“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4. This is one of my favorite metaphors in the Bible. I am reminded of this verse each day when I drink tea from my favorite cup covered in hand drawn feathers and when I write this verse each week on my calendar as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
The metaphor of God protecting and caring for his people in the shelter of his wings is first used in Deuteronomy 32:10-11. “In desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.”
We see this image again when Boaz is speaking to Ruth in Ruth 2:12. “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Again we see the allusion to birds which cover their young with their wings, and in doing so keep them warm, comfortable, sheltered and protected.
David uses the metaphor of God’s wings several times in the Psalms. He asks for the protective outreach of God’s power from his enemies in Psalm 17:8. “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." This bring to mind birds who often cover their young ones with their wings to save them from birds of prey.
In Psalm 36:7 David says, “How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Think of this as a word picture of a hen that gathers her chicks under her wings and protects them in time of danger. It expresses both the paternal affection of God to his people as well as his protection of them.
Psalm 57:1 was written by David when he fled from Saul in the cave. “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”
David writes in Psalm 61:4, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”
In Psalm 63:7 David rejoices, “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy." He knew that under the protecting power of God he was safe and, therefore, had reason to rejoice. Think of the chirping of chicks happy, safe, warm and secure under the wing of the mother hen.
And finally, in Luke 13:34, Jesus himself brings up the wing metaphor on the Tuesday of Passion week. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”
Precious Father – Thank you for the opportunity to study your word. Thank you for timeless metaphors that help us to understand you better. May we take refuge in the shelter of your wings Lord. Amen.