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The Lord is Our Shade

A Hebrew word that I have come to deeply cherish is ṣēl (צֵל). It is typically rendered as shadow or shade. Sometimes this is just a straightforward shade like you'd get from a tree or cloud. Yet, it is often used figuratively to describe God's redemptive protection. This can be most clearly seen when it's paired with avian imagery such as 'wings'. Hear, for instance, David's plea in Psalm 17:8, "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings". This theme comes up often throughout the Psalms and elsewhere (see also Ps 36:7, 57:1, 63:7, 91:1, 4, cf. Isa 49:2, Hos 14:7, Jonah 4:6). The protects his people in such a way that likens to a bird covering her youth with her great wings.

Jesus, our Shade

This concept finds its way naturally into the New Testament in texts like Luke 13:34. Where Jesus cries out, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing." James R. Edwards illustrates it well as he comments, "Jesus assumes the same image here, perhaps as a hen, 'under whose wings you will find refuge; whose faithfulness will be your shield and rampart' (Ps 91:4). The maternal instinct of the hen is powerful, and no less the compassion of Jesus for Jerusalem." In fact, all those who come to Christ for refuge find him to be the one who provides the protective shadow from the pains of sin and death. In Christ there is true safety and flourishing. Though this side of glory includes much hardship and suffering (Acts 14:22), the ultimate destiny for those in Christ is sealed in the heavens because of the redemptive protection accomplished by Christ. The Lord is our shade!


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