Sunday 22 March 2020


Does Psalm 91 offer absolute protection for believers from the coronavirus pandemic which is sweeping across the globe?   

Recently, some leaders have come up with teaching videos expounding on the above psalm, asserting that believers are safe and secure from the viral pandemic if they trust in Psalm 91.

Do you believe that Psalm 91:1-7 (please see below) is the appropriate believer's response to this pandemic and that we are immune to the virus based on the promises found in this psalm?
1. Yes
2. No.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you
(Psalm 91:1-7)

At the outset, it must be pointed out that in the Psalms are found some of the most loved passages in the Bible for they portray the full gamut of human emotions, from grief and despair to hope and victory. The psalmist expresses himself freely whether he is in joyful worship, envious of the wicked, depressed and forlorn, or when he asks God to act on his behalf against his enemies (imprecation). He shows his true colours in all these experiences, which are all recorded for us to read and appreciate.

Now, our natural human reaction in this viral pandemic, as believers, is to turn to God. And what better way to do it than through the psalms … for through it, we find our emotions resonating with the psalmist’s helplessness in troubled times and how he found comfort, security and refuge in God. For in the psalms is a most significant theme: Man’s dependence upon God in times of crisis and God’s ability to deliver. This is partly because many of the psalms were written by King David, who faced many trials not only because of his enemies but also as a result of his disobedience.

So when believers tell us that the Holy Spirit is speaking comfort and security to them through Psalm 91 in this pandemic, we certainly do not belittle them or discount the reality of their experience. Surely, God can speak to believers who choose to spend time in spiritual intimacy with Him through scriptures. This Psalm 91 can even be a rhema word, a soothing balm, to believers who are gripped by fear and anxiety over the virus.

Having said that, caution must prevail lest we use this Psalm 91 as an amulet or formula against the coronavirus or, for that matter, anything bad that might befall the believer … be it disease, accident, earthquake, retrenchment, or premature death. 

In a fallen world, there is no guarantee that believers will only receive “good things” from God in our temporal life. Job was a righteous and upright man. Yet, he was afflicted with disease and suffered great losses in his finances and through the death of his family members. His friends attributed it to hidden sin in his life. But this was subsequently disproved. God vindicated Job in the eyes of his friends by showing them they were wrong (Job 42:7) and blessing Job manifold (Job 42:10). People can be so simplistic like Job’s friends, thinking that the reason for personal misfortune is sin and that blessings follow good people.

To assert that good people (faithful believers) can only receive good things from God and that no evil can ever befall them is only a half-truth. If believers hold on to the promise in Psalm 91–that God will absolutely protect them for the coronavirus–and then experience bad things in life, they may become disillusioned with God and might even give up the faith. 

A half-truth is nothing but a lie, which gives a false sense of security.

A case in point is the fact that the first victim from coronavirus in Malaysia is a 60-year-old pastor. Furthermore, the spouse of a pastor and two fellow church members of a megachurch in Petaling Jaya (a city near Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia), were found to be positive for the virus.

The virus knows no race, religion, social class or political affiliation. It's not a question of how godly/faithful we are.

Psalm 91 (protection from plagues) is descriptive of the psalmist's experience once upon a time. But it is not necessarily prescriptive for believers now. Do not turn an experience long ago into a doctrine for all time.

Psalm 91 offers no absolute guarantee against the coronavirus … or whatever plagues, pestilences, diseases, terrors, evil or bad things.

In a fallen world, there is no definite correlation between holiness and temporal blessings though the latter often follow those who are faithful (Proverbs 22:4). God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45).

From Hebrews 11:35 till the end of the chapter, we see a dramatic shift in the fate of the heroes of faith. Instead of experiencing fulfilled promises and victories, they had to go through horrendous suffering, trials and persecution.

The apostles encouraged believers to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).

Jesus taught His disciples: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).

Evil people may prosper and enjoy good health whereas the righteous can be stricken by poverty or disease …and even die prematurely (Psalm 73:11-14). Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Isn't it true that it's only in heaven we will have no more tears and suffering? Isn't it simplistic to claim Psalm 91 as our security blanket?

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). God does not promise to take us out of the storm. He merely promises to be with us and be our strength and comfort in the storm.

Daniel’s three friends were sent to the fiery furnace by the King for their refusal to worship the golden image. Though they were not spared from the fire, God was with the faithful young men.

We cannot take Psalm 91 in isolation and build a flimsy theology of absolute security against the virus. We can only come to a proper understanding of the truth by comparing scripture with scripture and by dwelling on the whole counsel of God’s word (Acts 20:27).

And that brings me to the next point, which is cherry picking, a favourite practice of false teachers, who like to construct a comforting, ear-tickling doctrine from selected verses or passages … in this instance, Psalm 91.

If we are not careful, we can pick on certain passages and concoct a doctrine for our own ends. In Matthew 4:5-7, the temptation in the wilderness, the Devil ironically quoted this same Psalm 91 (verses 11-12), urging Jesus to jump down from a great height:
"For He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways
On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone."
But did Jesus act according to this psalm? No. Thus it is possible to quote selected scriptures inappropriately, like Satan, to the exclusion of other scriptures.  

We have seen both from the Old Testament and New Testament why good people are not necessarily shielded from pestilences and pain (read coronavirus).

Is everything in Psalms relevant today? In Psalm 69:22-28, David pronounced curses on his enemies (imprecation), like a witch doctor. Do we then follow his example as eagerly as we would claim Psalm 91 as relevant to us?

No, the apostle Paul in the NT teaches that we must repay no one evil for evil but live peaceably with all men (Romans 12: 17-18).

We cannot allow the psalmist’s actions/experiences to dictate the way we live if there are relevant scriptures in the NT that show us otherwise. The new supersedes the old. 

To assert that Psalm 91 gives believers the licence to claim a protective umbrella against the coronavirus is far-fetched and too good to be true ... not only in light of the whole counsel of God’s word but also in light of what happens in reality (even faithful church members are not spared of the disease).

To find strength and comfort in the Psalm 91 as we seek God in prayer is one thing (positive). To claim absolute security against the virus based on the same Psalm is another kettle of fish (negative). The latter is a half-truth, which gives a false sense of security. 

In these tumultuous times, we must not be overcome by fear, anxiety and trepidation over the viral pandemic that we lose sight of our calling and spiritual focus. In particular, we need to pray for the front line personnel who are working hard to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus.

Apart from faith, we need to have common sense: Wear good, well-fitted masks, practise social distancing and frequent hand washing; stay at home and use technology to come together for teaching and fellowship (videos, live streaming, apps like Zoom).

If we move around freely, thinking nothing is amiss (we are safe from the virus on the basis of Psalm 91), we are endangering ourselves apart from being socially irresponsible. Many cases are asymptomatic in the early stage of the disease and thus spread the virus to vulnerable groups, like the elderly, those with weak immunity and those with concomitant illnesses.

Let us now review the question at the beginning of this post:
Do you believe that Psalm 91:1-7 (please see below) is the appropriate believer's response to this pandemic and that we are immune to the virus based on the promises found in this psalm?
1. Yes
2. No.

Answer: Psalm 91 alone cannot be used in isolation as a believer’s proper response to the viral pandemic but the whole counsel of scriptures. No, we cannot claim (on the basis of Psalm 91) absolute immunity to the virus as it knows no race, religion, social class or political affiliation. It's not a question of how godly/faithful we are.


Sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom so that you know He is the Rock at the bottom.

God is interested in transforming believers into His image more than anything else. As such, He places our comfort secondary to the change He wants to bring about in our lives. This goal of personal transformation is achieved, to a large extent, through trials.

When believers go through trials and tribulations, it is natural to ask God, “Why? Why does this have to happen to me?” In some instances, God remains silent and fails to grant us relief from our suffering.

The trouble with most of us (believers) is that we tend to skip verses which are harsh and challenging but cling on to scriptures that comfort and bless us. By doing so, we miss out on the truth, which can only be attained by studying and meditating on the WHOLE counsel of God's word.  




Is that so?

1 comment:

  1. The cases of Malaysian and Singaporean Christians being stricken by Covid-19 should cause a rethink of our understanding and application of Ps. 91, and the ' name it, declare it and claim it' theology so prevalent in some Christian theological circles. As always sound exegesis and balanced application are needed. Having said that, our God is still the Sovereign, Supernatural and Miraculous One. One can extend the application to the ministry of healing today as well. We do not doubt His ability (cf. Eph. 3.20) but we must certainly submit to His sovereign purposes in all matters. Blessings. Brother Ooi Chin Aik, an evangelist.