The Lord Is My Refuge and My Fortress–Meaning of Psalm 91:2

In this post, we'll look at what the psalmist meant when he described God as his refuge and fortress. The psalmist made God his fortress and refuge in the midst of his struggles and hardships in a perilous wilderness. I pray that as we study this portion of the psalm, we will discover how to make God our refuge and eternal fortress in this perilous world.

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)

There are times when we all feel afraid. Times when it seems like the darkness is closing in around us and that we are all alone. In those moments, it is easy to lose faith and courage. But even in the most difficult moments, we can find refuge and strength in God.

Psalm 91:2 is a great reminder of why God is our refuge and fortress. It gives us confidence that no matter what happens, we are safe in the Lord’s hands. Let’s take a closer look at this beautiful Psalm and see what it teaches us about trusting in God.

In the previous post of our Psalm 91 series, we discovered that God invites us to make Him our dwelling and abiding place. That is, we must always trust God, regardless of how safe or hostile our current circumstances are.

Psalm 91:2 describes how we should respond to the psalmist’s declaration and invitation to live under the protection of the Most High in Psalm 91:1. Psalm 91:2 expresses the author’s trust in God as his ultimate refuge and fortress.

The Meaning of the Phrase “I Will Say of the Lord” In Psalm 91:2

In Psalm 91, the psalmist declares his unwavering devotion to God. He makes a verbal pledge that starts with the words, “I will say.” This is a declaration of deep gratitude for God’s love, care, and protection upon the psalmist.

The psalmist is so convinced of God’s tender care and protection that he openly declares his allegiance to Him.

The words “I will say of the Lord” demonstrates the psalmist’s unflinching devotion to God. Such a declaration confirms that the psalmist’s experience of dwelling in God’s presence was a lived reality, not an abstract concept. He was a man who was constantly aware of the presence of God in his life.

The psalmist declares, “I will say to the Lord.” Why is verbal affirmation of faith important? 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. Thus, our self-belief and self-talk shape and direct our lives. This was also the viewpoint of the apostle Paul, who said,  

"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 what we say to ourselves and others.

Affirming and declaring God’s truth with our lips strengthens our faith in Him, enhances 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.

The psalmist hopes that by declaring God’s truth to the listeners, they will join him in living out and proclaiming God’s truth.

But what about the people with special needs? What about the deaf and mute?  How can they express their faith and trust in God?

Mute and deaf people have their own language as well. They, too, have the ability to declare their faith in God and bear witness to the world. They can “show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” in their own way and language (1 Peter 2:9).

Having given the meaning of the phrase “I will say of the Lord,” we will now attempt to answer the question: what does the phrase “the Lord is my refuge and fortress” mean?

The Meaning of “The Lord Is My Refuge” In Psalm 91:2

In this section of the psalm, God is compared to a “refuge” and a “fortress” (Psalm 91:2). 

But what exactly is a refuge?

In biblical times, a refuge was a place of safety from rain, storms, heat, and danger. A refuge could be man-made, such as a tower, or natural, such as a cave or a rock shadow. 

In the heat of the war the defeated armies would seek refuge in “caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits” (1 Samuel 13:6, KJV).

In fact, Isaiah 25:4 refers to God as a “refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.” 

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.

The table below lists some other places in the Bible where God is portrayed as a refuge; however, it should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list.

List of Verses That Refer to God As a Refuge

Imagery UsedScripture Reference
My Refuge and strong TowerPsalm 61:3
My Hiding PlacePsalm 32:7
Fortified TowerProverbs 18:10
Refuge and StrengthPsalm 46:1
God of Jacob is our refugePsalm 61:3
My Rock, My High towerPsalm 18:2
Strength and ShieldPsalm 28:7
StrongholdJeremiah 16:19
Fig. 1 Table of Verses that Mention God as a Refuge

The overarching theme in all of the above verses is that God is the ultimate protector and defender.

The Bible is replete with stories about God’s people who faced adversity and turned to God for help. God was always present to help them, even in the most difficult circumstances.

As we go through life, we will encounter situations in which all hope appears to be lost. There will be days when we are overcome by fear as a result of the dangers we face, such as war, terrorism, wildfires, and natural disasters, but we can find refuge in God.

In a world filled with dangers that seek to destroy our faith, God is our refuge. We need not fear because God is our refuge and He is ready to help us in times of need. 

When the psalmist was in trouble, he always sought refuge in God. Where do you go when you are troubled? Do you seek God’s help? Is God your ultimate refuge?

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.

The Meaning of “He Is My Fortress” In Psalm 91:2

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

The thicker the wall was, the more secure it was. When an invading army besieged a city, those who lived outside its walls fled and sought refuge within to avoid the pursuing enemy troops.

The psalmist picks the fortress figure and applies it to God. He portrays God as an impregnable fortress that surrounds us to shield us from danger. By doing so, the psalmist depicts God as the ultimate Defender and Deliverer.

This is not the only instance in the Bible where the imagery of a fortress is used to represent God’s protective care for His people. In Psalm 125:2 we read that God is “round about” His people 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)

The Israelites were safe not because of the mountainous terrain, but because of God’s covenants. Through his presence and promises, God protects and surrounds His people, just as Jerusalem was surrounded by mountains.

In the New Testament, God is once again depicted as a shield and defender. The apostle Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:4-5 that we have “an inheritance that cannot perish” as a result of Christ’s sacrificial death.

According to Peter, this imperishable inheritance is preserved for those “who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:4-5, KJV)

True, God is our refuge and fortress until the “coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed.” 1 Peter 1:4-5 reminds us that God is still saving his people in the here and now, prior to their final deliverance.

The Meaning of “My God; In Him Will I Trust” In Psalm 91:2

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, in contrast to their neighbors, made fewer investments in military might. God’s protection was sufficient, so they saw no reason to invest in weapons. The psalmist explained this earlier in the book of Psalms:

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

According to Psalm 91:2, God deserves our trust and allegiance because He is dependable and trustworthy. As the psalmist puts it, others may place their trust in their abilities, means, and connections, but God is sufficient security for us.

In an unpredictable and insecure world, we can confidently declare with the Psalmist, “I will put my trust in Him.” God must be the object and subject of our trust and confidence in all circumstances.

Takeaway

Thus far, we’ve seen that Psalm 91’s central theme is God’s protection of His people. This is a timely and important theme for believers in the twenty-first century. In this day and age, we, too, are faced with insurmountable challenges that call into question our belief in God.

Our daily news feeds are inundated with reports of war, incurable diseases, crime, and a variety of other issues that fill us with dread for the future. Psalm 91 serves as a constant reminder that God is still supremely in control of the universe. Nothing takes Him by surprise.

Psalm 91:2 is a beautiful and comforting reminder of God’s love and care for His people. God is omnipresent, which means He is everywhere, and if we seek refuge in Him, He will be with us in all circumstances.

Like a fortified city, God’s presence surrounds us 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 will fortify our faith so that it can withstand all of life’s trials, regardless their severity. God is our refuge and escape from the chaos, violence, and disasters of this world.

Nothing and no one can ever separate us from God because we are safe in His hands (Romans 8:35–39; John 10:28–29). When we seek refuge in God, we will find security, comfort, and rest. 

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 put your faith in Him today? May God help us to choose Him above all else.

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.

Other Posts in the Psalm 91 Series You Might Like:

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

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

The purpose of this blog is to provide biblical answers to frequently asked questions about God, the Christian faith, and life in general. It is our hope that your faith in God will be strengthened as you read the biblical insights presented on this blog.

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