This COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the way we live our lives. Some of us were sent home from work, either to work from home or furloughed to not work at all. Stores, restaurants, personal care salons, banks, and a host of other businesses were closed. Some of them have not reopened. We were prevented from attending public gatherings, including corporate worship services. It has been life-altering, to say the least.
I have heard several people refer to it as being imprisoned. Sorry, but that is far from the truth. Prior to the pandemic, I regularly visited and ministered to those in prison. And since this started, though I’ve been unable to meet with them physically, I’ve maintained written correspondence. I can assure you, what we have experienced is nothing at all like being in prison. And things inside prison walls are more restrictive as well.
What follows is part of a letter I received from my friend “Tom.” Tom is incarcerated and is enduring a “lockdown” unlike anything you and I know. The next time you feel inconvenienced by COVID restrictions, please pause and remember him and others like him, and pray for their physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Most of his time is spent alone, without interacting with other offenders or staff who may have been exposed to this malicious virus. But Tom uses this time to pray and to engulf himself in the Word of God.
I pray that his insight will encourage you. This is exactly what he has written, with the only changes being spelling and grammar as flagged by my word processing program as I typed.
The Psalmist states (Psalm 91:1-2); “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’” Let’s ask a simple question, where do you dwell? Before you answer, the biblical meaning of “dwells” signifies “to live.” Where are you living? Our first inclination is to answer with a physical place. There is a deeper meaning beyond the physical place, a deeper spiritual meaning. Where do you place your life, your thoughts, your concerns? “Dwell” can be the place where we live, or it can be the place where we place our thoughts and minds. It can be a place of joy and happiness or one of unhappiness, anxiety, or dissatisfaction. For many of us we dwell in the meditation of worry or in the narcissism of self-preservation. When trials hit, we have the tendency to dwell on our fears and often allow them to overwhelm us. It is easy to dwell in the circumstances of life! The Psalmist in these verses wants us to consider another place to dwell. The Psalmist raises the possibility, the option of dwelling in the shelter of the Most High.
The shelter of the Most High – what is it? Where is it? How do I get to the shelter of the Most High?
Yeshua, in John 15:4-5, states, “Abide (dwell) in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides (dwells) in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide (dwell) in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides (dwells) in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” First, I think the essential meaning of our active abiding or dwelling is the act of receiving and trusting all that God has for us in Yeshua. It is about having a personal relationship with God through His Son, Yeshua. It all begins with Romans 10:9-10, “If you declare with your mouth “Yeshua is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Accepting Yeshua as your personal Savior and Lord is just the beginning of dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, just the beginning of abiding in Yeshua.
Every moment of every day I have a choice! It is a choice to dwell or not dwell in the shelter of the Most High. The Psalmist says that we must “abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” To abide means to remain and to stay. We dwell in the shelter of the Most High when we place our thoughts and emotions on God with the promise that He will protect our thoughts and us. We are to take our thoughts captive and return them to the One who cares for us the most. We then can say that God is “my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Listen, do not allow the trials of this life to pull you away from and interfere with your relationship with Yeshua. Remain steadfast, clinging to Yeshua for your protection. There is no better place to be than in the shadow of the Most High.
Dwelling in the shelter of the Most High is about reading His word and letting His word into your heart and mind. Yeshua states in John 15:17 “If you abide in me and my words abide in you…” For His word to abide in me, I must be reading His word, listening to His word, meditating on His word throughout the day! Abiding means receiving and believing His word. I may not understand all that I read in His word, and I may have questions about what I am reading, and that’s OK! God does not demand that we understand, He just wants us to simply believe in His word. Through the Holy Spirit, God will reveal the truth of His word as we seek to understand it. Let scripture interpret scripture.
What I am starting to discover as I relinquish my stubbornness is that God wants so much more for my life. I am starting to discover that the “so much more” comes as I dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty. It is when I am dwelling in the shelter of the Most High and I am abiding in the shadow of the Almighty that I realize and proclaim He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!
These verses are very reassuring and comforting especially when life is draining and there seems to be no time or place to rest, when things appear to be their worst and we tend to get a bit negative. As I continued thinking about and studying these two verses, I discovered something very interesting, a deeper hidden meaning. It is easy to read a verse of scripture and miss a hidden treasure. The writer of these verses in Psalms uses four different names for God: The Most High, The Almighty, The LORD, and my God. Each of these names describes different characteristics or attributes of the nature of God. When I think about the attributes and characteristics of God, it amazes me that He still desires and pursues a personal relationship with me!
“The Most High” is the Hebrew word Elyon and suggests a supreme monarch, one who is elevated above all things. Elyon signifies God’s majesty, His sovereignty and pre-eminence. Elyon was first used in Genesis 14:18 describing Abraham’s encounter with the priestly king Melchizedek who is described as the “priest of God Most High.” It is said of Melchizedek that he was a foreshadow of Yeshua. If I dwell in the shelter of the Most High, I am living in His majesty, under His sovereignty and pre-eminence! Dwelling in the shelter of the Most High changes the way I see who I am and what I am about. Paul writes in Romans 8:17, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Yeshua, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” If Yeshua is your savior and lord, then you are a co-heir with Yeshua! You have the ability to live in the shadow of the majesty, sovereignty, and pre-eminence of God!
“The Almighty” is translated from the Hebrew word Shaddai. Shaddai has many meanings but its primary meaning suggests a mighty, powerful God who is strong beyond our imagination. Shaddai is God who is more than capable to supply all our needs. In the New Testament, Paul describes God in Ephesians 3:20 “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” The God who parted the sea, who calmed the storm, who raised Yeshua from the dead… His name is Shaddai and we have the privilege to abide within His shadow.
“The LORD” is the Hebrew name Yahweh. Yahweh is the personal name for God revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 6:2. This name for God was considered so sacred that the original pronunciation is uncertain and when written only contains the letters Yod Hey Vav Hey represented in English as YHWH. In the Old Testament, whenever you see LORD (all capitals) it is the name YHWH. The significance of Yahweh is that the name represents a personal, relatable God who seeks for us to know Him.
“The Most High,” “The Almighty,” “The LORD” … He wants to have a personal relationship with us! He wants us to dwell in Him and under His shadow. He wants to be our redeemer and friend.
“My God” comes from the Hebrew word Elohim. This name first appears at the very beginning of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning Elohim created…” Elohim is the name of God used as the creator and judge of the universe. When the Psalmist proclaims, “My God in whom I trust,” he is describing a personal relationship with the same God who spoke into existence all things. Trust comes through having an intimate, personal relationship. The more I personally know God, the more I trust Him.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And yet, we can dwell in His shelter and abide in His shadow… we can speak to Him as a friend. The God who is unsearchable is at the same time ever so close to us. In His shelter and in His shadow, we find strength, comfort and rest because of His love, grace and mercy for us.