Psalm 91:1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This Psalm is one of the most encouraging Psalms in the Bible. My dad texted me a few times during in the past few months to tell me to read Psalm 91. It is full of promises of protection. Protection from “the terror of night… the arrow that flies by day… the pestilence that stalks in the darkness… the plague that destroys at midday (v. 5, 6)” My dad must have had the virus in mind when reading about protection from the plague. Verse 10 says “no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.” Incredible promises, especially in a season where potential harm is all around us.
But, whenever I read the first verse, and specifically the phrase “shadow of the Almighty,” I think of a book of the same title. It’s a book that had a significant impact on me as a college student. It was written by Elizabeth Elliot, about the life of her late husband Jim Elliott, who faithfully followed God’s calling, along with four other friends, to share the gospel with the Waorani tribe in Equador, and ended up being brutally murdered. They were not protected. The arrows, or in this case, the spears flew at them that day, and their life ended, seemingly tragically at such a young age.
How do we make sense of such Psalms, that seems to promise protection, with the reality that the arrow, the pestilence, the plague may touch us indeed, and we may be harmed and disaster may come near us? Even Christ was not protected, though Satan tempts him with this Psalm. Satan quotes verse 11, about angels protecting him from striking his foot on a stone. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
It’s not a question of whether God can protect us fully and in every way the Psalmist writes about, but the true question is will we trust Him? The opposite of testing God is trusting God. Do you trust Him enough that even when the arrows fly, the spears kill, the virus harms, you will trust God and continue to make God your refuge? Can you say with confidence “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust (v.2)’?” Then, no matter what happens, we are ultimately safe under the shadow of the Almighty.
Elizabeth Elliott trusted God in the midst of such tragedy, and found strength in the “shadow of the Almighty.” Many of the family members continued the work of reaching the Waoranis and years later, many of them, including the very ones that killed Jim and his friends, ended up coming to Christ. They were witness to the good work and plan of God being fulfilled even in the midst of harm and pain. No matter what you’re going through, may this Psalm find its way into your heart, and may you make the Most High, your shelter, your refuge, your fortress, as you rest in the “shadow of the Almighty.”