Slain - In The Shadow of The Almighty
Tuesday, April 17 2018
Last week's reflection entitled He Had No Rights. And I?, with its well-known quote from Jim Elliot...
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose."
...reminded me of another reflection I had written over two years ago now, on January 8 2016, the exact day that marked the 60th anniversary of the death of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian – five young missionary men who were speared to death on the banks of the Curaray River of Ecuador back in 1956. They had been trying to reach the Huaorani Indians for the first time in history with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The renowned John Piper, in an article entitled “Slain in the Shadow of the Almighty”, wrote the following about that apparently tragic event so many years ago:
“Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of those five men, memorialized the story in her book Shadow of the Almighty. That title comes from Psalm 91:1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
This is where Jim Elliot was slain — in the shadow of the Almighty. Elisabeth had not forgotten the heartbreaking facts when she chose that title two years after her husband’s death. When he was killed, they had been married three years and had a ten-month-old daughter.
The title was not a slip — not any more than the death of the five missionaries was a slip. But the world saw it differently. Around the world, the death of these young men was called a tragic nightmare. Elisabeth believed the world was missing something. She wrote, “The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in Jim Elliot’s credo: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.””
I read the title and the article by John Piper and was immediately impacted by its truth. Because sometimes, many times in fact, we as God’s children are SAVED in the shadow of the Almighty. We dwell in Him and abide in Him as our shelter, our refuge, our fortress – and we are watched over and guarded and cared for, and yes, protected from and in the trials and tribulations that seek to harm us.
But sometimes we are NOT saved – at least not SAVED as we would understand the word to mean. Sometimes we are SLAIN. Right there, in that same place – in the shadow of the Almighty. Where Jim Elliott and his four missionary companions were slain.
I remember a friend of ours who had much the same experience in the year 1997. He was 38 years old. He was doing missionary work in Ecuador together with his then-pregnant wife and two older children. He was filming a video of a huge fire in the countryside, a footage that he had been needing for a documentary he was working on. Four thieves appeared out of nowhere, wanting to steal his truck – and in the blink of an eye, our friend was lying on the ground, shot to death. He too was slain – in the shadow of the Almighty.
So, what does it mean then to “dwell in the shelter of the Most High”? to “abide in the shadow of the Almighty”? It can not mean guaranteed physical “salvation” every time we are in His presence – because some of God’s choicest servants are physically “slain”, right there in that very presence. What does it mean then, that the Lord is our “refuge” and our “fortress”?
I believe, as John Piper so rightly states, “the refuge of the people of God is not a refuge from suffering and death, but a refuge from final and ultimate defeat”. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
God is the Almighty, the All-powerful One – and He constantly intervenes in our lives. Sometimes He intervenes to save – sometimes He intervenes and allows us to be slain. But always, always, always He ordains what is best for us.
John Piper continues: “…if you take your place “in the shadow of the Almighty,” you will be protected by omnipotence. There is infinite and unending security in the almightiness of God — no matter what happens in this life… Is there anything more freeing, more thrilling, or more strengthening than the truth that God Almighty is your refuge — all day, every day, in all the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of life? Nothing but what he ordains for your good befalls you…
If we believed this, if we really let this truth of God’s omnipotence get hold of us — that we live perfectly secure in the shadow of the Almighty — what a difference it would make in our personal lives and in our families and churches. How humble and powerful we would become for the saving purposes of God.”
How does Psalm 91:1-2 finish? Let’s read it again: “He who dwells in the shelter 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.”
And there, I believe, is the key. All God’s truths are true whether I believe them or not. But they are not operational in my life until I trust them. God is many wonderful things to His children according to these two verses: the Most High, the Almighty, the Lord – our dwelling-place, our shelter, our abode, our refuge and our fortress. But only if, and only until, I actually choose to trust in Him to be those things for me, will they become effectual in my life.
“My God, in whom I trust” – my God, in Whom I rest eternally secure and unshaken no matter what happens in this life, because of His omnipotence. If I do so, if I DO trust fully in Him, then – whether saved or slain in the shadow of His almighty power – then “all is well with my soul”.
In 2005, a movie came to the big screen about Operation Auca and the martyrdom of the five missionary men to the Huaorani native Amerindian tribe in Ecuador back in 1956. It is called END OF THE SPEAR. It is very worth seeing!
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