To Abide with God in the Midst of Danger

by David Brickner | September 01 2022

While taking an Uber to the airport, I noticed an amulet hanging from the rearview mirror. Seeing that it was inscribed with Arabic writing, I asked the driver, “Is that a verse from the Koran?” He confirmed my hunch and told me it was a prayer for protection. “You can’t be too careful these days,” he concluded.

That Uber driver understood what we know all too well: safety is not guaranteed in this dangerous world. I think about that as I hear almost daily accounts of missiles exploding close to our Jews for Jesus staff in Ukraine. I think about it when I hear that six people were killed at a parade in a “safe” Chicago suburb less than 20 miles from where I once lived. We understand that danger reaches near and far, but what do we do about it?

Will Reciting Scripture Ward Off Evil?

Psalm 91:1 (NKJV) tells us, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Bible scholars call Psalm 91 an apotropaic psalm, a Greek word meaning “to avert evil.” Archeologists have discovered ancient amulets, intricate pieces of jewelry inscribed with words from Psalm 91, worn as protection against evil—much like the amulet the Uber driver hung from his mirror.

Psalm 91 actually became known as the “Soldier’s Prayer.” Bandanas imprinted with the psalm have been distributed to US troops. It’s been said that the 91st Brigade recited Psalm 91 daily during World War I and did not suffer a single combat-related death, though they fought one of the bloodiest battles.

The Word of God is inspired and true, and it’s wise to pray through Psalms in times of trouble. But there is a fine line between relying on God by praying through His Word and slipping into what amounts to a magical or push-button approach to Scripture.

Jesus specifically rejected Satan’s attempt to misuse words from Psalm 91: “Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”’” (Matthew 4:5–7).

Trusting God vs Trying to Push Spiritual Buttons

It’s one thing to trust God’s promises and quite another to misuse those promises in an attempt to force God’s hand. The Son of God knew that the Bible does not provide magical incantations to be recited for our protection. The Bible is a supernatural book containing supernatural revelation about God, who makes supernatural promises to those who abide in Him.

God’s Word shows us that our security is not just from Him, but in Him. Abiding in God does not always protect us from difficult and even painful situations, but it does preserve us in the midst of them.

When we are positioned in Jesus, we’re not promised protection from suffering.

No one trusted God more fully than the Lord Jesus, yet He suffered and died on the cross. When, through faith, we are positioned in Jesus, we’re not promised protection from suffering, but we are promised that on the other side of that suffering, glory and eternal pain-free joy await. That is why we find ultimate comfort and security as we abide in Him.

What it Means to Abide in God

Psalm 91 offers two beautifully poetic Hebrew words to convey the richness of abiding in God. Yoshev, which means “to dwell,” and implies a place of permanence, and Yitlonan, which means “to abide.”

The first word speaks of that sense of security we feel in our homes. I call it nesting. You know, that sense of relief you feel when you come home and unpack after a long trip. The familiar surroundings create a welcoming sense of comfort and contentment.

Rest in God no matter where you may be.

The second word, meaning abide, is in the imperfect tense conveying the ongoing commitment to rest in God no matter where you may be. Some of my best rest comes when I am hiking in the mountains. I can get away from the daily routine to quiet my soul and hear the voice of the Lord.

The psalmist calls us to dwell in the secret place of El Elyon, God Most High, and to abide in the shadow of El Shaddai, the Almighty. These two powerful names of God convey both His transcendence and His immanence, or nearness, to us.

Because God is “most high,” we need to lift our eyes to behold Him. Focusing down on our circumstances will only cause us to miss the life-giving vision of His exalted power. But God is also Almighty, unleashing His power to save us by invading our circumstances. The Hebrew root shad is believed by many to refer to the chest or the breast, that part of anatomy where there is real strength along with genuine nurture. God’s strong and nurturing protection is beautifully described in verse 4, “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.”

Shelter in the Secret Place

I heard the story of a farmer who had just one hen in his hen house. One day a fire broke out, destroying the house and killing the hen. But lo and behold, as the farmer pushed aside the charred remains of the hen, four young chicks scrambled out alive from underneath their mother. What an amazing picture of the nurturing, protecting, and yes, even sacrificial nurture of Almighty God—ultimately and most beautifully fulfilled in Jesus.

It is only under those wings that we find the “secret place” and the “shadow” of true and lasting protection.

As I wept in sorrow that day, I sensed the Almighty with me. I wasn’t alone after all.

We all need a secret place, a hiding place. I have often found that secret place out in the beauty of God’s creation. Once, during the lowest point in my life, I hiked to the edge of a crystal-clear alpine lake. I stood on a patch of sandy beach surrounded by tall granite. I had never felt so alone. But as I wept in sorrow that day, I sensed the Almighty with me. I wasn’t alone after all. There in that secret place, I found strength to walk the path of sorrows set before me.

Jesus said, “Pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). It is only because of Jesus that we can come to God and abide with Him. He has opened His secret place to all who trust His Son. How can we not share that secret place with others who are seeking protection in this troubled world? Thank you, and bless you for helping us do just that as we continue to invite Jewish people to find shelter under the shadow of His wings.