Canopied By The Cross

Series: Reflections On The Cross


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / September 25, 2016

Throughout this series on Reflections On The Cross I’ve been thinking about the meaning of the shadow of the cross.

We encounter this phrase in some of the hymns we sing.

In fact, last Sunday, we met it twice in two songs that Stephen led.

Song #314 / Beneath The Cross of Jesus (vs.4)

I take, O Cross Thy shadow for my abiding place;  I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face.

Song #314 / Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross (vs.3)

Near the cross!  O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me;  Help me walk from day to day with its  shadow o’er me.

What might it mean to live in THE SHADOW of the cross?

Sometimes we speak of Jesus living in the shadow of the cross.

In that sense, there is a foreboding element and a somewhat dark aspect to the shadow.

In the run up to our Lord’s crucifixion we read in Matthew chapter 26, of several very sad sub-plots that unfold.

  Jesus is betrayed by Judas (Mt.26:14f & 47f), first by striking the bargain and then by doing the deed.

  The last supper takes place in an upper room, where Jesus reveals the deeper meaning of the Passover feast,

telling His disciples to eat the bread and drink the cup, which served as a foreshadowing His body and blood.

  In the shadow of the cross Jesus prays fervently that His cup of suffering might pass (Mt.26:36f).

  He is arrested and led away to endure a kangaroo court before the high priest Caiaphas (Mt.26:57f).

  In the shadow of the cross, with the exception of Peter, all of the disciples flee (Mt.26:56).  

  Peter holds on for a few hours and then succumbs by a thrice-spoken denial of Jesus (Mt.27:69).

Many of these elements are highlighted in the hymn, ‘Tis Midnight, And On Olive’s Brow (song #334).

The star is dimmed … The suff’ring Savior prays alone … The Savior wrestles lone with fears …

E’en that disciple whom He loved heeds not His master’s grief and tears …

For others’ guilt The Man of sorrows weeps in blood.

In real time that ancient stage is a most somber setting, filled with gloom and doom and

a sorrow and sadness that is seldom, if ever, matched in the annals of story-telling.

With hindsight we now can label that shadow of the cross as a bittersweet event, but on that night before

His crucifixion there was no apparent sweetness - - all appeared to them to be bitter and disconsolate.

Even now, with both educated insight and hindsight, the shadow of the cross breaks our collective hearts.

While we can never eradicate this dark and shadow-filled sequence of events,

I want to assure us all that there is an alternate meaning to the shadow of the cross.

This morning I want to broader our sometimes tunneled vision with the

aim of speaking of the shadow of the cross from a different perspective.

What might it mean to live in THE SHADOW of the cross?

It should not surprise us to discover that the psalms can help us to rethink “the shadow”.

It is very likely that our first thoughts turn to Ps.23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

While the words of this psalm might seem at first glance to re-route us to a sad and somber mindset,

in actuality this is a very upbeat psalm.   Verses 4f go on to say, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me.

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.  Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

Thou has anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness

will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

These words give new meaning to life in the shadow do they not?

Elsewhere, as well, the psalms overflow with a revised and enlarged understanding of life in the shadow.

Ps.17:8 / Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Thy wings.  

Ps.32:7 / Thou art my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble.

Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance.

This is the psalm that gave Corrie ten Boom the title of her book, which chronicled her days in a Nazi death camp.

Ps.36:7f / How precious is Thy lovingkindness, O God!  And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings.

They drink their fill of the abundance of Thy house.  And Thou didst give them to drink of the river of Thy delights.

For with Thee is the fountain of life; In Thy light we see light.

Ps.57:1 / Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in Thee;

And in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by.

These five psalms are penned by King David.

While we might be inclined to think of the life of a king as luxurious and safe in every way, these psalms (songs and prayers) of David reveal a life filled with trials and tribulations, some brought on by his own selfish choices (Ps.32).

Yet David finds rest, respite and relief in realizing that He lives in the shadow of God’s wings.

Our primary text for this morning is Psalm 91.

This psalm is likely an extension of Psalm 90, which was written by Moses and is labeled as such.


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 it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.

We’ll not take the time this morning to elaborate on various references in this psalm than seem to support the idea that Moses is the author.   In a broad way we can acknowledge that Moses (and the children of Israel) were blessed by God’s outstretched hands all throughout their wilderness trek.  A pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex.13:21).

Sometimes the favor of living in the shadow of the Almighty symbolizes various positive images.

REFRESHMENT.  The desert and the wilderness were taxing places, sometimes taking one to the brink of exhaustion.

Thirst was a killer.  Yet read again Ps.36:7-9 (above) and note Ps.63:1 & 5-7.

Living in the shadow of God’s wings may also speak of a place of REFUGE.

Ps.57:1 / Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me.  For my soul takes refuge in Thee;

And in the shadow of Thy wings will I take refuge until destruction passes by.

Ps.61:1-4 / Hear my cry, O God;  Give heed to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to Thee,

When my heart is faint; Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.  For Thou hast been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.  Let me dwell in Thy tent forever;  Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings.

Ruth 2:12 / May the Lord reward your work and your wages be full from the Lord,

The God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.

Living under and in the shadow of the Almighty also speaks of RESTORATION.

Read again Ps.32, which is a psalm of contrition and confession, but also a psalm of the joy of restoration.

From a New Testament perspective, life in the shadow of the cross also gives us the greatest of gifts - -REDEMPTION.

In Old Testament times God’s presence was depicted in the Tabernacle, and later on, in the Temple.

His presence was in the Holy of Holies within which was the ark of the covenant.  The top or lid of the ark was

known as “the mercy seat” and it was adorned by angels with wings spread wide covering the mercy seat.  Cf. Ex.37:9

Rom.8:1 / There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Imagine, if you will, our Lord on the cross with His arms/wings outstretched.

All of us who live in these glorious post-crucifixion days, who now stand in Christ Jesus, are graced beyond measure.

One man who had suffered a great personal loss that threatened to crush him claimed to hear God speak to him

God often speaks to us by way of His written Word, if we will open it up and tune in and listen carefully.

“My child, my child, do not flee this time.  Perch under the shadow of my wings, under the cross-beams of the cross.”

There is no safer place in which to dwell.  And, as such, life in the shadow of the cross, under the outstretched arms of God’s only begotten Son, is a place of great REJOICING.  What a joy to be canopied by the cross.

In Ps.63:7, we read a prophetic declaration from David - -  In the shadow of Thy wings I SING FOR JOY.

Let’s end here by going full circle - - back to where we began.

Quite often hymn writers plumb the depths more than we might see at first.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine that the sunshine of His face.

Because Jesus died in our stead on the tree, we are CANOPIED BY THE CROSS - - the sunshine of His face.

With this in mind, let us pray as another hymn writer has suggested:

Near the cross!  O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me;  Help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me.

 One final postscript.   The 91st psalm has an unusual distinction:  it is the only passage of Scripture which

(at least in the sacred record) is quoted by the devil.  cf. Ps.91:11-12  with  Mt.4:6 and Lk.4:10-11.

Although Satan cited this verse correctly, he actually misquoted or misapplied it and Jesus refused his scheme.

Have you noted that Ps.91 and these other many psalms never depict David or Moses living lives free from trouble?

What they do portray for us is that life in the shadow of God and in the shadow of the cross will guarantee us

the promise of God - - “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble.”  cf. Ps.91:15

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