I have had a number of encounters recently with various winged creatures. Aside from my usual dragonfly sightings, I have had the privilege of getting up close and personal with various butterflies. Upon arriving at work one day a beautiful Monarch butterfly nearly landed on my shoulder. On another morning as I was getting in my car to go to work, a hawk sailed right over my head almost close enough to touch. I was thinking to myself, "What is going on?" While it is tempting to focus on flight, I was drawn to a different aspect of wings in the Scriptures. Many of us are already familiar with Isaiah 40:31, which highlights soaring like an eagle but what about other passages? In the book of Ruth, Boaz compliments Ruth about how she has stuck by her mother-in-law, Naomi's side. Boaz says to Ruth, "May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." (Ruth 2:12) In the next chapter, Ruth meets Boaz at the threshing floor. She makes a request of him, "I am your servant Ruth, " she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer." (Ruth 3:9) What is interesting to note is that Ruth's request is a play on the word "wings" from Ruth 2:12. She is literally requesting that Boaz spread the "wings of his garment" over her. In both verses the idea is one of protection. Ruth's words remind Boaz that he must serve as the Lord's "protective wing" to watch over Ruth. Likewise God serves as our Protector much like a bird protecting her young under her wings. Wings as related to God serves as a metaphor for the protective outreach of God's power. The same portrait is seen in the Psalms. "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." (Psalm 17:8) "He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:4) In the New Testament, Jesus laments over the city of Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who sent you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37) The symbolism is powerful! Not only do the wings provide a covering of protection but also a place of warmth and comfort. Those under protection do not have to be subjected to the assaults from the outside world because there is one stronger that has everything under control and would even sacrifice their life for the ones receiving protection. The tender, compassionate image of a hen protecting its young is at the same time a reflection of power. This is our God, the One who is all powerful yet at the same time loving. And of course we see these two aspects beautifully coming together in Jesus Christ. So the next time you encounter something with wings think beyond flight and allow the Lord to "spread the corner of His garment over you" for He is our Redeemer and Savior.
In His Name,