Shadows. Does the word carry a negative connotation to you? It does to me, too. But shadows are not bad things in and of themselves. It’s all in who or what is casting the shadow that makes the difference. Find out about the best “shadow caster” of all.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Psalm 91:1 (NASB)
Generally, “in the shadow” is not a place we want to find ourselves. If we are in someone’s shadow, the connotation is that we are overlooked or under-recognized while someone else gets all the attention and recognition. Shadows, as in dark alleys, are places of danger where robbers or drug dealers lurk. The shadows are places where society’s outcast dwell, under freeway overpasses living in cardboard shanties. Even in Scripture shadows are depicted as dark places, as in the shadow of the valley of death in Psalm 23. So why is the psalmist encouraging us to abide in a shadow? We’ll apply two “shadow-abiding” rules to sort it all out. It is great and glorious indeed to abide in the shadow of the Lord!
Abiding in the shadow – Rule #1
“Abiding in” by “abiding by”
To “abide in” means to remain, continue, stay.1 In other words, to abide in the Lord, is to always stay close to the Lord. The first part of our passage also provides a definition of sorts – to “abide in” is to “dwell in.” In both parts of the passage, closeness to God is the key. The cool thing about staying close to the Lord is that it is always reciprocated. When we abide in Him, he abides in us (see John 15:1-9)! He never abandons us in our efforts to stay close to Him. We will never hear Him say, “Your efforts at closeness are not good enough, I’ll have to leave you, you don’t measure up.” So how do we stay close to the Lord? We glue ourselves to Him! The glue that holds us close to God is love demonstrated by obedience. Here’s where the “abiding by” part comes in. To “abide by” means to act in accord with, agree to, to remain faithful to.2 Our truest expression of love for God is our obedience to His commandments (see John 15:10). God loves us and when we return that love, we choose closeness with God.
Abiding in the shadow – Rule #2
Pay less attention to the shadow and more attention to that which casts it.
In Psalm 91 and elsewhere in scripture, we see a lot of important shadow casters that reveal it is indeed a good thing to be in the shadow of the Almighty.
The fortress (see Psalm 91:2)
God’s fortress casts a big shadow. A fortress is a place of refuge from attack. We all feel under attack at times. There are times when we encounter enemies we can’t face down alone. When you get right down to it, most enemies we face are those that we can’t effectively defeat on our own. In those times God’s fortress is the place to retreat to. The gate of God’s fortress is opened by a key – trust in God. With this key you can always retreat to His fortress and be safe and protected from anything you face.
His wings (see Psalm 91:4)
The image of the wings of an eagle covering over her young is often used to illustrate God’s love and protection for us. Have you ever been out in the hot sun on a scorching summer day? Didn’t you long for a covering? A nice shady place provides respite from the oppressive heat and burning rays of the sun. Sometimes the heat of life’s challenges just gets too hot to face. The shadow of God’s wings can protect us when the rays of life are too hot for us. God’s wings cast a cooling shadow.
The cross (see John 15:13, Colossians 2:13-14)
If we abide in the shadow of the cross we experience His great love for us, that He would endure the pain and suffering of the cross, to pay the penalty for our sins. In the shadow of the cross, we are not condemned, but forgiven! He has paid the price! As we strive for Christ-likeness in our lives, we will fall short. He’s already paid. Abiding in the shadow of the cross will always remind us that there is no shame, just brushing ourselves off and trying it again. He’s already paid.
The stone that rolled away (see Luke 24:1-8, 2 Corinthians 5:1, Philippians 3:14)
If we abide in the shadow of the stone that rolled away, we can rejoice! We know a resurrection day is assured for each of us! No matter what the predicament of the moment may be – pain, suffering, disappointment, loneliness, illness, addiction, you name it – a resurrection day is coming! Abiding in the shadow of the stone that rolled away will always remind us that no matter how damaged or outcast we may become on this earth, we will one day be brought into His presence and into fellowship with all the saints, past, present, and future worshipping Him in His eternal Kingdom forever! Which brings us to. . .
The tree of life (see Genesis 2:9, Revelation 22:2)
In God’s original paradise, Eden, grew the tree of life. In God’s next paradise, the new heaven and the new earth, the tree of life will be growing. If we abide in the shadow of the Almighty, in the shadow of His fortress, in the shadow of His wings, in the shadow of the cross, in the shadow of the stone that rolled away, then we will forever stand in the shadow of the tree of life. That’s the truth.
If you dwell in the shelter of the Most High, if you choose to abide in the Lord, if you choose to abide by the Lord’s commandments, then you can abide in the shadow of the Almighty. In the shadow of the Almighty, you will be in the protective shadow of his fortress; you will be shielded by the shadow of His wings; you will know forgiveness in the shadow of the cross; you will rejoice in the shadow of the stone rolled away; you will forever dwell in the shadow of the tree of life!
That’s the YouTruth – You Can Abide in the Shadow of the Almighty