By Tim Sullivan


"Hide me under the shadow of thy wings," says Psalm 17:8. Until recently I never considered the deeper meaning of this verse beyond its poetic depiction of the protection and comfort of the Lord. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem," Jesus said in Matthew 23:37, "how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings!" The imagery is beautiful. But as in all things of God, the more closely we examine it, the more splendor we see.

Three months after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt they reached the Wilderness of Sinai where they settled for about a year. During this remarkable time the Lord brought Moses up into the mount for instruction in righteousness.

Exodus 24:18:
And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

The Lord gave Moses "tables of stone, and a law, and commandments" (v. 12). He also gave Moses the revelation for the Tabernacle in the wilderness and "all the instruments thereof," including the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat.

Exodus 25:9:
According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

The ark of the covenant was a wooden chest overlaid with gold, built to house "the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant" (Heb. 9:4). Atop it sat the mercy seat. (The mercy seat was not a place to sit down; it was a lid to cover the ark.) The mercy seat was adorned with the figures of two golden cherubims.

Exodus 37:9:
And the cherubims spread out their wings on high, and covered with their wings over the mercy seat, with their faces one to another; even to the mercy seatward were the faces of the cherubims.

The cherubims were winged angels like those that guarded the tree of life in the garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:24:
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

God instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel, "I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony" (Exo. 25:22).

Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest was allowed past the veil into "the most holy place" where the ark was (the KJV Bible does not use the popular term, "the holy of holies."). 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 cherubims.

People like to say that you can’t put God in a box. But if there were ever a box that could contain eternal truth, it was the ark of the covenant. Every detail tells the story of man’s redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.

There are far too many truths than can be addressed in this one article. But even now the picture should be clearer to you: God communed with man "under the wings of the cherubims" – under the wings of the mercy seat. You and I meet God under the shadow of his wings of mercy!

Psalm 17:8:
Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings...

Galatians 3:24 says that "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." 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. If not for mercy, we would all be consumed.

Lamentations 3:22–23:
22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 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 saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

In the shadow of his wings we find God’s mercy.

Psalm 57:1:
Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.

We who are weak, sinful, and inadequate can find rest under his wings, knowing "his mercy endureth for ever" (Ps. 118:29).

Psalm 36:7:
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

Psalm 91:4:
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Under the shadow of his wings we find help in our time of need.

Psalm 63:7:
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

Under the wings of his mercy we find healing.

Malachi 4:2:
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

And under his wings of mercy we will abide in his tabernacle forever.

Psalm 61:4:
I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

By reason of "the multitude of [God’s] tender mercies" (Ps. 69:16), the Lord calls out to even his most rebellious children (put your name here!) to find refuge under his wings.

Luke 13:34:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

Hide me, Lord Jesus, under the shadow of thy wings. Let me find refuge in your mercies forever. Amen!



From the January 2011 issue of The Vine & Branches