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 NIV)
Everyone, at some time, feels battle weary, tired of fighting, afraid, vulnerable and exposed. Psalm 91 is a song for times like these. We are assured that God is there for us, our refuge, our strength, our fortress. This is the second time in just four verses that we are reminded of His faithfulness and protection. I think He really wants us to grasp this truth.
Today’s verse promises that we will find safety under His wings. Does God even have wings?
We have all seen pictures of angels with wings – big, beautiful wings. And scripture talks about the Seraphim (one class of angels) having 3 pair of wings! (See Isaiah 6)
But does God have wings? I’m not sure that is what today’s verse is saying. God often talks to us in terms we can understand, using images that we can relate to, to teach us about things way beyond our understanding.
A mother hen and her chicks would have been familiar to many people. They had seen a mother hen and her chicks, maybe pecking for bugs in the yard near their home. When the storm comes, the mother doesn’t run around trying to snag her chicks, like some barnyard cricket match. No, she hunkers down, spreads her wings and calls her chicks to come to her. Here her youngsters are kept dry and as safe. Under her wings, close to her heart, her babies find refuge.
We can find refuge under His wings when we run to Him. I used to believe – wanted to believe – that if I stayed close to God, I’d avoid the storms. Somehow, they would just calm down. That is not promised.
Scott Krippayne has written a song that expresses this so well.
Sometimes He calms the Storm
All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong
Suddenly fear is like white water
Pounding on the soul
Still we sail on knowing
That our Lord is in control
Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child
He has a reason for each trial
That we pass through in life
And though we’re shaken
We cannot be pulled apart from Christ
No matter how the driving rain beats down
On those who hold to faith
A heart of trust will always
Be a quiet peaceful place
It’s during these times, hunkered down under His wings, that we are close enough to hear His heart.
What is on His heart? Is He worried about the storm? No! Does He want us to see the storm from His perspective? Yes. Maybe there is an action He wants us to take. Maybe He is concerned for others still in the storm, who don’t take shelter under His wings. Maybe He wants us to pray for those causing the storm. Maybe, He just wants to hold us close. In any case, we need to lean into Him, breathe in His peace, and listen.
But there is more. God is gentle, safe and comforting – but He is not weak. Verse 4 continues “his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
Shields and ramparts are not a normal part of our daily life, at least not where I live. We have some idea of what a shield looks like. We’ve seen the round garbage-can-lid-sized shield in movies about medieval times or gladiator battles. But Roman soldiers had another kind of shield, larger and more rectangular – and heavier. This one wasn’t used in hand-to-hand combat, but was carried by the infantry. If they were attacking a walled city and were being hailed by arrows, the shields could be interlocked and used as both a front wall and a “roof” for protection. Often the shields were covered with leather which was soaked in water so they would extinguish the “flaming arrows.” I picture this shield whenever I “pray on” the armor of God, including the Shield of Faith.
According to Google, a rampart is defined “as a defensive wall of a castle or walled city, having a broad top with a walkway and typically a stone parapet.” A parapet is “a low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony.” When you see pictures of castles or walled cities, you often see a tall wall with guards and watchmen. Another example, on a very large scale, could be the Great Wall of China.
So, what does this have to do with us? On the rampart of His Faithfulness we can see the enemy attacking, from an unreachable-to-the-enemy place. Standing on the rampart of His Faithfulness we have an elevated view of what’s happening around us… a bigger picture than those “down in the trenches.” Scripture tell us that we are “…raised… up with Christ and seated … with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:6) Jesus wants us to see people and situations through His eyes. (There is a lot more in this scripture, but I’ll save that for another time.)
In practical, everyday terms, exactly how does one stand on faithfulness? The New Living Translation of this verse is “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
Standing on His faithfulness is the same as standing on His promises. It’s not letting the wind of the enemy’s lies blow us over or make us cower. One good way to do this is to recount how God has been with you in the past. Did you have a financial need? Were you in a situation where you saw no way out? You got through those times to be where you are now. How? How did God provide? Or show you the path through your difficulty or pain… even if you were unaware it was Him at the time? Over and over again in the Old Testament, God’s people were told to remember what God had done and to celebrate with feasts throughout the year.
Remember and recall His goodness and faithfulness to you. Praise Him for what He’s done in the past, and for what He’s doing now, and will continue to do, even if you can’t see anything good happening. “ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
In a new situation? It’s not new to Him. Find one of His promises, like Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them [your problems, your enemies, your challenges], for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”
Under His wings is a special place… close to His heart… in a feathered fortress. We are aware of His awesome love for us. As Psalm 103:11 states, As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for us.
We must learn to rest in that wonderful truth. Rest is not necessarily doing nothing. Sometimes, rest is work. But we must learn to rest in Him.
Sometimes I feel like I’m being tossed around
by the wind and waves.
Help me learn to lean into You,
To hear Your heart,
To breathe in Your peace,
To really learn to trust You
Not just with my head,
But deep in my heart of hearts.
Thank you for Your faithfulness –
To me, too.