"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not" Matt. 23: 37
The hen with her chickens is a figure of Divine compassion, which moves every one by its beauty and tenderness.Yet this word of Jesus has a far deeper meaning than he who merely admires it imagines. Truly it speaks of protection and compassion, for this is the purpose here of the gathering together. But there is more in it than this.
It also implies that the chickens belong with the mother-hen; and that nothing else than return to her can render them safe against the dangers of cold, and prowling vermin. It also contains the striking figure that by nature the chickens are appointed a hiding place close by the mother-hen, and that they find shelter and protection of life only in the immediate nearness of the mother-life, under the outspread wings that will embrace and compass them.
Thus, this striking saying of Jesus is taken bodily from Old Testament imagery and in turn is explained by it. When in Psalm 91 it is said. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall lodge under the shadow of the Almighty, " we deal with the selfsame figurative representation. It is the epitome of what the Psalmist elsewhere expresses (61: 4).. "I will make my refuge in the covert of thy wings." It is the same thought that was expressed by the wings of the cherubim over the mercy-seat of the ark of the Covenant.
It is ever the one idea: God created a fowl that gathers her brood under her wings and with these wings covers and cuddles them; and now this richly suggestive picture is held before us in order that our soul might seek refuge under the shadow of the Almighty and hide in the covert of His wings. Not from what moves in the waters nor from what creeps or prowls on the ground and hardly ever from four-footed beasts is this imagery borrowed; but, in the main, only from winged creatures that can lift themselves above the earth and, as it were, live between us and heaven.
Angels before God's Throne are pictured with wings as Seraphs. With the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Son of man, there is mention of the form of a dove. That it might have wings to fly upward is the secret prayer of the soul that is bound to the dust.
And so it conforms to the order of creation, it corresponds to the Divinely ordained state of things, and it therefore appeals to us as something that is entirely natural that in order to express the tenderest and most mystical kind of religion, the winged creature is held up to us as a symbol. and that boldest imagery serves to picture to us what it is "to be near unto God," to make it, as it were, visible to our eyes and perceptible to our feelings.