A study of Eagles Wings – Isaiah 40


So – before I start – you should go ready Isaiah 40. Yes – the whole chapter… go now… read it before you continue reading on here… read the whole thing carefully – as the chapter brilliantly sets up the last concluding verses into context… wait – why are you still reading here -go read it now! Go…. stop reading this… Here’s a link to make it easier:
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+40&version=NLT

Read the whole thing and continue here.

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Ok – so that wasn’t so bad now was it? Beautiful chapter huh? There’s one main thing that jumped out at me today when I read that chapter – Eagle’s wings… What’s so special about eagles or their wings as opposed to any other type of bird? Why not a sparrow? Or an ostrich? I believe that there is such depth to scripture if we’re only willing to do a little digging… so I got out my shovel and got to work – 3 verses ended upstanding out to me:

Deut 32:11-12 NKJV – As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the LORD alone led him,and there was no foreign god with him.

Psalm 103:5 NKJV– Who satisfies thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Isaiah 40:31 NLT – But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

So this got me thinking – there’s got to be some sort of lesson in this somewhere as to why eagles are used specifically… In fact -eagles are used a bit in scripture as analogies or metaphors. So I decided to do a little research – good ole friend google… we meet again.

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I guess firstly I should address as to why I made you read the entire chapter of Isaiah 40 (other than the fact that it’s good to read your bible of course!)…

I’ll briefly outline what I got out of the previous verses to the eagle stuff which set it up nicely:
– Firstly – God is speaking comfort to Israel – the sad days are gone, our sins are pardoned, the punishment of God is over!
– God’s comfort comes in the form of his gospel – verses 3-5 are messianic prophesy – foreshadowing John the baptist preparing the way of the Lord.
– Isaiah is commanded to shout – to declare God’s word – some can say this is similar to our Great Commission. He declares first the fickle nature of life before God, our life is like grass – here today gone tomorrow at the will and whim of God. The only thing that stands forever is His word. Then he shouts hope – hope of the Lord’s coming in power and might – though not as a callous conquering tyrant – but as a caring shepherd. (similar to our presentation of the full gospel – first explaining wrath and judgement to show our need and then presenting grace and mercy which is appreciated in light of it.)
– Then as if to put things back into perspective and not leave the reader to think of God as a soft lovey dovey weak type – He describes in powerful terms the greatness of God – He has no equal. None compares to Him. It puts us in right perspective. We are nothing by comparison and by extension so are our problems in light of His magnificence.
– We are reminded of God’s control and knowledge – He controls and knows all the stars by name, how then can we think He doesn’t know our troubles and worries or is unable to deal with them?
– Then – in light of this great God, who has no equal, who dwarfs all else, who comes in power as a comforting shepherd, in love bringing us to Himself through His gospel – we are reassured; in our time of weakness – He is our source of strength.

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Ok cool… that’s the run down – feel free to dig deeper yourself. What I want to focus on is that last part…  We know God renews our strength – but the phrase used is conspicuous to me “soar high on wings like eagles”,”run” and “walk”.

(As a side note – there is a false story of eagles and how they go up to a mountain and smash their beaks and pluck out their feathers to be ‘renewed’ – I’ve researched this and it is utterly false! It’s sad that it’s sometimes used at the pulpit… however proper research from biology and bird sites shows this to be untrue.)


Let’s break down this eagle business…

As the eagle works and cares for its offspring – so the Lord also leads us. So in my research of eagles some pretty cool lessons were learnt.

THE NEST:

Eagles when they build their nests will use thorn bushes as the base and interweave them, then lay on top of them twigs, then softer materials to make it comfortable for their babies, and even use their own feathers sometimes. So when the young are born -they are comforted in the nest during those early phases. Also the thorns help to guard the nest from predators that would otherwise harm the young eaglets.But as the chicks grow older and mature, the parents start to remove some of the twigs, the softer materials, making it more uncomfortable.
The eagle begins to “stir up the nest” – because it knows that if the eaglet is always in a comfortable environment – it will have no motivation to learn to fly. So they take that twig that was laid horizontal and put it vertically to poke the young eaglets, remove the cushion to expose some thorns… you can imagine the eaglets complaining – ouch – I can’t find a place to sit – it hurts. Everything was perfect, something went wrong – dad – what are you doing!? The parents are causing the eaglets to look beyond the nest.
God is in the disturbances just as much as He is in the deliverances. His goal is not for us to be contented with living comfortable lives in the nest -but for us to learn to fly! The nest served a purpose when we were babes in Christ, being fed on the milk, nurturing us, protecting us… but as we mature,the time to put childish things behind comes and start to develop an appetite for meat and venture outside the nest. You may wonder why things aren’t going smoothly for you – it’s because God wants to do more with your life.

IMPRINTING:

So after the eagle has stirred up its nest, made it uncomfortable – it has the eaglets’ attention. God uses trials to get our attention. For what? Well – what comes next – “hovers over its young, spreading out its wings”.

Eagles have this instinct called imprinting. They bond with the first moving object they see (which should be their parents). The concept of imprinting is fascinating. Bird shelters that rescue eagle eggs, must hand feed them with an eagle puppet so that the eagles do not think they are human and end up resisting their own kind when it is time to mate. In Kondrad’s imprinting studies, he saw one egg hatch near a rolling ping pong ball. When the duck grew old enough, it tried to mate with anything that was round and rolling. In the same way – young eagles learn by example.
It is interesting because Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” – 1 Cor 11:1.

The eagle hovers over the nest to show the young how to fly – they watch the parent spread its wings and flap – then they imitate it. In this concept of imprinting, it is easy to see the importance of newborn Christians needing proper Christian role models. Anything that ‘moves’ in the name of Christianity, is not necessarily the right standard to follow. Which is why itis so important to seek after sound doctrine in teaching and authenticity in role models and mentors.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6)

Also as the eagle hovers over the nest – the wind from its wings helps the baby to rise slightly above the nest as the baby is also flapping its own wings.These are its first flights – inches above the floor of the nest, usually at about 8-10 weeks old. Our mentors help lift us up in our first flights through the wind of their testimonies and encouragement.

We may think that we are not mature enough to teach anyone. This is not true. If you watch a baby in a room with other people, you will notice that if there is a toddler in the room, the baby’s eyes will follow the moving toddler. If there is a grade schooler in the room, the toddler will watch the moving grade schooler. The younger will automatically bond and follow whatever available age is older than its own. It’s like imprinting! In the same way a baby Christian can teach a non-believer by sharing their faith & testimony, a 2 month old believer can encourage a baby Christian, one a little more mature can challenge the 2 month old, and so on until we all grow into the full measure and stature of Jesus. (Eph 4:13)

FORCED FLIGHT:

So finally – when the parent realizes that the time is come for the young eagle to fly, it will force them out of the nest. The eaglet is fearful of taking its first flight from the nest. This is similar sometimes to when we find our mentors unavailable and we’re told to try and hear the Lord for yourself. Also interesting – in their tactics to get the eaglet out of the nest – the parents will sometimes starve the eaglet and not bring it food. They will fly within sight with food in their grasp. Or leave the nest for long periods, leaving the eaglet in silence by itself to urge it to step out and try to fly. Sometimes we experience this in the times when God is silent towards us, when we see others flying, doing things and stepping out in faith. It’s God challenging us to take flight for ourselves. He’s already told us what to do, already fed us and strengthened us with milk. Now it’s our time to act.

There’s something else amazing that eagles do though which actually starts with their mating ritual – the female will fly high and drop a twig and the male will have to dive down and catch it before it hits the ground – they will repeat this process over and over from higher and lower heights as the female tests the male. This is because of what she knows her mate will have to do later on when they teach their young to fly – one will push the eaglet out of the nest or fly high with it and drop it to try to flap and fly on its own -but as it falls – the other will catch it on its back so that it doesn’t hit the ground. What an amazing image of God – as he teaches us – he challenges us to try – he catches us. He will uphold you. He is our security, and His hands are sure – they will catch you.

Think of how God did this many times with His people in the dessert, as they fell – He sent manna to rescue them… As they fell to lions dens, he shut up the lions’ mouths… as they fell into the fires, he walked with them through the flames… It is how God teaches us to soar. Though you stumble you will not be utterly cast down.

So we can be sure as we stumble to fly – God has our back – and we have no need to fear falling.I know for a lot of us – myself included – we sometimes feed ourselves so much then end up in a time of silence, and feel as if God has abandoned us – when in fact He’s calling us to take flight, with what He’s already taught and fed us -with the assurance that He’ll catch us. We’re not meant to stay confined to the safe and comfortable nests of our churches, small groups, and Christian circles. We’re meant to fly out into the world.

SOARING:

So ok -we can fly now. And as we flap our spiritual wings of faith through our works,expressing our belief and convictions. With every step of faith, every deed -we flap… as we use our gifts to edify and encourage each other, we witness,we go, we do… we make love a verb. It’s hard work… its fighting the good fight – however we are human and become weary. I love how specific this verse is – it doesn’t say that those who trust in the Lord will fly – but they will soar…

Eagles take advantage of thermal air currents, these warm air patters are created by the surrounding terrain and produce strong updrafts which they can spread their wings to soar on. Soaring saves the eagle energy because it doesn’t have to flap as often and helps it to rest during a long journey.

You know what else is like a mighty rushing wind? …yep – the Holy Spirit.

He is the wind beneath our wings – so to speak. And He upholds us in the updrafts of His Spirit flowing in our lives… encouraging and comforting us… that we may find rest in the midst of our journey. If the Spirit is the wind – our wings is our faith- whereby we reach out to God. When we flap our wings, we are exercising our faith based on what we believe… when we soar, we are resting in our trust in the Lord… that He has our best in mind, and letting Him carry us. He teaches us to rise above circumstances, and from the heights of His love we gain a new perspective, seeing things from God’s eye view. Our problems suddenly look smaller, the higher and closer we soar towards Him.

“Don’t be afraid,for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter,no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. – Psalms 91:9-12

We need not fear any evil that comes against us – for if our God is for us, who can be against us? We rest in His loving arms… and soar on eagle’s wings. He satisfies us with good things so that our youth is restored like the eagle’s.

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Something else that stood out as strange to me was the order of this verse… we soar, run then walk… at first glance this seems a bit strange – as it seems to be a loss of momentum. As if it was some sort of a lame finish. Should we not walk, then run and finally soar!? That is the way to finish! It seems a pitiful thing to me to start off soaring fast and end up walking at 4mph…

Maybe some insight can be gained from a passage in Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan:
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Now I saw in my dream that the highway up which Christian was to go was fenced on each side with a wall; the wall was called Salvation. Therefore, it was up this highway that Christian ran, but not without great difficulty because of the bur-den of the load on his back.

He ran till he came to a small hill, at the top of which stood a cross and at the bottom of which was a tomb. I saw in my dream that when Christian walked up the hill to the cross, his burden came loose from his shoulders and fell off his back, tumbling down the hill until it came to the mouth of the tomb, where it fell in to be seen no more.

Then Christian was relieved and delighted and exclaimed with a joyful heart,“He has given me rest by His sorrow and life by His death.” For a while he stood still in front of the cross to look and wonder; it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should ease him of his burden. He continued looking at the cross until tears began streaming down his cheeks. As he stood looking and weeping, three Shining Ones came to him and greeted him with, “Peace be with you.” Then the first said to him, “Your sins are forgiven.” The second stripped him of his rags and dressed him with new clothing. The third put a mark on his forehead and gave him a scroll with a seal on it. He told Christian to review it often as he went on his way and at the end of his journey to turn it in at the Celestial Gate. After this they went their way.

…(from another section of the book) – “So I saw in my dream that he went from running to going, and from going to scrambling on his hands and knees, because of the steepness of the place.”

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Perhaps the order reflects rather reality during life’s struggles – the flash of eager enthusiasm starts off, we run, then because of the steepness come down to a walk… even to the point of scrambling on hands and knees – on our knees- which is the position of most power. Perhaps it is saying that while there will be the times where we soar and have the mountain top experiences, that there will be times where we will run with full gusto, unwearied because of our momentum propelling us forward… but the majority of the journey will be a steady, faithful, daily walk with God… it is there in the intimate stroll with our Maker that we will not faint.

Just as with flight, we have to take time to soar and be upheld by the Spirit’s power – as we run the race of life – it’s not a sprint – it’s a marathon, and there’s times we’ll have to walk, but all the while we’re still advancing… though the pace may be slow and steady -the company that walks with us is Divine.

This also challenged me and was confirmed in my devos today that it’s time some of us stepped out from going over and over the milk, and started moving beyond into deeper expressions and experiences of our faith walk.

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms,the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding. – Hebrews 6:1-3

So may we take comfort in the God of our salvation, as we proclaim His goodness, and know the greatness of our God which gives perspective, that He is in total control and is our source of strength -teaching us like the mother eagle – that we may fly, expressing our faith in deeds and finding rest soaring as he upholds us.

Amen.

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