He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2).
Suffering, sickness, trials, tribulation, tears, and death are all part of this fallen world in which we live, and every person who dwells on this earth will face all these things in some way, shape, or form in their lifetime; no one is exempt! “Man, who is born of woman, is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). “For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). And how a person responds to suffering says much about the person. We could say that our response to suffering is a barometer of our soul because it reveals to others what we believe about God, the world, and ourselves.
However, amidst the suffering, trials, and death our heart aches for some explanation to give us comfort and peace. Why so much sickness in my life? Why do I have to lose my health? Why did my child have to die so young? Many questions run through our minds during the pain and suffering. And often during these trying times it seems as if the only answer God gives is a greater illumination of Himself in His Word. But through this illumination we learn that God is the answer we seek. You see, it’s during the times of suffering, sickness, and death that the believer learns to trust more fully in the infinitely loving, wise, good, and sovereign God of heaven and earth. It’s in these trying times that our God comes to us and says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). And only when we listen to God’s Word will we find the strength and comfort to patiently endure the trials He sends upon us in this life.
And so, we read in our text, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2). Notice the psalmist is not speaking about the future home of the redeemed in heaven, but what is true of every believer right now. The psalmist wouldn’t speak of a refuge and fortress in heaven because in heaven no refuge or fortress is necessary since all suffering, danger, and death is eliminated. In heaven, the gates are open day and night, and the saints of God shall dwell in eternal peace in the presence of God. We read in Revelation 21:4 that “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
Psalm 91 speaks in the present tense, it speaks of the here and now when every believer needs a refuge and fortress to shelter us while we live in this present evil world and are afflicted by pain, suffering, and sorrow. And the psalmist says we have such a place, a secret place under the shadow of the Almighty where we find refuge and fortress, peace, comfort, and joy even during suffering and trials. Our text simply states a factual truth of every believer in the church militant — “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” We see this same truth taught in Psalm 27:5, “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle, He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”
Is this true about your life? Are you dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and abiding under the shadow of the Almighty? Is the Lord God Almighty the One in whom you find shelter when suffering, sickness, trials, tears, and tribulation come upon you? Dear reader, the word secret implies a place known only to the Most High and those who dwell there. They alone have access to the secret place. Do you know this place? What the psalmist has in mind here is the glorious presence of God in the Holy of Holies. This is the place where God dwelt in the Old Testament among His people Israel between the cherubim above the mercy seat.
But the question is how can we enter His presence? You see, God is not common, He is not your next-door neighbor. He doesn’t dwell in a house that everyone is free to enter. God is the exalted One, the High and Holy One. “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:21). No sinful creature may dwell in the presence of the Almighty. And it was this truth that God taught the children of Israel when he separated Himself in the Holy of Holies. No one may enter except through a representative – the high priest. We read in Hebrews 9:7, “But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance.” That was the key to unlock the door of the secret place of the Most High, and it’s no different today even though the shadows and types have passed away. Through His broken body and shed blood, our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, has entered into the Holy place and has opened the way for His people into the secret place of the Most High. Hebrews 6:19-20, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
But God is still the High and Holy One, and no one who is unrighteous and unholy can ever come into His presence lest he be consumed. Only those cleansed with Christ’s blood and clothed with Christ’s righteousness may enter into the secret place of the Most High, the place of refuge, comfort and strength for every believer. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
To dwell in the secret place and under the shadow of the Almighty means to trust in Jesus Christ. Abiding in Him alone is where safety, peace, comfort, hope, strength, and unspeakable joy are found amidst the trouble and turmoil in this life. John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 10:14, 28, ““I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. (…) And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And we also read in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.”
In Jesus Christ alone, God gives His people refuge and shelter from all the stormy blasts in this life. But notice it wasn’t us who sought and found the secret place; it was the Holy Spirit who drew us into the presence of the Almighty. This is the whole meaning of Psalm 91. Look at verses 3-4, “He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” And because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our heart, we confess with the psalmist in vs. 2, “I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
Dear reader, is this your confession? Is God your refuge and fortress? Do you trust Him alone during the turmoil of life when your heart is aching and nothing seems to make sense? Can you say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Do you say with the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” In the pit of turmoil, sorrow, and grief, do you confess, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain”? (Philippians 1:21). If so, then you can truly say with the psalmist, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Amen!
Rev. S. Henry
Hope Reformed Church