There are some things that are good in God that otherwise aren’t…like, for example, bearing a yoke, being the least of these, and or living in the shadows.
In the Lord, a yoke is good and easy. Being least is a quality of humility and selfless love that gives Him glory. And living in the shadows…well, it depends on whose shadow we’re talking about.
Generally, to live in someone’s shadow is to have your own person and accomplishments overlooked because another person is greater, bigger, or more noticeable. Younger siblings hear about this often –“you have a lot to live up to in the shadow of your big sister!”
But living in the shadow of God is quite the opposite.
We read over and over again in Scripture, particularly in Psalms, about taking refuge in the shadow of His wings.
What’s so different about this shadow?
The shadow of His wings is…
1. A Metaphor for His Guidance
We first read about being under God’s “wings” in Deuteronomy 32:11 in the song of Moses. The words come as a part of the tale of how God guided and cared for Moses.
“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.”
Have you seen how an eagle cares for its young and teaches them to fly? Eagles hover over their children, keeping them close and safe. Stirring them up, eagles encourage their children to fly but they never leave them. Their young are always in the shadow of their wing and are caught and carried when they grow weary or falter.
2. A Picture of His Presence
“I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” –Psalm 61:4
What is His tent? What is the shelter of His wings? The place of God’s presence. A place that is eternal and that is a refuge. The Hebrew word for refuge here is “chasah” and is also translated “my trust.”
I will put my trust in the shelter of your wings, the Psalmist says. I will, as chasah means, confide in your presence and trust in you for safety, we read.
Based on the word chasah, we know that taking refuge in the shadow of His wings calls us to go aside from our usual places of fear and self and this world to the place of hoping and resting fully in Him.
3. An Example of His Protection
In Psalm 91:4, we read that: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
To be in the Lord’s presence, close to Him and relying on Him, means that you are wholly protected. You are covered as by a shield, and He’s got your back too:
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” –Psalm 63:7
Worthy of our praise and giving us the peace that we are indeed safe from all harm, we find ourselves in such joy that we sing. When we’re under His watchful, faithful covering, we have reason and space to sing!
4. A Description of a Loving Relationship with the Lord
His guarding us and keeping us close isn’t mere obligation or instinct. The Lord’s love is far more perfect and sweet than that.
As the Psalmist wrote: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” –Psalm 17:8
Just one verse earlier God is praised for His “lovingkindness.” Psalm 36:7 phrases it this way: “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
Living in the shadows, or rather, someone else’s shadow, isn’t so bad when the shadow is the Lord’s. He is greater. The shadow He casts isn’t one we’ll ever measure up, and His isn’t over-reaching.
We find the guidance, safety, hope, joy, and the love that we need to be who we are in the Lord when we are in His presence –and to be in His presence is to be in His shadow, under His wing.
Hebrews 12:9 reminds us: “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!” To be under His wing is to be in His care, treated as one of His young.
Though pride tells us we know how to fly and protect ourselves, God knows better. God knows the best place for us is in His presence, under His wing –even though that means giving up control and pride…
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” –James 4:7-8
There’s no better place to be.