One of my favorite books is “Shadow of the Almighty.” It’s a book that has a lot of the letters and journal entries of a man named Jim Elliot, a missionary to the Aucas in South America. If you’ve never read it, it’s well worth reading and I highly recommend it.
The ironic thing about it is that though the title of the book comes from this Psalm, one can’t say that Elliot lived out this psalm at the end of his life…at least when we look at the surface.
Throughout this psalm it talks about the blessings of those who live under the shadow of the Almighty. The psalmist says that those who do, will be protected from the terror by night, from the arrows that fly around them, and from the plagues that strike those around them. He goes on to say that though thousands may fall around you because of these things, you will be preserved.
He caps this in verses 9-16, saying,
If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my refuge– then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
So how did Elliot end his life? By dying at the hands of the very people he was trying to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is not just an aberration either. Many have fallen before their time in their pursuit of God. Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and James, among many others.
What am I saying? That God’s word does not hold true? Not at all.
But to say that we will never suffer in this broken world would be taking this psalm too far. And whoever the psalmist was, whether it was Moses or someone else, I find it hard to believe that they never saw suffering in this world come to those who put themselves under God’s shadow.
But I think what this psalmist is ultimately saying is that when we put ourselves under the shadow of the Almighty, he will never abandon us no matter whatever we go through. Not only will he set his angels to guard over us, he himself will be with us. And though we may go through the valley of the shadow of death, he will bring us out the other side. As we look back, we will see that all along his hand was on us. We’ll see the times he answered our cries in our times of despair. We’ll see all the evil that he spared us while we were here. And ultimately, we will see his salvation.
That’s what I believe what Jim Elliot saw when he came out the other side. His Savior smiling saying, “Well done! Now look and see what fruit your death has brought.” Namely, the salvation of many Aucas, including some of the very ones that had killed him.
So whatever you may be going through in life, may you place yourself in the shadow of the Almighty too.