Psalm 91 ends “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (verse 16). The previous verses have centered on deliverance and protection, as the entire psalm has asserted. But as we have seen in the last few weeks, this protection is not an escape from all hardship. Christians suffer. Many have been slain (consider Jesus himself). Therefore it is good to qualify the protection as ultimate protection. God will not let any ultimate evil befall you (Psalm 91:10). And verse 16 says this best.
“With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Well, Jim Elliot didn’t live that long, as John Piper explains. Matter of fact, Jesus wasn’t crucified as an old man. So what type of long life is God talking about? He is talking about the future resurrection. And there are at least two ways to see this. First, by understanding how the Book of Psalms talks. Second, by drilling down in verses 9–10.
How the Book of Psalms Talk
This is one way that the Book of Psalms speaks about the future resurrection of the righteous. Think back to Psalm 16:10, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” This psalm shows hope in God’s ultimate salvation, namely, being raised from the dead and brought into his presence forever (see Acts 2:22–32). That is the concept at work. Moreover, Psalm 16 begins to shape our ears to detect the same kind of hope elsewhere. This psalms is followed by Psalm 17:15, “when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” Again, a resurrection verse. The conceptual accent that comes through and over time we start to pick up on it.
Perhaps the best example comes in Psalm 116. Verses 3 show us danger: “The snares of death encompassed me” (Psalm 116:3). Hope seems lost. Death is encroaching. Distress abounds. But the psalmist calls out to God (Psalm 116:4). And God hears. “For you have delivered my soul from death,” the psalmist goes on to say (Psalm 116:8). Therefore, “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9). Now, when the psalmist says he was rescued from death, what does he mean? Does he mean he had a close call and God bailed him out? Perhaps he was rescued just this one time. I don’t think so. If that’s the case, his hope is temporary. And temporary hope isn’t really hope.
Notice the counterpart to him being delivered from death is that he will
“walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9). That is, rather than be overcome by death, this psalmist hopes in living in the presence of God in the “land of the living” (which isn’t Palestine). The psalmist hopes in the future resurrection of God’s people — when God will raise them up and bring them into his presence forever. (And this is how the apostle Paul interprets this passage in 2 Corinthians 4:13–18).
This has to do with Psalm 91 because we understand this psalm better when we can pick up on the way this entire book talks. There is a resurrection accent — a conceptual accent that stands out when we hear it.
Drilling Down on These Verses
“With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:16). The two clauses here in verse 16 should be read as explanations of one another. Long life is a parallel to salvation. God satisfies him with long life; God shows him his salvation.
So how is “long life” related to “salvation”?
I suggest, having our ears shaped by the book as a whole, that “long life” refers to ultimate salvation. That is, the long life with which God satisfies “him” (and us) is the resurrection that welcomes us into eternal, unceasing fellowship with God. Long life, conceptually, is the salvation God promises to all his saints. It doesn’t mean we grow old in this world, but that there is another world in which we will live forever. This is the vindication to which Jesus looked — the vindication that empowered him to humbly serve and suffer (Philippians 2:5–11; Hebrews 12:2; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). He was raised, and we will be raised with him (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).
Yes, hardships will come. You may even be killed for the sake of his name. But he will satisfy you with long life. If you are in Christ — “holding fast to God in love” — you will ultimately be delivered. The grave will not hold you. Death will not overcome you, for God is stronger and he has overcome death. That’s Psalm 91.