Abide in the Shelter of the Most High

Psalm 91 is a psalm of comfort, courage and hope amidst the worst that this world can throw at us.  The psalm is set in the midst of “the snare of the fowler” and “deadly pestilence” and “the terror of the night” and “the arrow that flies by day” and “the pestilence that stalks in darkness” and “the destruction that wastes at noonday.”  But in the midst of it all, the psalm speaks of God as our “shelter” and as our “refuge and…fortress.”  It speaks of us finding refuge under the wings of God, and it speaks of God’s faithfulness as “a shield and buckler.”  It is a psalm of comfort, courage and hope amidst the troubles that confront us.

The psalm begins with a call to us to “live in the shelter of the Most High.”  The Hebrew word translated here as “live” is yashav, which carries the sense of staking a claim to a certain place.  It implies that we don’t simply make a short visit to “the shelter o the Most High,” but that we take up residence in God’s shelter.

How do we do this?

A person is described as being able to “live off the land” when that person has learned to live through what the land provides.  A person who can “live off the land” knows how to make a shelter for herself through what the land provides and is able to find his sustenance through gathering and hunting and growing.

Psalm 91 invites us to do something similar.  It invites us to learn how to live off the “refuge” and “fortress” that is God.  It invites us to learn how to find shelter (comfort, hope, protection and strength) in the care of God.  It invites us to learn how to find sustenance in what we can hunt and gather of God’s wisdom, promises, encouragement and blessings.

The Hebrew word for “shelter” in verse 1 is sathar.  It refers to a “cove” or “secret hideaway.”  When gale force winds blow across the sea, a ship longs for the shelter of a protective cove.  When enemies hurl their spears at us, we long for the protection of a secret hideaway.  Psalm 91 tells us that we find such a protective cove or secret hideaway in the person of God.  Frederick Buechner comments, “For what we need to know, of course, is not just that God exists, not just that beyond the steely brightness of the stars there is a cosmic intelligence of some kind that keeps the whole show going, but that there is a God right here in the thick of our day-by-day lives who may not be writing messages about himself in the stars but in one way or another is trying to get message through our blindness as we move around down here knee-deep in the fragrant muck and misery and marvel of the world.  It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence.  That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get.”  To live off the “shelter” that is God is to keep finding the miracle of God’s presence in our daily lives. 

Verse 1 concludes with the call to us to “abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”  The Hebrew word translated here as “Almighty” is El Shaddai.  About this word, Scofield’s Reference Bible points out, “The qualifying word Shaddai is formed from the Hebrew word ‘shad,’ the ‘breast,’ invariably used in Scripture for a woman’s breast…. Shaddai therefore means primarily ‘the breasted.’  God is ‘Shaddai,’ because God is the Nourisher, the Strength-giver, and so, in a secondary sense, the Satisfier, who pours himself into believing lives.  As a fretful, unsatisfied babe is not only strengthened and nourished from the mother’s breast, but also is quieted, rested, satisfied, so El Shaddai is the name of God which sets Him forth as the Strength-giver and Satisfier of His people.”  To live off the refuge who is El-Shaddai is to gratefully take in the care and nourishment which God loves to give to us.


2 responses to “Abide in the Shelter of the Most High”

  1. Therese Harper says :

    Oh how I love this!! Thank you so much, Tom!! Therese

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

  2. Jim Pingrey says :

    I love your messages Tom. Thank you for keeping me on your email list. We no longer have a Sunday service with a message as Pastor Ron doesn’t prepare sermons. He does visit Donna and I serving Communion. We both really appreciate it.
    He did a beautiful graveside service for Joyce.
    Jim Pingrey

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