The Scriptures often use word pictures to help us understand the fullness of Spiritual realities. But since we do not live in the land of the Bible or the times of its writing, we may at times miss the impact of some of these illustrations.
The phrase, "Under His wings" is one we have a limited understanding of. We remember the words of our Lord as He lamented over Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt 23:37).
Most of us have enough farm background to see the mother hen and her chicks in time of danger. Mother hen senses the danger long before the chicks. She clucks her warning, her invitation and then command to come almost before we sense what is happening. The chicks come running and find protection from danger.
Spiritually, we have an infinite resource watching, inviting, and even commanding us to come to Him in all our need. The Jews who rejected Christ opened themselves as chicks to the destruction of the Roman eagle who swooped down on them within forty years.
The word picture of "under His wings" greatly expands when we do a simple word search in Strong's Concordance. Here we find the Old Testament Hebrew word; "wings" also means "extremity or border." It is sometimes translated, "border" or "skirt." Strange as it may seem, the command to the children of Israel to place a fringe on the border of their garment uses this same word. In Numbers 15:38 it is translated "borders" twice and in Deuteronomy 22:12 it is translated "quarters" from the corners of the hem.
We are told that from Bible times the hem or border of one's garment was where one's rank or authority was worn. We don't know if this came to be because God chose the border as the place where the mark of distinctiveness would be displayed, or if the hem already revealed one's rank or authority and God chose it, in essence saying, "Even your rank or authority is mine." But either way, God gave them their authority as His people as they chose to identify with Him in their dress.
There are three different stories from the Bible that enhance our understanding of the symbolism and effectively communicate a spiritual message for us today.
When Boaz first encountered Ruth in the field, he commended her for her choice to come under the wings of the God of Israel. (Ruth 2:12) She had changed her loyalties and her trust, and Boaz blessed her by praying a reward for her sacrifice. Ruth later used the same Hebrew word when she reversed the discussion and made her appeal to Boaz. Here the word "skirt" is used "...spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid..." (Ruth 3:9). Her request was rich in meaning. She was asking to come under the protection and provision of Boaz, placing herself under his authority as his handmaid, his wife.
Saul's authority as king was jeopardized because he lacked integrity and a heart to follow after God. Twice before his authority was actually all taken away, God touched the hem of his garments as a message of warning. The first is recorded in 1 Samuel 15:27 in a meeting with Samuel. The text doesn't make it clear whose skirt was torn, but it would seem logical that Samuel reached out and tore Saul's garment at the skirt. Whether it was his own or Saul's doesn't really matter, because apparently with the torn hem in his hand, he immediately made a prophecy. He announced that because of Saul's disobedience regarding the destruction of the Amalekites, God would rend the kingdom from his hand and give it to a neighbor who would serve Him with all his heart.
A second incident warning Saul of losing his authority and to whom it would be given to involved David in the cave in Engedi. This is recorded in 1 Samuel 24. David did not kill Saul even though he had opportunity. What he did to Saul seems innocent enough to us but it smote David's conscience. This is understandable when we realize that in cutting off Saul's skirt, he attacked Saul's authority, saying "I am taking the kingdom from you." In his acknowledgment of this, Saul acceded that he knew David would be king after him.
The last of these illustrations we will take the time to discuss here relates to Jesus when people touched the hem of his garment for healing. In the last book of the Old Testament we have a strange prophecy. "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall" (Mal 4:2). The prophecy was that the Sun of righteousness would have healing in His "wings", the same word as "skirt" (healing in His skirt). There are two references to a literal fulfillment of this prophecy. We likely all know of the woman with the issue who only touched the hem of Jesus' garment and was healed. You can review that story in Matthew 9:18-26.
A lesser known account is in Matthew 14: "And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole" (Mt 14:36). Apparently, many came to Jesus for this healing.
What shall we learn from this? Today we too can flee to a protection and provision that far surpasses what any earthly power can provide. We are invited to come under the wings, the hem, the skirt of the Almighty. Look at the following statements:
"Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings" (Ps 17:8).
"How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings" (Ps 36:7).
"Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast" (Ps 57:1).
"I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah" (Ps 61:4).
"Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice" (Ps 63:7).
"He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler" (Ps 91:4).
We must accept His authority; we must submit ourselves to His mandates. We must make these choices. When we do this, no power on earth can overtake us. There under his wings, under his skirt, identified forever with Him, healing is ours! Enablement is ours! The future is eternally ours in Him!
So, should we turn to earthly insurance to protect us from loss? Should we depend on medications to numb our soul pain during unfulfilled expectations? Should we go to the world for answers for emotional distress? Should we pursue mammon as though it can give us some satisfaction, importance, or worth? Let us rather draw near to Jesus through His Word. Let's ask Him to spread His skirt over us and find healing in His wings.