Psalm 91:4
This is undoubtedly the image here. Not the outspread wings of the cherubim, which overshadowed the ark of the covenant. Nor the mighty pinions of the eagle, whose home was on the lofty crag, and her path through the sunlit sky. But it is the homely image taken from the familiar scenes of the farmyard and the barn. It is in keeping with the gracious condescension of God to employ such an emblem; it is like the Lord himself, "full of grace and truth." We would not have dared to make such a comparison; but he has done so, likening himself to the mother bird, which fosters, cherishes, and protects her young. Let us note -

I. THE SPECIAL BLESSING HERE PROMISED. It is the gracious protection of God. In the closing sentence of this verse it is likened to "shield and buckler." To Israel it meant protection from outward calamity, such as pestilence and the destruction caused by war; but to us it tells of all that spiritual guardianship we enjoy. From all the guilt of former sin; from the power of sin now; from the might of temptation; from the crushing power of sorrow; from the misery of a useless and, still more, a harmful life; from the fear of death; from all these, and, when it will be well for us, from outward ill as well.

II. THE MANNER OF ITS BESTOWMENT. It comes through:

1. The all-availing atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. When this is pleaded and trusted in by the sinner, his guilt is all taken away.

2. From the power of sin, by the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, cleansing the heart and sanctifying our whole nature.

3. From sorrow, by his providence keeping it away; or giving, as to Paul, grace sufficient to sustain it; or by removing its cause.

4. From the misery of a useless life, by inspiring the soul with a desire for others good, and by his Spirit, fitting for service.

5. From fear of death, by the revelation of the far better life with Christ, to be entered on at once when this life is done.

III. OTHER BLESSINGS THAT COME ALONG WITH THIS ONE. For the emblem employed suggests not only protection from enemies, but much more than that. Picture to yourself what the shelter of the wing of the mother bird is to her young, and it will tell of what the precious promise of our text means to the believing soul.

1. It means happy content and comfort. "My soul shall be satisfied," and that richly - so Psalm 63. declares. And the emblem of our text suggests it, even as the experience of God's saints confirms it. The soul is happy in God. Dungeons as at Philippi and Rome, deathbeds, and desolations of all kinds have been irradiated with the blessed content of those whom God has covered with his feathers, and who have put their trust under his wings.

2. A life hidden with God. See how the young brood are hidden away under their mother's wing! A life hidden from strife and malice and the world.

3. Nearness to the heart of God. The young birds can feel the beat of their mother's heart. So the soul of the sheltered one beholds and feels the love of God.

4. Perfect peace.

IV. TO WHOM ALL THIS IS PROMISED. Not to any and everybody, but to those only who dwell in the secret place of the Most High; that is, who abide, ever trusting, in the Lord Jesus Christ. - S.C.







He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.
There is here a very distinct triad of thoughts. There is the covering wing; there is the flight to its protection; and there is the warrant for that flight. "He shall cover thee with His pinions"; that is the Divine act. "Under His wings shalt thou trust"; that is the human condition. "His truth shall be thy shield and buckler"; that is the Divine manifestation which makes the human condition possible.

I. THE COVERING WING. The main idea in this image is that of the expanded pinion, beneath the shelter of which the callow young lie, and are gathered. Whatsoever kites may be in the sky, whatsoever stoats and weasels may be in the hedges, they are safe there. The imago suggests not only the thought of protection but those of fostering, downy warmth, peaceful proximity to a heart that throbs with parental love, and a multitude of other happy privileges realized by those who nestle beneath that wing. If we have felt a difficulty, as I suppose we all have sometimes, and are ready to say with the half-despondent psalmist, "My feet were almost gone, and my steps had well-nigh slipped"; when we see what we think the complicated mysteries of the Divine providence in this world, we have to come to this belief that the evil that is in the evil will never come near the man sheltered beneath God's wing. The physical external event may be entirely the same to him as to another, who is not covered with His feathers. Here are two partners in a business, the one a Christian man, and the other is not. A common disaster overwhelms them. They become bankrupts. Is their insolvency to the one the same as it is to the other? Here are two men on board a ship, the one putting his trust in God, the other thinking it all nonsense to trust anything but himself. They are both drowned. Is drowning the same to the two? As their corpses lie side by side among the ooze, with the weeds over them, and the lobsters at them, you may say of the one, but only of the one, "There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." For the protection that is granted to faith is only to be understood by faith. The poison is all wiped off the arrow by that Divine protection. It may still wound, but it does not putrefy the flesh. The sewage water comes down, but it passes into the filtering bed, and is disinfected and cleansed before it is permitted to flow over our fields.

II. THE FLIGHT OF THE SHELTERLESS TO THE SHELTER. "Under His wings shalt thou flee to a refuge." Is not that a vivid, intense, picturesque, but most illuminative way of telling us what is the very essence, and what is the urgency, and what is the worth, of what we call faith? There are plenty of men that know all about the security of the Refuge, and believe it utterly, but never run for it; and so never get into it. Faith is the gathering up of the whole powers of the nature to fling myself into an Asylum, to cast myself into God's arms, to take shelter beneath the shadow of His wings. And unless a man does that, and swiftly, he is exposed to every bird of prey in the sky, and to every beast of prey lurking in wait for him. The metaphor tells us, too, what are the limits and the worth of faith. A man is not saved because he believes that he is saved, but because by believing he lays hold of the salvation. The power of faith is but that it brings me into contact with God, and sets me behind the seven-fold bastions of the Almighty protection.

III. THE WARRANT FOR THIS FLIGHT. "His truth shall be thy shield." Now, "truth" here does not mean the body of revealed words, which are often called God's truth, but it describes a certain characteristic of the Divine nature. And if, instead of "truth," we read the good old English word "troth," we should be a great deal nearer understanding what the psalmist meant. You cannot trust a God that has not given you an inkling of His character or disposition, but if He has spoken then "you know where to have Him." That is just what the psalmist means. How can a man be encouraged to fly into a refuge unless he is absolutely sure that there is an entrance for him into it, and that, entering, he is safe? And that security is provided in the great thought of God's troth. "Thy faithfulness is like the great mountains." "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord; or to Thy faithfulness round about Thee?" That faithfulness shall be our "shield," not a tiny targe that a man could bear upon his left arm, but the word means the large shield, planted in the ground in front of the soldier, covering him, however hot the fight; and circling him around, like a tower of iron.

(A. Maclaren, D.D.)

The Lord here compares Himself to a hen covering her brood, and He speaks not only of the wing, which gives shelter, but He enters into detail, and speaks of the feathers, which give warmth, and comfort, and repose.

I. WHEN MAY THIS TEXT BE RELIED UPON BY A BELIEVER?

1. In cases of extreme peril.

(1)Public calamity.

(2)Domestic grief.

(3)Personal danger.

2. But texts of Scripture like this are not made to be hung up on the nail and only taken down now and then in stress of weather. Blessed be God, the promise before us is available for sunshiny days, yea, for every hour of this mortal life. You always need protection, and, believer in Christ, you shall always have it.

3. In times of temptation.

4. In times of expected trials. Many a true servant of God has said to himself, "What shall I do when I get old? I am just able now to pick up a living, but what shall I do when these withered limbs can no longer avail to earn my daily bread?" Do? Why, you will have the same Father then as you have now to succour you, and you will have the same Providence then as now to supply your wants. You thank God for your daily bread now, and you shall have your daily bread then, for He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings shall you trust.

5. In the hour of death.

II. HOW MAY WE EXPECT THE TEXT TO BE FULFILLED?

1. It may possibly be verified to us by our being preserved altogether from the danger which we dread. God has often, as predicted in the present psalm, in times of pestilence, and famine, and war, preserved His people by remarkable providences. Strong faith has always a particular immunity in times of trouble. When a man has really, under a sense of duty, under a conscientious conviction rested alone in God, he has been enabled to walk where the thickest dangers were flying, all unharmed.

2. There are some dangers from which the providence of God does not preserve the Lord's people. but still He covers them with His feathers in another sense, by giving them grace to bear up under their troubles. You shall find your afflictions become your mercies, and your trials become your comforts. You shall glory in tribulation, and find light in the midst of gloom, and have joy unspeakable in the season of your sorrow.

3. In yet another way doth God set seal to this record when by His grace having sustained His servants in their trouble He brings them out of it greatly enriched thereby. Oh! it is a great blessing to be put through the fire, if you come out purified.

III. WHY MAY WE BE SURE THAT IT SHALL BE SO?

1. Faith enlists the sympathy of God.

2. God's promise is pledged. You keep your promise to your child, and will not God keep His promise to you? O rest in Him, then; He shall cover us with His feathers, for His own word declares it.

3. Moreover, you are His child, and what will not a father do for his own dear child? Were he a stranger you might take little heed though he were in trouble, in danger, or in deep distress — but your child, your own child — oh! you cannot rest, while he suffers.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Under His wings shalt thou trust
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.)

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