How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.– Psalm 36:7
Psalm 36:7 recently featured in our Christmas appeal, featuring former CAP client and mum, Holly. She found refuge in the form of CAP Debt Coach Irene, who empowered her to see that there was hope and a way out of debt, and made a beautiful set of angel wings from her debt letters, signifying the hope she’d found.
I love this verse. It’s short and sweet, but it creates a powerful, poetic image of God’s love for us. This is something that we, at CAP, believe has the power to transform lives. It might just be one verse, but it’s packed full of meaning that we can hold on to during difficult times.
So, what does it really mean, and how can Psalm 36:7 encourage us today? Let’s walk through the verse together, step by step.
To describe God’s love as priceless means that it is ‘so precious that its value cannot be determined.’ The Aramaic (Hebrew) word used in this verse is yaqar (pronounced yaw-kawr), a word packed full of even deeper meaning. It means: glory, splendid, precious, rare and weighty. God’s love is far more precious and rare than the human versions of love we experience. A price cannot be put on God’s love because there’s nothing like it, it is worth far more than anything. God’s love is not flippant, it is firm.
The word yagar also describes God’s love as a ‘costly cornerstone of a foundation’. Throughout the Bible, Jesus is described as the ‘cornerstone’ (1 Peter 2:7, Ephesians 2:20–22), and this word backs that up by carrying the same meaning about God’s love. It is the foundation, the cornerstone, the solid rock on which we can build our lives.
‘is your unfailing love’
From the word chesed meaning ‘lovingkindness’, God’s unfailing love can also be referred to as devotion or ‘deeds of devotion’. Through the greatest deed of devotion ever, God sent his son to die so that we can experience his unfailing love in its fullness. God’s unfailing love is faithful, kind, loyal and merciful (taking compassion on those who don’t deserve it). It is perfect and unchanging, meaning no matter how many times we fail, God’s love never, ever will.
Even when we are unfaithful, God does not stand at a distance, but remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). He is always close and always pouring out his love. Jesus, in his lovingkindness, already paid to bridge the gap, so that we might always have full access to God’s unfailing love.
Our God, referred to as Elohim (pronounced e‑lo-heem) in the original text, is divine. The word itself shows him to be exceedingly beyond any other being in his godliness, and as a great and mighty ruler. When we pray and ask God to move, we’re not just talking to our Father and friend, we are talking to the King of Kings, the mountain mover, and the very Creator of heaven and earth. He is a divine deity, and what a blessing that is, knowing the One we can call on in our trouble has far more than just human resources at hand.
I love this one because it’s so simple, yet so profound. The word used for ‘people’ here is no accident. It is incredibly broad, yet amazingly personal. It covers all of us, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what hand life has dealt us. God includes us all – there’s room for everyone in the Kingdom of God. If you fit into one of the categories below, you’re in. And – spoiler alert – it’s good news. There’s room for everyone.
The afflicted, the young and old, those from different nations, children and their grandchildren (in other words, generations of our families), common or average people, fools, heirs, those born in high places (like nobility), those born in low places, scoundrels and slaves, warriors and the wicked. Those who were doomed are now rescued.
In short: you could be someone, or anyone, or no one. God still calls you his ‘people’ and offers you a personal place in his love.
To take refuge means ‘to go into a place for shelter protection from danger or trouble’. Taking refuge in a God we can’t physically see can be hard to picture, so the Bible offers some imagery to help:
For example, Psalm 3:3 says: ‘But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high’. The word shield describes fierce protection, but the original Aramaic word translates literally as ‘taker’, meaning God literally takes us into himself, into his presence, an impenetrable shield of protection that surrounds us. This doesn’t mean we escape the sufferings of life – in fact, David, who wrote most of the Psalms, often did so from places of suffering and incredible hardship – but it means our soul can find safety in the midst of whatever may come our way.
Psalm 46:1 describes God as ‘our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’ Deuteronomy 33:7 also describes God as a refuge, saying his everlasting arms are underneath us. Similarly, he’s also written about as a fortress (Psalm 91:2, Psalm 18:2) and strong tower (Proverbs 18:10), reassuring us that he is a strong defence that cannot be dethroned.
God is a safe place we can run in times of trouble. He offers help, protection and solid defence against our enemies. He is both solid protection (fortress, shield and tower), and comforting embrace (everlasting arms, shadow of his wings). There’s no other refuge like it, and we can put our trust in him.
‘in the shadow’
Once again, the word ‘shadow’ means much more than just the dark shape that mirrors our outline when the sun is shining. The Aramaic word for shadow is tsel (pronounced tsale), which means protection, shelter, the shadow of a mountain, shade (protection from the sun, whether from a branch, cloud etc), a place of refreshment and delight, and defence (like a city wall). Once again, we see the firm and steady protection of God in balance with an experience of delight and refreshment, the sort of refreshment you’d experience from an oasis in the desert. He is there, sustaining us in our times of need, always.
‘of your wings.’
By now, you get the gist. Under God’s vast and mighty wings of love and protection, we are covered, as if clothed in a great garment. We are covered from edge to edge, surrounded and fully protected, knowing we are safe from harm and nothing can ever separate us from his unfailing love.
I hope this mini deep dive into just one Bible verse encourages you that, no matter what you’re going through, God is with you. He’s standing firm, defending you and protecting you, and his great love will overcome in every circumstance. With him, you can face anything. Hold on to this truth today, and let God’s unfailing love be your refuge.