“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)
Recognizing that God’s presence is always with us, no matter if we are aware of it or not, allow this verse from the psalms to be even more impactful in our lives.
Psalm 91:1 is a well-known verse that helps us understand the presence of God in a more meaningful way. By examining a few key words from this verse, I believe it will become even more meaningful.
Take the word “dwells”. The Hebrew word for “dwells” is yashab. The root or basic meaning of this word means to “sit” or to “sit down”. For example, let’s say that you are inside your favorite coffee shop sipping on a vanilla latte or a double espresso. While enjoying your coffee and checking your e-mail, a friend happens to wave at you. Since you have time on your hands, you invite your friend to come over and “sit down” for a visit. However, your friend chooses to remain standing since they are only able to stay for a few minutes. They politely decline your invitation and perhaps suggest another time.
In the same way, we can picture God at the corner of a coffee shop inviting us into his presence for the purpose of spending time and conversing with him. But how many times are we in a hurry and decline his invitation? Perhaps, we may go over and stand by his table to say a quick greeting, than hustle off with our hot latte steaming from its cup. There are just too many other things that demand our attention.
Then there is the word “shelter”. Once again, we take a look at the Hebrew word which is cether. The root or basic meaning of this Hebrew word means “hidden or secret place”. If we go back to God in the coffee shop and accept his invitation to sit down with him, our eyes will not be able to see him nor our ears able to audibly hear him. But still, we know he is there. Our relationship with God is by faith. And by faith, we accept the invitation to sit down with God in a hidden place that cannot be seen.
Finally, there is the word “abide” which comes from the Hebrew word lun. The basic root meaning of this word means “to lodge”. The thought of “sitting down” with God now gives a more permanent meaning or circumstances. Again, going back to the coffee shop, God extends an invitation to come visit with him in a hidden place. But this invitation is not just sitting down for an hour or two, but an invitation to be in his presence to live there. Startled by its permanence and with the long laundry list of things we must do today, we question if this can really be true.
Which brings us to our final word in the verse which is “shadow”. The Hebrew word is tsal. God extends an invitation to us to come and sit down and dwell in his invisible presence and by doing so, will be constantly protected and provided for under his tsal or shadow. After enjoying being in the presence of God in the hidden corner of the coffee shop, the clock on the wall tells us its time to go. And God understands. In fact, we don’t even need to say good-bye. For while we walk out the door, God’s shadow follows us like an eagle hovering in the sky over her young hatchlings ready and willing to provide and protect them.
And how can we be sure of this. For God in the coffee shop is God Almighty – the creator of the universe. There is nothing more powerful than God who makes everything in our life happen according to his good purposes. Not just for his benefit, but also for our own. God also knows that we live in a temporary shelter called the world which is full of trials and tribulations. He understands that we have things to do. Still, he invites us into his presence that is always with us – listening, loving, guiding and protecting.
So, the next time we come across this verse in the Bible, perhaps we can personalize it in the following way;
“The person who accepts God’s invitation to sit down with him in the coffee shop, and not just stop by for a quick chat, will be in his invisible presence — a presence that is far greater than anyone or anything – and will lodge under his constant provision and protection with the full assurance that God is more powerful than all things and will always have my best interest at heart.”