Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
One of the ways our invisible God works to teach us about Himself is by the use of metaphors. There are thousands of them in scripture, and they are all meant to help us grow in our knowledge of God. One such place metaphors are used is Psalm 91.
There are many in this psalm: words like refuge, fortress, wings, shield, and arrow. Each word is full of meaning as it applies to our heavenly Father and His work in our lives. But one of the metaphors that I have thought about in particular today from this psalm is the word “shadow.” It’s a word that speaks of the nearness and protection of God to those whose life is marked by dwelling or abiding in Him.
It is such a person who loves to spend time with God alone, in the quiet, in a secret place feasting on His Word and communing with Him in prayer. Even when not engaged specifically in such spiritual pursuits, this person acknowledges God in all his ways. He has an awareness of God in everything he does. He prays about his decisions rather than just rushing into them with little thought towards the Counselor. He is quick to look toward heaven in the situations he faces in life, constantly aware that God has promised to never leave him or forsake him. He trusts His Lord and Savior’s sovereign control over his life, and he delights in that knowledge. But perhaps something that touches me most about the metaphor of a shadow, is that a shadow is a dark place. While it can be a refreshing refuge from the heat of day, it is nevertheless darker than the surroundings.
It is perhaps here that the wonder of the believer’s relationship to the Savior is particularly precious. It is often the rule, rather than the exception, for a believer to find himself or herself in a very dark place. It can be a terrifying place, a place where we can’t see where we’re going or know what to do. It can be a situation where life becomes overwhelming – such as a sudden diagnosis of cancer, the shock of finding that a spouse has left for another person or that a loved one has left us by death, or a sudden financial hardship for which there seems to be no way out. It is in such situations that darkness seems to be the most apt metaphor. It is in such situations that grief and depression can creep in – just like a very dark shadow.
However, for the believer, what a wonderful truth that it is in such shadows that we find not that we’ve been abandoned by God (though it may definitely feel that way), but that the very darkness is a mark of his presence rather than what it may seem at times, i.e., a mark of his absence. Gloriously, it’s a mark of a moment when He is nearest of all. And that is the truth. The Lord IS our Shepherd. He never turns His back on His sheep. He’s never unaware of their every circumstance, even if our circumstances find us in “the valley of the shadow of death,” for even there, we need fear no evil, for God is with us. Every single thing that touches us passes through Him first and is for our ultimate good, not for our detriment, for He ultimately and sovereignly controls all things.
So, maybe you’re in a dark place right now. Perhaps you’re having thoughts like that of the psalmist who said “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night.” But then know that you can also say with the psalmist, as his thoughts turned to his God: “even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You (Psalm 139:11-12).”
The shadow of the Almighty – it can be a place of darkness to us, but surely not to Him Who “is our refuge and strength, a very presenthelp in trouble (Psalm 46:1).” What a wonderful shelter is our God in the time of storm.
But then to the unbeliever – your darkness IS darkness for without the light of the world in your life, there IS no light. Even what SEEMS like light to you is darkness, for you are a prisoner of the kingdom of darkness as God’s Word tells us in Colossians 1. However, praise God that you don’t have to stay there, for Jesus defeated all the forces of darkness in the shadow of the cross, and if you turn to Him in faith, this mighty God will make you “qualified . . . to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:12-14).” As the old hymn says: “Come to the light, ‘tis shining for thee; Sweetly the light has dawned upon me; Once I was blind, but now I can see; The light of the world is Jesus.”