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Under the Shadow: God as Guardian

‘He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty...He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will take refuge; His truth is a large shield and bulwark.’ 

Psalm 91:1,3

The last days are upon us. In fact, we are living in the last of the last days, and Paul warns ‘that in the last days perilous times will come’ (2 Tim. 3:1). As the Lord’s return draws near, the world gets worse and worse. Scripture warns that dangerous days will come, and they will. The news reports robberies, murders, earthquakes, and tsunamis morning, noon, and night, so Paul says not to be naive: ‘There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people’ (2 Tim. 3:1-5).

You can have ten guns at home and fifteen insurance policies, but ‘your adversary, the devil, still prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’ (1 Pet. 5:8). This spiritual lion would kill everyone if he could, but he keeps seeking because he can’t devour us all. In other words, those who believe and trust in God remain (for now) in this dangerous world, but they are not of this world. They may become accustomed to suicide bombings, mass shootings, and airplane hijackings, but they have the ultimate guardian in the great God of heaven!


David proclaims: ‘Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff comfort me’ (Ps. 23:4). He knows that the Good Shepherd guards against enemies. Likewise, Paul reminds Timothy that they serve a formidable God when, just prior to execution, he says: ‘You have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra – what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me’ (2 Tim. 3:10-11). Paul goes on to warn how ‘all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…but you, continue in the things you learned and became convinced of, knowing from whom you learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writing which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus’ (3:12-15).

Paul’s message to young Timothy is that believers are blessed with God’s protection in perilous times to the degree that they submit to Him and His word. We can be safe in a world filled with crime, disease, and demons. God’s faithfulness keeps, guides, and protects us because when we believed and confessed Jesus Christ as Savior, He became both our Lord and our Defender. He saves us from more than sin. He protects us from plagues that strike in the day and demons that lurk in the dark. He is our refuge and strength. A very present help in time of trouble, and no disaster shall overtake us.

David was a mighty warrior who knew the Protector he served. Just prior to killing Goliath, he tells King Saul: “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37). He later says of his God: ‘I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety’ (Ps. 4:8). God gives rest to the distressed and strength to the weak. He is shade from the sun and refuge from the storm. He is our protection from the enemy; our safe dwelling place. As Psalm 91:1 says: ‘He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.’

‘Under the shadow’ implies nearness. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect description of God’s constant closeness to His elect. Psalm 91 continues: ‘Surely 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’ (3-4). So it is only in God’s secret place that the prowling lion is unable to find us. Like a canopy, God’s protection covers those who submit to Him. Reject His offer of adoption and you forfeit that blessing. That’s why Jesus lamented: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left desolate” (Matt. 23:37-38).

Fear insults God because we know better. When the saved succumb to fear, we put our faith in that which hurts rather than in God’s protection. Don’t be like Job, who says: “For the dread that I dread comes upon me, and what I am afraid of befalls me” (3:25). Like a magnet, fear attracts what we’re afraid of. Living as a coward is far worse than dying in faith. David feared not and faced the giant. He even seized a lion by its beard and slayed it. As he says: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ (Ps. 27:1). The living God dwells in us! By His power, we now have a say in whether or not to walk in fear. As kingdom citizens, choose to resist fear of anybody or anything!

There is yet another way God protects those who make Him their habitation: ‘No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone’ (Ps. 91:11-12). Angels are real and the Most High sends them to guard His own. He gives the order and they obey. Angels saved Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). They defended Daniel in the lions’ den: “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me” (6:22). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said He could ask twelve legions of angels to aid Him (Matt. 26:53). And in Acts, angels are repeatedly sent to free apostles from jail (5:19, 12:7).

Concerning the angels, Hebrews says: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?’ (1:14). We don’t serve angels, they serve us, so it’s wrong to pray to angels. In Revelation, John falls down to worship an angel and is forbidden from doing so. The angel even scolds him: “Do not do that! I am a fellow slave with you…Worship God!” (22:9). Paul reminds believers that we will judge the world and angels one day (1 Cor. 6:2), so to desire to be one when we reach heaven would be a great a demotion (and heresy). There is one God and it is Him we serve. Yet we can learn from the holy angels who only hearken to God’s word. As David writes: ‘Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure’ (Ps. 103:20-21).


Angels are powerful and there are billions of them: ‘The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands’ (Ps. 68:17). Nowhere is this better illustrated than in 2 Kings: ‘When Elisha’s servant arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha’ (7:15-17). Like Elisha and his servant, God’s elect are never alone. We can walk confidently through the valley of the shadow of death because we have angels wherever we go.

In the days of King Hezekiah, the world’s premier military came against God’s people. Jerusalem was powerfully outnumbered, but their Protector declared: “I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.” And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand, and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses – all dead’ (2 Kings 19:34-35). One single angel did this, so how amazing that God assigns these angelic warriors as our very own bodyguards! With God as our refuge and the angels as His agents, evil cannot get close and harm cannot enter our doors.


God can protect us if we are in His will. Solomon counsels: ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him’ (Prov. 16:7). Remember when God led Jacob and his family through hostile territory, and ‘they journeyed on, and there was a terror from God upon the cities which were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob’ (35:5). Like Jacob, we are safe in perilous places if God directs our steps. If we follow and utterly obey Him, ‘the terror from God’ can defend us. What’s more, fear and dread fall upon our enemies when we submit to God. We can act valiantly like Jonathan and his armor-bearer who rose to face the enemy alone, declaring: “Nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Sam. 15:6).

Proverbs teaches another way we escape danger: ‘A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished’ (27:12). Faith isn’t to be used to get us out of trouble, but to keep us from getting into trouble. It’s better to skip the trap than to be snared and need divine deliverance. As Hebrews says: ‘By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household’ (11:7). God warned Noah and the godly man responded. Likewise, God used warnings to guard the infant Christ: ‘Being warned in a dream that [the Magi] should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him”’ (Matt. 2:12-13).


The bottomline is we can’t expect God to guard us if we ignore His warning. God tells Ezekiel: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me” (3:17). And Paul warns in Acts: “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss” (27:10). The ship’s owner ignores Paul and disaster strikes. He refuses to believe that God gives His people warnings. God saved Christ with warnings, so why should we expect something more spectacular? As Solomon writes: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths’ (Prov. 3:5-6). Pursue that and enjoy being under the shield of the Almighty!

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