When it rains, where do we head? Indoors or under the protection of an overhang, right? Why do we do this? We won't melt in the rain! We just want to avoid all the consequences of being "out in the rain" - like wet clothes, spotted eyeglasses, catching a chill, etc. When the sun is beating down and it is hot, hot, hot - where do we head? Into the protection of a shade tree, or indoors where it is cool because of air conditioned air! Why? We don't want to fry to a crisp in the hot sun, nor do we enjoy the draining feeling the heat produces on our bodies. We "go to" shelter because we see something in our lives as a "threat" or "nuisance". We want to avoid whatever it is and so we take shelter from it. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing to do - for shelter is often the exact opposite of remaining in harm's way!
Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the Lord, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.” The Lord will keep you safe from secret traps and deadly diseases. He will spread his wings over you and keep you secure. His faithfulness is like a shield or a city wall. (Psalm 91:1-4 CEV)
I am going to take a couple of days with this psalm, but I want us to begin with a good understanding of what our psalmist is about to tell us. Herein we find the key to living a pretty solidly founded and secure life. The "place" we choose to find shelter is often the determining factor in how well we will survive whatever it attempting to bring harm into our lives! To this end, we aren't just to occasionally find shelter in God, but are to live under his protection. When it rains, we come in out of the rain. When it is too hot outside, we come in to escape the heat. When life gets challenging, it is not the time to think about running into his arms - we need to already be safely under his protection!
As a child, I'd take walks with mom or dad, and I would see their shadow next to mine. I was "dwarfed" by the size of their shadow! I could fit easily "inside" their shadow and almost completely disappear, but I had to get up close to them. Maybe this is the picture our psalmist wants us to have of what it is like to live in the shadow of God All-Powerful. We have to get up close and personal with him - so we no longer observe two "shadows" - we become one! My actions were overshadowed by the actions of my mom or dad when I stood in their shadow - leading me to believe that my actions need to be overshadowed by God's actions on my behalf, as well!
Why do we run to shelter? Isn't it because we have come to trust something will provide some element of protection for us when we do? I daresay much of the action we take in life is either because we are running toward something we trust, or running away from something we cannot trust! What God wants for us is a consistent trust in his sheltering arms. He wants us to not only find shelter there, but to be confident (trust him) he will provide for our safety (emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially).
Secret traps and deadly diseases give us insight into how God shelters our lives. First of all, secret traps are set to ensnare us without giving us any clue they are there. When someone knows the path we are walking like the back of their hand, they can spot those traps. Why? It is simply that they are so familiar with the "territory" that they know when something isn't as it should be. We don't always have this insight into our actions because we are too close to the situation and we haven't been all that observant of the "territory" we are headed into! We need the protection of God to help us avoid secret traps set to trip us up and get us ensnared into stuff / situations which could be our undoing.
Deadly diseases is simply another word picture to give us insight into how God protects those who place their trust in him. I don't know what it is like to get polio because I received the vaccine against polio as a child. I didn't get the measles as a child because I was vaccinated against it. I didn't get malaria when I visited some far reaching countries because I was taking anti-malaria medications as instructed. Deadly diseases aren't always visible - are they? They are "airborne" particles unobserved by the human eye. They are microscopic organisms picked up on our hands and given entry into our bodies as we touch our hand to mouth. What we don't "see" or "perceive" is what I think our psalmist has in mind here. We need to find shelter from what we might not even perceive as a threat to us!
Two pictures of safety are presented - the spreading of the wings over the chick and the shielding fortress of a strong-walled city. Both are excellent word pictures to give us insight into what it is to trust God's protection in our lives. I have observed some small chicks just crawl right under the spaces of the wings of the mother bird and be totally sheltered out of view within their covering. What is pictured here is this idea of being "under" and "close to" the one who shelters us from the predators in our lives. The strong-walled city is a picture of those forces which come against us, seeking admittance into our lives, but which are bound to do us harm if they are given access.
Both are apt pictures of God's powerful "shelter" when we place our trust in him. All shelter is based upon trust - some from what we can see and others from what we cannot! When we place our trust in God himself, our shelter is assured from both! Just sayin!