Under His Wings
In 1892, after a year of intensive work in Great Britain, D.L. Moody sailed for home, anxious to get back to his family and his work. The ship left Southampton amid many farewells. About three days out into the ocean, the ship ground to a halt with a broken shaft; and before long, it began to take water. Needless to say, the crew and passengers were desperate, because nobody was sure whether the vessel would sink or not, and nobody knew of any rescue ships in the area. After two days of anxiety, Moody asked for permission to hold a meeting, and to his surprise, nearly every passenger attended. He opened his Bible to Psalm 91 and, holding to a pillar to steady himself, he read, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Moody wrote later, “It was the darkest hour of my life…relief came in prayer. God heard my cry, and enabled me to say, from the depth of my soul, ‘Thy will be done.’ I went to bed and fell asleep almost immediately…” Well, God answered prayer and saved the ship and sent another vessel to tow it to port. Psalm 91 became a vibrant new Scripture to D.L. Moody, and he discovered, as you and I must also discover, that the safest place in the world is in the shadow of the Almighty, “under His wings.”
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty…He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust…” So promises the Lord in Psalm 91:1 and 4. What does God mean by the statement “under His wings”? Of course, we know that this is a symbolical language, because God does not have wings. Some think that this has reference to the way the mother hen shelters and protects her brood. You will remember that Jesus used a similar comparison when He said, “How oft would I have gathered you, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not.”
My own conviction is that Psalm 91 is talking about another kind of wings. Remember how the psalm begins? “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High…” Where is that secret place? Well, to every Old Testament Jew, there was only one secret place—the holy of holies in the tabernacle. You will recall that the tabernacle was divided into three parts: an outer court, where the sacrifices were offered; a holy place, where the priests burned the incense; and then the holy of holies, where the ark of the covenant was kept. And you will remember that over the ark of the covenant, on the mercy seat, were two cherubim, and their wings overshadowed the ark. This is what the psalmist was referring to, I believe: the “secret place” is the holy of holies, and the “shadow of the Almighty” is under the wings of the cherubim at the mercy seat.
Now the interesting thing is this: in Old Testament days, no one was permitted to enter that holy of holies, except the high priest; and he could do it only once a year. If anyone tried to force his way in, he was killed. But today, all of God’s children, saved by faith in Jesus Christ, can enter the holy of holies, because Jesus Christ has opened the way for us. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn in two and the way was opened into the very presence of God. You and I are privileged to dwell in the holy of holies—to live under the shadow of His wings. We don’t simply make occasional visits into God’s presence; we live there because of Jesus Christ!
My friend, would you believe it if I told you that the safest place in the world is under a shadow? But it is—provided that the shadow is the shadow of the Almighty! I would rather be overshadowed by Almighty God than protected by the mightiest army in the world. “Under His wings”—this is the place of safety.
As you read Psalm 91—and I trust you will do this soon—you discover that God makes some marvelous promises to those who will live under His wings, in the holy of holies. For one thing, He promises divine protection. Now this doesn’t mean that we Christian never experience accidents or sickness, because you and I know that we do. I have had my share of hospital experiences, and perhaps you have, too. God does not promise to protect us from trials, but to protect us in trials. The dangers of life may hurt us but they can never harm us. We can claim His promise that these things are working for us and not against us.
Listen to one of these promises: “He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” A modern scientific world laughs at the idea of angels, but not the child of God. Jesus taught that the angels of God watch over God’s children. Now, the angels don’t run ahead of us and pick up the stones, because sometimes we need those stones in the path to teach us to depend more on the Lord. What the angels do is help us use the stones for stepping stones, not stumbling blocks. I firmly believe that when we get to heaven, we will discover how many times God’s angels have watched over us and saved our lives. This is not an encouragement to be careless or to tempt God; but it is an encouragement to have less care and worry.
It is as true today as when it was first uttered: a man is immortal in the will of God, until his work is done. Out of the will of God there is danger; but in the will of God there is a divine protection that gives a man peace in his heart, no matter how trying life may be. “Under His wings,” in the secret place, the holy of holies, abiding in Christ—this is where we are safest during the storms of life.
Now, let me make it clear that we do not run into the holy of holies and hide from life. I’m afraid too many people misinterpret the Scriptures and the hymns that talk about hiding in God and finding Him a refuge in the storm. We go in for strength and help, and then go back to life to do His will. God’s divine protection is not simply a luxury we enjoy; it is a necessity that we want to share with others. God’s protection is preparation for God’s service. We go in that we might go out. We worship that we might work; we rest that we might serve.
My friend, are you living in the shadow of the Lord, under His wings? Have you trusted Christ as your Savior? Do you spend time daily in worship and prayer? I trust that you do, because the safest life and the most satisfying life is under His wings.
The person who lives under His wings not only enjoys the safest life possible, but also the most satisfying life possible. Psalm 91 closes with this promise: “With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Now, this doesn’t mean that all Christians will live to be a hundred, because the facts prove otherwise. Some of the choicest Christians died before the age of 30. A long life refers to quality, not just quantity: it means a full life, a satisfying life. You can live for 80 years and only exist, if you leave Christ out. On the other hand, if you yield to Christ, you can pour into 40 years three or four lifetimes of service and enjoyment. There is a heart satisfaction that comes only to those who live under His wings, in the place of surrender and fellowship.
If the multitudes in our cities these days really told the truth, they would have to admit that life is very dull and drab. Oh, it has its share of excitement, because the city is a very exciting place; but excitement does not last. And so people run from sideshow to sideshow, from party to party, and from job to job, always seeking that elusive things called satisfaction. They never find it, because they have left Christ out of their lives.
The place of satisfaction is the secret place of the Most High. When you yield to Jesus Christ and link you life with Him, then you find the kind of satisfaction that is worth living for and worth dying for. Not the shallow masquerades of this world, but the deep abiding peace and joy that can come only from Jesus Christ.
My friend, let me urge you to turn your back on sin and the cheap trinkets that this world offers, and let me invite you to enter the secret place of the Most High. Surrender to Christ; trust Him as your Savior; answer His gracious invitation. When you do this, you will enter into a new kind of life—a life under the shadow of God—a life in the secret place of safety and satisfaction.