Updated: May 2
I was recently reading a devotional on Psalm 91 and found myself doing a deep dive into the context when the author mentioned "conditions" placed upon the reader. Truth-be-told, I found myself a bit perplexed by his words. What? Conditions? How have I not only read this Psalm and relied on its truth for years, but failed to see it held conditions for me to uphold?
Then it hit me – perhaps I'd been too focused on God's promises to pay attention to any responsibility of my own.
The promises of His care for you; to cover you ... to deliver you; all of which I remind Him when life—for myself or others—takes a sharp turn and I need reassuring that He will keep His promise. Have I been presumptuous? Have I been expecting God to fulfill His part and failing to do my own? With much determination I began to read verse-by-verse hoping to adjust myself to understand the conditions of Psalm 91.
I paused immediately when I read, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty" (ESV). There it was; verse one. "He who dwells." Condition one: dwell. Defined this way in Strongs, "to sit down, to remain, to settle." In other words, take a seat and settle in. Where? In the shelter of the most High. The shelter is "a covering or a hiding place" of the Most High – God, Himself. Imagine yourself knocking at a door and God opens the door and invites us to take a seat and settle in to His hiding place. And from that place of hiding we learn to abide—lodge or pass the night—because it is here we find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. The shadow which provides shade.
It helped me to read it this way: When I sit down, remain, and settle in to the hiding place of the Most High God, I must stop and lodge there. Only then will I find rest in His shade. In other words, I must go, take a seat and remain. Settle in. Make yourself at home. Not just for a minute or two, either. It is up to me to make my way to the hiding place of the Lord and lodge there. I can adjust the quality of my relationship with the Lord by learning how to dwell with Him.
My thoughts drifted to a few of the hikes I've taken in the Adirondacks. While, walking through the forrest in the cool of the shade is not necessarily easy for me, it's easier than the time I spend ascending the mountain. When I leave behind the comfort of the shade and step into full exposer of the sun the intensity moves up a notch. Okay, several notches. The higher I climb, the hotter the exposed rock is to touch. Why do I touch the rock you may ask? Because I am usually crawling.
It takes me a exceptionally l o n g time to make my way up a mountain. (This secured my nickname Turtlebeast and awarded me membership to the Sloth Hiking Club). But, when I need a break, which is often, you can bet I am scanning the area for a nice place in the shade. A tree is always a welcome sight, however, a cleft between the rocks is superb. (Unless, of course, there are snakes and critters). It's with this cleft that I can hide from the sun and experience the coolness of the shade. My body rejoices for the relief.
Shade is sweet when you feel like you can't take one more step. King David spent years on the run from Saul and recognized God was his hiding place. "You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance" (Psalm 32:7, ESV). It is not lost on me that David did not say that God prevents trouble, he said God preserves him from trouble. Do you preserve jelly from your summer fruit? We preserve what we want to keep for future use.
The Psalmist understood that dwelling in the secret place of God and abiding in His shade enabled him to experience God as a refuge and fortress in times of trouble. It is in this place God is able to provide the relief needed when our thoughts betray our ability to continue. When trouble causes us to question where He is in the midst of it perhaps He is asking the same of us. "Where are you and why haven't you made your way to the secret place where I am?" "What is preventing you from entering in, sitting down and lodging in My shade until you find restoration to continue on?"
One more thing I recalled from my hiking is the fact that I don't leave the shade until I have enough energy to move on. I can't. I am exhausted. When troubles envelop you it doesn't take long to feel as though you are at your breaking point. When the heat is bearing down and your strength feels too weak to take one more step where do you run? Are you running to the hiding place of the Most High or running to anyone who will listen?
So, I adjust to the conditions of Psalm 91 when I remember it's up to me to sit down, remain, and settle in to the hiding place of the Most High God. I must stop and lodge there and when I do, I find rest in His shade. The cool of His shade that preserves me in trouble.