I was embarrassed. I’d just exposed a tender, messy part of my life to a group of women who didn’t know me well, and I felt insecure, defensive, and sorry that I’d answered their questions so honestly.
I’d wanted them to love me. Instead, I walked away feeling naked and judged.
Just days before, my husband and I had had a dear one harshly criticize our parenting. I’d felt exposed and shaken by the heat of her anger.
As I was pouring out my heart to the Lord, telling Him how I felt about these two situations, He took me to Psalm 121. Although I’d read verse 5 hundreds of times, my heart was captivated afresh:
The Lord is my Keeper;
The Lord is the Shade at my right hand.
God is my Shade
The Hebrew word for shade is tsel. (The English dictionary defines the verb shade as to hide from view; to protect something from heat; to cover.) Throughout Scripture, God’s shade is illustrated as great rocks, trees, and clouds.
Isaiah 25:4-5 paints a poignant picture of this:
You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.
For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall
and like the heat of the desert.
….as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is stilled.
Notice that God doesn’t make the poor man rich or save the needy man from his distress—instead, He becomes his Refuge. He doesn’t prevent the storm and the heat from striking; rather, He becomes both Shelter and Shade.
Living in the semi-desert of SoCal gives me an appreciation for shade of any kind. Especially during the summer months when temperatures are showing off at 115 degrees, you can’t put a price on shady parking places, Easy-ups, or a nice big HAT. Here we spend an exorbitant amount of energy and money avoiding the heat.
Heat saps our strength. It exposes us to physical harm (like the time I suffered heat stroke on the soccer field). It tempts us to tempers.
But shade brings relief, it protects and rejuvenates us. Shade makes us say with joy, “Ahhh…! I love you, you big wonderful leafy tree!!”
Similarly, life’s heat creates a need for God’s shade. And His sufficiency to meet our need brings Him great glory. The temperatures in our circumstances might be soaring, but He is cooling and refreshing, and we are ultimately protected from heat’s harm.
So what’s with the right hand?
Why is it significant that God is the Shade at my right hand?
The Jewish Virtual Library explains that, “The right side of a man is the side on which God ‘marches’ when assisting him in battle (Isa. 63:12; Ps. 109:31; 110:1, 5) and it is the right hand which God grasps as a symbol of election (Isa. 41:13; 45:1; Ps. 73:23).” And when a Jewish man walked with others, “The greater of his companions walked on his right.”*
Throughout Scripture the right hand also represents blessing.
So to have God shade me at my right hand symbolizes His ability to fight for me, His election of me, His blessing on my life, and His superior greatness.
How do we shade ourselves in Christ when the heat gets turned up?
How do we practically flesh this idea out? When I feel exposed, rejected, or anxious, how do I find cover in God?
Again, let’s look to Scripture for our cues. How did folks in the Bible draw near to God? A few examples:
• Daniel prayed three times a day
• David wrote songs
• Hannah wept bitterly before God
• Jacob wrestled with Him
• Paul prayed and gave thanks without ceasing
My soul is naturally sluggish, and I tend to try to find shade in all the wrong places. But God is faithful, and He continues to teach me how to run into His cover. Over the years I’ve learned to draw near to God in a variety of ways: I’ve done deep inductive Bible studies, listened to worship music, written poems, prayed and prayed some more, journaled, found quiet places of retreat in the mountains or at the beach, enjoyed special “dates” with God, posted verses on the walls of my home, and made up tunes to memorize Scripture. And like Hannah and Jacob, I’ve also wept bitterly before Him and wrestled with Him.
Dear one, where do you “feel the heat” in your life right now? That is exactly where Christ wants to meet you, that He may become your protector and so that you might say with joy,
“He has stilled the sound of the ruthless.
He has sheltered me from my storm.
He has shaded me from my heat!”