A Walk through Psalms: Finding Shelter
Israeli scholar Yair Hoffman called Psalm 91 “an amulet Psalm.” He called it this due to its description of God’s abundant protection and with the thought that reciting it would give the person “God’s guarding power.” The idea of Scripture as an amulet feels a bit like something from a superhero movie. Yet in dark days, this passage is one I cling to, as it gives a sense of rich protection.
Listen to how Psalm 91 begins…
“He who dwells in the Most High’s shelter,
in the shadow of Shaddai lies at night —
I say of the Lord, “My refuge and bastion,
my God in whom I trust.”
The idea of shelter is a beautiful image. I can only image how significant the idea of a shelter must have been in biblical days. As for us, we think about having nice homes or beach homes or Pinterest-worthy homes, but shelter in the days of the nomadic times meant survival. It meant the difference between life and death. In some ways, shelter would have been everything.
The theme of protection continues to weave through Psalm 91 with images of a bird shielding its tiny offspring beneath vast wings. In The Book of Psalms Robert Alter shares that we should not necessarily imagine God as a large mother bird, but we should focus more on the idea the image represents. He says, “The sheltering care of the bird for her fledglings is a recurrent biblical image for solicitous protection.”
“With His pinion He shelters you,
and beneath His wings you take refuge,
a shield and a buckler, His truth.”
I recently listened to a talk by legendary missionary Elisabeth Elliot. You may be familiar with her story of her and her husband, Jim, who were serving in the Auca area of South America in the 1950s. Her husband and four others were violently killed by the members of a tribe they were trying to serve. Yet, she continued to stay and minister despite her incredible loss. This June, she has gone home to be with the Lord. I wanted to revisit her inspirational words and in doing so, I came across her grapplings with Psalm 91.
She said that not long after her husband had been murdered so violently, her young daughter had begun memorizing Psalm 91. She could not help but sense the irony between the promise of God’s protection and having to explain how her husband could be so horribly killed.
“There will be no intellectual satisfaction in understanding Psalm 91 on this side of heaven,” she said. “I have not found intellectual satisfaction, but I have found peace. The answer is not an explanation, but a person, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.”
In comparison, my troubles feel small when I consider what Elisabeth Elliot endured. Yet, I find myself forgetting the shelter in Christ that is available to me every single day. I have to remind myself that God’s refuge is not only found during quiet time or on Sunday morning or at Bible study. His sanctuary goes with me and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. The amulet of Scripture and His cover is for me, every day and in every moment.
My invitation is to reconsider the idea of shelter this summer. When you are fearful, when you are worried, when you are angry and upset, seek God’s shelter. In your heart, walk yourself to the sanctuary of the sacred and rest. Escape the searing troubles to place yourself in the protection of His holy hands. Rest beneath His protective cover. His shelter is always there for you.
Psalm 91 (Consider reading different versions to see how the theme of protection carries through.)
Good Questions for Journaling:
-How do you consider God as shelter in your life?
-What do you think of the idea of Psalm 91 as an “amulet” Scripturen
-When do you seek God’s shelter – for rest, relief, protection?
-Have you rested in your “shelter” today?