For tonight’s study, let us contrast two different ideas from the Old and New Testaments.
As we will see, both of the readings are on the topic of protection. But the manner of protection and what we would be protected from are slightly different. In fact, there are some lessons to be learned as well from the overall application of the Old and New Testaments in these two small passages.
Let’s take a look at Psalm 91 first. Overall, these sixteen verses are a long if/then statement. If you “make the Lord your dwelling place,” He will protect you from danger, physical calamity, and evil. What does it mean to “make the Lord your dwelling place?” There are answers to this question throughout Psalm 91. From verse two, we know that it requires that we trust God. And from verse fifteen, we should call on Him in prayer. These two ideas mean that we understand and believe without doubt that God not only has the power to protect us, but that He will protect us when we seek Him in prayer.
From what does God protect us? The “snare of the fowler,” “perilous pestilence,” and “terror” are some of the examples given. The existence of these threats suggests an ongoing war for our loyalty. There are forces that are aiming to bring us down, to discourage us and make us weaker. Agents of the devil that seek to disrupt through chaos, dishonest gain, and destruction surely will cause us fear, but when we trust in God and go to Him for help in prayer, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.” An important component of God’s protection in particular is truth. While other forces of power stand on dubious foundations, God has the market cornered on truth, inspiring confidence and stability in all that He touches and influences. Truth will protect us. As long as we accept God and have confidence that truth originates from Him, we are protected by Him and our confidence in God is complete. The satisfaction and calm that comes from knowing that we trust in and worship the one true God is deeply gratifying and allays all manner of personal worry and trepidation.
Psalm 91 ends with verses 14-16, which make a narrative change to the voice of the chapter. Until verse 14, the Psalmist (likely David), was speaking to the reader the encouraging words of seeking God for protection. But in the last three verses, the voice of God takes over and we experience the words coming directly from God: “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. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”
The lessons of Psalm 91 are valuable, if not somewhat general. The action items for us are to trust that God can and will protect us, and to call on Him in prayer to do so. If we do, then we will prevail while many others all around us fall prey to the wiles of the devil and his machinations. In turn, God protects us with His angels and providence.
The New Testament reading for our study is from Ephesians 6:10-18 and concerns the armor of God. This passage goes deeper than Psalm 91. As the various pieces of the armor of God are listed and explained, the Word of God asks us to understand all of the advantages that faith in God provides. The pieces of armor and what they symbolize guard against wickedness and temptation.
One standout difference between Psalm 91 and the armor of God in the New Testament is the dangers that they protect from. In Psalm 91, the dangers come from outside ourselves in the form of external threats like the fowler, pestilence, and terror. While the dangers repelled by the armor of God have physical threats also, more often mentioned are the spiritual ones such as rulers of darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness, and the fiery darts of the wicked one. The battle to be fought in the present time is one that is internal, warring against powers of evil that seek to corrupt us and tear us away from God. Be it slowly or dramatically, the powers of evil want to separate us from God’s protection. And the perfect list of tools in God’s armor show us how to use God’s spiritual blessings to win the daily battles that seek to bring us down.
- Belt of truth
- A belt holds our clothes together. It tightens and strengthens, holding close what is important for protection. If we are wayward in our convictions or assumptions, our protection will falter. The surety of truth in God brings a confidence that increases our safety and protection against evil forces.
- Breastplate of righteousness
- Righteousness is that virtuous quality that revels in doing and being good, as defined by God. Right ways of thinking, right ways of judging, right ways of acting: all of these things are determined by how righteous we are. We obtain righteousness by listening to God, keeping His statutes, and seeking to do the right thing in every case. If we are righteous, our heart is protected against the efforts of the devil.
- Shoes of the Gospel of Peace
- The Good News of Jesus Christ is the information that has the power to save mankind. If we use the knowledge of Christ as a purpose to travel and protect our way, God will make a peaceful path for us. This means keeping the knowledge of Christ at the forefront and seeking to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18).
- Shield of Faith
- Our faith is a belief that sustains us as we move forward along the difficult path of life. Faith in God will make mountains seem like anthills and will easily repel the foolish efforts of the devil to tempt us away from the care of Almighty God. We must believe that God can save us, and He will.
- Helmet of Salvation
- This is the sure and secure knowledge that God has saved us through Jesus Christ. The trust in our relationship with God though Jesus (the state of our salvation) brings a confidence that can come from nowhere else. To have our head protected by the knowledge of salvation is to rejoice in the invaluable grace of God that saves us and compels our lifelong obedience.
- Sword of the Spirit
- This may be our most valuable piece of armor. The Sword of the Spirit can be understood as the Word of God, our Holy Bible. There is no other book like it on earth, and we get from it all we need to live a faith-based life in service to God. It can be used as a weapon or as a defense. It can cut our attacker as well as ourselves. The book of God is the vital communication from our Creator that sustains, protects, and propels us to righteousness.
These armor pieces, when properly assembled by us in our faithful pursuit of God, will create righteous people whose lives compose a beautiful song for God. 100% protection from every threat and danger of life (physical and spiritual) is not assured, as trials increase our faith and are often part of God’s plan for our spiritual journey. But protection from easily escapable and highly dangerous afflictions is promised if we don the whole armor of God.
Lastly mentioned (although debatable whether truly in the list or not) is prayer. Prayer and truth are those common threads running between Psalm 91 and the armor of God. Prayer and trusting the Bible comprise our daily path to Him that shores up our protection.
Taken together, Psalm 91 and Ephesians 6:10-18 promise us protection from God if and when we seek Him. One is more general and physical, while the next is more specific and detailed. Both of these rich passages have a lot of encouragement and comfort to offer. Truly, we are missing out on the most valuable protection available if we do not take advantage of these rich blessings offered to us by God.