He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust: his truth shall be your shield and buckler.
The simile before us represents the mother-bird guarding her young until they can guard themselves. It is protection as a process in training until one has learned to use his capacities for self-protection. The figure before us may be so misused as to emphasize what we may call the "nursery idea" in religious life. God's purpose and plan is to train man to be self-reliant. As the meaning of all true charity is found in that help which develops self-help, so is God's method in training man. His protecting help is to make man competent to help himself. This is a wide-reaching principle. The kind of God it discloses is one who has great respect for the creature He has made — a God who has put His image upon man by endowing him with certain qualities capable of growth; a God who puts great value upon the manly, self-sustaining character; a God who expects that when one is a child he will speak as a child, he will understand as a child, he will think as a child. But this same God expects that when the child grows into the man, he will put away childish things. A God who specially puts His protecting care round about the growing time of moral and spiritual childhood, that one may grow up into self-reliant, spiritual manhood — it is this kind of God who is revealed under this familiar likeness. It is truly the mother-bird brooding over her young, teaching, training, and caring for them against the time they must care for themselves. So, also, does this figure show us a certain kind of man — namely, a man who has developed a spiritual vigour and strength under the protecting care of God; a man who has learned from God that he has a mind which can expand with the thoughts of God, a heart which can throb with the feelings of God, a will which from feebleness and indecision can, under this same Divine training, grow virile and resolute. What can come nearer to what must be the true religion of the world as that which shows God protecting man, so that man may grow up into protecting himself? and, again, man affectionately accepting that protection, so that mind, heart, and will may grow up into religious self-reliance? Do we not see in Nature that the picture of the young always under the mother's wing argues sick offspring when Nature would have growth in healthy self-reliance? In like manner Christian character, if it deserves the name, must be other than an exotic, to be cared for under glass and at a certain temperature. The true likeness is not to a tropical palm in a greenhouse, but rather to a sturdy oak or elm, living and growing in the climate of a North American winter. I know of no better illustration of God's protecting care rightly used than in the staunch ocean steamer sailing out at the appointed time into the teeth of a hurricane. It is advertised to sail over the seas. The commander is not consulting the signals to see when he can safely set sail. Nor once under way is he studying his chart to find where he can make a harbour. Lighter ships, built for coast service, run for a refuge. Not so the sturdier craft. It is not seeking shelter or protection from the storm. But, with valiant confidence in itself, it moves out into the storm, with much buffeting, some breakages, half-speed at times — yes, occasionally "have-to," so terrific is the gale — yet with no purpose to turn back, but moving on — steadily, slowly, resolutely moving on.
(A. H. Hall.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.