Recently I was in a worship service where I noticed the music. Now for many people that would not be surprising, but I am not very good with music. I like it, but I don’t sing that well and I am not even sure I appreciate music in effective ways. Perhaps some day when my working days are finished, I will take an appropriate music appreciation class and develop that ability. I look forward to that.
As I sat in worship listening and, then, singing the music, I knew immediately the words were taken from the Psalms. I certainly don’t know the Psalms like the monks who recite the whole Psalter every couple weeks. I know I have read all 150 Psalms, but I don’t do it every two weeks. And I certainly don’t keep going through the Psalter time after time after time.
The refrain of the song we were singing went like this: “Shelter me, O God; hide me in the shadow of your wings, You alone are my hope.” Interestingly the song sheet we were using did not reference the Psalm. And I was not sure which Bible translation is being used. In a sense, all that does not really matter when one is at worship. It might matter if it were a Bible course in college or seminary. But in worship it does not matter.
Let me simply suggest one locus for the music’s lyrics is Psalm 17. You may not know that Psalm, but you may have heard of the imagery used in 17:8. In that verse the Psalmist says, “Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Of course, this is the Biblical background for the saying that you and I are “the apples of God’s eyes.” I believe in that claim and in that claim I put my hope. I love the fact that I am the apple of God’s eye. And I think it is good that you are an apple, too!
So let’s assume that is the Biblical text for the song that develops. A little more searching reveals this hymn has a popular history. A number of people have recorded it and it appears in worship services often. In fact, I may have sung it before, but don’t remember.
Again, the refrain petitions God to be sheltered. It is reassuring to think of God as the Protector. When we were children, we needed protection. As we become adults and may have children, we take on the role of protector. As I think about it, I realize I have been both a protected child and a protector of children. Thinking about it even further makes me realize that I never become too old to need protection. That is where God comes into my theology.
I ask God to shelter me. Hide me in the shadow of your wing, I could ask. I know I am never that poetic. When in trouble or wanting something from God, my usual prayer is, “Help!” And I know many others probably are just like me. Perhaps we can learn from this short hymn.
Maybe the trick is to learn to pray at times when we are not desperate. We could learn the habit of prayer and supplication when the sun shines in our lives. It would be good to develop this as a habit.
The other line in that refrain is a good reminder, too. “You alone are my hope.” I know that is true ultimately. And I suspect it is true even in my daily, non-ultimate routine, too. Of course, there are many others in my life who also give me hope and bring me hope. Included in this list are my kids, my friends and family. But behind all of them is the God of hope.
So in this meditation we have found two themes. God is my protector. I can hide under the wings of God and be sheltered. This brings me hope. Whatever the world and circumstances come at me, I can find solace, protection and hope in God. I am sure this is true in those little daily threats. I am even confident this is true in those days ahead when I may have to suffer. And of course, we all know at some day ahead of us, we will have to face the ultimate test, namely, our own death.
I want to find ways in this day and the days ahead to practice this hymn. By practicing, I don’t mean I want to find times to sing it, although that would be appropriate. I mean I want to take occasions to pray that God shelter me. I am sure there is an independent streak in me that is not healthy. Too often, I am sure, I choose to go it alone. I want to recognize my own dependency on God and ask God to shelter me.
I want to ponder what it might be like to nestle into the shadow of God’s wings. Of course, this cannot be taken literally. I am not going to work and find some Divine Wing in the parking lot. I want to figure out metaphorically where and how I take my place in the shadow of that wing.
What I do know, is there under that wing is my hope. There is my hope and, ultimately, my hope eternal. Thanks be to God.