God takes when He tells us to "fear not." He doesn’t just want us to stop feeling fear. He wants us to be full of faith. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17). If you are feeling fear today, take time to meditate on Psalm 91, which provides an antidote to fear. It will strengthen your faith and help you live fearlessly, no matter what you are going through.
Lord, I praise You that You are everything I need to walk through the difficulties I am facing. I thank You for Your promises. I ask You to remind me of Your strength and care when my heart is overwhelmed with anxiety. I look to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
 William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 689–690.