I admit – I live a shady life.
But it’s not what you think. I’m not dishonest, crooked, underhanded or shifty. Rather I’m shaded and sheltered. Here’s what I mean.
A desire for being in the shade and shadows brings to mind the time we took our 3 boys to Washington DC. It was hot. No – it was scorching hot. It was so scorching hot that the front page of the news showed a row of parked motorcycles all tipped over laying on their sides. In the intense heat the blacktop had softened so the kickstands sank, tilting the cycles until they all fell. Now that’s hot!
I vividly remember the sweat and fatigue. We planned our walking routes so we could get periodic spots of shade – it was the only relief and rest available outdoors. And even the air conditioned buildings seemed muggy and stifling. Perhaps that’s why I identify so easily with the Psalmist who prayed “…hide me in the shadow of your wings…” (Psalm 17:8) The wings are another image of and symbol for the cloud. What we would have given for some shadowing clouds on that day! (1)
The Psalmist uses the imagery again: “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.” (Psalm 121: 5-7) The Lord is a shadow for all the distresses and threats we encounter – any time, day or night.
How can we be sure? Jesus points to Himself as the wings of God. “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…” (Matthew 23:37) What a picture! When her babies are in danger Mama Hen spreads her wings to protect them. Pretty much what human mothers do for their children!
The issue is whether or not we will plan our routes to go under His wings.
“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, but you were not willing.” (Underlining mine) The shady spots are available – sometimes God’s wings and shade are right where we are – but oftentimes we need to go to the shade – like the hens need to go to Mama. The Psalmist knew it – he made it clear: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 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: 1-4). Curry’s Paraphrase: When we dwell under His wings we will have rest during the heat and storms of life.
One final image – Jesus hangs on the cross with His arms outstretched. His wings are spread. He’s offering the refuge of a shady life for all who come to Him.
The words of William Cushing say it eloquently: “Under His wings I am safely abiding, Though the night deepens and tempests are wild, Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me, He has redeemed me, and I am His child. Under His wings, under His wings, Who from His love can sever? Under His wings my soul shall abide, Safely abide forever.” (2)
(1) See my three previous posts: Life in the Cloud, More Life in the Clouds, Living in Glory
(2 Under His Wings, William O. Cushing