June 27, 2011

In the Shadow of His Wings

Some time ago I was doing a little shopping at my favorite grocery store – Aldi. I don’t remember what I bought that day. But I do remember what I saw in the parking lot. No, it wasn’t a bunch of rusty old shopping carts, or tire-tracked garbage strewn here and there, or plastic bags blowing in the wind. The very absence of these kinds of things is one reason why Aldi tops my list! Rather, in the grassy berm alongside our local Aldi parking lot was a little family of Canada Geese (I've been told they really are Canada Geese, not Canadian Geese … look it up!).

There were two beautiful brown and black adults – mama and papa, I assume. And then there were four or five fuzzy little yellow goslings. And guess what I did? What every American living in the 21st century would do! I pulled out my trusty little camera phone, drove as close as I could, rolled down my window, and began snapping away. And, almost as soon as I began snapping, mama and papa goose began hissing! You’ve seen something like this before with big birds, I am sure. They straighten their necks. They hiss. They rattle whatever it is they may have to rattle. And they raise their wings in a threatening posture and begin to charge. And, believe me, I felt threatened. I wanted to be the one snapping them, not vice versa!

So I got my pictures from a little further away than I had hoped. And then I drove home eager to show the photos of mama and papa goose’s little ones to my little ones. But it occurs to me that I got something more than just a few grainy photos and some cheap groceries that day at Aldi. I also got a picture of the watchcare of our heavenly Father.

Did you know that four times, in the Psalms (17, 36, 57, and 63), King David refers to himself as taking shelter in the shadow of God’s wings? But what is he talking about? Does God have wings? Not literally, of course. So what did it mean for David to take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings?

It’s possible that He was referring to the ark of the covenant – where the blood of the sacrifices for sin was shed. Above that ark were two angels, with their wings stretched forth, as if sheltering the ark. Perhaps David was speaking about the ark, then, when he asked God to shield him beneath the shadow of His wings. Perhaps he was asking, in other words, that God would put David in that place where sin was atoned for beneath the angels’ wings; where blood sacrifice makes us safe and forgiven before God. That is a good place to be, is it not – where Jesus’ blood covers us from all sin? So I say perhaps that place of blood sacrifice is what David speaks of when he refers to being beneath the shadow of God’s wings.

But I think, probably, he has something else in mind in those various psalms. For, in at least three of the four psalms, David uses the phrase in connection with God’s protection from his enemies, not God’s forgiveness of his sins. In at least three of the four psalms, in other words, someone is threatening to harm David – just like those geese thought I was threatening to do that day in the Aldi parking lot! And so I think that, when David refers to taking refuge under God’s wings, he is picturing something like I saw that day in the grass outside my favorite grocery store. Maybe David had even seen something like I saw. Maybe he’d watched how birds respond when their young are threatened – how they hiss, and rattle, and raise their wings. Maybe he’d seen little goslings rushing under their parents’ bellies when they’d been given a fright. And, seeing these things, he said to himself: ‘That’s what God is like. I am His little one. And when someone threatens me, they threaten the apple of my Father’s eye. When they threaten me, His neck straightens out and His wings go up, and all who would seek to harm me have been fairly warned. That’s what My God is like – like a father goose whose children have been threatened!’

And isn’t that a beautiful picture – God hissing, and stamping, and spreading His wings when you are threatened? Surely that’s what He does! Surely He defends His people, and even fights for their cause. And so we ought to take refuge in the shadow of His wings! We don’t have to fight our own battles or defend our own names. Rather, we ought to find ourselves, all the time, waddling as fast as we can underneath His breast, and taking comfort in the shadow of His protective wings!

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