One of my favorite songs on Paul Wilbur's latest CD is called "The Shadow of El Shaddai." It is based on Psalm 91 with an emphasis on verse 1: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
When we know the meaning of this name of God it gives us context for the entire song. El Shaddai means God Almighty, All-Sufficient One, and Many Breasted One. In other words, nothing is impossible for our God. Think about the deeper significance of this combination of meanings! He is the one who nurtures and blesses us, like a mother, protects and empowers us, because He is our father, and fulfills every promise He has made.
The first time this name appears in Scripture is in Genesis 17. God said to 99-year old Abram, "I am God Almighty (El Shaddai), walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." (Verses 1-2) God goes on to tell Abram that He is making a covenant with him. He changes his name to Abraham and tells him he will be a father of many nations. El Shaddai was telling Abraham that He would do the impossible for him--what he could not do for himself. He continued to tell Abraham that He was giving him and his descendants an "everlasting possession" of the whole land of Canaan.
Another translation of El Shaddai is "God, The Mountain One." Mountains convey strength; they are immovable. We know that God is the creator of the earth and He made the very mountains that portray His strength and unchanging nature.
The Psalmist, in Psalm 91, is pointing out that El Shaddai cares for every individual who abides in Him. Even though the Lord is Almighty God, the one who is so powerful that He created the universe and commands the entire host of heaven, He knows each of us personally. Psalm 91 is an invitation for us to know Him as El Shaddai, the one who is our shelter and refuge and fortress. We want to dwell in His shelter where we will experience protection, safety, deliverance and intimacy with Him. The chorus of Paul Wilbur's song says it this way:
"El Shaddai, El Shaddai--Our mighty sustainer, the God who provides.
Elohai, Lord of life--The One who delivers our faithful Defender,
A shelter for all who abide, in the shadow of El Shaddai."
Verses 14-15 of Psalm 91 say this: "'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.'" When you call upon the Lord, use His name, El Shaddai, and watch as He does amazing things just for you.
Joan E. Mathias