He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” – Tehillim / Psalms 91
Back in Romania, I have a quote on one of the walls and it says in big glitter letters, ‘You were not born to fit in, you were born to stand out.’ I don’t know who said that but I love it, mainly because I have always felt like I stand out like a sore thumb and one day I have decided to embrace my weirdness and have taken those words to heart, glitter letters and all. That wasn’t the only quote I have embraced. I had things like ‘why be normal when you can be extraordinary?’ down to a mantra. Positivity and motivation does wonders for the brain doesn’t it?
You can’t ever have too much positivity, can you? I use to think so, but then I met people. The kind that don’t know much about the Bible but they do know by heart all the verses that proclaim them conquerors and God forbid that you should feel down in their presence because they will teach you the ‘right path’ in 2 minutes. I use to envy those people… in a way I still do but mostly I am afraid to even dare to think of being anything but positive when I’m around them … You just don’t mess with their faith and their theology. God wants good things for you so you better do whatever you need to do in your mind to get it right!
It’s really easy when everything in one’s mind is either black or white and every possible conclusion that they reach is an absolute. The problem comes when they encounter a paradox, a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. There are many such paradoxes in HaShem and His reality. He’s both Lion and Lamb, fire and water, Judge and Savior, etc.
One of my favorite such paradoxes is the fact that He promises unmeasurable things to one who will abide in His shadow. One may assume we all are by default in His shadow, but no. Some are in the light, very much so in fact. It doesn’t say that those that are in the light are not blessed, but there is a special blessing and a special promise for those that abide in His shadow. The entire Psalm 91 is a blessing for those who abide in His shadow. And I am not talking about shy people, or introverts, or those working behind the scene for a conference, or are part of the staff for who knows what evangelist. I will explain in a minute what I mean by shadow, but before that, I’ll focus on the word abide.
Now, English is not my first language and I thought abide meant something like dwell or lodge, so I double checked just to make sure (I’m not a nerd), and it turns out it means to withstand, endure without yielding, bare patiently, to accept without objection, to remain stable or fixed in a state. His shadow is not pleasant. His shadow is not a place of praise and worship and deep study in a hidden place. His shadow is endured not enjoyed.
You see, due to sin, our reality has been distorted so not everything that appears Light is Light, and not everything that appears dark is in fact dark. Sometimes hasatan (the enemy) appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and sometimes Adonai, blessed be His Name forever, appears like the enemy. Sometimes the least painful road is not the best and the least bitter medicine is not the cure.
Often the word ‘tzal’ (shadow) appears in the Scriptures as a symbol of death, like in Psalm 23 when it talks about tzal mavet (shadow of death). The human mind cannot understand how is it even possible for The Father of lights in whom there is no shadow (James 1:17), no darkness, to not only cast a shadow but for one to abide in it.
Regardless what some might think, faith is tested. And I know that those that enjoy Adonai’s light, feel blessed when they look at other believers struggling with doubts in shadows. They assume those who are in shadows are in sin… for surely they did something wrong that attracted whatever calamity they are facing. If you’re one of those fortunate to be in the light, be grateful because it’s just His grace shining His light upon you. And on behalf of all those that have ever been in His shadow, do us all a favor and SHUT UP. You're about as useful as Yov's friends.
To preserve one’s faith in oneself, in God, and in mankind during the bleakest of moments is terribly challenging, and we cannot judge those who feel it impossible to do so. But when everything is taken away from us – that, ironically, is when hope is needed most. That is when you need to squeeze your eyes shut and go by faith and not by sight. I know it is scary and the more you look at things or even at Adonai, the more distorted everything is, so close your eyes.
Yeshua said that His sheep know His voice and don’t follow a stranger for they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10:4-5). Believe you’ll recognize His voice and keep going. Ignore those that tell you this is punishment. It’s not. It’s Hashem trusting you that you love Him enough that even if you can’t see His Light; even if all you see is shadow and every instinct tells you to run, you will abide in Him. That yes, you love His beauty, but if you’ll see only His shadow, you’ll love Him through it. For better or for worse. Not everybody gets to see His shadow. Giants of righteousness fell when they were faced with His shadow. It’s bone crushing, soul tearing, mind numbing pain… If you’re faced with His shadow it will either make you or break you. Like the Angel fighting Yaakov. He’ll act like your enemy… or so you’ll think and you’ll end up as confused as Yov (Job) asking over and over again ‘what did I do wrong? Why are you treating me like this?’
These are not nice words you read in a Psalm because it promises a lot of great things. All those words are true. But only for those that not only endure His shadow but at the end of it they say “Here I stand Adonai! I am scared. I want to run because you seem like my enemy right now and I really don’t want to fight You. But I will, because You’re mine! Just as much as I am Yours , You are mine! And I will fight You if I must. Like Yaakov… Because even though I know I am no match for You, I trust You! You will not kill me! I don’t care that Your shadow scares me out of my mind… I trust You! You are my refuge! I trust You, do you hear me? So do whatever You need to do and I will do what I must and by the end of this, if I am still breathing, You don’t get to leave until you bless me!’
And I'll tell you what, if you live to tell the tale then I guarantee you will make history.
Bat Melech בת מלך