(More Bible Studies Available @ www.marktabata.com)
It is written:
Psalm 91:1-16 (NKJV)-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.”
Psalm 91:1-16 (The Passion Translation)-When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High. 2 He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me, the only God for me, and my great confidence. 3 He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy, and he will protect you from false accusation and any deadly curse. 4 His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you. You can run under his covering of majesty and hide. His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm. 5 You will never worry about an attack of demonic forces at night nor have to fear a spirit of darkness coming against you. 6 Don’t fear a thing! Whether by night or by day, demonic danger will not trouble you, nor will the powers of evil launched against you. 7 Even in a time of disaster, with thousands and thousands being killed, you will remain unscathed and unharmed. 8 you will be a spectator as the wicked perish in judgment, for they will be paid back for what they have done! 9 (9-10) When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us? 11 God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go, defending you from all harm. 12 If you walk into a trap, they’ll be there for you and keep you from stumbling. 13 You’ll even walk unharmed among the fiercest powers of darkness, trampling every one of them beneath your feet! 14 For here is what the Lord has spoken to me: “Because you have delighted in me as my great lover, I will greatly protect you. I will set you in a high place, safe and secure before my face. 15 I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast. 16 You will be satisfied with a full life and with all that I do for you. For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!”
Years ago, I was working with a gentleman in the hospital. He had been struggling with certain drug addictions for years, and was in a coma. The hospital did not know if he would recover: they just pointed out that he was not responding to any stimuli and that he was not aware of anyone’s presence. Nevertheless, at the behest of his family and at the approval of the hospital staff, I stayed the night in his room and prayed and sang (a commonly practiced tradition where I was raised in West Virginia at the bedside of the ones you believe may be dying).
I sang my favorite hymns, and there was no response. His heart rate and brain activity were not changed.
As I began to pray, there seemed to be no change in my friend. He did not move at all (except in labored response to the ventilator that he was on as it breathed for him).
Finally, I turned to Psalm 91 (one of my favorite Psalms) and read it aloud.
To my shock, the gentleman started convulsing in his bed. I stopped reading, and the convulsions ceased. One of the nurses came in and asked what happened and I explained to her. She informed me that the readings had remain substantially unchanged, except for when I started reading that Psalm.
I did not know what was going on.
Years later, I learned that Psalm 91 had been used by the Jewish people for centuries before the time of Jesus as a Psalm of exorcism and in fighting against evil spirits.
What lessons can we learn from this Psalm about the subject of evil spirits and spiritual warfare?
The Reality Of Evil Spirits
Now, we live in a world today that is extremely skeptical of the supernatural realm, despite the evidences and testimonies of qualified professionals who testify to the reality of the existence and prevalence of the supernatural realm based on the many evidences at hand.
“Along about now I imagine many of you are wondering, “But what am I to do with all this?” There is an impish part of me that is tempted to respond, “Beats me!” Or else, “That’s your problem.” But you deserve more. And while it is true that I cannot tell you what to do with this I can at least tell you what I did with it. Until the day I met Jersey I did not believe in the devil. Or, to be perfectly precise, up until three hours after I had met her I was 99 + percent sure that the devil did not exist. Indeed, I was using Jersey as part of a strategy to prove the devil’s nonexistence as scientifically as possible—to myself. Only my experiment began to backfire the minute I heard Jersey say about her demons, “I feel sorry for them; they’re really rather weak and pathetic creatures.” When I flew home after that first evaluation I was hardly converted to a belief in the devil; it was fifty-fifty at best. Still, what an extraordinary movement of the mind! From antagonistic to neutral within the course of a single day—certainly enough to keep on investigating. Three months later, after Terry and I had confronted Jersey, exposing a flagrantly evil personality, and after I’d talked to Malachi and had time to digest the experience, I suppose I had been converted. I was now 95 percent sure, enough to command an exorcism to be performed, even though I knew that my own profession might well seek my excommunication. Two months later, on the eve of the exorcism, having heard Jersey scream at me while simultaneously smiling, my certainty that she was demonically possessed was 99 percent. Four days later it was 100 percent. Total. I would never again doubt the existence of Satan. Beccah’s exorcism did not increase my certainty of the devil’s existence; there is no place to go beyond total certainty. All I can say is that it was so confusing—that Beccah/ Lucifer toyed with us so viciously—I’m not sure I could have survived it without my total certainty. As a psychiatrist, I had been converted by Jersey’s case alone, from a belief that the devil did not exist to a belief—a certainty—that the devil does exist and probably demons (under the control of the devil) as well. By the devil, I mean a spirit that is powerful (it may be many places at the same time and manifest itself in a variety of distinctly paranormal ways), thoroughly malevolent (its only motivation seemed to be the destruction of human beings or the entire human race), deceitful and vain, capable of taking up a kind of residence within the mind, brain, soul, or body of susceptible and willing human beings—a spirit that had various names (among them Lucifer and Satan), that was real and did exist. I have attempted to tell the stories of Jersey and Beccah with the greatest possible scientific thoroughness. I have left out no significant detail. Consequently, you and I have exactly the same database to work from. But I do not think it likely at this point in time that we would arrive at the same conclusions. So I was converted to a belief in the devil. Since you had the same database as I, does that mean that I expect you to also become believers in the devil? No. You see, there is one crucial difference in our experiences. I was there, and you were not. Seeing is believing. I saw directly. You have been able to see only through my eyes, and your experience has been of necessity vicarious. No, the most I can hope for is that as a result of reading about Jersey and Beccah you have been converted from a closed to an open mind …that you would be willing to look into some more evidence were it available… that you believe the matter to be worthy of further study. In summary, it is my hope that you will envision that matters of possession and exorcism, of demons and deliverance, constitute a proper field of scientific inquiry. Specifically, I wish that you will join me in proposing that “demonology” be made an incipient subspecialty of psychiatry and psychology.” (M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption, 237-239 (Kindle Edition); New York; Free Press)
“Initial medical and religious reaction in many quarters to the draft—from both well-informed academics and doctors as well as from experienced exorcists—has been gratifyingly positive. Readers may be surprised to learn that many physician colleagues of mine—around the world—agree with my findings, though they may be reluctant to speak out so openly—with some notable exceptions. For instance, a Harvard faculty psychiatrist has called this book “especially compelling . . . unquestionably by a world expert whose academic rigor is impeccable and whose personal integrity is above reproach.” A prominent professor of neurology found the manuscript “most striking . . . by a witness who is completely trustworthy and one of the smartest persons I have ever met.” A leading American exorcist describes it as “extremely helpful coming as the book does from America’s ‘go-to’ medical expert on the subject of diabolic attacks. . . . Whenever I need help, I go to him. He’s so respected in the field.” Demonic Foes relates unmistakable cases of demonic possession and other diabolic attacks that I directly encountered over the past twenty-five years. I did not originally volunteer to consult upon these cases; rather, I responded to requests from religious leaders for my professional opinion. And I overcame my hesitation about writing this book only after securing the permission of the afflicted men and women I agreed to help.” (Richard Gallagher, Demonic Foes: My Twenty-Five Years as a Psychiatrist Investigating Possessions, Diabolic Attacks, and the Paranormal, 1-2 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.)
While this testimony (and more could be added) is fascinating and supplementary in its’ confirmation of the teaching of the Bible, we must remember that our primary Source of information regarding these matters comes FROM the Word of God. As we have noticed in previous studies, there is more than sufficient evidence that the Bible is the Word of God (cf. https://marktabata.com/2022/02/04/ill-mind-of-hopson-seven-five/).
With that in mind, the Bible is very clear that the spiritual world exists and that the spiritual war is very real (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18).
Some believe that the spiritual war ended when Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary. It is true that in His death, Jesus took the power of death from Satan (1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:15). However, the Bible is also clear that Satan and his forces are still at work in the world and will continue to be until the Second Coming (1 Peter 5:8; James 4:7).
Indeed, the testimony of the Book of Revelation on this matter is clear. In this Book, John has seven visions each beginning with the First Coming of Jesus and His defeat of Satan at Calvary by His death on the cross (Revelation 1:5-7; 2:1-2, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 4:2-3; 5:5-7, 9-10; 8:1-6; 12:1-5; 15:3-5; 17:14; 20:1-3). Then the visions progress through the Christian Age and show that during the era between the First and Second Coming, demonic activity gradually increases (2:2, 6, 9, 10, 13-15, 20; 3:3-4, 9, 17; 6:1-8, 12-17; 9:1-12; 11:1-10; 12:13-17; 13:13-14; 16:13-14; 17:6; 18:2; 20:4-9). Finally, the Second Coming occurs and Satan and his forces are ultimately and finally defeated (2:7, 10, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21; 7:13-17; 11:11-19; 14:14-20; 16:17-21; 19:11-21; 20:11-22:21).
The Bible is clear that during the Christian Age, demons continue to exist and we are called upon to recognize their tactics (2 Corinthians 2:11).
There is also a great deal of evidence that Psalm 91 was a Psalm of spiritual warfare.
First, this was the unanimous consent of the Jewish rabbis long before the time of Christ. Evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls confirms this.
“FOUR PSALMS AGAINST DEMONS ■ One of the most interesting Psalms scrolls was found in Cave 11 at Qumran. Known as 11QApocryphal Psalms (or 11QPsApa or 11QApPs), this manuscript is dated about 50–70 CE and contains four Psalms for use in exorcisms against demons. Many scholars believe these to be the Four Songs for Playing over the Stricken that are mentioned in David’s Compositions, which is part of the large Psalms scroll from Cave 11 (11QPsa col. 16: 9–10). The first three of these Psalms were unknown until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the fourth is found in modern Bibles as Psalm 91. The First Exorcism Psalm: On Expelling Demons Col. 1: 1 [ . . . 2 . . . ] and the one who weeps for him 3 [ . . . ] the curse 4 [ . . . ] by the LORD 5 [ . . . ] dragon 6 [ . . . ] the ear[ th . . . 7 . . . ] exor[ cis] ing [ . . . 8 . . . ] to [ . . . 9 . . . ] this [ . . . 10 . . . ] to the demon [ . . . 11 . . . ] he will dwe[ ll. . . . ] The Second Exorcism Psalm: Trusting in the Lord for Protection ■ This Psalm, which is apparently attributed to Solomon, invokes the God of creation for protection against evil powers. In column 3 God’s power is highlighted from Scripture, and in column 4 the Psalmist calls on angelic powers to combat demonic forces. A conclusion to this Psalm appears in the first three lines of column 5. Col. 2: 1–2 [ . . . of] Solomon. He will invo[ ke . . . 3 . . . the spi] rits and the demons [ . . . 4 . . . ] These are [the de] mons. And the p[ rince of enmi] ty [ . . . 5 . . . I] srael [ . . . ] the a[ byss . . . 6 . . . ] the gre[ at . . . 7 . . . ] his people [ . . . ] healing 8 [ . . . ] leans [upon] your name, and calls [ . . . 9 . . . He says to Is] rael, “Hold fast 10 [to the LORD, . . . who made] the heavens [11 and the earth, and all that is in them, w] ho separated [12 light from darkness . . .]” Col. 3: 1 [ . . . ] the depth[ s] 2 the earth and [ . . . ] the earth. Who m[ ade these signs] 3 and won[ ders on the] earth? The LORD, it is he [who] 4 made the[ se through] his [power], who summons all [his] an[ gels] 5 [and] all the [holy] offspri[ ng] to st[ a] nd before [him, . . . 6 all the hea] vens and [all] the earth [ . . . ] who committe[ d] sin against 7 [all humani] ty, and [evil] against all pe[ ople. But] they know 8 his [wonder] ful [ . . . ] which they do not [ . . . ]. If they do not 9 [desist] out of fear of the LORD from [ . . . and] from killing the soul of 10 [ . . . ] the LORD, and [th] ey will fear tha[ t] great [spell]. 11 “One of you [puts to flight] a thou[ sand.” 163 . . . ] servants of the Lor[ d . . . 12 . . . g] reat and [ . . . ] Col. 4: 1 [ . . . and] great is [ . . . ] adjuring [you . . . ] 2 and the great [ . . . ] the mighty and [ . . . ] 3 all the earth [ . . . ] the heavens and [ . . . ] 4 May the LORD smite you with a [migh] ty bl[ ow] in order to destroy you [ . . . ], 5 and in his fierce wrath [may he send] against you a powerful angel [ to carry out] 6 his [entire com] mand, who [will show no] mercy to you, wh[ o . . . 7 . . . ] against all these who [will send] you [down] into the great abyss 8 [and to] deepest [Sheol], and who [ . . . , and there] you shall lie, and darkness 9 [. . . ] very much [. . . ]. [No lon] ger on the earth 10 [ . . . ] forever and [ . . . ] by the curse of des[ truction164 . . . 11 . . . ] the fierce anger of the L[ ORD . . . in] darkness for a[ ll 12 . . . ] affliction [ . . . ] your gift [ . . . ] Col. 5: 1 [ . . . ] 2 which [ . . . ] and those possessed by [demons . . . ] 3 those crushed [by . . . . Ra] phael has healed [them. Amen, Amen, Selah]. The Third Exorcism Psalm: The Lord Has Power to Strike Down Demons ■ This Psalm, which is attributed to David, is uttered against a demon. The reference to this demon’s horns in line 7 is particularly interesting in view of popular depictions of the devil as having horns. Col. 5: 4 A Psalm of David. Again[ st . . . An incanta] tion in the name of the Lor[ d. To be invoked at an] y time 5 to the heav[ ens. For] he will come to you at nig[ ht], and you will [say] to him: 6 “Who are you? [Withdraw from] humanity and from the offspring of the ho[ ly one] s! For your appearance is one of 7 [vani] ty, and your horns are horns of illu[ si] on. You are darkness, not light, 8 [wicked] ness, not righteousness [ . . . ] the commander of the army, the LORD, [will bring] you [down 9 into] deepest [Sheo] l, [ . . . the] two bronze [ga] tes th[ rough which n] o 10 light [can enter], and [the] sun [will] not [shine for you] tha[ t rises 11 upon the] righteous to [. . .” And] then you will say, [“. . . 12 . . . the right] eous, to come [ . . . ] for a de[ mon to] harm him, [ . . . 13 . . . of tr] uth from [ . . . because] he has [righ] teousness [ . . . 14 . . . ] and . . .” The Fourth Exorcism Psalm: Psalm 91 ■ Psalm 91 has brought comfort and hope to Jews and Christians over the centuries. Not only does it evoke God’s help and protection against physical and human dangers, this Psalm has been connected with exorcisms of demonic forces in both rabbinic and Christian traditions. 1650 [Of David. 166 1 The one who dwells] in the shelter [of the Most High will rest in the shadow of] the Almighty; 2 who says167 [of the LORD, “My refuge] and [my] fortress, [my God] is the constant one168 in whom [I can trust.” 3 For h] e will deliver you from [the fow] ler’s [snare] and from the dea[ dly] pestilence. 4 He will cover [you with] his feathers, and under his w[ ings] you will rest; 169 [his] faithfulness [upo] n you170 is a shield and his truth a buckler. Selah. 171 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day; 6 nor the plague that destroys at [no] on, nor the pestilence that stalks [in dark] ness. 172 7 A thousand may fa[ ll] at your side, ten th[ ousand at] your right [hand]—but it will n[ ot] strike [you]. 173 8 [You will] merely [look on] with your eyes174 [and se] e175 the recompense176 of the wick[ ed. 9 For you have invo] ked [your] shel[ ter . . . ] his delight. 177 10 You will se[ e no harm, 178 and] no [disaster] will strike179 in your t[ en] ts. 180 11 Fo[ r] he will give orders to his angels concerning you, to gu[ ard you in all] your [ways]. 12 In their hands [they will lift] you [up], so that [you do] not [strike your] foot [against a st] one. 13 [You will tr] ead [on] the cobra [and the viper]; 181 you will trample underfo[ ot the strong young lion] and the serpent. 14 [Because you de] light [in the LORD he wi] ll [rescue you] and [make you secure 16b and he will sh] ow you [his vic] tory. 182 Selah. 183 Then they will answer “Amen, Amen.” 184 Selah. 185 ■ In the 11QApocryphal Psalms scroll, Psalm 91 is followed by a fair amount of blank leather, which is very helpful for assessing collections of Psalms such as this one. The blank leather indicates that the collection in this manuscript actually ended with Psalm 91, which is also confirmed by the unusual ending to the Psalm. For the end of another important collection indicated by blank leather, see the comment after Psalm 151 toward the end of our Psalms translation.” (Martin G. Abegg Jr., Peter Flint, Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English, 538-542 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; HarperCollins Inc.)
Second, there are specific phrases used within Psalm 91 which show us clearly that the Psalmist is talking about spiritual warfare. Sometimes these facts are not fully documented in English translations. However, the translators of the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint (made long before the time of Christ) show their understanding of these matters.
For example, consider the following textual information (taken from Michael Heiser, Demons: What The Bible Really Says About The Powers Of Darkness, 55, Kindle Edition; Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press):
Psalm 96:3 (Masoretic Text): For he will deliver you from the snare off the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence (deber)
Psalm 96:3 (Septuagint): Because he will rescue you from the trap of hunters, and from a terrifying word.
Psalm 96:4 (Masoretic Text): He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
Psalm 96:4 (Septuagint): With his shoulders he will overshadow you, and under his wings you will have hope; with a shield his truth will surround you.
Psalm 96:5 (Masoretic Text): You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
Psalm 96:5 (Septuagint): That one will not be afraid from fear by night, from the arrow flying by day,
Psalm 96:5 (Masoretic Text): nor the pestilence (deber) that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction (qeleb) that wastes at noonday.
Psalm 96:5 (Septuagint): from the deed carried out in darkness, from mishap and demon (daimonou) at midday.
Please notice the words translated in English from the Masoretic text as “pestilence” (deber) and “destruction” (qeleb). These are translated by the translators of the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) as referencing demonic spirits.
“Scholars have long noted that both terms are Canaanite deities. Baker observes, “Yahweh has his two personified attendants who are subject to his control (cf. Ps. 91: 6), exemplifying his power. Both are also Canaanite deities, leading here to a hidden polemic against pagan worship.” 95 The term deber is commonly used in the Old Testament alongside terms for warfare and famine, all depicting the causes of widespread death (especially in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel). While this is the most common usage for deber, del Olmo Lete notes the term “seems to be used a number of times in a personified sense as a demon or evil deity (Hab 3: 5; Ps 91: 3, 6; cf. Hos 13: 14).” 96 In Habakkuk 3: 5, deber (“ pestilence”) and rešep (“ plague”) are presented “marching at Yahweh’s side as His helpers. This follows the ancient Mesopotamian tradition according to which ‘plague’ and ‘pestilence’ are present in the entourage of the great god Marduk.” 97 Some scholars object to deber as a true deity name, 98 but its partnering with rešep in Habakkuk 3: 5 strongly suggests this is the case, “given the presence of [Resheph] in the Ugaritic texts as a god of destruction (KTU 1.14 I 18–19; 1.82: 3).” 99 Rešep appears in Deuteronomy 32: 23–24, where Yahweh threatens his apostate people: 23And I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend my arrows on them; 24they shall be wasted with hunger (rāʿāb), and devoured by plague (rešep) and poisonous pestilence (qeṭeb). As noted above, Resheph is a deity of destruction at Ugarit. He is portrayed as an archer there (KTU 1.82: 3), and so the phrase “spending my arrows” is interesting. Resheph is accompanied by qeṭeb and rāʿāb. The former appears in an Ugaritic text as a kinsman of Mōt (“ Death”). The latter appears to be an epithet of Mōt. 100”. (Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, 34-35 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)
Psalm 91 clearly describes the reality of evil spirits, and is a powerful prayer for God’s people.
The Reach Of Evil Spirits
This Psalm teaches us some powerful lessons about demons.
First, their hostile intent against God and humanity are very clear. Notice that the enemy is one who attempts to snare us (Psalm 91:3). They want to terrify us by night and to attack us during the day (Psalm 91:5). They wish to bring evil and plague (i.e., sickness, misfortune, and destruction of any kind) upon us (Psalm 91:10). Demons are set out out to cripple and destroy us.
Second, this Psalm teaches us about some of the tactics that demons will use to try and destroy us. They set traps for us where they will try and tempt us (bait us) to appeal to us so that we will be trapped and killed (Psalm 91:3). This, of course, reminds us that the devil and his forces are watching us to look for our weaknesses (Ephesians 6:12). Interestingly enough, consider the ancient Jewish understanding of the “noon day demon”mentioned here in Psalm 91:
“Tihirin: “Noon [Demons].” This class of disease-bearing demon is mentioned in Targum Song of Songs 4: 6, based on psalm 91: 6. Loosely derived from the “scourge that ravages at noon” (tzohoriyim) mentioned in the anti-demonic Psalm 91 (verse 6). Based on their name and the context, the unique attribute of these creatures would seem to be their propensity to move about in daytime, a quality not generally associated with the demonic (Meg. 3a; Ber. 3b; Sanh. 65b). Never brought up in Talmud or early Midrash, they first get explicit mention Targum Shir ha-Shirim 4: 6. In the critical text, Song of Songs in the Targumic Tradition, they appear as teiharei, which is translated as “noontime ghosts.” They receive the most prominent treatment in zohar, where they are referenced multiple times (ironically, given their name derivation) as a creature that interferes with the night flight of the soul to heaven (I: 83a). Perhaps there is another layer of irony, because the name closely resembles the Hebrew word for “pure” and “glittering,” yet these may be the very demons that trigger entrancing yet impure dreams in men (I: 200a). Wittily, in his new Zohar translation Daniel Matt translates tehirin by the seductively charming alliterative “dazzling demons.” 1 1. Matt, The Zohar, vol. 3, 162.” (Geoffrey W. Dennis, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic & Mysticism: Second Edition, 423 (Kindle Edition); Woodbury, Minnesota; Llewellyn Publications)
Third, the text here reminds us that sometimes demonic forces will use physical means to try and hurt us. The words translated “pestilence” and “destruction” are not just names of these specific types of demons: but they are reminders of what these demons attempt to use to try and hurt and overcome us. We see this in many other passages of Scripture as well:
Isaiah 61:3-To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
Matthew 9:32-33-As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. 33. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!”
Matthew 12:22-Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.
Mark 9:17-Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.
Luke 11:14-And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.
Luke 13:11-16-And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
Acts 16:16-Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.
All of these verses teach us about some of the physical traits which demons can cause.
Now, this does not mean that every time a person is sick or undergoing a physical distress, it is because of a demon! Indeed, the New Testament sometimes differentiates between physical misfortune and sickness and demonic attacks:
Matthew 4:24-Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.
Fourth, notice that these demonic foes are sometimes characterized and identified with different animals.
Psalm 91:13-You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
We find this in other passages of Scripture as well:
Isaiah 13:20-22-It will never be inhabited, Nor will it be settled from generation to generation; Nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, Nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. 21 But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, And their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches will dwell there, And wild goats will caper there. 22 The hyenas will howl in their citadels, And jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, And her days will not be prolonged.”
Isaiah 34:14-The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the jackals, And the wild goat shall bleat to its companion; Also the night creature shall rest there, And find for herself a place of rest.
Isaiah 34:14 (CEV)-Wildcats and hyenas will hunt together, demons will scream to demons, and creatures of the night will live among the ruins.
Notice how John (quoting and referencing these passages) connects these different animals with demonic spirits:
Revelation 18:2-And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!
Look closely at the phrases used here:
“2. “Howling Creature” ( ʾiyyîm ); “Wild Beasts” ( ṣiyyîm ); “Lilith” ( lı̂lı̂t ) The terminology of this section will no doubt be unfamiliar and strange. 72 But to a culture that held the desert wilderness to be a place of frightful beings associated with the underworld, “the desert [was] populated by phantom-like creatures.” 73 Frey-Anthes summarizes the association of wild, deserted places with perceived dark powers: 74 The concept of a subdivided world which is present in the Old Testament texts leads to the idea of animals and not clearly definable creatures, who are the inhabitants of a counterworld to human civilisation. Included among the eerie and dangerous animals who haunt deserted places.… The following are mostly called “desert-demons”: Those who live in the ruins … As the name of the [ ṣiyyîm ] explains where they dwell (“those who belong to the dry landscape/desert dwellers”), the expression [ ʾiyyîm ] has rather got an onomatopoeic nature, it defines a howling creature (“howler”).… The pair [ ʾiyyîm ] and [ ṣiyyîm ] belongs to the description of a destroyed city in Isa 13:21f.; Isa 34:14 and Jer 50:39.… The texts, however, speak of ghosts living at the periphery but they avoid a clear identification, which would be needed for an incantation, to identify the evil forces it wants to drive away. The creatures are described ambiguously in order to underline the vagueness of the peripheral counterworld. 75 Two of the passages noted above deserve some attention. In Isaiah 13:21–22, a description of the impending devastation of Babylon, the terms ṣiyyîm and ʾiyyîm occur in tandem with the śĕʿı̂rı̂m (Isa 13:21) associated with illegitimate sacrifices in Leviticus 17:7 (cf. Deut 32:12). The same grouping is present in Isaiah 34:14, a passage that adds lı̂lı̂t to the assemblage—the Hebrew spelling of the well-known Mesopotamian demon-goddess Lilith: 76 The “wind-demoness” Lilith, who can already be found in the Sumerian Epos “Gilgames, Enkidu and the Underworld” does not seem to have had any special importance outside Mesopotamia. Interpretations of supposed findings from Ugarit and Phoenicia are very uncertain. It is astonishing, however, that, according to Isa 34:14, Lilith belongs to the inhabitants of the counter world together with owls and other birds of prey, ostrich, jackals, snakes, desert dwellers, howlers and he-goats. The description of the ruins of Edom in Isa 34:11–15 is a subtly composed literary text with close connections to Isa 13:21f. and Jer 50:39, which are similar descriptions of the deserted Babylon. Isa 34:11–15 intensifies the descriptions of Isa 13:21f. and Jer 50:39 by listing the inhabitants of the periphery in a detailed way and by introducing Lilith. 77 As Janowski notes, these terms could very naturally speak of “zoologically definable animals, i.e. nocturnal consumers of carrion, who appear in pairs or in packs,” but “their association with theriomorphic demons … and the demon Lilith, is intended to place the aspect of the counterhuman world in the foreground.” 78”. (Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, 629-662 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, Wa; Lexham Press)
The idea of a “cobra” or “serpent” is one of an animal that uses deceit to destroy its’ prey (Genesis 3:1-6), and of a “lion” is that uses attempts to use fear to intimidate its’ prey (1 Peter 5:8).
The Resistance Of Evil Spirits
Finally, this Psalm teaches us about how we resist these demons.
First, we must keep Yahweh God first and foremost in our life. Notice that the Psalmist has decided to keep the Most High as his secret dwelling place (Psalm 91:1). He can confidently affirm that the LORD is his refuge and fortress (Psalm 91:2). Indeed, he will place his complete trust in Him (Psalm 91:2)! The Lord will cover His people as a Mother bird covers her young to protect them from the cold and other dangers (Psalm 91:4).
Second, the follower of God remembers that God is working in the world and that while the attacks of the enemy will come, they will not ultimately triumph (Psalm 91:7-8)! He trusts in the providence of God at work in his life (Psalm 91:14-16). He knows that even the angels of God are working to aid him during times of demonic attack (Psalm 91:11-12).
Thirdly and finally, this Psalm reminds us that ultimate victory is only to be found in God’s Messiah. It is no coincidence that the Jewish people believed that this Psalm also included hints of Messianic prophecy. There is a recurring Messianic theme found throughout the Book of Psalms that flows through Psalm 91.
“Psalm 91 describes a faithful man rescued from trouble and danger. Parallels between Pss 91 and 89 support his identification as the messianic son of David. His escape in Ps 91 resembles that of the expected son of David from Sheol in Ps 89 (cf. “I will deliver him” va’phaletehu of 91: 14, and “who can save himself” yemalet of 89: 48). His reward is to be satisfied with eternal days, i.e. eternal life (cf. ’orekh yamim of 91: 16 with 21: 4 where the meaning is “eternal life”). 9 According to Ps 91: 15 he will call to God (yiqra’eni), just as Ps 89: 26 predicted (yiqra’eni), of the promised eternal Davidic king of kings and firstborn of God (Ps 89: 26-28). That messianic king would confess God as the rock of his “salvation” in 89: 26 (yeshua‘ti), which “salvation” (bishu‘ati) is revealed in 91: 16 to the rescued, exalted, delivered, and glorified man of Ps 91: 14-16. These two latter explicit parallels between Pss 89: 26 and 91: 15-16 suggest that the “rock” (tsur) of 89: 26, and the “( I will be with him in) trouble” (betsarah) of 91: 15, add further resonance on both phonological and semantic levels. 10 Again, Ps 90 answers the time question posed by Ps 89, while Ps 91 continues seamlessly by responding to the questions regarding the yet absent messianic king, also posed by Ps 89. Strophe II of Ps 90 also refers to “a watch/ keep (in the night)” (’ ashmurah, v. 4), which contrasts divine and human perspectives on time. A three-hour span in the night is considered short by human standards, while a thousand years is equally brief from the divine perspective. Use of the Hebrew term for “watch/ keep” in this particular analogy of Ps 90: 4 matches the same root in verbal form of Ps 89: 28 (’ eshmor, HCSB “preserve”), meaning “I will keep.” Psalm 89 | Psalm 90 “all generations” vv. 1, 4 | “in every generation” v. 1 “forever” (3x) vv. 1, 2, 4 | “from eternity to eternity” v. 2 “You” (ms) vv. 9-12, 17, 38 | “You” (ms) Ps 90: 1, 2 “Your faithfulness” vv. 1-2, 24, 28, 33, 49 | “Your faithfulness” v. 14 “I will watch/ keep” v. 28 (author translation) | “a night watch/ keep” v. 4 (author translation) “How long?” v. 46 | “… how long?” v. 13 “sons of men” v. 47 NASB | “sons of men” v. 3 (author translation) “Adonai” (Lord) v. 50 | “Adonai” (Lord) vv. 1, 17 “Your servants” v. 50 | “Your servants” vv. 13, 16 Psalm 89: 28 quotes God’s promise to eternally watch or keep His faithfulness to the covenant with David by means of this yiqtol verb form. Its unusual ketiv or “written” form in 89: 28 using a matres lectionis (use of a consonant as a vowel) holem vav (’ eshmôr) may be deliberate so as to highlight its resonance with the noun “watch/ keep” (’ ashmûrah) of 90: 4.11 From a human standpoint the millennia-long delay in implementation of the promises to David seems unending. From the divine perspective, the promise was made recently and certainly has not been forgotten. The promise that God would keep His covenant with David forever (Ps 89: 28) has not been forgotten by any means, and is in no danger of being jettisoned or replaced. The analogy of a night of watching in Ps 90: 4 (NASB) is followed by two references to “morning” in vv. 5-6, which refer to generation after generation coming and going, like the daily blooming and withering of flowers of the field. There may also be deliberate resonance with the Davidic covenant as cited in 2Sm 7: 14, which mentions judgment on David’s descendants for their wrongdoing (beha‘avoto). The divine wrath expressed as the judgment of death mentioned repeatedly across Ps 90: 7, 9, 11-2x, was due to sins (‘ avonotenu, v. 8a), as “sons of men” (HCSB “descendents of Adam,” benei ’adam, v. 3). Psalm 89 also refers specifically to the unfaithful descendants of David. Their lack of obedience, or failure to “keep” (yishmoru) the commandments (Ps 89: 31), contrasts with the divine promise to always “keep” (HCSB “preserve” ’eshmor) His covenant (Ps 89: 28). Another reference in strophe III to “morning” (Ps 90: 14) is part of a request that God satisfy (sabe‘enu) the speaker representing God’s people with “Your faithful love” (chasdekha). As noted above, the latter term is identical to the recalled divine promise of fidelity of Ps 89: 28 (chasdi) to the Davidic covenant. Consequently, Ps 90 represents a request that the long night of “watching” over the Davidic covenant implied by the parallel between Pss 89: 28 and 90: 4 be dispelled in the morning (boqer) light of fulfillment. This recalls the last prophetic words of David in 2Sm 23: 4-5 referring to the fulfillment of the “everlasting” (‘ olam, cf. Ps 90: 2) and “secured” (ushemurah, cf. Ps 90: 4) covenant, as the sunrise of “morning” (boqer-2x, cf. Ps 90: 5, 6, 14). The request to “satisfy us” in Ps 90: 14 (sabe‘enu) parallels the same verbal root at the conclusion of Ps 91: 16, “I will satisfy him” (’ asbi‘ehu). Similarly, the request of 90: 16 that God “let Your work be seen” (yera’eh) matches the same verbal root of 91: 16, “I will … show him” (ve’ar’ehu). In other words, the two final verbs of Ps 91 expressing God’s salvific and beneficial intentions towards this favored messianic king, match two verbs of request in the final verses of Ps 90. Apparently, the request from God’s faithful servants at the end of Ps 90 is answered by divine favor upon the single individual figure of Ps 91, the messianic king.” (Robert L. Cole, “The Fulfillment Of The Davidic Covenant,” in Michael Rydelnik, Edwin Blum (General Editors), The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament, 653-655 (Kindle Edition); Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers)
Only in Christ Jesus can we have victory over the powers of darkness. His atoning death, burial, and resurrection on the third day for all sinners provide victory for His people (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
Are you part of His body, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23)?
If not, become one of His people today.
Acts 2:37-47-Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
As baptized believers, we struggled with sin (1 John 1:8; Philippians 3:13-16). When we sin, God forgives us when we repent and confess those sins to Him in prayer through Christ (Hebrews 4:15-16).
As the army of Jesus, we continue to fight the spiritual warfare in this life (Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:4). Let’s add the prayer of Psalm 91 to prayers that we pray more often!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.