Living Like Eagles
If you were to mention the eagle to a Jew in Jesus’ day, you would probably get scorn and anger in return. At that time, the eagle was the symbol of the Roman legions; and no loyal Jew wanted his nation controlled by a foreign power.
But if you were to mention the eagle to an Old Testament Jew, he would most likely respond with a smile of joy. Why? Because to the believer in the Old Testament days, the eagle was a symbol of God’s gracious care for His people, Israel.
God wants us to live like eagles. Not like insects, crawling in the dust; or like animals on the prowl; but like the eagles—soaring in the heights! And if we respond to God’s “eagle ministry,” we will experience this higher life that Christ died to give us. Consider with me four wonderful ministries of God that are pictured by the eagle.
First, like the eagle, God saves us.
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians,” God said to Moses in Exodus 19:4, “and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” What a dramatic description of the exodus from Egypt! Here were the people, hemmed in on every side. The wasteland stood around them, the sea stood before them, and the army of the Egyptians was pursuing behind them. They could not look around, or ahead, or behind—but they could look up!
“Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!” Moses announced to the frightened people (Exodus 14:13). And that is exactly what they did: they stood still, and God swooped down like the eagle and delivered His people from their enemies. Their deliverance came from above.
Now, all of this is a beautiful picture of our own deliverance in Jesus Christ. Like Israel, the lost sinner is in bondage. He is a slave of the world and the flesh, and he cannot deliver himself. But when Israel trusted God, their deliverance came from above. God did not ask Israel to save themselves—to swim the sea or turn and fight the enemy. God saved them by His grace! And God has saved us by His grace.
“He saw me plunged in deep distress,
He flew to my relief!”
Salvation comes from above. “Except a man be born again—born from above—he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Salvation is a gift, and every gift comes from above according to James 1:17. Like a mighty eagle, Jesus Christ came down from heaven to rescue us from eternal judgment. In His death on the cross, His mighty resurrection, and His ascension to glory, Jesus Christ has completely defeated the enemy and made provision for our salvation.
Has He saved you? Have you trusted Christ and experienced that salvation that comes only from above? Has He taken you on His eagle wings and lifted you out of death into life, out of darkness into light, out of bondage into freedom? If not, trust Him now and He will save you. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Second, God matures us, like the eagle.
Moses used the symbol of the eagle in his farewell address to Israel. “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttering over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him (Israel)…” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12). No doubt when he was a shepherd, Moses had often seen the adult eagles “Shaking up the nest” to teach their young how to fly. The young stay in the nest from eight to ten weeks, but then it is time to grow up and discover the highways of the heavens.
No doubt it is a very difficult experience for the young birds to leave the comfort and security of their nest, but this is the only way to mature. After all, eagles were created to fly, not to lie in soft nests and die of overeating and under-exercising! Sometimes the parent birds will actually push the young out of the nest! They have been known to scatter the nest and almost destroy it. Some writers claim that the parents put thorns into the bottom of the nest when they build it, and cover the thorns with soft down. While the eaglets are small, they do not feel the thorns; but as they get bigger, they press down on the thorns and finally get the point!
It may seem cruel to us for the eagles to force their young out of the nest, but how else could you teach the little ones to fly? When they are falling through space, they simply have to spread their wings, use their muscles, and learn how to behave like eagles! And, this is what God does for us: He sometimes forces us to “leave the nest” in order that we might mount up with wings as eagles and learn how to fly. If only we could see the wonderful heights of Christian experience God has for us! But, no, we are too content in our comfortable nests—our peaceful homes, secure jobs, dependable bank accounts. And sometimes God has to “shake up the nest” to get us to trust Him and not the good things of life He has given us.
The point Moses is making is this: whenever the parents thrust the little ones out of the nest, the parents are never far away. They hover over the birds as the little ones learn to use their wings. They swoop under their young to catch them if they fall. And so it is with our heavenly Father: He is never far away when we are learning how to fly. He hovers near to encourage us, to catch us if we fall.
The only way to mature as a Christian is to leave the nest and start to fly. If we refuse to leave the nest, then God sometimes has to shake it up, put thorns in it, or even destroy it. Is He heartless as He does this? Of course not! He does it because He loves us and wants us to grow up and enjoy life in the heights. Sometimes He takes away a loved one; sometimes He permits us to lose a job or to fail in some enterprise. God does not want to see us in the nest: He wants to see us soaring above “in the heavenlies.” There is no growth or maturity without challenge, and there is no challenge without change. God changes things in order that He might change us for the better.
So, like the eagle, God saves us and God matures us. But there is a third ministry—
God strengthens us.
How many times have we turned to that great promise in Isaiah 40:31? “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
You owe it to yourself to read all of Isaiah 40, because it exults in the greatness of God. All flesh is grass, but God abides forever! Even the young men shall faint, but God never faints! The nations are but a drop in the bucket to God. Why, He is the God of creation: He measures the seas in the palm of His hands! Yet He is a God concerned about you and me. “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm…” (Isaiah 40:11). The God of the galaxies is the Shepherd of my soul! I am but a grasshopper in His sight, yet He loves me and wants to strengthen me for my daily tasks. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles…”
Sad to say, some Christians do not know how to face the storms of life. When the winds begin to blow, and life becomes difficult, they sometimes say with the psalmist, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest!” (Psalm 55:6). Well, there are times when God does want to shelter us and protect us like a dove in the cleft of the rock. But there are also times when He wants to give us, not “wings as a dove,” but “wings like a eagle.” He wants us to face the storm and soar above it! No problems are solved by running away. We cannot hide our heads and wish that the storms were over. No, we must mount up with wings as eagles; and this we can do, because God strengthens us.
How do we receive His strength? “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…” That word renew is actually exchange: “They that wait upon the Lord shall exchange their strength.” That is what happens when you get into an automobile: you exchange the strength of your leg muscles for the power of that engine. That is what happens when you get into a jet plane: you exchange your weakness (for after all, you cannot fly!) for the power of those magnificent jet engines. This is what Paul meant when he said, “For when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
We renew our strength by waiting on the Lord. Not running to the Lord only when there is a crisis and praying some kind of “panic-button prayer” for help. No, to “wait on the Lord” means to have a moment-by-moment dependence on Him all day long. “Waiting on the Lord” is an attitude of life, not an emergency measure. It means starting the day with God, by reading His Word and praying. It means staying in fellowship with Him all day long and trusting Him for the strength we need. It means taking God into every area of life and doing all for His glory. The Christian who “practices the presence of God” is going to have the strength needed to soar above the storms and mount up with wings like an eagle.
God saves us; God matures us; and God strengthens us. His fourth eagle ministry is—
God renews us.
Has your Christian life ever become old and dry? Have you ever felt the need for new life—for revival? Well, the promise of Psalm 103:5 is for you: “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
David is talking, of course, about the experience of the eagle during molting season. When the feathers get old, they become dry and brittle, and they easily break. Damaged feathers affect the eagle’s flight: he loses strength and accuracy. These broken feathers must be replaced; and so God has arranged for the renewing of the eagle. The old feathers drop off and new ones grow in. For a short season, that majestic bird is an ugly sight; but when molting season is over, he comes out with new strength and beauty.
Too often in my own life, I become dry and brittle, and I desperately need to be renewed. This is the time I need to get away and be alone with God. I need to confess sin; I need to let Him pluck out the old “feathers” that are hindering my life. As I meditate on the Word, and as I pray, He sends new “spiritual feathers” and He renews my life! Call it “renewal,” if you wish, or call it “revival.” The important thing is not what we call it, but that we experience it. “Thy youth is renewed like the eagles!” There should be no “spiritual old age” in the Christian life! Maturity, yes; but not old age. There ought to be a youthfulness, a freshness about our Christian life no matter how many years we have trusted Christ.
I like to think of the men in the Bible who experienced this “renewal” from the Lord. I think of Abraham who trusted God and was made a young man again. I think of Moses who was ready to give up—and even wanted God to kill him!—and then experienced God’s renewal instead. David in the psalms so often is discouraged and defeated, and then he cries out to God and God revives him. Peter failed his Lord, and went out and wept bitterly; but God renewed him and he won thousands to Christ. God renewed these men, and God can renew you and me.
How does God renew us? Listen to the promise again: “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” Thy mouth! It is what we eat that determines our spiritual life, and the only diet for the Christian is the Word of God. As we feed on the bread of life, the milk and meat of the Word, and especially the strong meat, we receive new life and power from within. Every true revival depends primarily on believing and obeying the Word of God. “Quicken Thou me—give me life—according to Thy Word” (Psalm 119:25). God will renew us if we will but feed on the Word, love it, and do what it says.
These, then, are the four “eagle ministries” of our Lord: He saves us, matures us, strengthens us, and renews us. What an exciting thing it is to be a Christian! God does not want us to crawl like insects, or even to walk like mere men. He wants us to mount up with wings and live in the heights like the eagle! If we trust Him, yield to Him, wait upon Him, and obey Him, He will cause our spiritual wings to grow and will lift us to a higher plane.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above…” (Colossians 3:1). Start living like eagles.