When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, the enemy slithered in close to Jesus’ ear and uttered something that should send a shiver down our spines. His words are shocking. They’re shocking because they are actually God’s words. He proves that not only is he familiar with the biblical storyline, but it seems that he has also committed portions of it to memory. He quoted Psalm 91:11-12. In verse six, he said, “for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
Now he leaves out a portion of those verses. It actually reads, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up…” But this isn’t why he mishandled Scripture. Often times even the NT authors use Scripture liberally. No, the danger here is in the fact that he misapplied the verses.
The Psalm is referring to the people of God who trust in him to deliver them, not to putting a test before him to see if he would do so. Let’s look at Psalm 91.
“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” (vv. 1-2)…
“Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent…. (vv.9-10).
“When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” (v. 15).
When rightly applied, it means that God will help those who love and trust him. He will help them when trouble comes. It doesn’t mean that we should go out and do something crazy–like jumping off a building–in order to see if God will protect us. That wouldn’t be trusting in him; it would be putting him to the test precisely because you’re not sure if he is trustworthy. That’s why Jesus responded, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Be careful in how you apply Scripture.