My son, Jackson, is about to turn 18. When he was a young boy, he used to be scared of many things. From the age of 4 or 5 until 9 or 10, he would pray every night when we sent him to bed then walk into his bedroom and say, “Be gone in the name of JESUS!” This made him feel safe at night. Once he began to read we he would get scared of things, I would always say, “Start reading in Psalms 91 and don’t stop till you feel better.” One day we where in the car and driving through a sketchy neighborhood at night. He began to get twitchy because he was scared. I happened to have a Bible in my front seat and I tossed it over my shoulder and said, “You know where to start.”
Psalms 91 has been the scriptures in our house that we have used to ground ourselves when fear is creeping in. I would dare to say that every human has scared moments. When we are uncertain of things and we don’t know what to do. This is where this Bible study series comes from, a scared little boy and a mother that only had God’s word for protection.
Psalm 91: 1-2
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
When life is scary, every task seems more exhaustive the last and you can’t t find a safe place or place to rest, these verses are reassuring, comforting and encouraging. When things appear to be their worst, I tend to get a bit negative, and most of us are like that. Our natural tendency is to get down in the mully grubs and miss out on what God may be doing in our situation.
When I find myself in these negative places, my goal becomes centering my mind to fend off the negative, and say of the Lord that He is my God in whom I trust, just as the writer of this Psalm did.
But there is also a deeper meaning in this passage, hidden in plain sight. In these verses there are four names for God: the Most High, the Almighty, the Lord, my God. Why does the writer use four different names in two verses, and why is it so important?
Whosoever dwells (lives) in the shelter of the Most High, Hebrew word, Elyon means the most high. It describes a Supreme monarch, one who is elevated above all things. The name signifies God’s majesty and sovereignty. Elyon describes a king that reigns above all other kings, and is first used in Scripture in Genesis 14:18, describing Abraham’s encounter with the priest/king Melchizedek, “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High.” Melchizedek gives us a picture of Christ in several ways, and it is fitting that this story contains the first use of this name of God in Scripture. Verse 1 speaks to the protection of one who ‘dwells in the shelter of the Most High,’ and it causes us to ask where it is that we dwell. Do we dwell in our own self-doubt? Do we dwell in anger? Do we dwell in what could be or what could have been? Or do we dwell in the shelter of the Most High God, the Holy King of heaven who promises to protect and keep us?
The second phrase, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. The Almighty, is translated from the word Shaddai (If you are thinking of the Amy Grant song right now, I assure you you are not alone). Shaddai has many meanings, but it as you may imagine, it primarily suggests a mighty, powerful God who is strong beyond our imagination and is more than capable to supply our every need. He is the God who who rained fire from heaven, shut mouths of lions, and controls all of creation. In His name and in His power, there is no need that cannot be met, and no circumstance he cannot overcome. So, if we live with the most high God we can rest in the shadow of his power. HALLELUJAH!!
The third section is I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress.The LORD, is the personal name for God, revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 6:2). This personal name for God was considered so sacred in Judaism, that the original pronunciation is uncertain, only that it contained the letters YHWH. It has been translated as Yahweh, Jehovah, and more often as the LORD (in all caps). The significance of this name is that it represents a relationship God who wants us to know Him on a deep, personal level. The God who knows every hair on our heads, every joy and fear in our hearts, and desires us to know Him as a friend. This God who created the universe and wants to be the place we go to feel safe.
The last section is my God, in whom I trust. My God, comes from the Hebrew Elohim. This name first appears at the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” When Elohim occurs in Scripture, it is typically translated as “God.” It means the one who is first, or the creator, and is technically a plural word. So it is fitting that this is how God is referenced in Genesis 1:1; as a creator who is one, yet plural (Father, Son, Spirit). The Psalmist is proclaiming that the God in whom he trusts is the same God who created all things, the first and the last, and the God who is forever faithful to His creation.
In the span of just two verses we see the beauty of God: His ways are higher than our ways, yet we can speak to Him as friend. God is at the same time unsearchable yet so very near to us. In His shadow and in His shelter, we find strength, comfort, and rest for our souls.