23 Jun Under his wings: A God who gathers his brood
The gifts are opened, the grills have cooled, but EP author Elizabeth El Mostain is still pondering Father’s Day and shares these lovely thoughts on the nurturing side of God’s character…
I began thinking about this article on Father’s Day, a time to give thanks for our earthly fathers and reflect on God’s
parental care. One chapter of ‘Survival Tips for Mums’ looks at how mothers can maintain their spiritual health and
considers ways in which motherhood provides insights into God’s relationship with us as our heavenly father. Jesus used
maternal imagery to describe his longing for the salvation of Jerusalem:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37)
One of our hens hatched out three chicks this week so this verse has often come to mind. I love to think of Jesus, the Son
of God, growing up in a rural village, enjoying watching a hen caring for her brood and comparing his care for his people
to that of a mother hen nurturing her chicks.
Our poor hen sat patiently incubating eggs for twice the usual time, since the first batch of fertile eggs we gave her sadly
did not hatch. We wondered if she would hold out to the end or get fed up sitting there. She persevered! This reminded
me of God’s patience with us. He delays his judgment, giving sinners time to come to repentance and new birth through
faith in Christ. When we look at the mess the world is in, we long for Christ’s return, to be with Jesus in the new sinless
creation, but ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing
that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9) Like a patient mother hen ensuring that the
eggs are incubated in just the right conditions, God controls the circumstances through which people hear the Gospel
and are born again into his family.
Once chicks hatch, the hen becomes furiously protective of them. My two-year-old had a nasty shock when he went too
close to the chicks for their mother’s liking and received a brutal peck! Similarly, our heavenly father is our Shield and
Defender. Nothing happens to us that is outside of his loving plan. A fox could perhaps outwit a hen and get to her
chicks, but our God is invincible. No evil attacks can get past him. As Jesus said in John 10:28, ‘no one will snatch them
out of my hand.’ This is our security. Several psalms use the image of God hiding us under his wings. ‘He will cover you
with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.’ (Psalm 91:4 NIV)
Our hen house is raised off the ground on legs about a foot high. The tiny chicks can descend the ladder in the morning,
but we have to help them back inside at night (to the hen’s annoyance). This morning two chicks followed their mother
outside but the third got left behind. We could hear its frantic ‘peeping’ as it ran around in despair. The chick felt lost
and vulnerable without the felt presence of the mother hen, though she was actually nearby. As God’s children, our
hearts can become frantic when we fail to take time to draw near to him. Calling to God in our distress is a sign that we
‘have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15) We need to call on him
frequently and ‘come under his wings’ to find protection and peace.
When chicks first hatch they are wet and bedraggled. The hen carefully keeps them warm until they dry off. Sometimes
the world leaves us similarly cold and shaken. Under God’s wings we can be strengthened by the warmth of his love. The
hen soon makes new chattering sounds to tell the chicks to eat. She leads them to food and water and demonstrates
how to eat and drink. ‘He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.’ (Psalm 23:2) The Lord
promises to lead us in the way we should go and to satisfy both our physical needs and our deepest spiritual longings.
Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38) Just as the mother hen
leads her chicks to provide them with all that they need for life and growth, so our heavenly father will give us ‘all things
that pertain to life and godliness.’ (2 Peter 1:3)
So let us not be like those hard-hearted people of Jerusalem who refused to come to Jesus, but let us rather run to our
patient Saviour, as chicks run to their mother, for protection and provision.
Elizabeth El Mostain grew up in London and studied Fine Art and French at Aberystwyth University. She and her husband have been serving in France with United For Mission (UFM) since 2010. Her husband is the pastor of a French Baptist church. They have four daughters and two sons.
What others are saying about Survival Tips for Mums:
“I wish someone had given me this book when I was just embarking on the adventure of motherhood. It manages to be positive without being dewy-eyed. It is funny, warm, honest and Christ-centred and in addition is superbly practical about everything from the indignities of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding to the annoyances of nits and everlasting laundry. And yet it is neither prescriptive nor preachy, just very readable and helpful.”
— Ann Benton, author of The Fruitful Home and Parenting Against the Tide