Scripture uses many words to illustrate God's protection: refuge, fortress, stronghold, rock, tower of strength, sanctuary. "Shadow of his wings" is my favorite and the most meaningful for me. The image of God as a bird? It seems kind of strange, but listen to what Jesus says in Luke 13:34 as he cried out about the future of the city of God and his people. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"
When I was seriously ill a couple of years ago, I memorized Psalm 91. The first four verses say, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."
Just these few verses use the words shelter, shadow, refuge, fortress, feathers, wings, shield and rampart to portray a place safe from danger. Where is this shelter of the Most High, so I can live there? How do we rest in his shadow? To be in someone's shadow, that person would have to be very near. Is this shelter the very presence of God? We know he doesn't dwell in a particular place. He is everywhere we invite his presence.
Picture it: You are a tiny, defenseless baby bird in a nest set high above the activities on earth. Soft feathers over your head conceal you and soothe you. In the shadow made by these great wings spread over you, it is dark. But you are not afraid. You are protected and safe. We sometimes associate darkness with something bad, but maybe what appears to be a black cloud hovering over is really just the shadow of his wings. We're in the shadow of his very presence. That was what I realized when I was sick. Outwardly, life might seem gloomy and hopeless, but I was safe, cared for, and tended to by Almighty God. In that, all of us can sing for joy and say to God, "Hide me in the shadow of your wings until destruction passes by." Psalm 57:1.
"Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." Psalm 62:8. "May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, ...under whose wings you have come to take refuge." Ruth 2:12.
We come into God's presence in prayer. As we end Psalm 63, may I make a suggestion? Read verses 1-8 as a prayer to God--aloud--with arms raised. Invite his presence and rest secure in his faithfulness.