You Will Not Fear (Psalm 91:5-6)

You Will Not Fear (Psalm 91:5-6)

Psalm 91:5-6 “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.”

Silent and invisible threats strike terror in our hearts.

Terror by night. We are often like children afraid of the dark. We hear things we can’t see. Things happen around us that we don’t know about. If we hear things at night we become afraid in a way that we don’t when we hear the same sounds during the day. Whether we have a family or we live alone, we all have times when we are the only one awake and we are left alone with our thoughts in the dark, and our imagination powerfully spins us in a seemingly endless cycle of anxiety and worry. Whether real or imagined; threats, anxiety, fear and terror comes too easily in the dark. Terror, dread and fear in the night is evidence of the brokenness of this world. Why else would an infant wake up crying and shaking with what even the medical community refers to as “Night Terrors”. (1) As we lay unconscious in bed asleep our minds become more sensitive to the fact that we face threats in this world, so we have nightmares. And sometimes those thoughts and images chase us into wakefulness.

The arrow that flies by day. The text doesn’t specify that arrow is coming from a known or unknown source. Since the text only mentions the arrow and not the archer I believe there’s an implication of a surprise attack, a sniper. Some commentators believe that this is referring to exposure to the elements, in other words sunstroke (cf. Psalm 121:6). (2) Whether actual or metaphorical arrows, sunlight can lead to self-deception that we know all the threats we face when we don’t. Daytime can easily become metaphorically dark. Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Paul describes the present condition of the world we live in, whether night or day, as, “this present darkness.” Don’t be deceived by daylight. As an unexpected arrow flies through the sunlit sky toward our hearts it pulls a shade behind it and the light quickly turns to darkness.

Pestilence stalks in darkness. Pestilence was mentioned in verse 3 as well. Psalm 78:50 translates the same word as “plague”. It could also be translated as “scourge”. Webster’s dictionary defines pestilence as a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating. (3) Pestilence can be used to describe anything that afflicts, but here it seems to contrast the human attack. Verses 5-6 appear to be spanning the range of threats we face, from human to viral. And virus symptoms get worse at night. It’s an enemy that feels like it is stalking us. Again, the text gives the sense that this is an unknown attacker, a stalker.

Destruction that wastes at noonday. The text has the marks of a synonymous parallel: First, “terror by night,” further explained as, “pestilence that stalks in darkness.” Second, “arrow that flies by day,” further explained as, “destruction that wastes at noonday.” Whether nightmares, human attackers, illness, or natural disasters. We face many fearful things in this world.

In verse 2 the psalmist confidently proclaimed his personal trust in God in the first person “I” and “My”. Verses 3-13 are all declarations and proclamations of what God will do to the second person singular “You”. Whether preaching to himself or to his reader this passage encourages us not to be afraid. Our courage to face fearful things rests in the God who rules over all things. Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Don’t fear terror, arrow, pestilence or destruction. Christ has overcome them all. If we have forgiveness for our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, though we face trouble in this world, our souls are eternally safe with Him and He will calm our fears. This brings to mind 1 Peter 3:6, where Peter is encouraging sisters in Christ to trust God in the midst of frightening circumstances: “if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” If we have God as our God through His gracious provision of His Son, we don’t need to be afraid of things that frighten, scare, harm, terrorize or stalk us in this world. Our souls are eternally safe by the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our hearts are weak and poor, and we often tremble with fear in this world, but we can have courage to not be afraid of frightening things, because God has saved us from the most frightening thing we face, His wrath for our sins. In Christ God works all things together for good for His people (Romans 8:28); all things, even terror, arrows, pestilence and destruction. What a promise! You will not fear.

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand;
Imprison me within Thine arms and strong shall be my hand.

My heart is weak and poor until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure, it varies with the wind;
It cannot freely move till Thou hast wrought its chain,
Enslave it with Thy matchless love, and death-less it shall reign.

My will is not my own till Thou hast made it Thine;
If it would reach the monarch’s throne it must its crown resign;
It only stands unbent, amid the clashing strife,
When on Thy bosom it has leant and found in Thee its life. (4)

1. “Sleep Terrors (Night Terrors)” posted by Mayo Clinic. Last accessed March 24, 2020:
2. Tate, Marvin E. Psalms 51-100, Word Biblical Commentary Volume 20 (Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 1990), 454
3. Last accessed March 24, 2020: 
4. The hymn, Make Me a Captive, Lord by George Matheson (1842-1906).