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Shadow of the Almighty

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

In two of her books, Through Gates of Splendor and The Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot tells the story of five American missionaries, including her husband, Jim, who were martyred in the jungles of Equador in 1956.

The title of the second book was taken from Psalm 91, which the five young men took very seriously as they embarked on the hazardous task of making contact with the primitive Auca people. After a number of promising contacts with the natives through an ingenious method of lowering buckets of gifts from a plane tightly circling over the village, the men landed on a strip of sand on a jungle riverbank and awaited the arrival of their new “friends.” But the missionaries were cruelly murdered and their bodies left in the muddy waters of the river.

Whatever natural fears the young men may have had, they were undoubtedly allayed by the words, “Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor fear the dangers of the day, nor dread the plague that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday” (Psalm 91:5-6).

Whatever reservations they may have entertained, they presumably took great comfort in the words “If you make the Lord your refuge, and you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you” (91:9-10). And yet the reality is that these trusting young men were speared to death within days of their arrival in Auca territory.

We don’t know how much warning—if any—the missionaries had of the impending attack, but they had hung their hearts over the words, “The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them’” (91:14-15).

The obvious question on the minds of many at the time of the tragedy—and in succeeding years—was, “What went wrong?” Did God’s promises not stand up under the weight of trust put in Him? Did God dishonor His commitment to the safety of His young servants? Had they misread or misinterpreted the Scriptures?

The answer, although hard to find, is surely that the Lord did “rescue them” from their earthly pain and “honor them” in His immediate presence. Ever since their deaths, they’ve enjoyed His promise to “satisfy them with a long life”—as long as eternity—“and give them [his] salvation” (91:15-16). Truly they found “rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (91:1).

Faith takes the long view, and God’s shadow is a long shadow.

For further study: Psalm 91

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.