“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.
“The secret place of the Most High.” Hmm. . . I pondered, as I took a sip of half-caf, lowered the volume of the gentle piano music streaming on the computer, and leaned back in my chair. “Dwell” means to live permanently, to make someplace your home by living, eating, sleeping, and finding shelter. And what exactly is the secret place? I think I know but. . .
Do you have your own arsenal of Scripture? Psalm 91 is part of my arsenal of Scripture, the verses I deliberately keep fresh in my mind through repeated meditation and which I use every day when something threatens to steal my peace or my feeling of security in Jesus. I discovered this group of verses in the spring of 2019, when deep healing of life-long depression began. Many things, including Bible reading and study, prayer, Christian counseling, and medicine, all had helped greatly.
However, deep healing of the root causes of sorrow and discouragement did not happen until God helped me give His Word its proper place in my daily life and in my heart. Only when God taught me to diligently study His law, His precepts, instructions, and teachings and to meditate, to ponder and study them, by day and by night, (Psalm 1:1, AMPC), only then was I able to keep my emotions stable and to walk in victory. Only then could I trade my ashes for beauty, my mourning for joy, and my spirit of despair for a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)
Peace and security in the secret place. The biggest causes of depression for me–the ugly roots that caused death and decay– were fear and insecurity. Two years ago while memorizing Psalm 91, I realized that the powerful promises of Psalm 91 were dependent on what I did, like dwelling, trusting, making God my refuge, and loving Him. Part of the reason the Word helps me so much, I think, is that verses like this give me something to “do” and the confidence that if I do my part, God will certainly do His. For example, keeping Psalm 91 in mind, I did the best I could to stay in God’s presence all day long and as I did so, even though I was mired in the mud of negative feelings at the start, I kept reminding myself that God would do His part and that no foe could withstand His mighty power (Psalm 91:1, AMPC). That brought a small, but ever-increasing measure of peace and security.
I felt little difference at first but by day by day, week by week, my faith in God’s promises grew as I saw Him deliver me one hour, one situation at a time. When we do our best to obey God, God does good things for us. Hebrews 11:6 in the NIV tells us “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He reward those who earnestly seek Him.”
The “thens” of Psalm 91. A clear example of how God rewards us for seeking Him is found in Psalm 91. The AMPC has this footnote for Psalm 91: “The rich promises of this whole chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting exactly the conditions of these first two verses.” Before we examine verses 1 and 2, let’s look into those rich promises. The “thens” that follow verses 1 and 2, along with the “becauses” in verses 9 through 16, (using the 1965 Amplified Bible) highlight those promises, as follows:
IF I dwell in the secret place AND SAY God is my refuge AND TRUST in Him (verses 1 and 2)
- THEN God will “deliver me from every trap” (NLT),
- THEN He will cover me,
- THEN His “faithful promises will be my armor and protection”,
- THEN I will not be afraid of anything evil, at any time,
- THEN “No evil will touch me” (NLT) though people fall all around me. (phrases in parentheses are from the NLT)
. . . the “because” point the way to promises, too . . .
- BECAUSE I make God my refuge and dwelling place (which repeats verses 1 and 2), “no evil will conquer me”, (NLT) and that is true because “He will order His angels to protect me wherever I go” (NLT)
and finally. . .
- BECAUSE I love God and trust in His nature, He will rescue me, protect me, answer me, honor me, give me a long life, and show me His salvation, which includes deliverance, as well as redemption from sin through the blood of Jesus.
So, let’s begin pondering this beloved psalm, often called the soldier’s psalm. Let’s explore what those essential first two verses instruct us to do.
Verse 1: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].
Dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. In considering what “dwelling” meant, I turned to John 14, a passage that speaks of dwelling. In John 14, Jesus promised to send Holy Spirit—“Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart) because it does not see Him, nor know and recognize Him. . .“–but Whom the disciples would recognize because the Comforter lived with them and would be in them (meaning after Jesus ascended to heaven and Holy Spirit came).
Jesus promised that after His resurrection, His disciples would know, for themselves, that “I am in My Father, and you [are] in Me, and I [am] in you.” (v. 20). Jesus said that if they really loved Him, they would obey Him and He would show Himself to them and let them clearly see Him and He would make Himself real to them. That promise also applies to us, His current-day disciples.
When asked how He would reveal Himself to us and make Himself real to us—and not the world– Jesus answered that if someone loves Him, that person will obey His Word and Jesus and the Father will “come to him and make Our home (abode, special dwelling place) with him.” (John 14:23, AMPC). Jesus reiterated that if we really love Him, we will obey His teachings.
So, our love and obedience causes God to dwell, or live, in us and our love and obedience causes us to live in God and God in us. And His abiding in us is how He makes Himself real to us. So that means that He does not show, reveal or manifest Himself to the world—to those who do not love or obey Him. People who do not love and obey God do not think He is real.
His dwelling in us is hidden from the world. It is a secret, like the secret mentioned in Psalm 25:14: “The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.”
God’s hidden, or secret, companionship, God’s friendship, is promised to those who fear, revere and worship Him, which includes obeying His commands. As we just read In John 14, Jesus promised to make His home with those who love Him and do what He says. So where is this home? Jesus promised to make His home with “each” of us, so that implies to me that the “home” is in our individual hearts.
I think this helps describe that “secret place of the Most High” of Psalm 91. It is a secret place, where no one else can see, a place created when we love and obey God. When we deeply love someone, we tell them they “have a place in our hearts”, right? So, that phrase must apply here. We give God a place in our hearts when we love Him and respond to Him, and He makes His home with us. He is always with us. We are His dwelling place. I think that must be like a cousin would make your residence his home if he moved in and became part of the routine of your family, if he had his own seat at the table and his own bed, and other members of your household included him in their daily activities. That cousin would be making your residence his home.
“the Most High. I think Scripture uses “Most High” here to remind us of this attribute of God, that He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” and that He is above, and in control of, every being that exists. “Most High”, or ‘El’Elyhon is saying that “God is the very highest of all spiritual begins to which humans give the title ‘god’. (https://namesforgod.net)
“shall remain stable and fixed”. The NIV and the NLT say that the one who dwells in the secret place shall “find rest”. I love the idea of finding rest in His presence, but remaining stable and fixed spoke more powerfully to me in the months when I was fighting desperately for emotional stability. “Stable and fixed” implies something is anchored in place securely and is unlikely to overturn or be changed. There is that security theme again!
“under the shadow of the Almighty.” “God Almighty” is from the Hebrew El Shaddai, meaning “God, the All-powerful One”. (www.compellingtruth.org). It comforts me to ponder the fact that this God, this Holy One Who is protecting me, is the most powerful Being that exists. He is THE Highest. and if I am in His shadow, that means He is above me, covering me, and because He is The Highest, He is covering me, shading me, from all things because He is above all things and He is All-powerful.
“whose power no foe can withstand.” How reassuring to hear that no enemy can stand against my God! “Withstand” means “to oppose or resist” (Webster’s 1828 online dictionary). Withstand also means to hold out against, or to stand one’s ground, as in the case of a battle. It also means to remain undamaged by, as when some structures withstand hurricane-force winds. I smile each time I repeat that phrase—“whose power no foe can withstand.”
I smile because, when I look closely, I see that it is the foe who will be unable to withstand, it is the foe who will be unable to hold out, it is the foe who will be damaged by the power of God Almighty, which means God Almighty is fighting my enemies for me! God is the One attacking. The foe is the one trying to not give ground and not be damaged and destroyed. Almighty God is going to move the enemy back, God Almighty is going to damage the enemy! The enemy will not be able to resist God Almighty! This verse did not say that God Most High can withstand all the power of the foe, although that is more than true. That would imply that the Most High was in a defensive position. No, to me it means that although God protecting us is a defensive action, from our human perspective, when God defends us He always gains ground against the enemy and defeats the enemy! God never, no never, no never fails!
Verse 2: “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.
“I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God.” Picture two nine-year-old boys building a fort in the woods bordering their back yard. They cannot lift a heavy log they want to use. One boy says, “Wait til my Dad gets home. He will move it for us. He can pick up anything!”
The boy says that because, in that boy’s experience, his Dad can lift anything the boy has needed. If I have sought refuge in God before, I know, by experience, that He keeps me safe and shelters me from danger. If I have experienced the security of being safe and unharmed in the Fortress of His love while the enemy warred against me, I too will say “the Lord is my refuge, my Fortress.”
This is another wording of the truth expressed in verse 14 of Psalm 91 and in Psalm 9:10, which is that those who are familiar with the character of God, through experience with His character, will trust in Him.
“They who know Your name (have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy and) will lean on and confidently trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You [on the authority of the Word and the right of their necessity.] (AMPC)
If I have seen, through experience, that He shows Himself strong on my behalf when I call upon Him (2 Chronicles 16:9), then I can say, with confidence, “The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer, my God, my keen and firm Strength in Whom I will trust and take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my High Tower” (Psalm 18:2, AMPC). Then I will love Him “fervently and devotedly” and He will be my strength (Psalm 18:1, AMPC)
“on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust.” To lean, as a verb, means “to incline, deviate, or bend from a vertical position; to cast one’s weight to one side for support. MacMillan’s dictionary also says it means to “to tend to choose or support something.” Decades ago, when I first made Jesus the King of my heart, I memorized Proverbs 3:5-6 and made it the guiding principle of my life. Although my meditation back then was not as deep as it is now, I clearly remember the first time I experienced that inner knowing that Holy Spirit had touched my mind with fresh understanding. As I was reflecting on those two verses, having my evening devotions after tucking my daughter into bed, I realized that leaning on God, rather than my own understanding, meant to lean or depend on Him so much that if He did not come through I would fall, just like if I truly leaned on a crutch or a cane I would fall if the crutch or cane broke.
Experiences of God’s mercy are what empowers us to trust God with confidence, but we have to incline our heart, and our actions, toward Him and we have to walk, or live our lives, holding to Him and letting Him take the weight of our burdens and needs. Actually leaning on a crutch or cane requires me to lean forward, grasp it and take a step on my weak foot with the crutch bearing much of the weight. If I step out letting my weak foot support my weight, I am not really leaning. And I am further harming my own weak foot – and my own silly self.
I remember taking a quivering breath as I wrote out my tithe check that first time so long ago. There would not be enough money left to pay bills and buy groceries for my precious little one and me if God did not do something miraculous with finances. I had several tremulous days until I saw God steadily supply our needs, week after week, with specials on the foods we regularly ate, a unexpected reimbursement from insurance, invitations to dinner, and on and on and on. God did do miracles that month and every time I have needed a financial miracle–for the last forty years. We-can-depend-on-God! He-IS-faithful!
Confidence in God—and the matchless peace it brings—is built by acting in faith. I have a wonderful quote written on a post-it note, scotch-taped to the cubby above my desk: “We live by believing, not by seeing.”
We become confident that God will keep us “stable and fixed” in His presence as we actually try to do that. And wobbly first attempts to find His presence must be exceedingly precious in God’s eyes. How does a mother or father feel when their baby boy takes his first step? And when that baby says “Papa” and reaches upward, what does Papa do?
Faith grows in the furnace, in the fire, and in the flood. The next time a situation or your feelings seem overwhelming, act in faith, while you are still feeling overwhelmed. That is worth repeating: Faith grows in the furnace, in the fire, and in the flood. While you are closed in, it is hot, and you feel you are suffocating, make the effort to get alone with your heavenly Father for a few minutes. Remind your soul of His good qualities and of all the times He has taken care of you. Read the promises in Psalm 91 and rest in the peace of knowing that He will fulfill those promises for little old you if you make Him your dwelling place, by loving and obeying Him.
If you love Him and obey Him, He IS your dwelling place. He DOES live in you, and you DO live in Him. Your feelings and thought arrows from the enemy might lie to you, but if you are doing your part in one of the promises of God, God IS doing His part to fulfill that promise in your life. Let the truth of those promises from Jesus comfort you as the warm embrace of a father soothes a fearful, restless child. Find your rest in His presence, in just being with Him.
Next time, we will look into what God promises those who make Him their Refuge and their Fortress, those who lift up their hearts to Him and call on His name, those who run into His arms, like a little child crying “Abba! Father”! (Romans 8:15)