I got terribly sun-burned year ago!
It was December 2002. I has assisted with driving some of our teens to Baptist Youth Summer Camp in Barkly West, just outside of Kimberley in the Northern Cape. A group then stayed at Christiana, waiting for the return trip… we camped there, and chose to go and play golf one day at the Christiana gholfbaan, a dust bowl with no green on the greens, or anywhere else for that matter. I only had my travelling bag of clubs, with a small selection of weapons. Sadly, my normal bag was not there, and hence I had no sunscreen on hand. If I remember properly we teed off at about 10am. Remember this is December in the Northern Cape! No sunscreen. No shade. No trees. No protection.
The result was not pretty – roasted lobster would be a fair comparison. I am pretty sure my legs between my shorts and shoes glowed the dark. An old boere recep was applied – egg white! And so with extreme pain, and encrusted in egg white I endured the after-effects of that sun! They say that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. Well, I can endorse that saying, through bitter experience!
We have a need for shade. We need protection from the heat and sun. When the sun is very intense, our bodies cry out for relief, for protection, for shelter, for anything that provides shade.
Well, I suggest to you that the same is true spiritually. Life and issues come at us with an intensity that burns at times. Even as we face 2017, there may well be times this year (and possibly even right now) where it feels as if life is hitting you with the intensity of a furnace blast. You long for relief, for the heat to be turned down, for some barrier to protect from the worst of the intensity of life and issues – circumstances, health, family, finances, opposition, challenges in ministry…
The need for shade was an acute one in the ancient world too where the Bible was written. The need for shelter from the sun would have been very familiar to those living in the Middle East. Those living in the extreme desert conditions know that shade can be a life-saver. In the heat of day, any shadow is welcome. There is comfort that comes from that.
But shadows can be temporary. Remember Jonah? He crouched under a vine, finding protection. But it was short-lived, and the vine dried up and died.
But we see over and over in our Bibles that the Lord God is described as “shade.” Let’s see this in action…
“For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down.” (Isaiah 25:4–5, ESV)
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:1–7, ESV)
“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.” (Psalm 121:3–7, ESV)
What do all these images mean? What does it mean when we hear God referred to as ‘shade’ or as a ‘shadow’?
All of these refer to the fact that God helps the helpless. When you are faced with issues and trouble and insecurity, you can find shelter and rest and comfort in God. God is totally interested in your life, and He welcomes us to approach His throne of grace with confidence and find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. If you are poor in heart, or in distress, facing seemingly insurmountable issues, God will be shade and shelter for you, if you will approach Him humbly. If we come and cry out to Him to act, expressing our own weakness and inability, He will act. He will be as a delightful shadow or source of shade to you. We find rest and comfort in the relationship we have with God, as we cling to His own nature and the promises given to us in His Word.
And that is guaranteed – a guarantee right from our Bibles. God is a consistent shade, a shadow that does not change…
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17, ESV)
You know those days when you’ve taken your car to the shopping centre, and sought out a nice shady spot under a tree, thinking that the vehicle will be nice and cool upon your return? Then you get back and discover that the car is baking in the sun? What happened? As the earth moved, the sun’s rays changed, and the shadow shifted. Even our own world and sun and earth are inconsistent.
But James assures us that our God does not change like the shifting shadows. He is a constant refuge and comfort and source of hope. God might not lift the pressure and alleviate the intensity of the trial He takes you through, but He does promise to be a consistent shadow, a source of comfort and security and relief in the midst of the distress and hardships.
But this is only true for those are in Christ. These promises are not for all people – they are given to believers in God, and we know that if we reject Christ we reject God. So these promises are for Christians! If you’ve accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, if you’ve come humbly to the cross pleading forgiveness and grace, and been adopted in God’s family, forgiven and redeemed, then these promises are true for you – God is your shade. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ – to enjoy God’s favour and protection as a shade means that you need to be in a relationship with Him, through Christ.
What does that mean for you in January 2017? Believer, the Lord God is your shade, shadow and source of comfort! Believe that. Cling onto that. Run to God and find grace and mercy and protection and aid and shelter and hope and provision. May you truly experience the grace and goodness and blessings that God offers to His children.