Take Refuge under God’s Wings

Palm 57 is identified in Scripture as a psalm of David “when he fled from Saul, in the cave.”  Geographically, David took refuge in a cave, but the psalm emphasizes that David looked to God for a more secure refuge than a cave could provide.  David begins the psalm with this plea, “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, until the destroying storms pass by.” 

I love the image of David (or of us) taking refuge under the wings of God.  I love it even more when I consider the difference between a mother bird whose natural tendency is to run from danger as opposed to a Savior who willingly gave his life for us.

Following a horrible forest fire that swept through Yellowstone Park many years ago, an urban legend made its way across the internet claiming to have been reported in National Geographic: “Forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage.  One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.  Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick.  When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried 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.  When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast.  Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.”

The story concluded with Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.” 

But those who research urban legends have debunked this story, explaining, “We’ve been getting a lot of emails about this.  It’s an inspirational story—which is why we regret that we have to debunk it.  The incident was never reported in National Geographic.  Nor did it happen at Yellowstone, according to the park’s ornithologist, who adds that it doesn’t ring true of bird behavior anywhere.” 

Birds don’t bear the flames of a fire to shelter their loved ones.  No animal does that instinctively.  But Jesus did.  On the cross, he covered us and bore the entire consequence of our sins.  It was far, far, far from easy, but he took us under his wings and gave his life for us. 

A cave could not really give to David the refuge that he sought.  He could only find true and lasting refuge under the wings of a Savior who would never desert him and who would willing lay down his life for us.  In Christ we find such a refuge.

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