Question: "What does it mean to dwell in the "shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1)?"
Answer: In one of the most uplifting passages of Scripture, we have this reassurance: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1, ESV). To dwell in the shadow of the Almighty is to live under the promise of God’s protection.
The word dwell means “to live in or be an inhabitant of.” Shelter refers to “a hiding place, covering, or protection.” Shadow suggests “shade, comfort, protection, and defense.” And abide means “lodge, live, spend the night.” The language of Psalm 91:1 speaks of someone who is wholly comfortable and accepted into the household and community life of the Most High God.
Most High is a title for God that effectively levels every threat. This name stresses God’s supreme power as the sovereign ruler of the world. Almighty or Shaddai is the name that upheld the wandering patriarchs (Exodus 6:3). As the Almighty, God is fully capable of accomplishing all of His promises.
Dwelling in the shadow of the Almighty is the everyday experience of someone who, although persecuted or threatened by danger, is thoroughly at home in the protection, comfort, and safety of Yahweh, the God of absolute power. This person declares of the Lord: “He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him” (Psalm 91:2, NLT).
Psalm 91 does not provide immunity from life’s threats. It does not promise God’s protection from danger and trouble; it offers the promise of God’s protection amid hardship and peril.
The theme of Psalm 91 focuses a spotlight on absolute trust in God and loyalty to Him. This kind of trust suggests intimate friendship with God. It is this sort of loving relationship that inspires the psalmist to say, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7, ESV). It is the attitude of one who clings to the Lord at all times, saying, “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5, ESV).
The person who is always thinking about God and trusting in Him has the Almighty as a constant companion. The Lord stretches His “shadow” or “protective shade” over the man or woman who sets up camp in His presence.
Isaiah 25:4 describes the “shadow of the Almighty” as “a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Psalm 18:2 declares, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety” (NLT). “The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand,” says Psalm 121:5.
Psalm 91 continues, “If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name’” (Psalm 91:9–14, NLT). Abiding in God’s presence, we find security, protection, and care. The ultimate victory is ours in Christ.
The “shadow of the Almighty” is like a shade cast by the Lord that marks off a clearly perceived boundary. Those who are covered by the Lord’s boundary line of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ will reside forever in God’s presence. Believers in Jesus are covered by the blood of Christ, which grants full access into the throne room of God’s grace (Hebrews 10:19–22; 13:12; Ephesians 2:13). The Lord’s sacrifice provides salvation and protection that stretches beyond the boundaries of this life (Hebrews 9:12). Only the redeemed of the Lord can securely say, “Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!” (Psalm 61:4, NLT).
To dwell in the “shadow of the Almighty” is to find complete and eternal rest and safety, no matter what we face in this life, in death, or in the life to come.