Living In the Shadow of God
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.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.Psa 91:1-10 (ESV)
To dwell with the Most High is a conscious decision and it is a present tense requirement. We are called to dwell with the Most High. Of course, this finds its New Testament parallel in John 10:
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”Jn 10:25-30 (ESV)
We are his!
If we are among Jesus’ sheep or followers, then no one will be able to snatch us out of his hand. We are his and hid in him:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Col 3:1-4 (ESV)
In many respects, the theme of this series of articles relates to our “hiddenness” with Christ in God.
I have written a lot in these articles about just what it means to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
From the Sermon on the Mount, where it is plain that we are being called to dwell in the Kingdom of God here and now, to Jesus’ last words to us in Rev 21 where we are given a powerful vision to hold onto of the Kingdom of God now on the earth and here, we are encouraged to have a vision and to live that vision of God’s Kingdom now.
Our article on living in a Broken World is all about ensuring that we work NOW to bring about the Kingdom of God.
Hidden in Christ
Having a life that is “hidden in Christ” is a concept that we need to break down and understand.
We have died (of course) to our old man – who we were before. That’s a pretty well established scriptural principle.
We have a new life, that is currently developing in us and is fully realised in Christ.
We possess this life in prospect now. It is ours to lose. We are developing it, but it is not fully revealed in us yet. Therefore, it can be said to be hidden in Christ and the day is coming in which it will be startlingly, beautifully and perfectly displayed for all to see.
Sons of God
John in his first epistle tells us that we are the “Sons of God” (an important title, not to be confused with being a child of God) – we have received the spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15) – and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we will be perfected as Christ (1 Jn 3:2).
This is the whole purpose of our life today, to perfect us in Christ by developing a heart fit and perfected in Christ, that he might be able to present us before the throne of grace with exceeding glory.
We are to grow into the Glory of Christ – to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.2 Cor 4:6 (ESV)
Moses Face Shone
Remember how Moses’ face shone so brightly that the people could not gaze upon it?
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.Exod 34:29-35 (ESV)
In Rom 10:4 we are told that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”
In 2 Cor 3, we are told that Israel could not consider the outcome of Moses’ life – Jesus Christ. That vail stays not on Moses’ face, but on the hearts of Israel whenever they read the law.
What is interesting is how Paul wraps up this chapter. He says these words:
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.2 Cor 3:17-18 (ESV)
From Glory to Glory
Where this is interesting is that James picks this up and puts a different spin on it.
James counsels us to consider our natural face, and then to consider the perfect law, the law of liberty and act on our looking. What does he mean?
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.Jas 1:19-25 (ESV)
If we consider our natural face, we are clearly reminded of what we are. The old “me” was a man who didn’t understand my desperate need of the saving name of Jesus. I was confident in my own power to save me. In a sense, I was happy in the “Law” – the law of sin and death.
Returning to our “Old Man”
I was in truth, however, unable to live through testing and trial for I was weak, a vapour and a withering plant.
If I consider this, and do not live the life which I have deposited in Jesus, then I have in effect, forgotten this deposit and returned to my old man. I am a double minded man, unstable in my ways and my life is no longer on deposit with Christ.
If I gaze deeply into the perfected Law, the Law of freedom, I know well where my life abides (translated “continueth” in Jas 1:25), indeed is concealed (Col 3:3), and I am encouraged to live in accordance with that knowledge.
For now, this treasure is contained in earthen vessels and it is up to us to do all we can to strip away the earthen to reveal the spirit – I believed and so I spoke!2 Cor 4:13 (ESV)
Living in the Shelter of the Most High
In Psa 91, the psalmist (probably Moses) asks us to dwell in the shelter of the Most High. To dwell in the Hebrew has the idea of to “sit down” and is in contrast to Psalm 1 where a happy man is one who does not sit in the seat of the scornful.
This happy man delights in the law of Yahweh and meditates in it day and night.
We abandon the seat of the scornful, roll back the slowing down effect of Psa 1 and instead deposit our life with Jesus and therefore dwell safely in the shelter of the Most High. Our lives on deposit, we are freed to adopt radical service in Jesus fearing not them who can destroy the body, because our spirit is safe in Jesus.
It is suggested that the author of Psalm 91 is Moses rather than David. Certainly Moses, like David knew what it was to seek shelter with God rather than to dwell with the world rulers of the day. Moses chose suffering over a life of ease with Pharaoh and David had to flee from the courts of Saul and of course, spent time with the Philistines before again fleeing for his life and taking refuge with God.
Appearing in Glory
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3 speaks of Moses:
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?2 Cor 3:7-8 (ESV)
Or as he puts it in Col 3:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Col 3: 1-4 (ESV)
When our lives are on deposit with Jesus, in the Shelter of the Most High, then we are of all men most free to develop that freedom to express the Glory of God without fear.
Remember Jesus’ own words?
So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.Matt 10:26-33
That is surely what it means to dwell in the shadow of God.