“He that dwelleth 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 will I trust. ”
Make no mistake!
The psalmist is not speaking here of the future estate of the redeemed in eternal glory. He is not telling us what shall be, but what is true right now.
O, indeed, it is true that the redeemed of the Lord “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, look forward to abiding forever in the dwelling place Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he of the most High. For does not the Lord Jesus inform shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, us of the place in Father’s house with its many mansions which He is now preparing for us? Shall the prayer of Jesus fail to gets its answer? “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory….” Shall the prophecy of Revelation fail to materialize? “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” The answers to all these questions imply, and the testimony of all Scripture declares, that we shall dwell with God in the new creation where righteousness shall prevail.
But this is not the viewpoint of the text. If the text was to be understood futuristically, it would not say, “He that dwelleth . . . ” but, “He shall dwell. . . .” Nor would the text speak of “my refuge and my fortress,” for in the new creation no refuge and fortress are necessary. All threatening dangers, and all enemies of God’s people will have been disposed of. There the gates are open, and the redeemed abide in eternal peace. Rather, the text puts everything in the present perspective. It speaks of the here and now, when the children of God need a refuge and fortress to shelter them, while they are beset on every side by the powers of darkness. The Holland version of the text has grasped the meaning which we translate as follows: “He that has sat down in the hiding place of the most High, shall stay overnight in the shadow of the Almighty. . . .” The key words in this translation are: “shall stay overnight,” which suggest a temporary stay. Altogether the text means to say this: While we live in this present evil world, and the night of this present dispensation is still with us, while we experience the common evils that come to us in the providence of God and especially the evils brought upon us by the wicked in the world, we have a secret place, the shadow of the Almighty, in which we find refuge.
It should be noted that the text is indeed a statement of fact. There is no exhortation, no appeal, that we should seek the secret place of the most High. The situation is not such that we are beset by all kinds of evils, and are now urged by the Word of God to flee to the hiding place. Nor is there here an offer or invitation, as though God were saying, Since you, my people, are troubled with all kinds of evils, I proffer you a place of refuge. No—the text simply states a matter of fact, a wonderful truth. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
By no means is this an isolated statement. On the contrary, we find comparable statements in the Scriptures, particularly in the Psalms. “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock,” (Ps. 27:4, 5) “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man; thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.” (Ps. 31:20) “Thou art my hiding, place: thou shalt preserve me from trouble, thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.” (Ps. 32:7)
So it is here in our text.
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
But what does that mean?
What is, first of all, the secret place?
Implied in this expression are the facts that it is known only to the most High and to those who dwell there; and, that only the most High and those who dwell there have access to it. Undoubtedly the psalmist had in mind the shekinah glory of the Holy of Holies in the sanctuary, which for him could be attained only in the way of atonement—the place where Jehovah dwelt in the midst of His people Israel between the cherubim above the mercy seat. Prophetically the psalmist is looking to the realization and perfection of the secret place whereby now through Christ we have ready access into the covenant communion with the living God. That it is the secret place of the most High means that it is the place where the exalted God dwells.
God is not common, that is, He is not your next door neighbor into whose house everyone is free to enter. He is exclusively the most High. He is the high and holy God. No sinful and corrupt creature may dwell with Him. It was this truth that God taught the psalmist and all Israel when He separated Himself in the Holy of Holies. No one might enter, except the great high priest once a year and that with blood. And no different is it now, though the shadows are passed. Though through the rending of the flesh of Christ the veil of the temple is rent from top to bottom, and our Great High Priest has entered the Holy Place to stay, and thus opened the way for us into the secret place, God is not common. He is still the High and Holy God, Who dwells in the high and holy place. No one may come into His presence who is unrighteous and unholy, lest he be consumed. The password into the secret place is BLOOD, the blood of atonement. Only they who are clothed with garments of righteousness may come into the secret place., of the most High. That the most High dwells in the secret place implies that He is lifted up above all the threatening powers of darkness, unaffected.
Secondly, the psalmist identifies the secret place of the most High with the shadow of the Almighty. He who dwells in the secret place of the most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. This is, of course, figurative language. A shadow, we know, is cast by the reality of light falling on a substantial object. When I face the light of the sun, behind me a shadow is cast which marks out on the ground behind me my shape. Infinitely brighter than the sun is God, Who is light. That God is light means that He is full of infinite perfections. In the radiance of these perfections is His glory. The effulgence of His own perfections He is pleased to let fall on His Son, the express image of the Godhead. That Son is now our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh exalted. He on Whom the light of God descends casts the shadow. To dwell in the shadow, therefore, means to dwell in close proximity to Christ, Who stands in the presence of the invisible God Who is light. One, therefore, who dwells in the shadow of the Almighty is near to Christ, and consequently near to God. He is as close to Him as His shadow.
Note, in the third place, that the psalmist speaks of dwelling there. This, we already pointed out, is the hope of all God’s saints. Forever to abide in the secret place of the most High in the shadow of the Almighty is the perfection of our eternal state. Yet, as we also called to your attention, the text looks at this dwelling as being of a temporary nature. Providentially He allows us to find refuge there and find shelter in the time of storm. He makes it possible for us to stay there overnight until the storm is past.
Indeed, this is not only a wonderful fact, but a marvelous wonder of grace!
It is apparent that not all may dwell there. Surely this is not for the wicked, and that for two reasons. In the first place, God, the most High and therefore the Holy One, will not allow that which is wicked and corrupt to dwell with Him. They would be consumed by Him Who is a consuming fire. And secondly, neither will the ungodly seek the secret place of the Almighty. They will seek their refuge, if they sense they need one, in an arm of flesh.
Only God’s covenant people may and do dwell with Him. It is God’s prerogative to decide who shall dwell with Him; and to dwell with Him is a covenant idea. It is God Who chooses His people, and that with a view to filling the house of His covenant. And their dwelling with Him is therefore a fruit of election and sovereign grace. Of themselves they are no better than the wicked who are banished from His presence. That they dwell with Him is a matter of pure grace. And the fact that they do dwell with Him is a wonder of grace.
It was not we who sought and found the secret place, but the power of the Almighty drawing us into His shadow. Such is the tenor of the entire Psalm. He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler . . . He shall cover thee with His feathers . . . He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy’ ways. That we make the Lord our refuge, set our love upon Him, call upon Him, are not conditions we fulfill, but the result of the work of His grace in our hearts.
Prompted by the Spirit of Christ in the heart of him who dwells in the secret place; not simply to say something about his God, but spoken directly to Him.
I will say to Jehovah:
My refuge and my fortress! My God! In Thee will I trust!
Confession is always to say precisely what God has revealed to us by His grace in His Word. This confession is made by the psalmist, only because he is prompted by the Spirit of Christ which was in him. We must not, forget that Christ is principally the Confessor. It is He Who speaks in the Psalms. Even the Devil was aware of this when in the temptation of Christ in the wilderness he quoted from our Psalm: “If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, and with their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” (Matt. 4:6 — Ps. 91:11, 12). So it is Christ Who confesses here as prophetically He would come to dwell in the flesh, be caught in the net of the fowler, and be caught up into the secret place and cast the shadow of the Almighty. He speaks as the Representative of His people, and that before the face of God: Thou art My refuge, My fortress, My God, in Thee will I trust.
Through His Spirit the psalmist speaks and all God’s people. Indeed, the psalmist, whoever he was, also experienced this dwelling with Jehovah. But with him, and out of that same Spirit of Christ, all God’s covenant people are moved to speak. They all, standing in the shadow of the Almighty, lifted up above the storms of life, say, Thou art my refuge and fortress; Thou art my God, in Thee will I trust.
Forget not, the believing church says this while still in the evil world, and surrounded by threatening dangers. Not only do the children of God experience there the common vicissitudes of life that so often overwhelm them, but there are also the evils imposed upon them by the wicked. The accuser of our brethren who was cast out of heaven, is come to earth having great wrath, because he knows his time is short. (Rev. 12:12). He seeks whom he may devour. The saints of the most High need a shelter, a safe retreat, a strong fortress.
And such is provided for them.
Hidden in the shadow of the Almighty, which is Christ, they are perfectly safe.
And presently, when the storm has ceased, and the enemy is completely vanquished, they shall be lifted still higher, into the house of God’s everlasting covenant, where they shall abide forever.