“Whoever dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1
Psalm 91 is not for everyone
Psalm 91 is well-known and frequently prayed in times of danger. But it opens with a very clear condition: “Whoever dwells in the secret place of the Most High”
Psalm 91:1 makes it perfectly clear that not everyone “will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Not every believer, not every Christian, but only those who dwell in God’s secret place. So yes, while this is a wonderful prayer to pray, and while we have a merciful God who hears prayer, we should be mindful of this condition – and see it as an invite, to which we should RSVP!
Dwelling – a habitual residence
The Hebrew word for dwelling – ישב („yoshev“) – speaks of a habitual residence. It describes continuously living in one place. In the Bible, the most frequent use of this word is to describe “inhabitants”, e.g. the inhabitants of the Canaan as in Joshua 2:24: “for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.”
Another very frequent use is translated as “settled”, like in Genesis 13:12: “Abram settled in the land of Canaan.” He made it his permanent dwelling place; he never resettled or returned to Haran where he had come from.
Mordechai, Ester’s cousin, sat at the king’s gate. He didn’t sit there once, or occasionally. We can presume Mordechai had an official role in the king’s service, and the place where he would exercise this role was the gate. Here he overheard when two officials plotted against the king, here he refused to bow to Haman, and here he sat when he was crying out to God about the danger his people faced.
God’s Secret Place
The word translated as “secret place” here in Hebrew is סתר (“seter”). In many of the other places it occurs, this word is used for something done in secret, or something hidden. Whenever it describes a place, as it does in Psalm 91:1, it is translated as a secret, secluded, shielded place:
“In the cover (סתר) of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.” Psalm 31:20
“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover (סתר) of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:5
These two verses reveal where this secret place is found: in God’s presence. While Psalm 31:20 makes it obvious, Psalm 27:5 speaks about God’s tent (אהל).
Moses in the Tent of Meeting
References to God’s tent are found in two important passages: Exodus 33:11 speaks of the tent of meeting where God would speak to Moses “face to face, as one speaks to a friend”. Very interestingly, despite Moses’ leadership position, and the seemingly “exclusive” access he had to God, his servant Joshua also was inspired to dwell in God’s presence: “Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” We can only presume that Joshua was thirsty for the presence of God and longed to have exactly that same closeness with God that Moses had.
Tabernacle of David
2 Samuel 6:17 mentions another tent – commonly referred to as the “Tabernacle of David”. Again the same word for tent (אהל) is used here as in Exodus 33:11 and in Psalm 27:5 (though a different word than the one used for the Tabernacle in the wilderness). When David had the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem, he had a tent built for it. He ensured that God’s presence was among His people. It became a central piece of Israel’s national consciousness that God was in the midst of them.
(In the days of Moses’ Tabernacle and later on in the Temple, the Ark stood in the Holy of Holies. The Ark represented the presence of God, and only one man had access to it – the High Priest when he entered this most holy place once a year.)
These scriptures point to one thing: the Secret Place of the Most High is His very presence. It is where He dwells. It is where He is found, where we meet him. And those who did meet with Him, be it Moses, Joshua, the High Priest, David, they all did so one to one.
The Secret Place of the Most High is not your church, not even your church prayer meeting. It is the place and the time when you are alone with God.
Habitually living in the presence of God
Coming back to Psalm 91:1. Whoever continuously lives in the presence of the Most High, whoever cultivates a one to one relationship with the Most High, speaking to him as to a friend, soaking in his presence, pressing for more – and does so habitually, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
So let’ begin to seek the presence of God as never before. Let’s shut ourselves in with Him, study His word, wait to hear His voice, praise and adore Him for who He is!
Don’t give God the bread crumbs
Let’s take time off our busy schedules. Let’s not leave the breadcrumbs of our time to God. As the Israelites were commanded to bring the firstfruit – the best part – of their harvest to the Lord, let us give him the best of our time. Daily.
In particular in this time when the world comes to a standstill and many of us are confined to our homes – let’s not fill our time with Netflix and social media, but let us return to the Lord. “For He says ‘In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2
We carry God’s presence within us
God’s Secret Place is not our inner room but His very presence. And being in God’s presence is not limited to the moment we shut our door and pray. God is not bound to time and space; he does not dwell in houses built of stone – He lives within us. And so, we can carry His presence with us wherever we go. When we leave the inner room, where we meet with him and spend time with him, we carry that sense of rootedness, that anchor that reaches behind the veil (Hebrews 6:19) within us. We can dwell in His Secret Place 24/7.