Friday, June 8, 2007

Under the Wings of Mercy

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
Therefore the children of men put their trust
  under the shadow of Your wings.
(Psalm 36:7)
The Hebrew word for “lovingkindness” is chesed. It is the covenant love and mercy of God by which He promises to be kind to all who come to Him. And it is wonderful! The New King James and other versions translate the Hebrew word yaqar as “precious.” The King James Version calls it “excellent.” The Message Bible uses “exquisite.” Brown-Driver-Briggs defines it as “valuable, prized, weighty, precious, rare, splendid.” It is a word used of precious stones or jewels.

The lovingkindness of God is beyond compare. No wonder, then, that the children of men take refuge under the shadow of His wings. The word for “wings,” kanaph, comes from a Hebrew root that refers to being hidden away from view in a corner. To hide under the wings of something means to come up under the edges. The wings of a bird provide a good analogy: Picture a mother hen gathering her chicks up under her wings.

In the Old Testament, Hebrew men were to makes tassels on the corners of the their garments, each one containing a ribbon blue, which symbolized divine authority (Numbers 15:37-38). The Hebrew word for these corners was kanaph. Now, remember the woman with the “issue of blood,” who came up behind Jesus to touch the “hem” or “border” of His garment (Luke 8:43-44). This “hem” or “border” was the tassel of His prayer shawl.

This woman was desperate! She had lived with this condition for twelve years, finding no relief, even though she spent all she had on doctors. What is more, it rendered her ceremonially unclean. She could have been stoned to death for coming out in public and touching anyone. But she came up behind Jesus anyway, repeating to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well” (Matthew 9:21).

In the eyes of the world she was taking a huge risk. But she was a woman of great faith. Perhaps she had remembered Psalm 36:7, “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.”

And now, here was Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Healer, Jesus the Son of God, walking in her midst, and the shadow of His kanaph, His “corners,” His “wings” was so very close. And she so desperately needed the lovingkindness and tender mercies of God to be poured out upon her — she went for it with determined faith. She reached out — and she was immediately healed!

Jesus wheeled around. “Who touched Me?” He said, but He was not angry. Instead, He was impressed, because that touch drew out His power. “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” When the woman revealed herself, He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48).

There is nothing greater in this world than the lovingkindness of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He has promised His great love and mercy to all those who trust in Him, and there is no kindness He will not show to those who do. How precious it is to live under the shadow of His wings.

(See also Healing in His Corners.)