Angel Lester
by on March 23, 2024

I remember that when I was little that my family went into the poor section of town and did ministry with the children. I would sit and watch my mom make flannel graph pictures to help illustrate the story she was telling.This story was about a mama hen and her chicks.

The forest fire had been brought under control, and the group of firefighters were working back through the devastation, making sure all the hot spots had been extinguished. As they marched across the blackened landscape between the wisps of smoke still rising from the smoldering remains, a large lump on the trail caught a firefighter’s eye.

As he got closer, he noticed it was the charred remains of a large bird that had burned nearly halfway through. Since birds can so easily fly away from the approaching flames, the firefighter wondered what must have been wrong with this bird that it could not escape. Had it been sick or injured?

Arriving at the carcass, he decided to kick it off the trail with his boot. As soon as he did, however, he was startled half to death by a flurry of activity around his feet. Four little birds flailed in the dust, and ash then scurried away down the hillside.

The bulk of the mother’s body had covered them from the searing flames. Though the heat was enough to consume her, it allowed her babies to find safety underneath. In the face of the rising flames, she had stayed with her young. She was their only hope for safety, and willing to risk her own life, she gathered them under her body and covered them with herself. Even when the pain reached its most unbearable moment, when she could easily have flown away to start another family on another day, she made herself stay through the raging flames.

Her dead carcass and her fleeing chicks told the story well enough—she gave the ultimate sacrifice to save her young. It also illustrates an even greater story—this one almost incomprehensible. In this story, it is the Creator of Heaven and Earth who does exactly the same thing to rescue his wayward children from their own destruction.

Under His Wings

“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.” (Matthew 23:37)

They had rejected God and the messengers he had sent. They had earned the harshest of sentences for their actions, and yet Jesus still wanted to draw them to himself and bear the destruction for them. Their city would be conquered and their children devastated by the consequences of living to their own selfishness instead of trusting in the Living God.

Jesus invoked the same image the firefighter had seen in the woods. He presented himself as a hen trying to gather chicks to herself. That only happens when danger presses in upon them. A hen doesn’t nurse her children or cuddle them to sleep. But when a predator comes near or the coop catches on fire, she will try to gather them under her wings. Pulling them beneath her, she will cover them with her body, risking her own life for their safety.

Jesus could see the firestorm their own sin had produced approaching Jerusalem. It would devour them utterly. Even though many in that crowd would cry for his crucifixion only a few days later, he still wanted them. Like the hen, he offered them a safe place under his wings, willing to endure the fire to the point of death to rescue whoever wanted to come.

When it would have been so easy for him to abandon them to the fate we deserved, he was going to stay and meet the approaching fire in its full fury. What must it take for a bird to stay over her babies as the fire draws an ever-closer, then begins to sear her neck and back? What must it have taken for the God himself to endure the fury of the wrath our sins deserved and stay through it to the end so that those under his wing might be saved.

“But you were not willing.” The story’s end was tragic for those who stood around Jesus that day. Unwilling to come to him, they would have to endure the fire themselves to its tragic end. I doubt there are words that break Father’s heart more than these. After all I’ve done to deliver you from the ravages of sin, you were unwilling.

Not all chicks run to their mothers in time of danger. Some, either paralyzed in panic or trying to find a way to save themselves, get devoured. She can not run around gathering them individually. They have to come to her. That’s all the young chicks had done in the forest fire to be safe. They didn’t have to earn it; all they had to do was run under the mother’s wing and let her cover them.

As the chicks ran to their mothers' wings, we as Christians could run to wings of our savior. We can rest assured that we will be saved from the fires of hell because of His great sacrifice on the cross.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4)

It seems we are all on the relentless pursuit to hide our own inadequacies and seek our own security. In doing so, we are like little chickens running around the burning coop, throwing leaves over our heads, hoping they will be enough.

But they won’t be. There is only one covering that will save us from ourselves; and it is Jesus himself. He endured the firestorm for us so that those who crawl under his wing can dwell in safety. He is the only covering that at once delivers us from our shame and frees us from the bondage of sin.

Cover yourself in him. Learn to live under his wing today and every day for the rest of your life. How do you do that? By learning to trust him completely in every situation that comes upon you.


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