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Living under the shadow of his wings

Like most animals, the eagle rushes into conflict when protecting its young, yet the same instinct causes it to exhibit tender care. Moses’ final song compares God’s concern for Israel to an eagle ‘hovering over its young . . . bearing them aloft on its wings’ (Deut. 32.11), echoing how God called Moses and the Israelites to Mount Sinai: ‘I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself ’ (Exod. 19.4). The ‘shadow of his wings’ is the Psalmist’s place of refuge and hiding (Pss. 17.8; 36.7; 57.1; 63.7; 91.1, 4). While the conflict is with unnamed Jewish leaders, there is a tremendously personal dimension to John’s portrayal of those who believe in Jesus. The disputes take place with crowds (chapters 6—8; 10), but real dialogue is with individuals, who are often otherwise unknown: Nathanael (1.45–51); Nicodemus (3.1–10); the Samaritan woman (4.7–26); the man at the pool (5.2–9, 14); the woman caught in adultery (8.9–11); the blind man (9.35–38); Martha and Mary (11.21–40); and Peter (13.6–10; 21.15–22)…

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