I love our sunny warm winters in the desert southwest. Occasionally, we receive a winter storm that drops the temperature and brings valley rain and snow in the mountains. Last week, we had two winter storms that brought snow to parts of the valley and covered the mountains surrounding Tucson. The snow on the mountains is beautiful, but I was grateful for the warm-up on Friday!
During cold, wintery weather, a warm and trusted home is a secure blessing. But to receive the blessings of your secure home, you must trust its construction and stay inside during storms—sleeping in the backyard during a winter storm is a bit foolish! I began a series last week titled, “Under His Shadow,” looking at the promises of Psalm 91 that offer confident faith and hope to God’s people. To receive the blessings of the promises of this Psalm, or any promise in God’s Word, you must confidently trust God, his promises, and remain in him.
Following Jesus positions you in God’s secure care and shelter. Psalm 91 describes the security and confidence believers can enjoy through their faith in Christ. Psalm 91 describes a confident trust God’s people can have in an uncertain, and at times, evil world. Suffering happens in this life, but we can remain secure in Jesus—he is our hope and the anchor of our salvation! Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith—he has the last word—always!
A word the Lord has put on my heart for 2019 is ‘confidence.’ I believe 2019 is a year to face challenges confidently, trusting God’s promises completely. As believers, we can confidently abide in God and his promises irrespective of uncertainties we face. 2019 is a year to remain confident in God and his Word, and I believe Psalm 91 gives us some key principles and promises to trust God through the challenges of life.
Dwelling in God Almighty
Psalm 91:1-2 NKJV states,
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
Notice the invitation of the phrase, “He who dwells in the secret place …” The first aspect of Psalm 91 is choosing to abide in God—it begins with simple childlike faith in him. For the follower of Christ, you are justified by faith when you first believed in Christ, now you choose to follow him daily as a love response to his great mercy and grace given you. You are “dwelling” or “abiding” in Christ as the true vine (see John 15).
Another aspect of the phrase “He who dwells,” is that it could also be translated, “O, you who sits enthroned.” The Hebrew word used for the phrase “He who dwells,” yashab, is often associated with one seated as royalty. It is translated in Ezekiel 27:8 as “leaders or rulers.”
Consider that in Christ, you are now seated with him as royalty! You are a royal ambassador, a priest and king for God. You sit enthroned with him, not as a co-equal with God, but as an adopted son or daughter who is now seen as royalty in Christ. You can be secure and confident in God! Additionally, you have been given Jesus’ authority and commission (see Matt. 28:18-20). This authority empowers you to face challenges confidently, knowing that you have God himself and his Word to back you up!
Let’s look at Psalm 91:2 for a moment,
“I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” NKJV
Notice the word “trust” at the end of this verse? To fully regard God as your safe place (refuge) and secure dwelling (fortress), you must trust God, his integrity, and his Word completely. Again, the metaphor of a secure, trusted house as a safe refuge during a winter storm helps illustrate this concept of complete trust in God.
During the week between Christmas and New Year’s a few years ago, we stayed in a cabin on top of Mt. Lemmon near Tucson. The cabin was near the top of the 9,000-foot mountain, susceptible to high winds and winter snow storms. The weather forecast for our 2nd night stay was for blizzard conditions, but being adventurers, we decided to stay through the storm. The wind began to blow, and the snow began to accumulate quickly. By evening of the second day, there was almost a foot of new snow and the wind continued to howl. By early evening we lost electricity and the cabin quickly lost heat. We took turns through the night keeping the wood stove burning, but it was inadequate to heat a three-story cabin—to say that we were cold is an understatement!
Early the next morning I looked at the outside thermometer, it was a ‘scant’ 9 degrees with nearly two-feet of fresh snow on the porch. Despite the loss of electricity, we remained safe and secure through the night, despite the hazardous winter storm. Had we “panicked” when the electricity went out and tried to drive down the mountain that night, we could have been stranded and endangered. We had to trust the cabin’s structure during the storm to remain safe. We live in an unpredictable world, but our safe refuge and security is in God—remain in him—trust him completely, despite the storms around you!
As I shared last week, Verse 1 of Psalm 91 sets the tone for the remainder of this Psalm:
Psalm 91:1 NKJV
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (or Shaddai).”
The English word Almighty comes from the Hebrew word šadday, or Shaddai. It is derived from a Hebrew root word with many expressive meanings. Shaddai, or El Shaddai, is the eighth name God attributed to Himself. This name occurs about 50 times in the OT. It was a name understood by the patriarchs. Shaddai first appears in Genesis 17:1,
When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk with me and be trustworthy.” CEB
This passage relates to the promise of the birth of Isaac, and God changes his name from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). God also confirms his covenant with Abraham.
Later in Exodus 6:3,
I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty (or El-Shaddai), but by My name the Lord (or Yahweh or Jehovah) I was not known to them.” NKJV
Therefore, Shaddai or El-Shaddai can mean, “God Almighty,” “God of the Mountain,” “The God Who is Enough,” “The One Who is Self-Sufficient,” “God the Destroyer of Enemies,” and “The All-Powerful.” Shaddai signifies God as our source of all blessing, power, and deliverance.
God revealed himself as El-Shaddai in situations where people are hard pressed and need assurance. In Genesis 28:3 Isaac asks El-Shaddai to bless Jacob as he goes to obtain a wife, in Genesis 35:11, El-Shaddai reaffirms the Abrahamic covenant with Jacob, and affirms his new name Israel, just prior to Rachel’s death, and in Genesis 49:25 Jacob blesses his son Joseph before his death.
A simple definition for El-Shaddai could be “He is the mighty God who is able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
The Promises of Psalm 91
His presence brings his peace, joy, and comfort. The promise of God’s presence reassures us he is loving and relational, as well as our protection.
I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble.” TPT
In the most pressure prone challenges you face, God promises that he is not only with you, but you will experience the comfort of his presence. Simply stated, you are not alone. God promises to be with you always! The writer of Hebrews states:
Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. This is why we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper, and I won’t be afraid. What can people do to me?” Heb. 13:5-6 CEB
Because God is always with us, we can be confident that as we pray, God hears and promises to deliver us in our time of trouble. Psalm 50:15 reaffirms this truth,
Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” NKJV
God promises to not only deliver you from trouble, but in the process, he is glorified! His presence changes everything—he truly is God Almighty!
Look at Psalm 91 again,
A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:7-12 NKJV
The psalmist expresses his confidence in God’s protection, which wards off not only imminent danger, expressed in terms of battle and deadly disease, but even the fear of it. Those who take refuge in God will remain immune to evil…
Calamity and evil may be all around you, but God’s promise to you is that as you trust him completely, you will be protected (sheltered) from the evil. The bible is full of promises, they are available to everyone, but not everyone—including many believers—appropriate through faith what is theirs through Christ.
An interesting passage of scripture is Luke 4. Jesus comes on the scene, reads from the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue of Nazareth, his hometown, and announces (in so many words, that he is the long-awaited Messiah) and the religious leaders are deeply offended at him. In response, he gives two examples of people with faith: the widow of Zarephath during the days of the prophet Elijah, and then Naaman the Syrian during the days of the prophet Elisha. The widow, during an extreme famine, received miraculous provision and Naaman was the only leper during Elisha’s time to receive a miraculous healing—why? They believed God and his promise of provision and healing! By the way, the religious people in the Synagogue that day, after hearing Jesus’ response, then tried to throw Jesus off a cliff—truth cuts to the heart!
So, is it possible then, that God offers his people supernatural protection, as promised in Psalm 91, but faith is required to walk in this realm? I believe the answer is yes! This doesn’t mean you won’t experience suffering or hardship in life, but I believe this Psalm promises a realm of protection from evil and calamity that God offers his people—if we will only believe. As I shared last week, supernatural protection and angelic activity is the norm for the follower of Christ.
I shared last week of the angelic intervention for Peter in Acts 12. Consider Cornelius in Acts 10, who wasn’t a Christian, but a righteous and devout man who gave gifts to the poor. God sends an angel in a dream to Cornelius, to go find Peter in Joppa. Peter comes to Cornelius and his household, shares the gospel, and that day the Gentiles experience the saving work of Christ and infilling of Holy Spirit!
I’ve heard of and read many modern-day accounts of God’s protection for his people (Psalm 91:7). Our church has had the honor to pray for several young service people during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with wonderful testimonies of God’s faithful protection.
Lastly, trust God for his protection when he directs you in ways that perhaps you wouldn’t choose as you serve him in proclaiming the gospel—trust that he is guiding and protecting you!
Psalm 37:23 declares,
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” NLT
Do you believe that God is directing your steps and protecting you along the way? To those who are following Jesus in righteousness, we can confidently expect his guidance and direction. He delights in you and your walk of faith. Every detail of your life brings him delight and he promises to shelter you!
Next week, I want to look at part 3, the final part of this series, “Under His Shadow.” I will specifically examine God’s promises of his peace, perspective, provision, and power from Psalm 91.