Refuge in the shadow

A collection of Scripture for Holy Week, on "darkness" and "shadow" as the place of God's abiding presence

by Ken Sehested

Turning from darkness (death) to light (life) is a major theme in Scripture. But there is also a minority report, where darkness and shadow are the place of God’s abiding Presence.

“Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit. Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” —Psalm17:1, 8

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” —Psalm 36:7

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.” —Psalm 57:1

“O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.” —Psalm 63:1, 5-8

“You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’ For God will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and under God’s wings you will find refuge. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday. God will command the angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. ‘I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them.’” —Psalm 91:1-3, 5-6, 15-16

“They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.” —Hosea 14:7

For a significant part of the ancient Hebrews’ history, Egypt was the world’s sole superpower. Abiding in God’s “shadow” contrasts with such political allegiance:

“Oh, rebellious children, says the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine; who make an alliance, but against my will; who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt. Therefore the protection of Pharaoh shall become your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt your humiliation. For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” —Isaiah 30:1, 3, 15

Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer in his song of praise when Elizabeth gave birth, made this prediction: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” —Luke 1:78-79

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