Two Wings to Cover Our Face

“Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” (Isaiah 6:2, emphasis mine)

Shining example

Think about what wings are for. Sure, in the case of chickens and rheas and dodos (secretary birds, too), they don’t do much. But the wing is for flight, how else can I say it? Isaiah opens his sixth chapter with “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” (all this happened “In the year that king Uzziah died, by the way—6:1) The Lord in repose on His throne is attended here by two seraphim. One of the only descriptors—really, only one is necessary—I can give is that of flame, “burning” as it says in Strong’s. They’re on fire and they must have been a sight to behold. And by the way, that mention of the Lord’s “train [filling] the temple” refers to His glory filling the place where He was; angels don’t hold a candle to the beauty and the brightness of the Lord.

“One thing have I desired of the the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

But first:

“Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy.” (Psalm 99:9)

Picking around through the Old Testament, an interested party can piece together an image of just what it looks like where God dwells. Yes, it’s true that He dwells in our hearts by His Spirit (see Acts 7:48-50) but metaphorically speaking, it’s almost as if God has His throne room deep in the warren of an impregnable castle at the top of a high mountain overlooking a vast valley. It takes all our effort to approach God and to truly, genuinely seek and obtain audience with the Most High. One doesn’t just happen to find themselves in the holy of holies without a little humility.

“They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” (Psalm 84:7, emphasis mine)

Ordered Pairs

“Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might…” (2 Peter 2:11a)

What would you do with six wings? Yes, you might fly—I mean, how could you not? But that just takes two. Stay with me here. While we are not angels and even though Jesus says that we’ll be “as the angels of God in Heaven.” (Matthew 22:30b) upon getting there, we’re a different class of being. We were created in the Lord’s image and likeness and yet somehow, we don’t have wings. We can crane our neck to the sky and yearn for the power of flight, but when the day is over, we’re still earth bound. This is how God designed it. It would seem that He has seen fit to start us off at the bottom level, the ground floor. But think about the angels with me for a moment. While I can’t touch on what it means to cover my feet with two of my wings, the implication of covering my face with that which is used to fly is supremely humbling.

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4)

This is what we get to do. Thanksgiving is not just a movable feast occurring once a year on the third Thursday of November in America. Thanksgiving is the least common denominator of humility—it’s also its own gift; it is a privilege to be able to give thanks to the Lord on high. It isn’t that we don’t get to look God full in the face (remember, we’re not angels), it’s more about taking our gifts and surrendering them to the Lord and ensuring there’s nothing between you and He.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons (and daughters) unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:9-10)

Very simply, it’s not about us, it’s about Him.

Owning Our Worst Enemy

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” Paul writing to the Romans (12:20). Can’t cite that verse without the next one (vs. 21): “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

It’s one thing to “turn to him the other [cheek]” as Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel (5:39). Quite another to literally give something to someone to fulfill a need, if they’ve mistreated you. It takes time and effort to acquire the food in the first place. When they see that you’re willing to give what you worked for, with honest heart and pure motive, something happens to them. Don’t look for an outward response though. This all seems like pretty elementary stuff. Simply explained and easier to live out the more you do it. But here’s another way of looking at it.

Have you ever thought about that Romans passage with reference to yourself? Not sure if it’s meant to be conveyed along those lines, but I will say that the hardest person to forgive oftentimes, is us. One of the firmest convictions I have regarding God, is that He always looks upon us with eyes of love. There are all sorts of variables here, such as the whole love/judgment paradox and the fact that some people actively hate Him and continue to do wrong, in spite of professing an aligned moral compass. Work through those. I’m referring, right now, to God’s response to our mistakes. The ones we do that hurt others, however inadvertently. The deeper we get in relation to others, the more chance there is for that fine line to be crossed, and to rub someone the wrong way. I’ve done it before and I always hate it. I tell myself that I could’ve waited. Could’ve prayed more about the fine points of the relationship and not said the thing I did. Here’s what silences those nagging thoughts: Jesus forgives me upon asking. It’s as simple as that. There’s no way that I love myself more than He. But that’s exactly the reason why I hold out and refuse to let it go. I tell myself that I care for and love myself more than Him. And that’s not correct. Forgive yourself as readily as you’re called to forgive others. Overcome evil with good.

As an aside, when Isaiah stood in the presence of God and saw the angel take the live coal from the fire and put it in his mouth, the angel then told him “lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged.” (Isaiah 6:6-7) When Paul refers to feeding our enemies, ourselves included, it’s understood that we’ve taken pains to forgive them prior to doing so. Our motive of heart remains pure when we’ve forgiven the offense, in them and in ourselves.

“Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thoud didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.” (2 Samuel 12:20-21)

David might seem calloused and uncaring. What he’s showing here is radical self-forgiveness after having repented.

Watershed or Waterloo?

What do the setbacks of our lives mean? I’ll tell you what they mean. They mean God loves you enough to forestall your “forward” progress to ensure that you’re getting closer to Him.

I can’t answer specifically for anyone. I will attempt, however, to qualify setbacks, disappointments and defeats under two categories:

• Watersheds: Also known as turning points, epiphanies, Aha!/eureka moments, etc.

• Waterloos: Crushing defeats (though not really if you’re still alive).

As God sees everything we don’t, we’d do well to realize that any setback we face is an opportunity to pause and pray. Any endeavor worth its salt is bound to encounter opposition. This is true in the world’s system as well as in the church. It’s important that we slow down and see that, whatever it is that God is doing or wants to do in our life is undergirded by prayer, praise and worship. This way, any setback you encounter will end up strengthening the project as a whole. And as God is the one “with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13), we know that we’re on His time schedule. Areas of blindness in ourselves and others can only be revealed through waiting. Setbacks.

Watersheds come when God says “friend, come up higher” (Luke 14:10). God’s call on your life is entering the next phase and yet, there are things that you were blind to. Through it all you remained humble before God and now He’s ready to reveal things about your life and call that you weren’t aware of before. What’s really strange is when God shows you something that was there that you didn’t even think to look for. Watersheds. Your life is then qualified, not only by God, but by “before” and “after”. Stay humble.

Waterloo: Historically, the sight of Napoleon’s ultimate defeat. Prior to that, he had announced in a fit of pride and arrogance that he himself was God. And you know that God wasn’t going to allow that. There’s only one God. We’d do well to remember this too. Our gifts and callings are “without repentance” (Romans 11:29). This means that our talents and dreams will play out even without God’s involvement. Should you run up against defeat in an area of your life where maybe you weren’t enthroning Jesus as Lord, then stop and pray. Repent for making a god out of the task or project or even yourself. Humble yourself before Him and ask Him to take over whatever area is in question. God “works all things together for our good if we love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Personally, I wouldn’t want any endeavor to succeed that was not “according to His purpose”.

Setbacks are not meant to make us ultimately give up, just to give up control to God.