Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "His Yoke Is Easy"1 (Lyrics)
Psalm 36:7 – How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (NIV 2011)
The wings of a bird readily suggest the gentle, protective qualities of God. In His "wings", we find security and safety. Yet these wings can convey a different image of God, which I realized one day while watching some Canada geese.
It was a calm summer day. My two granddaughters were standing on the dock with me, chatting quietly. A family of Canada geese was leisurely swimming nearby. Suddenly, our peace was rudely interrupted by a loud ruckus in the water. Our heads jerked towards the commotion, and we found ourselves watching a high-tension drama.
The gander was frantically flapping his wings and honking with feverish pitch. We watched him propel through the water like a bullet targeted for two nearby Canada geese. Obviously, the two had come a little too close to the gander's family. The angry gander honked and hissed, protruding his neck low to the surface. His formidable wings smashed the water. The two geese wisely swam away.
Then, the gander swam back toward his family, but with neck still protruding. Suddenly, he lifted his body high in the water, buoyed by his wildly flapping wings. He was obviously pronouncing a stern warning: Don't anyone dare come near my little ones!
While watching this, I warned the children, "You don't want to mess with that gander when he's protecting his family. He's dangerous. His wings could break your bones." I thought of the geese on my childhood farm, and I remember the terror I felt when an angry gander charged at me. That instilled in me a "holy" fear of ganders. Now I was passing this "holy" fear on to my granddaughters — for their good.
I thought of the biblical command to fear God that explains how a fear of God benefits us: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 9:10a NIV) This is not about the experience of anxiety or trepidation; it's about possessing an acute consciousness of God for who He really is. We can agree that having a good sense of ganders helps us to act wisely when around geese. This is a good, healthy fear. Why? Because it keeps us a safe distance from harm and allows us to enjoy geese without feeling afraid.
But here, the way of ganders departs from the way of God. A gander's instincts are not bent towards mercy and grace — certainly not for outsiders, potential enemies. A fear of ganders keeps outsiders at a safe distance. On the other hand, a fear of God draws "outsiders" into His fold where they find forgiveness and security in His love — and freedom from fear, as expressed in the hymn, "Amazing grace":
- 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
As we trust in God's lavish grace, we come to respect the power of His "wings". We are not afraid.
A fear of God keeps us from straying into harm's way. It protects us from the damaging effects of anxiety or bitterness. It keeps us from taking vengeance into our own hands, and in that way bringing harm upon ourselves.
Before I finished thinking about the fear of God, the gander had returned to his former tranquil mood, keeping quiet vigil. That day, a little flock of goslings had found refuge in the shadow of their father's wings. Yet, through those same wings, two other geese had experienced that father's wrath.
Psalm 97:10b – For [the Lord] guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. (NIV)
Prayer: O Lord, deepen our respect for the power of Your love so that we may grow increasingly secure in the shadow of Your wings. Amen.