“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.”
As an eagle, so the Lord!
Such is the simile, the beautiful simile, which the King James Version gives of our text. Though the Authorized Version is perhaps the better translation, it also by implication suggests the simile, the Lord, in His treatment of His people, is as the eagle with its brood. That we may see the beauty of the reality, we must first see the implication of the figure.
The eagle! Bird of prey!
As the lion among the beasts of the field, so is the eagle the king of fowls. The eagle, and the closely related vulture, is a bird of prey, carnivorous in its nature. It does not hesitate to attack and kill an animal larger than itself. With vicious claws and razor-like beak, he tears to pieces his prey. (Job 9:26; Job 39:27-30;Hab. 1:8).
The eagle! Swift in flight!
Though in appearance a large and clumsy bird, in flight it is exceedingly swift. With superb strength, the eagle flies long and hard.
The eagle! Seeth afar off!
To this creature the Creator has given the power of telescopic vision. Found as he usually is on exalted heights, his eye pierces into the deep valleys and ravines below. The eagle with its mate makes its nest on high, dwelleth upon the crag of the rock and from thence seeketh the prey, and its eyes behold afar off. (Job 39:29).
The eagle! Long of life!
The bird has been known to live to an astonishing age in captivity: and under natural conditions, the age it attains can only be guessed. (Ps. 103:5)
On high the eagle builds its nest! Go with me to the tops of the mountains of the wilderness. Way up there, as it were at the very base of heaven, far out on the craggy rock, or in the top of the very tallest mountain tree, there you will discover its nest. Far from the danger of unexpected intrusion, the male with the help of its mate builds the nest to harbor their young. Up there where its eyes can rove over every vantage point to discover any lurking danger, never to be caught off-guard, there the mother bird will lay and hatch one or more eggs. These are guarded with watchful care until the day when the little fledglings are ready to fly.
The eagle stirreth up the nest!
Ah, such carryings on! Apparently so cruel!
The young are pulled out of their cozy, fur-lined cradle, to waddle out on the cold, stony crag. Their comfort is spoiled. And with fright the eaglets peek over the precipice into the immeasurable chasm beneath!
And while shivering in the cold, the nest which the parent bird took so long in building is completely demolished. First, out goes the downy fleece of some lamb the parent bird had killed for food, that nestled the fledglings from the howling mountain wind. Then here some straw, and there some sticks, until it is at the point of no return.
Apparently cruel! Yet instinctively the parent bird seeks the best interests of its eaglets. Should the nest remain intact, the young would refuse ever to leave it. Hence, they would never learn to fly. So all avenues of escape are simply cut off when it is time for the fledglings to fly.
Generally the young will realize that they are in for something new. They will begin to flap their immaturely feathered wings, and without compulsion some will even dare to slide off the side of the cliff on their first solo flight. And where there is fear of flight, the elder bird may push them off. Or perhaps, as some, who have studied the habits of eagles, have told us, the parent bird will take up the frightened eaglet to still greater heights, only to shake it off where it can do nothing but fly, or fall as a dead leaf to the earth.
Apparently the helpless eaglet will crash in the rocky gorge below. But just when death seems imminent, the parent eagle, who has been watching with eagle-eye, and hovering over and soaring in superb strength above, swoops down, encircling the fluttering, helpless eaglet to catch it from the claws of death. Not upon its wings does it bear the young, for this it could hardly do lest it also would be hindered in flight. But with its strong talons it snatches the little one, while with mighty wings it soars upward, bearing its young to the same heights as before, only to try the process all over again, until the young are able to fly on their own.
Such is the imagery painted by the inspired writer, in which we are to see Jehovah, the Reality, the God of Israel, in the care of His beloved people!
As the eagle, so Jehovah!
See Him in the beauty of all His attributes!
In His hands are earth’s deep places. Sovereign Creator is He, Who by the Word of His power calls all things into being. Jehovah, the mighty God of Jacob, who by his power sustains and upholds all the things which He has made. By His power, as the eagle, He tears the enemies apart. He that sitteth in the heavens laughs at them. They may lie in wait to destroy; but suddenly He pounces upon them, and in a moment they are vanquished and brought to desolation. By His power He ably protects His beloved people!
The Omnipresent One!
Who is elevated above all space and laws of space, and yet with His Being as well as with His power fills perfectly each point of space. Who is transcendent above the highest heavens, but also at the same time immanent in every part of His creation. Of whom the psalmist declared: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
The Omniscient One!
He seeth afar off. As the eagle is able to pierce with searching eye the dark chasms below, so Jehovah beholdeth all things. Because He knows the end from the beginning, having ordered all in His everlasting counsel and will, there is nothing hidden from His sight. He that watches over Israel, never slumbers, nor sleeps!
The Eternal One!
Without beginning and without end! Who from everlasting has being in Himself, and must by the Word of His power uphold all other beings outside of, Himself, or they cannot continue to be.
This wondrous God, full of infinite perfections, is the God of Israel!
For that people He made a nest in Egypt, in the land of Goshen. To this place He sent Joseph to save His people in the time of famine. Though his brethren, his enemies, meant it for harm when they sold their brother as, a slave into Egypt, God meant it for good, in order to save much people alive! He even inclined the heart of Pharaoh to give His people a good land where they might realize their shepherd’s occupation. He prospered them until they became a great nation. So much did they prosper and grow, that another Pharaoh who knew not Joseph became afraid of them. He threatened, like the cold, mountainous wind threatens the very existence of the baby eaglets in the nest, to extinguish them with the cruel whip of bondage. With drownings in the River Nile he threatened to exterminate them.
But, as Jehovah had promised to Abraham, that nation could not forever dwell in that land. After four hundred years He would bring them out, in order that through the dry and thirsty wilderness they might go to their own land. So the Lord now stirred up the nest!
Out of their cozy nest in which they had nestled so long, enjoying all the comforts of Egypt, they are pulled. Under the mighty hand of a ruthless potentate they were lashed and beaten. As sharp straws poking into the bare flesh of a fledgling, so the taking away of the luxuries of Egypt prodded Israel out of the nest. As the eaglet squatting on the hard and cold rock and pushed to the edge of the precipice, so God sent them through the Red Sea into the barren desert. O, how that people liked it in the nest! This is not so apparent when they are under the whip lash of Pharaoh. Then they cried unto the Lord to deliver them. But later, when they wander in that desert where no waters be, when they had to subsist on that manna which could turn to worms if they gathered too much, then hear them cry for onions, garlic, and leek, for melons and the dainties of Egypt. Then even death in Egypt was preferred to life in the desert. Bondage with ease was desired above freedom with trial.
And when it looked like the fledglings would perish with thirst, and it seemed as though they would die of starvation, the God of Israel swooped down to open for them the fountains of water, and from heaven sent them bread to nourish their bodies. When they met the enemies Amalek, Edom, Moab, and they were confronted by men of great stature, those sons of Anak, and their hearts melted for fright, then Jehovah, their God, delivered them with a mighty hand.
With His almighty pinions He flew down to their rescue, and carrying them up to exalted heights would again allow them to fall, in order that they might learn to fly.
So the Lord alone did lead them!
There was no strange god with Him!
This almighty, omnipresent, omniscient, and eternal God is the God Who loved His people before the foundations of the world, and chose them to be His people. He also determined in eternal, unchangeable love their formation in His counsel, as well as in history. He planned for them also the way of sin and grace through which they would come to eternal glory. And therefore, as long as the world endures, He makes room for that people. He provides for all their needs. He even makes their enemies to be subservient to them. Yea, He causes all things to work together for their good. He is not willing that any of them should perish, but that they should have everlasting life!
This gracious God of Israel cares for His church, and therefore, for me!
Sometimes He surrounds us with the dainties of this world, so that we bathe in luxuries. But always He provides us with the bread that is sufficient for us. Then again, He disturbs our comforts, sending us adversity and trials. He plucks us, as it were, out of the nest, only to destroy it, that we may learn to fly, to live and walk by faith. There are days of quiet and sunshine, but there are also days of tempest and storm. There are days when our hearts sing in real spiritual contentment, but there are also days when it appears we shall be overcome by all the forces of darkness that are purposed to destroy us. There are days when we rejoice in Jehovah’s mercies, but there are also days when we murmur and rebel. There are days when we bask in the sunshine of Jehovah’s presence, but there are also times when it seems that all things are against us.
Yet, through all these experiences we learn to live and walk by faith. And so . . . . .
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!