The Bible is riddled with imagery. Throughout its pages we find grand metaphors and figures-of-speech, and other literary devices, that are designed for you, the reader, to imagine and visualize the intent of the Author. These images give us greater insight into the message of Scripture, which is, in fact, the very mind and thoughts of God. But of all the images in the Bible, none, I contend, is more precious and comforting than that of dwelling and abiding “in the shadow” of the Almighty. (Ps. 17:8)
Many times throughout the Book of Psalms, the psalmist uses the ideas of resting or abiding in the “shadow” of God or under his “wings.”
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Ps. 17:8)
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Ps. 36:7)
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” (Ps. 57:1)
“Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!” (Ps. 61:4)
“For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Ps. 63:7–8)
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” (Ps. 91:1–4)
“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.” (Ps. 121:5)
Each time the the word “shadow” is used, it carries with it the connotation of “covering” or “protection” or “defense” or “care.” And God is just that: he’s your Defense and Protection; your Caretaker and Covert from the torrent of life. And of anyone who knows of dangerous circumstances and living in jeopardy, the writer of a majority of the psalms in Scripture, King David, desperately sought his Maker and Defender when forced to the precipice of existence. It’s in these cries of desperation that we see specifically the deliverance that David was seeking — “Keep me as the apple of your eye,” David cries, “hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me.” (Ps. 17:8)
Perhaps David prayed these words while taking refuge in the caves, running for his life from the violence that followed King Saul. I have no doubt, though, that this prayer was spoken with all genuineness and sincerity, for he knew the dire situation he was in, and further, he knew the One that could provide the defense and safety he needed.
The context in Psalm 57 is exactly that, as seen in the notes before the first verse in the ESV: “[Let Your Glory Be over All the Earth] [To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.]” “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” (Ps. 57:1) The great theologian Charles Spurgeon here notes:
“Not in the cave alone would he hide, but in the cleft of the Rock of ages.” (49)
When David needed deliverance, he went to God; he ran to the Lord side, and there found security and safety. What peace we can find in God’s presence. And what a wonderful promise that as a loving mother hen protects her chicks, so too does God protect us, under “the shadow of [his] wings.” (Matt. 23:37)
This safety and refuge from tribulations is promised to all who are the redeemed. Every Christian can enjoy and experience God’s presence and protection. And nothing pleases our Father more than for his children to draw near to him. (James 4:8) “He who communes with God is always at home.” (Spurgeon, 106) But to fellowship with God in sweet communion, to abide and dwell in his shadow, necessitates a closeness with him that can only be attained by continued effort and relentless grace.
Dwelling in the shadow of the Almighty is not a trivial pursuit, nor should the endeavor be taken lightly or half-heartedly. To abide in God’s shadow mandates that we be serious Christ-followers, those that desire only the sweetest “spiritual milk” (1 Pet. 2:2–3), and crave to remain in the “secret place of the Most High.” (Ps. 91:1 KJV) “No shelter can be imagined at all comparable to the protection of Jehovah’s own shadow,” notes Spurgeon. (231) Our omnipotent Lord shields us (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 5:12; 18:2; 119:114), and to abide in his shadow must be the longing of every heart.
It’s not enough — nor ever will it be — to be satisfied with your spiritual position. To be content with your spiritual growth is to be complacent, and ultimately apathetic, to the things of God. Mr. Spurgeon continues:
“Those who through rich grace obtain unusual and continuous communion with God, so as to abide in Christ and Christ in them, become possessors of rare and special benefits, which are missed by those who follow afar off, and grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” (230)
Our priority must be God himself, to abide in his shadow and dwell close to him. My hope is that I’d be more like Mary and learn to simply sit at the feet of Jesus, yearning only to become more like him. (Luke 10:38–42) I pray that we all desire that, to experience Jesus and his Spirit’s filling, purely and wholly and humbly. At the feet of Jesus, there’s no cause for pomp or programs; no formation of man could ever impress God. At the feet of Jesus, in the shadow of the Almighty, all that’s required is our humble adoration and reverence for him, his love, and his grace.
Kneeling in God’s presence, in his shadow, is to let his overwhelming character fill you and his Spirit empower you and his grace overflow you. Oftentimes, this world and its heartaches prove too strong for us, likely because we attempt to wrestle with the pain and suffering of life on our own.
Yet, for those who endeavor to dwell, and in fact do dwell, in the shadow of the Almighty, we have no fear, nor any reason to be afraid, for our refuge is God’s shadow and our fortress is his mighty wings. The shadow of God is a restful place, one that’s a delight to the Christian. There we find solace and refuge; there we can both rejoice and grieve, for utmost comfort and confidence is given to those who dwell under God’s wings.
“The more closely we cling to our Almighty Father the more confident may we be.” (Spurgeon, 231)
Communion with God is safety and protection, both constant and sufficient for anything and everything we may endure. I pray that I, and every one of you, might yearn for God’s presence; that an insatiable fire would burn in our hearts for the close communion of our Father; that we would ache for the shadow of the Almighty. For “in the shadow of [God’s] wings” refuge is found. In his shadow, renewal and restoration can be experienced. In his shadow, revival dwells and grace abounds.
Cry for God’s presence. Seek the shadow of the Almighty. Rest under his wings!
- Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988).