He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Life can be difficult. Job describes it as “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” In Matthew 7, our Lord refers to the fact that “the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew.” The Apostle Paul refers briefly to his life in II Corinthians 4:8-9. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” Each of our lives are confronted by financial challenges, the need for job security, our physical safety and the uncertainties of our health. We live moment by moment in an uncertain world. We are given one heart beat and one breath at a time. We are tempted to live in fear of the certainties of life (deteriorating health and eventual physical death) as well as its uncertainties. Our Lord, however, has not left us without a compass to chart our path through this life. One of the verses that I have learned to continually look to as a compass is Psalm 91:1. In this verse we find six key words that are profitable to consider. They are as follows: dwelleth, secret place, Most High, abide, shadow and Almighty.
The first word for evaluation is “Most High.” In Hebrew the word is “El Elyon.” This is the name by which Abram encountered the LORD in Genesis 14:20.
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor
of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
It was El Elyon (God Most High) who enabled Abram and his band of 318 men to destroy four foreign armies and bring back captives and plunder. It was El Elyon (God Most High) who was referred to in Daniel 4:34-35 as follows “but he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off his hand or say to Him, “what hast thou done?” The Most High (El Elyon) is the name by which God has made known to us that He is the sovereign controller of everything in the universe. No angel, no demon, no person, and no circumstance can affect our lives without the permission of our Father’s perfect love. It was this understanding of God that enabled Paul to write in Romans 8:38-39. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Most High is the one who Psalm 139:3 tells us has charted the path before us and tells us where to stop and rest.” He is the One who communicates to us in verse 16. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” This refers not only to the number of days, but also to what each day brings our way. It is our Heavenly Father’s certain control over all the uncertainties of our world that creates the foundation for peace in our lives.
What is the secret place (KJV) to which the psalmist refers? (Shelter in the NIV) Although we all need a secret place to which we go when we meet with the Lord, I think the reference here is not to a physical location. Rather, it refers to an attitude of the heart and mind. For some, it may be that of praise, or to others of worship. For many, it may be a secret place in which we give thanks in everything. (I Thessalonians 5:18) It may also be a secret place of trust in the Most High, when everything around us is cloudy and uncertain. This trust is described in Isaiah 50:10. “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.”
The third word “dwelleth” is the one I find most arresting and challenging. We are all familiar with the devotional “7 minutes with God.” It is a useful beginning to our Christian walk, but if that is all we have, the rest of the day we may be in deep trouble. To dwell means that we cannot leave the chamber of our time with the Lord. We need to take with us that attitude of mind toward the Most High that enables us to trust , to give thanks, to praise and to worship continually. “Trust in Him at all times, O people.” (Psalm 62) If we, by His Grace, are enabled to do this, then we shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
The Almighty (El Shaddai) first revealed Himself by this name to Abram in Genesis 17:1-2. “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); walk before Me, and be blameless. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.” Kay Arthur in her book “To Know Him by Name” relates that Andrew Jukes defines the name as follows: “The thought expressed in the name “Shaddai” describes power; but it is the power, not of violence, but of all bountifulness.” Parkhurst explains the name-”Shaddai, one of the Divine titles, meaning the Pourer or Shedder forth, that is of blessings, temporal and spiritual.” El Shaddai is the one who will wrap His arms around you in tenderness, providing His comfort and His power to abundantly supply more than we need, ask, or expect.
We all experience being affected by shadows, or in this case under a shadow. We walk under the shadow of trees, of buildings and occasionally at higher altitudes, may experience a shadow of a cloud. It always gives us a sense of nearness, and may provide some protection from the sun or perhaps other elements of nature. The use of the word shadow in this verse gives us the understanding of One who is hovering directly over us, shielding us from harm and manifesting His nearness to us.
The word abide is also translated as to continue, or to remain. It implies stability and safety. It connotes the picture of having needs met, and a position from which one could draw up nourishment.
Such is the picture that our Heavenly Father paints for us in this verse. His love extends to everything that affects our lives, and He assures us of His presence and protection during each second of our lives. But do we live in the power and comfort of His words? We are enabled to do so, if we dwell in the secret place (of trust, thankfulness and praise) of the Most High. We are then assured that we can abide under the shadow of the Almighty.