Published January 1, 2013
"Under His Wings"
As you know from my previous letters, my dad, Rev. David P. Heil, went to be with the Lord December 4th. He was 93.
Pop enjoyed singing as well as preaching, and sang in church whenever he had the chance. At Pop's "Celebration of Life" service I played a recording he had made years ago on which he sang "Under His Wings," which apparently was a favorite song of his because he sang it often.
And how appropriate that song is a constant reminder that we, as children of God, are under His loving protection at all times.
Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
Those words came to the songwriter, William O. Cushing, back in 1896. A pastor, Cushing had lost his voice some years earlier to a form of vocal paralysis. He prayed asking God how He could possibly use him now. But God did use him. He gave Cushing the lyrics for more than three hundred hymns and Gospel songs, many of which still inspire and encourage us today.
One day, at age 73, he was reading Psalm 17:8, where the psalmist cries out to God, "Hide me under the shadow of Your wings." Cushing realized that God still loved him, still cared for him, and was providing for his every need even when things all around seemed dark and difficult. He wrote,
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.
What a promise! Isn't it great to know that God is faithful? God will take care of us! He will meet our every need!
There's something profound about the image of being sheltered under God's wings. The metaphor is used often in Scripture. Ruth 2:12 refers to "the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!" Psalm 91:4 says, "Let me...find refuge under the shelter of your wings."
Jesus Himself lamented, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34.)
Are we "willing" to accept such protection through faith? Or do we enter the new year attempting to take care of ourselves -- preferring that to a walk of faith?
Recently I read an account of something that happened years ago in Yellowstone National Park. A forest fire had swept through the park's forested areas. As forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage, one ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched upright on the ground at the base of a tree.
Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, the ranger knocked the bird over with a stick and was stunned by what he saw next. Three tiny chicks scurried out from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise.
She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze roared through. And even though the flames scorched her small body and roasted her alive, the mother had remained steadfast because she had been willing to die so that those under the cover of her wings would live.
That's the kind of loving father we have. He will protect us now and forever. In fact, Jesus also did die so that we might live.
We see a lot of changes ahead as we move into this new year. But one thing will never change the Lord will, if we let Him, keep us and protect us "under His wings." Pop's now enjoying the fullness of that promise. But, through faith, we can enjoy it, too every day of our lives.
Under His wings, O what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life's trials are o'er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me;
Resting in Jesus I'm safe evermore.
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"Under His Wings (I Am Safely Abiding)," words by William O. Cushing, 1896; score by Ira D. Sankey.
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