Meaning of “The Lord Is My Refuge and My Fortress” in Psalm 91:2

A photo of a seashore fortress city with sea water in the background and foreground
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. (Psalm 91:2, KJV)

We all experience fear, vulnerability, and isolation at times, which can leave us feeling hopeless and alone. Our faith in God may waver during such trying times. However, it is precisely in these difficult times that we find strength and comfort in God. In this article, we will discover how making the Lord our refuge and fortress helps us overcome our fears.

Psalm 91:2 reminds us that God is our refuge and fortress. It is a call to make the Most High God our refuge and fortress. It gives us hope that we will be safe in God’s arms, no matter what happens. It encourages us to always place our trust in God, no matter how safe or perilous our circumstances may be.

Before we delve into our current study, I would like to point out that this article is a continuation of our verse-by-verse study of Psalm 91. In our previous study, we discovered that God invites us to make Him our dwelling and abiding place in Psalm 91:1. I recommend reading that article in addition to this one to gain a deeper understanding of the message of Psalm 91.

In Psalm 91:2, the psalmist declares that God is his ultimate refuge and fortress, thereby affirming his faith and confidence in God. Let’s examine this beautiful Psalm and see what it teaches us about putting our trust in God.

“I Will Say of the Lord”

I Will Say of the Lord, He Is My Refuge And My Fortress | Image by Imtiyaz Quraishi

The psalmist begins by directly addressing God, saying, “I will say to the LORD.” This verbal declaration is an affirmation of the psalmist’s unwavering devotion to God. The psalmist’s direct address to God shows that he had a close and personal relationship with the Lord.

The phrase “I will say of the Lord” indicates that the psalmist isn’t just wishing to put his trust in the LORD, but is determined and committed to do so.

Psalm 91:2 is the psalmist’s heartfelt gratitude to God for all His love, care, and protection over his life. The psalmist is so convinced of God’s tender care and protection that he declares openly, freely, and directly his allegiance to Him.

Such a bold declaration, as found in Psalm 91:2, confirms that the psalmist’s exhortation to make God our dwelling and abiding place was a lived reality, not an abstract idea. The psalmist lived his life with a constant awareness of God’s presence in all aspects of his life.

What is the significance of the verbal affirmation of faith in Psalm 91:2?

Verbal faith affirmation is important because our words reflect our attitudes and beliefs about life and faith. Our mouths speak out of the conviction of our hearts. This is precisely what Christ meant when he said:

“…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45, KJV).

What we tell ourselves has such a powerful influence on our lives that it becomes ingrained in who we are. Consequently, our self-talk shapes and directs our lives. Paul was expressing the same principle to his Roman Christian audience when he wrote:

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10, KJV). 

The way we use our words has eternal ramifications. Our words are so powerful that the Bible describes them as having “the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). This is why we must be cautious about what we say to ourselves and others.

Affirming and declaring God’s truth with our lips builds our faith in Him, improves our retention of God’s word, and inspires those who hear us to follow the Lord. This is the essence of personal evangelism: to affirm one’s faith in God and to encourage others to do the same.

Having established the meaning of the phrase “I will say of the Lord,” we will move on to examine the meaning of “refuge and fortress” in Psalm 91.

“He Is My Refuge”

He Is My Refuge | Image by Heber Vazquez

In this section of the psalm, God is compared to a “refuge” and a “fortress” (Psalm 91:2). These are both images of strength and security. Let’s start with the first one: Refuge. But what exactly is a refuge?

In ancient biblical times, a refuge was a sanctuary of safety, offering protection from a variety of threats, such as rain, storms, extreme heat, and other dangers. At the time, refuges could be manmade structures like towers or naturally occurring features like caves or rocks.

In times of war, subdued soldiers would flee and seek refuge in “caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits” (1 Samuel 13:6, KJV).

The Psalms and the rest of the Bible repeatedly use the imagery of a refuge to refer to God. God is depicted as a rock, a fortress, a strong tower, a shield, and a place of refuge. In fact, Isaiah 25:4 refers to God as a “refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.” 

The table below lists some other places in the Bible where God is depicted as a refuge; however, this is not an exhaustive list.

List of Verses That Refer to God As a Refuge

Imagery UsedScripture Reference
God as refuge and strong towerPsalm 61:3
God as a hiding placePsalm 32:7
God as a fortified towerProverbs 18:10
God as refuge and strengthPsalm 46:1
God as refugePsalm 61:3
God as a rock and mighty towerPsalm 18:2
God as strength and shieldPsalm 28:7
God as the a strongholdJeremiah 16:19
Fig. 1 Table of Verses that Mention God as a Refuge

All of the verses in the table above show that the word “refuge” is frequently used to describe God Himself, who is the ultimate refuge for His people. The verses teach us that God is our ultimate protector and defender. He is our refuge, a place where we can go to be safe and protected.

The psalmist has complete faith that God will keep him safe from any threat because he has made God his refuge.

He Is… My Fortress

He Is My Fortress | Photo by Diego F. Parra

In Biblical times, fortresses were built around cities to protect them from invading armies. These impregnable fortified cities were sometimes referred to as “fenced” cities.

The ancient Near East’s cities were fortified with massive walls. The ancients invested heavily in building thick walls to protect and secure their cities. The thicker the wall, the stronger and more secure it was.

When an invading army besieged a city, those who lived outside its walls fled inside to seek refuge from the pursuing enemy troops.

The psalmist applies the image of a fortress to God. He portrays God as an impregnable fortress that safeguards the faithful from harm. In doing so, the psalmist presents God as the ultimate Defender and Deliverer.

The imagery of a fortress is used to represent God’s protective care for His people several times in the Bible. For example, in Psalm 125:2, we read that God is “round about” His people, just as Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains:

As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. (Psalm 125:2, KJV)

This verse compares the protection of God to the protection provided by the mountainous region surrounding Jerusalem. In reality, it was God who protected them from their enemies, not the surrounding mountains.

Once more, their attention is drawn away from the mountains and toward God, their refuge and fortress. God was orchestrating and directing events from behind the scenes so that His people could enjoy times of peace and prosperity. So, neither their location nor their fortifications kept them safe; rather, it was God who was protecting them.

The Israelites enjoyed periods of peace and security, however brief, not because they were surrounded by mountains, but because of God’s mercy, love, and willingness to protect them.

When the psalmist refers to God as his fortress, he is expressing his trust that the Lord will keep him safe from all harm.

My God”

The phrase “my God” as used in this verse denotes the psalmist’s close relationship with God. It meant that, in addition to seeing God as a national God (God of Israel), the psalmist saw Him as His personal God. So, by using phrase “my God” the psalmist paints a picture of an up close and personal God who is concerned about his personal safety and well-being. He is not distant God. He’s a God who is near. He is “my God.”

“In Him Will I Trust”

In Him Will I Trust | Image by Kelvin Valerio

The Hebrew word for trust in this verse is evtach, which can be translated as “rely on” or “depend on.” It follows then that the phrase “in Him will I trust” means that the psalmist believes that God is reliable and dependable. He is expressing complete trust in God for protection and deliverance.

The phrase “in Him will I trust” also implies that the psalmist has complete faith in God’s ability to provide for him in any situation.

Maybe a little biblical background will clarify the above meaning.

At the time when Psalm 91 was written, the most advanced military artillery in the Ancient Near East consisted of iron chariots, war horses, swords, spears, and arrows. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament records that:

“Chariots and horses were prestigious weapons in ancient Near Eastern warfare, and kings often measured military capacity in these terms (cf. Judg. 4:3; 1 Kings 4:26; 9:17 – 19). For this reason, multiplying them was regarded in the Old Testament as an act of misplaced trust (Deut. 17:16). It was Yahweh, not military technology and numbers, who was to be the confidence of Israel in battle.”

The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the Old Testament

The people of God invested less in military might than their neighbors. They saw no reason to invest in weapons because God’s protection was sufficient. This is why the psalmist sang:

“Some trust in chariots and others in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  (Psalm 20:7, NIV)

So far in our study of Psalm 91:2, we have discovered that God is worthy of our trust and allegiance because He is dependable and trustworthy. Others may place their trust in their abilities, resources, and connections, but God’s protection is sufficient for us.

Psalm 91:2 as a whole is a powerful declaration of trust in the LORD. This trust is based on the psalmist’s knowledge of God’s character and faithfulness. His use of refuge and fortress metaphors shows his familiarity with God’s faithfulness. The psalmist’s faith in God is not founded on his own strength or abilities, but on God’s faithfulness and strength. It’s an assurance that God will keep us safe no matter what comes our way.

This conclusion is consistent with the overall theme of Psalm 91, which is about God’s protection of his people from various threats. Psalm 91 describes how God protects His people from a variety of threats, including the fowler’s snare, pestilence, night terror, plague, sword, lion, and even adder.

In an uncertain and insecure world, we can confidently declare, as the Psalmist did, “I will put my trust in Him.” God is the object and subject of our trust and confidence in all circumstances.

Reflections on Psalm 91:2

In an age when the timeless truths of God’s word are often dismissed as subjective, we need the psalmist’s steadfast courage and unwavering confidence. The key to such courage is to cultivate a vibrant and intimate relationship with God. We must first cultivate a living faith and a close relationship with Him before we can confidently declare Him to be our God.

We have the courage and strength to be witnesses of God’s goodness because of this close relationship with God. For this reason, we will not be afraid to share our faith with the rest of the world, and, like David, we will be able to declare confidently, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress.”

When God is our refuge and fortress, we live with a consciousness of His presence, love, and protection. Those who have wholeheartedly devoted themselves to God are the ones who can effectively serve as His witnesses, leading souls into His kingdom. Their efforts and testimonies naturally come from loving hearts. These individuals maintain a steadfast and unbreakable connection with God, drawing their daily strength from Him.

The Bible is replete with accounts of God’s people facing adversity and seeking His help. This is illustrated by the stories of Job, the children of Israel during the exodus, Esther’s story, Daniel in the lion’s den, and many others. These people cried out to God in their most difficult times, and He always stood by their side, offering His help and guidance.

There will be days when fear grips us due to the threats of war, terrorism, wildfires, and natural disasters, but amid life’s turmoil, we can seek refuge in God.

When adversity strikes us like a flood, we can be confident that God will shield us from both physical and spiritual harm. God is our unassailable refuge. God has protected us in the past, He is protecting us now, and He will continue to protect us in the future.

When the psalmist was in trouble, he sought help from God. Where do you go when you are troubled? Do you ever seek God’s help in times of trouble? Have you made God your ultimate refuge and fortress?

Takeaway from Psalm 91:2

So far, we’ve seen that the central theme of Psalm 91 is God’s protection of His people. This is a timely and vital message for believers in the twenty-first century. In this day and age, we face formidable challenges that frequently put our faith in God to the test. Our daily news feeds are flooded with reports of war, incurable diseases, crime, and a slew of other issues that make us fearful for the future. Psalm 91 is a constant reminder that God is still supreme over the universe. Nothing takes Him by surprise.

Psalm 91:2 is a lovely and reassuring reminder of God’s love and care for His people. Nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from God because we are safe in His hands (Romans 8:35-39; John 10:28-29). We will find security, comfort, and rest when we seek refuge in God.

God’s presence surrounds us like a fortified city to protect us from harm. To dwell in God’s presence is to be in the safest place in the universe.

When we trust God, He strengthens our faith so that it can withstand all of life’s trials, no matter how severe they are. God is our refuge and escape from the world’s chaos, violence, and disasters.

Rachel G. Hackenberg beautifully captures the essence of trusting in God in a poem inspired by Psalm 91. She writes:

I ask not to stand on the Rock but to shelter beneath; not to soar in bloom but to root in faith; not to wander but to abide forever.

Rachel G. Hackenberg

Will you turn to God as your refuge and fortress? Will you abide forever? Will you put your faith in Him today? May God help us to choose Him above all else.

So, what does Psalm 91:2 mean?

Psalm 91:2 uses the metaphors of refuge and fortress to convey God’s reliability and dependability in protecting His faithful. The refuge metaphor represents dependability, whereas the fortress metaphor represents reliability. When you make God your refuge and fortress by trusting Him, you are assured of His dependable protection.

7 Ways to Apply the Message of Psalm 91:2 to Our Lives

1. Resolve to Make God Your Refuge and Fortress

Choose to become a genuine disciple of God, both in your speech and actions. This deliberate choice prepares your mind and heart to receive and fully embrace God’s blessings for your life. Committing to follow God not only makes you open to His guidance, but it also allows Him to use you for His divine purposes.

2. Cultivate An Awareness of God’s Presence in Your Daily Life

Cultivate a perpetual awareness of God’s presence throughout your daily life. Maintain an unbroken connection with Him, recognizing His influence in your everyday experiences. Stay mindful of His unwavering presence, knowing that God is ever close, just a prayer away. Turn to Him whenever you face adversity, seeking His guidance and assistance. Welcome His active participation in your everyday struggles.

3. Develop a Close and Personal Relationship With God

The psalmist in Psalm 91:2 referred to God as “My God.” This signified that his relationship with God was close and personal. It means he enjoyed daily communion with God. You too can experience the same. Make it your goal to commune with God through prayer and Bible study.

4. Believe That God Will Protect Your from All Threats

Have faith that God will protect you from all known and unknown threats. Firmly establish in your heart that God is completely dependable and faithful, and that He is fully committed to protecting you as He promised. Let go of any doubts or reservations about His care and protection in your life.

5. Always Turn to God in Times of Trouble or peace; He Is Sufficient

Seeking God’s help should be your first and last resort, whether you are confronting challenges or enjoying moments of peace. Our natural inclination is often to rely on our own abilities rather than on God. We typically seek God’s help as a last resort when all else fails. Other times, we may opt to keep our struggles private due to fear of vulnerability or betrayal if we share them with friends. When looking for solutions, some may find it tempting to turn to practices that contradict the Christian faith, such as the dark arts (black magic, witchcraft, etc.). Another concern is that during times of peace and prosperity, we tend to neglect our spiritual duty and our relationship with God.

God should always be your first and last resort in all circumstances. Consistently seek God’s guidance, both in turbulent times and moments of tranquility. He is sufficient.

6. Be Bold and Courageous In Your Witness for God

The psalmist was bold in declaring his faith in God. Likewise, step out in faith and share the truth of God’s word with your neighbors and friends. Share your personal testimonies about how God has kept you safe even in the most dangerous situations. By sharing God’s word and your testimony, you inspire others to seek refuge in God and to experience His love and salvation as you have. You share biblical truths to help others find hope, forgiveness, and eternal life. However, it’s important to note that being bold and courageous in sharing one’s faith must be done with respect, humility, and a willingness to listen to others. Boldness should not be confused with aggression or intolerance. Christians are called to emulate Christ’s love and grace for all in everything they do.

7. Read Bible Accounts of People Who Overcame Adversity for Inspiration

Reading biblical accounts of people who overcame adversity can be a great source of inspiration and motivation in your Christian walk. Read about the biblical characters Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samson, David, and Esther who overcame insurmountable obstacles and emerged victorious. As you read these stories, consider how each individual’s faith, resilience, and trust in God played a pivotal role in their ability to overcome adversity. Reflect on how their experiences can inspire and strengthen your own Christian walk and faith. Remember that, like these biblical figures, you too can find hope, purpose, and transformation through your faith in God, even in the face of adversity.

Prayer Inspired by Psalm 91:2

Lord, teach me to trust you 
even when everything around me
is falling apart.
Keep me safe from harm and peril,
and make me a constant
witness to your
loving care and protection.

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Next Posts in Psalm 91 Message Series

Who Wrote Psalm 91 and Other Frequently Asked Questions | A Brief Overview

What Does It Mean to Dwell in the Secret Place of the Most High? | Psalm 91:1 Breakdown

What is the Meaning of the “Snare of the Fowler” and “Noisome Pestilence”? | Psalm 91:3 Breakdown

What is the Meaning of “God Will Cover You and Shield You”? | Psalm 91:4 Breakdown

What Is the Meaning of “Terror by Night” and “Arrow that Flies by Day? Psalm 91:5 Breakdown