Where shall we take comfort in times of catastrophe, uncertainty, danger, disaster, tragedy, perplexity, affliction or other adversities? “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul takes refuge in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge until these calamities be overpast.” (Psalm 57:1)
The concept of “under his wings” is repeated throughout the Old Testament. “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.” (Psalm 17:8) “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. (Psalm 36:7) “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” (Psalm 63:7) “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” (Malachi 4:2) “I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the shelter of thy wings. Selah.” (Psalm 61:4) “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings you may seek refuge.” (Psalm 91:4)
Where did the concept originate?
Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses and some biblical scholars think Psalm 91 is by him also, and David was the compiler of the psalms from various sources. This would fit the context. Three months after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt they reached the Wilderness of Sinai where they settled for about a year. During that remarkable period, the Lord brought Moses up into the mount to give him the Ten Commandments and the revelation and pattern for the Tabernacle in the wilderness down to all the smallest details, including the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. (Exodus 24:18; 25:9,12)
Cherubim and their wings
The ark of the covenant was an acacia wood chest overlaid with gold, (Exodus 25) built to house "the golden pot that had manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant" (Heb. 9:4). On the top of the solid gold lid was the mercy seat—not a place to sit down, but a lid to cover the ark. The mercy seat was adorned with the figures of two golden cherubim. (Exodus 37:9) And the cherubim spread out their wings on high, and with their wings covered the mercy seat, their faces toward each other. The cherubim were winged angels like those that guarded the tree of life in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:24) The ark was where the Lord manifested His intimate presence among His people. It was where Moses spoke with God.
The Purpose of the Mercy Seat
God instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel, "I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony" (Ex. 25:22). Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest representing the people was allowed past the veil into "the most holy place" where the ark was. The book of 1 Kings records the first time this took place in the temple built by Solomon. (1 Kings 8:6) “And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim.”
God communed with man "under the wings of the cherubim" – under the wings of the mercy seat. The ark of the covenant represented the righteousness of God. No human being could meet its standard. The mercy seat, sprinkled with the blood of atonement, made it possible for man to approach God. It is only because of God’s mercy that we can stand before him. Lamentations 3:22–23 declares, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
Jesus is God "manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). He is the righteousness of God personified, but he is also the mercy of God personified. He is the mercy seat that allows us access into God’s presence. (John 14:6) “Jesus said unto him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.'”
When Jesus died on the cross, the heavy curtain separating ordinary people from the holy of holies was ripped from the top to the bottom. (Matthew 27:51) Through His sacrifice we now have direct access to the presence of God, not once a year through the priest, but anytime through the blood of Jesus. (Hebrews 4:16) “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
That means anytime, anyplace, since the Holy Spirit dwells in those who belong to God through Christ. Our approach to God is no longer restricted to under the wings of the cherubim, but under the wings of God Himself.
Hide me, Lord Jesus, under the shadow of your wings. Let me find refuge in your mercies forever. Amen!
Listen to the hymn: UNDER HIS WINGS
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