God is a mantling God.
I remember a trip to a shopping mall with our young children. The Fort Worth Zoo had brought some birds to the mall for an exhibition. The most impressive thing I saw gave me chills when I realized the theological implications of what I saw.
A Harris Hawk majestically glided directly over my head to perch on the gloved hand of one of the zookeepers. As the hawk began to eat the meat in the hand, it stretched its wings out to cover its snack. The narrator explained that the hawk’s behavior is called mantling.
The hawk was protecting the meat from being taken by another raptor. Whatever wanted that meaty morsel would have to go through the mantling hawk to get it. As the bird was mantling over its food, I remembered Psalm 91. (Note: The picture above shows a bird mantling over its prey.)
Today’s Bible reading* includes this interesting imagery. David tells that “He will cover you with his feathers; you will take refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” (Psalm 91:4 CSB) God is mantling over His people.
Previously, I had pictured Psalm 91 as describing us sheltered under God’s wings as an egg under a roosting chicken as the hen sits atop the egg in its nest. But seeing the hawk mantling its prey gave me a new perspective of being under God’s wings. Rather than God passively resting above us, I now saw Him actively keeping a watch over us. Actively protecting us and always ready to take on anything that would try to approach us.
Think about that. David says that God is mantling over His people. Think back to Job when Satan had to get permission to torment Job.
Jesus tells us, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John 10:28–29 (CSB)
What encouraging imagery this is! Anything — or anyone — that would attack us must go through Jesus and His Father. We are assured of God’s loving protection of His people.
Just as God mantled over David to protect Him from Saul, He is mantling over you all the time!
* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
1 Samuel 21
1 Samuel 22
1 Samuel 23
1 Samuel 24