Last year I had the chance to connect with Jess Cates in Los Angeles. Jess is a godly, gracious, winsome, and extremely talented guy. It didn’t hurt anything that he’d written a few of my favorite pop songs in recent memory (David Archuletta’s Crush anyone? No? How about Nick Lache’s What’s left of me? No? Then you have no pulse). We sat down and started talking about what we’d like to write about, and Jess had this idea from Isaiah 54: “No weapon formed against me will prosper.” It all started there, with what became the bridge.
I remember that leading us to Psalm 91, a beautiful prayer about the protection we have in the Lord, in the midst of outright spiritual attack. The rest of our song came from this Psalm, and there were several beautiful verses we wanted to incorporate:
V2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust.”
V4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
(We wrote about his faithfulness being our shield and our great reward, which came from Genesis 15:1 where Abraham needed God’s protection, and God said to Abraham–Abram at that time–”Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you, and your very great reward.”)
V5 You will not fear the terror by night.
V7 A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you.
V9 For You have made the Lord, my refuge, the Most High, your dwelling place.
V11 He will give his angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
And then God speaks this:
V14 “Because He has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high.”
Incredible verses. But it all starts in verse 1: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
This verse has a fundamental priority for our lives with respect to worship and the move of God. Here’s why: There are two different names for God mentioned here in Psalm 91:1. First is El Elyon, the Most High God. The second is El Shaddai, God Almighty.
There’s something we need to understand about these names. El Elyon is a name for God used often in the context of praise, worship, sacrifice, and thanksgiving. Over and over this name is connected to these themes. (See Ps. 9:1-2, 92:1, 7:17) El Shaddai on the other hand is a name for God used often in the context of the miraculous, the power of God, the provision He affords, etc. El Shaddai is how God revealed himself to Abraham when he needed a miracle (See Gen. 17:1).
So note the ordering: He who dwells in the place of praise, worship, sacrifice and thanksgiving, he will abide in the shadow of the miracle working, powerful and providing God.
Often I get the ordering wrong. I pray and ask God for things, subconsciously thinking, “If you’ll provide this for me, If you’ll come through in this situation, I’ll praise you and tell of your wonders!” But it’s backwards. The Bible shows (over and over) that we are to begin praising him in our prayers now, before the answer even arrives. It’s too natural to bless him after the waters part; it’s supernatural to begin blessing him before the wind even starts to blow (more on this in the Song of Moses).
Think about Acts 16, Paul and Silas in prison. They begin to praise the Most High and suddenly the find themselves set free by the shadow of the Almighty.
Or think of Pentecost. 10 days the christians spent in prayer and praise, and then the power of God is poured out, forever changing human history.
Or even think about Jonah. 3 days he’s in that whale until he finally praises God, and the next moment God commands that fish to cast him out onto dry land.
There is more hinging on our waiting and worship than we will ever know.
Jesus would say it this way: Abide in me. He who abides in me bears much fruit. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit. (John 15)
Abiding means dwelling. Being at home in him, being at home in his presence.
So may we be those who dwell in his shelter, and may we then find ourselves delighting in all that is afforded in his benevolent shadow.