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Find Your Safety Under His Mighty Wing
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“God the Preserver of Man”
for December 10—16, 2018

by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett) / (630) 830-8683

Would you say you feel safe? The media is constantly reporting dangers of every sort. When confronted with danger, where do you turn? Right off the top of our heads, many of us would say we turn to God. But there are others who aren’t so sure, and even those who’d like to think they’d turn to God, might be doubtful at some point. The Lesson this week, as always, encourages us to turn to God in every situation. Sometimes people can feel very far removed from God due to choices they’ve made, or because they haven’t yet felt tangible evidence of God’s care. But the Golden Text assures us that all humanity can find shelter under God’s mighty wing. Throughout this Lesson, there are numerous references to wings, and birds taking care of their young. Biblical writers were particularly fond of using mother birds as analogies for God’s care. [See Warren’s (W’s) PS#1 (to follow) and an attached picture online at upper right “Download”.] As fervently as birds care for their young, it’s barely a hint of God’s care for His/Her children.

The Responsive Reading assures us, we always dwell in safety, covered in God’s eternal Love. In Him we find refuge from every foe, and the everlasting arms of Love are over, under, and around us.

The psalmist speaks of patiently waiting for God. Presbyterian Theologian Albert Barnes (1830-1867) says, this was “not a single, momentary act of expectation or hope; it was continuous.” The psalmist stuck with it through the worst of times. He says God brought him out of a “horrible pit” and “miry clay.” According to Adam Clarke (c. 1760-1832) the horrible pit was “Literally, the sounding pit; where nothing was heard except the howlings of wild beasts, or the hollow sounds of winds…” Think of all the noise and chatter we hear from world belief. It sometimes seems like we’re sunk in a quagmire of darkness. But our God lifts us out of the muck, and sets us on firm ground, filling us with a new song. Replacing the noise with a holy melody changes our outlook. Once freed from the pit of despair, we delight in God’s will, and embrace divine Law. Taking shelter in divine Life, Truth, and Love we are completely protected. We live in Him and our trust is well placed.

Section 1: Are You In? Or, Are You Out? [W's PS#2]

In the opening citation (B1) there are two verses that, at least to my mind, seem somewhat contradictory. As in the Golden Text, which states, “All humanity finds shelter…” in Psalm 145:9, we find assurance of God’s universal love for all His creation.

Yet in the next verse, Ps. 145:20, says, “The Lord preserveth all them that love him.” What about those who don’t love Him? This may seem an odd question, but several citations in this Lesson seem conditional. For instance, citation B2 refers to Jacob and his descendants as “the Lord’s portion” being “His people.” Moffatt’s translation provides context: “Remember the days of old, review the years, age after age, ask your sires to tell you, ask your seniors to repeat, how the Most High placed the nations, parting out mankind, how one by one he fixed the folks, each with its guardian angel; but Jacob became the Eternal’s share, Israel his very own” (Deut. 32:7-9). The text seems to indicate that those who are not “His people” are separated from the Lord.

Paul too, indicates that, “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (B3). This implies those who are not led by the Spirit are not the sons of God. Even our textbook begins with the statement. “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (S1). Does God still give big blessings to those who don’t lean on Him? Is there a way to reconcile this?

The common thread in all these examples, and throughout this Lesson, is the degree of connection between man and God. While God is available and loving to all, those who turn away from God don’t recognize the love being given to them. Three times in this Lesson we have examples of someone who might be termed an “outsider” either turning to God, or playing a pivotal role in a demonstration of God’s protecting and sustaining power. The point is you don’t have to be part of the “in crowd” to benefit from God’s care.

Even the best of us at one time or another feels outside of God’s care. Consider too, that the children of Israel—“God’s portion,”—had their fair share of struggles, and sometimes even they turned away from, or doubted God. But no matter what, God sought them out and saved them. If you feel like you have been a stranger to God, or that God has abandoned you, remember that you can always turn to God, and that, God is able to reach you, and save you no matter how lost you think you are.

Deuteronomy refers to the children of Israel as being in a “waste howling wilderness.” Clarke describes the terrain of this wilderness as,

“sometimes so steep and dangerous as to induce even very bold and hardy travelers to avoid them by taking a large circuit; and that for want of proper knowledge of the way, such a wrong path may be taken as may on a sudden bring them into the greatest dangers, while at other times a dreary waste may extend itself so prodigiously as to make it difficult, without assistance, to find the way to a proper outlet.”

Wherever these children of Israel wander God still keeps them as the “apple of his eye.” Isaiah tells us no matter how extreme the situation seems to be, we are still within His tender care (B4).

Citation B5 is yet another reference to eagles. As noted above, every section in the Lesson has some reference to wings, and employs the metaphor of an eagle or other bird caring for its young. Oddly, one commentator reports that in ancient times it was thought that eagles actually assisted their young in flight by carrying them on their backs. [W’s PS#2] Although I’m sure ornithology has come a long way since Bible times, let’s just take a moment to see some ideas they had about eagles in earlier times:

John Gill (1697-1771) quotes Jarchi:

“…the eagle is merciful to its young, and does not go into its nest suddenly, but first makes a noise, and disturbs them with her wings, striking them against a tree or its branches, that so they being awakened may be fitter to receive her:… [fluttering over the young] means to get them out of the nest, and teach them to fly, as well as to preserve them from the attempts of any to take them away; …of all animals the eagle is most affectionate to its young, and most studiously careful of them; when it sees anyone coming to them, it will not suffer them to go away unpunished, but will beat them with its wings and tear them with its nails…

We can see these qualities in the eagle, represent God as merciful, tender, and fiercely protective.

Our textbook promises big blessings when we lean on God (S1). This promise is an open invitation to everyone. In reality, nobody can ever be separated from God (S2). Without us God would be “unexpressed” (S3). Mary Baker Eddy evokes the children of Israel as prototypes for all who travel the “wilderness,” searching for a higher sense of God and man (S4). She also uses wings as an analogy for the uplift of spiritual thoughts (S5).

Citation S6 harkens back to the question about whether only those who trust God receive His protection. It indicates that the understanding of God can be learned through experience, and eventually we’ll realize that as His children, there is no way anyone could ever be cut off or separated from Him.

Section 2: Sustained [W’s PS#3, Ken Cooper poem on “The Widow at Zarephath”]

The psalmist begins his days by renewing his quest for God. This is no casual pursuit. He thirsts for God as a man in the desert thirsts for water. He deems God’s love more valuable than his life, and again, we get the image of a bird under wing (B6). We also see that there is no discrimination between the “strangers” and the familiars. Even those “outsiders” who think they don’t belong are cared for (B7).

The widow at Zarephath (B9) was a gentile. She might have felt far removed from the God of Israel. Having endured a drought as best she could, she is getting ready to prepare a final meal for herself and her son, when she stops what she is doing, and tends to Elijah’s request for water. On her way for water he stops her again, and asks her to make him some bread. She replies “as the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel…” Notice she says, “thy God” not “my God.” This confirms she was not a Jew, yet she was willing to trust Elijah’s instructions and promise of continued sustenance. Her trust wasn’t misplaced. The barrel of meal and the cruise of oil were replenished as long as needed.

Ruth, from whose story citation B10 is taken, was another “stranger” so to speak. After the death of her husband this Moabite woman travelled with her Hebrew mother-in-law and embraced the God of Israel, earning the benediction, of a full reward from the God “under whose wings [she had] come to trust.”

In our textbook we have the promise that Love sustains us, meeting every need we could ever have; and confirmation that, “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (S7, S8, S9). Whether we appear to be rich or poor, strong or weak, the greatest or the least, spiritually minded or not, Love gives us all everything we need, and blesses every unselfish act (S10). The only thing that seems to get in the way of that care is when we let ourselves be influenced by beliefs of human limitation (S11).

While many feel the troubles we face are indicators of impending and unavoidable doom, Mary Baker Eddy sees difficult conditions as indications that material beliefs are breaking up (S12).

Theologians often find biblical events like the story of the sustaining of the widow at Zarephath and the feeding of the multitudes very difficult to explain. But, Mary Baker Eddy puts it very simply: “As material knowledge diminishes and spiritual understanding increases, real objects will be apprehended mentally instead of materially.” When we realize that in fact there are no material “objects,” and see that everything is an idea, those ideas are always accessible. Our textbook counsels to, “never deny the harmony of Soul, simply because, to the mortal senses, there is seeming discord” (S13). If we understand God, we can see through the discord to the harmony that has always been present.

Section 3: “Sweep Away the Veil”

God not only sustains us with nourishment, He saves us from danger as well. The psalmist prays for preservation and deliverance from those who intend to do him harm (B11). He longs to take wing, and fly away to safety (B12). Have you ever felt that way?—Just wishing you could sprout wings and fly off to a better place? We can always find refuge, when we turn to God with all our hearts. The verses from II Samuel (B13), cover a variety of defenses adaptable to providing deliverance from any threatening situation.

When traps are visible, they are avoidable (B14). God provides us the wisdom to see through the snares laid for us. Knowing where and how a trap is laid is like knowing how a magic trick is done. If you know the trick, you are never going to be taken in by the illusion. [A pre-view is a way to pre-serve… see W’s PS#4.] Science and Health uncovers illusions of mortal belief, thus enabling us to see through the sense evidence.

Mary Baker Eddy (MBE) reveals the cause of violence and its effects as coming from the belief of God as possessing human passions, and motives (S15). MBE teaches, that we can command any situation if we understand that “Mortal existence is a state of self-deception and not the truth of being” (S16). Not a stitch of mortal existence is true. When we get that we’re seeing through the trick. Divine Science pulls back the curtain on error. Matter is not a person, a place, nor a thing, but only an “objective supposition of Spirit’s opposite” (S17). “Objective” means a belief that seems to be outside of us. A “supposition” isn’t real. So whatever pretends to oppose Spirit isn’t really there.

In Science we learn that even the slightest bit of understanding is potent enough to subdue fear. If Love is all, hate is powerless. When we know evil is impotent, it can be seen for what it is—nobody and nothing (S18).

Section 4: Not Even Death Can Separate Us from God. [W’s PS#4 and PS#5]

To human sense, it seems that we’re mortals separated from our Maker. But God didn’t create mankind, and then leave us to fend for ourselves. First of all, he didn’t create us materially at all. We are always spiritual. But yet, we have to contend with what seem to be sometimes hopeless conditions. Even in this mistaken sense of ourselves, God is caring for us. Christ Jesus is the messenger who brings the truth to our consciousness wherever we are or think we are (B16). Referring to Jesus as “the Sun of righteousness” the Malachi, again evokes the uplifting imagery of “healing in his wings” (B17).

Throughout the Lesson there are references to God’s ability to save us in the most dire circumstances. No circumstance could seem more hopeless than death. In Matthew’s version of the story of the raising of a ruler’s daughter from the dead (B19), the ruler approaches Jesus already aware that his daughter was dead. This differs from Mark and Luke who have the father approaching Jesus with the daughter at the point of death. Then after Jesus heals the woman with the issue of blood, they tell of someone arriving on the scene informing the father that his daughter had already died, so it wasn’t worth troubling Jesus any further. Whether or not he first came to Jesus knowing his daughter was dead really doesn’t matter. Tradition has it that the father was likely one of the rulers who might under normal circumstances have opposed Jesus. But the man’s extreme need allowed his deep faith to override any doubts he may have had about Jesus and his mission. He was truly one who, in the words of Malachi, feared (revered) the name of the Lord. Sense evidence would suggest that it’s too late to pray if someone has died. But as always, Jesus doesn’t believe what the senses are telling him, knowing that man can never be separated from God, who is man’s life.

Jesus’ healing ability provided those in need with somewhere to turn when all hope seemed lost (S20). As mentioned above, he never looked into human causes, or prognoses. He knew that “man has not two lives, one to be destroyed and one to be made indestructible” (S21). This is a key point. We don’t have a temporary life here, and another eternal life somewhere else. There is only one Life. That’s God. God is your Life and mine. There is no other.

Mary Baker Eddy views death as no more than a “phase of the dream” that we can be separated from God (S22). This isn’t idle talk or hopeful theory. Mrs. Eddy proved the preserving power of spiritually understanding God through countless healings—some of which included raising the dying and the dead. She said it was, “a sin” to believe anything could overpower God who is man’s life.

Section 5: Preservation from Natural Disasters [and from chance as in W’s PS#7]

This section starts with another reference to taking refuge under the shadow of God’s wing (B20). Throughout my life, I’ve had several experiences of God’s protection during severe weather. Most recently, I was on the road when a huge thunderstorm spawned over twenty tornados right along my expected route. I was fortunate to have received warning and pulled over to avoid driving right into the storm. But sometimes the weather can’t be avoided and there are no warnings. On large bodies of water storms can come up seemingly out of nowhere. I once, watched a storm come up over Lake Superior so fast it looked like time-lapse photography. There was very little time to take cover. This must have been similar to Paul’s situation on his voyage to Italy (B21).

The storm they were facing came quickly and was pounding their craft for “many days” to the point where they’d lost all hope of survival. But like Jesus, Paul didn’t take the material picture at face value. He had been praying, and an angel message assured him all aboard would be safe. Though charged with killing the prisoners rather than letting them escape, the centurion in charge—an “outsider,” and non-Christian—put his trust in Paul’s prayerful assurance, just as the widow at Zarephath trusted Elijah. This was no small thing. By not obeying orders the centurion would have been putting his own life at risk. When the ship ran aground and began to break up, he saw to it that everyone could make their way safely to land.

The Bible is filled with examples of God’s protecting power (S24) as are the lives of many of us. Often when we run into a threatening weather situation, we tend to take common sense steps to ensure our safety. Mary Baker Eddy intimates that material know-how is not as reliable as trusting completely in God (S25). One more personal story regarding the weather—On the way back home after our son’s first session at CedarS Camps, we encountered a terrible storm. Not knowing any better, I pulled over to stop under an overpass on the expressway. I was with my daughter who was almost out of college and my seven year-old son. He inquired from the back seat why we were stopped. I told him since the rain was horizontal it looked like there may be a tornado somewhere near us. He retorted incredulously, “What? We put error behind us, and God in front of us. Let’s go!” My daughter and I looked at each other wide-eyed, and thought, “you can’t argue with that!” We took off, and upon our arrival in St. Louis we saw there had indeed been tornadic activity, and there were several downed trees along the our path. I always remember my son’s fearless declaration whenever threatening weather comes up.

God’s protection saves us from all seemingly random occurrences including the belief of accidents (S26). Accidents aren’t only those events that cause injury or damage. Any happenstance occurrence whether it’s a missed appointment, or a plan not coming together, or disruptions of any kind are the results of a belief in something happening outside of God’s control. If we seem to run into trouble we should never think, “Well, there’s nothing you can do about it.” There is always something God can do about it.

Sometimes it seems we are far from help and have a long way to go, but regardless of the circumstance, God is at hand and His angel thoughts are present to guide us to safety (S27). “The lightnings and thunderbolts of error may burst and flash…” but having no power they will eventually die out and give way to peace (S28).

Section 6: Always Under His Wing

This Lesson ends as it began, with man safe in God’s shadow, and under His mighty wing (B22).

The best commentary on these images are the words of our Leader found in Miscellaneous Writings:

These two words in Scripture suggest the sweetest similes to be found in any language — rock and feathers: “Upon this rock I will build my church;” “He shall cover thee with His feathers.” How blessed it is to think of you as “beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,” safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection. Always bear in mind that His presence, power, and peace meet all human needs and reflect all bliss.

(Mis. 263:5)

Our textbook tells us we will discover God’s ever-present help step by step, the more we trust Him (S29). In the midst of turmoil we often feel rushed to find a resolution. We might think, “this is too urgent, I don’t have time to pray,” and start pushing through our own solutions. But just as it’s never too late to pray, there is always time to pray. When we are praying, we are stepping out of the material situation and resting in the eternal God. Stepping into the eternal, we are stepping out of the temporal. Unconcerned with time constraints, we are just quiet with God in the “eternal now.” Once we’ve paused and listened, we can push onward until we reach our sense of freedom and dominion (S30, W’s PS#8). The only place to find that peace and safety is under His mighty wing. Happy nestling!

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