God carries us on eagles' wings
In Exodus 19:4, God gives a wonderful image of his care for us. As the Israelites wander through the desert, he says to them, “You yourselves have seen … how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
What does God have in mind when he speaks of carrying us “on eagles’ wings”?
Three things come to my mind:
First, God is communicating to us his patient, loving, parental care for us.
I have read that when a baby eagle is hatched, its eyes are too immature to distinguish objects, but it chirps incessantly. By the end of a week, the chick can see well, move its head about, and bite at things. By two weeks it can crawl, but even at seven weeks of age it can barely maintain its balance when placed on a limb. Not until it is about three months old does it gain full power of flight. During those early months of its life, the mother eagle brings food to the young chick, watches over her baby, and guards her child until the young eagle learns to hunt for itself.
Interestingly, God offers this description of Israel “the third month after the Israelites left Egypt” (Exodus 19:1). To a significant extent the people who left Egypt were a newborn nation. They were every bit as helpless as a baby eagle, dependent on God to feed them, to give them water, and to protect them. Truly, in this way, God carried them on eagles’ wings, caring for them as a mother eagle cares for her baby.
Second, God is communicating to us the frightening but protective way he trains us to follow in his ways.
Writing in Yeoman’s England in 1934, W.B. Thomas records, “Our guide was one of the small company who have seen the golden eagle teaching the young to fly. He could support the belief that the parent birds, after urging and sometimes shoving the youngster into the air, will swoop underneath and rest the struggler for a moment on their wings and back.”
I have read a variety of reports affirming and disputing the idea that an eagle will catch its baby in this way. But the spiritual reality remains: God catches us and carries us on eagles’ wings. While wandering through the desert, the Israelites often felt like they had been pushed out of their nest, and they begged to go back to Egypt. We too may feel like that at times. Sometimes things happen to us in life, and we feel like we have been pushed out of a nest and are falling to our doom. But God is keeping an eye on us. He swoops down to catch us. He lovingly carries us. That’s what Jesus did when he died for us. That’s what he continues to do for us. And it’s what he will do for all who belong to him at the end of our lives here on earth; he will catch us and carry us to the home he has prepared for us in heaven.
Third, God is communicating to us his desire and ability to lift us up to the heights.
One of the most awesome characteristics of an eagles’ wings is the ability of those wings to lift the bird to the great heights of the sky. In an article in the Smithsonian Institution Bulletin, Arthur C. Bent provides this description: “Then one day the north wind crossed the sea, and arrived at the eagle’s home. And the eagle felt the cool arctic breeze and sailed out from his giant rocks . ... With his pinions wide outstretched he leaned on the refreshing wind, which bore him strongly upward, without a single stroke of his wings to help him on his way. So he mounted higher and higher till he had risen far above his native hill-top, and was outlined, a mere speck, against the dark blue of the sky. Still upwards he sailed, and for some time longer the watching stalker kept him in view, in the field of his glass. But at length he reached a point at which he was invisible, even by the aid of a telescope.”
Truly, in this way, God carries us on eagles’ wings, for he lifts us up to the heights of seeing God for who he is, and the heights of discovering for ourselves his love and truth and hope and peace and strength.
May you know the truth of God carrying you on eagles’ wings.