Shelby G. Floyd
In the Bible God’s people are often compared to many different things in nature. For instance God compared his people to branches in a vine, a light on a hill, sheep, salt, soldiers, runners and many other similes and metaphors. Long ago, Isaiah compared God’s people to eagles:
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31 NKJV)
Today, we want to study the nature, the character and the habits of the eagle itself. Therefore our lesson today is entitled, “Soaring on Wings like Eagles.” Of course we have all heard the cliche, “It is hard to soar with eagles when I am surrounded by a bunch of turkeys.” But according to Isaiah we all can soar on wings like an eagle.
THE EAGLE AS A SYMBOL
The eagle from the beginning of time has been the symbol and the national emblem of many nations. And even our own great Republic has the Bald Eagle as our national symbol. The eagle is the king of birds. However I have read that when our country was being formed Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be the national emblem. The wild turkey was quite different from the tame turkey that we know today. But I’m glad our forefathers chose the bald eagle instead of the turkey. The eagle is the king of birds.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EAGLE
Now we want to look at several characteristics in the life of an eagle and then make the application to us as eagle Christians. The eagle has swiftness of flight. The eagle mounts high up into the heavenly sky. The eagle is a symbol of strength. The eagle builds her nest in high places, on the top of the mountains. The eagle has a powerful vision. The eagle has powerful vision. And the eagle renews himself and retains the vigor and strength of youth. The eagle is a fierce fighter. In fact the Air Force has a plane called the Eagle F-15 that is unequaled in its ability as a fighter plane. And it has of course all the modern weaponry that allows it to have great vision like the eagle. I read where in one of our last wars this plane had like 490 kills to zero. And so that is an appropriate name to give a fighter plane like that—The Eagle.
Jehovah God is our eagle father and mother. In the Bible God is compared both to a father and a mother. So today we want to think of God like an eagle father and mother. And we begin our Christian life like the little baby eagles. And then we reach the point where we soar on wings high up into the heavens. That is our ultimate goal.
EAGLETS HAVE AN OPEN MOUTH TO BE FED
First baby eagles are born high up on the mountain in a nest and like all little baby infants their mouth is wide open. They need to be fed. And the father and the mother eagle mate for life. And they work together as parents. There is a sermon in that. Fathers and mothers must work together in real life to have a successful family. While the father and the mother both have their separate responsibilities, still they must work together in the overall picture of raising children up in the Lord. So the father and mother eagle work together. They go out and a find mice and rats and other forms of food and bring them back and tear them into pieces and stuff it into the mouth of their little eagles. They must be fed in order to grow. And that goes on for quite a long time until they start growing and developing in size. In like manner, God the Father and Mother Eagle feed their newborn Christians who have an open mouth. When we become a Christian we should have an open mouth to be fed the Word of God. In the Psalms David said,
I am the LORD your God,
Who brought you out of the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
(Psalms 81:10 NKJV)
I believe that is an allusion to the father and mother eagle feeding the baby eagles. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” God will fill us with the bread of heaven if we will open wide our mouth. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11 NKJV). In Luke’s account he says that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. Therefore God will give good gifts like the Spirit of God through the Word of God to those who ask him. They are ours for the asking. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). So like a little baby eagle we go to God and ask him and he will feed us with the bread of heaven. (Note: The two photos above were taken at Bradenton, Florida in February, 2020).
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights he was very hungry. Like Moses and Elijah before him he was without food for 40 days and 40 nights. Satan came to him during his time of intense hunger and suggested that he turn the stones on the ground that perhaps looked like loaves of bread into actual bread. Jesus replied, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Therefore let us open wide our mouth and receive every word of God that comes from his mouth—the inspired Word of God. And the apostle Peter said in one of his letters, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). God will give us that spiritual food if we hunger and thirst after righteousness.
EAGLES PROTECT THEIR EAGLETS UNDER THEIR WINGS
As the baby eagles mature and grow they are protected in the nest by the mighty wings of their parents. Little children generally do not worry about anything because they trust their parents to protect them. God put parents here to protect and care for the
children. If we will remember back to when we were children, we will remember that we did not worry about anything because we trusted our parents to provide for us. As children the only thing we worried about was having a good time. The only thing we were intense about was having fun. That is the reason children are so happy. And they focus on having fun and what they’re doing. The reason is because their parents protect them, provide for them and care for them. That is exactly the way the little baby eagles are. They are in that nest high up there on the rocky mountain and the mother and the father cover them with their wings and protect them. And there is a lesson in that for us. We worry too much about our security. And the only real security that we have is in God. And that is what we learned from our previous lesson. To “wait on the Lord” means to put your trust and confidence in God. Trust in the Lord. Do not trust yourself or in the weak arm of human flesh. If we do we will be disappointed. Instead lean on the everlasting arms of God Almighty. God will protect us. If we wait on him and put ourselves under the shelter of his everlasting wings he will protect us and we will be secure. This is what David had in mind in one of his Psalms,
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler (Psalms 91:1-4).
May we have the faith that David had in the care, the concern and the compassion of the Almighty! Jehovah Father and Mother Eagle are going to protect us if we put our trust in him.
EAGLETS LEARN TO FLY WHEN THE MOTHER EAGLE “STIRS THE NEST”
Next we shall observe that the maturing eagle is born to fly. That is his purpose in life. He was born to fly and to soar high. He flies to live and he lives to fly. The maturing eagle is taught to fly when the mother eagle “stirs the nest.” Do you understand what that is? Those little eagles are not in any hurry to get out of their nest. They are growing and their mom and dad are feeding them every day. They are getting fat. Their nest has been made out of thorns and briers. That is how the father and mother eagle build their nest. How would you like to have your bed made out of things like that? But that is only the outer shell. They line that outer shell with animal skins and fur and they make it very comfortable for those little baby eagles. And they are in no hurry to get out of that nest.
There is a lesson in that for parents too. If you make it too comfortable at home your children will never want to leave home. We see some children now who stay with mom and dad way past the time that they should. There is a lesson in that. We could learn something from father eagle and mother eagle, for when it comes time for those little baby eagles to start flying, the first thing they do is stir the nest. The mother eagle hovers over the nest and starts fluttering and flapping those powerful wings and that blows all of the loose feathers and fur away from those baby eagles. The next thing she does is to go and take her powerful beak and tear that nest all to pieces. She pulls out all of that fur and those animal skins and all of a sudden those little baby eagles are sitting on thorns. That will move them out of their bed real quick will it not? And then she starts flapping her powerful wings and then they start to get the lesson. They think she wants them to start learning to fly. Therefore they start flapping their wings a little bit imitating their mother. And then she flaps her wings again. And they will start flapping their wings again. And then one day she screeches real loud and she swoops down and she places one of those baby eagles on her wing. And they go up to 5000 feet and perhaps 7000 feet and then she starts swooping and soaring around through the sky and all of a sudden she tips her wings and the little baby eagle falls off. He starts to do somersaults and flap his wings as he is heading down to the ground and all of a sudden before he hits the ground mother eagle swoops down and picks him up on her wings and takes him up again to 2000 feet, to 5000 feet and perhaps to 7000 feet. She repeats that process over and over and over again until that little baby eagle is able to fly. That is the way the mother eagle teaches her babies to leave the nest. She stirs the nest. Father eagle also is involved in this flying lesson!
Well God the Father is compared in the Bible to the father and mother eagle. God also will teach his people to fly high. In the book of Exodus the Bible says,
Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said,
“This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (Exodus 19:3-5).
Here we have God’s people down in Egypt; they are in bondage and are slaves. They are groveling around on the earth. And God says to them I want to teach you how to fly. Listen to me and to my servants and they will tell you what to do. And he marches them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. And he says to them I will take you on to the Promised Land. And God’s deliverance of those people was like the mother eagle teaching her little baby eagles how to fly, by putting them on her wings and forcing them to learn to fly. Therefore God says, “I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.” Since God wants us to go to heaven he wants to teach us how to fly to the sky. If our interest is down here on the earth, then that is where we are going to remain. He wants us to lift up our eyes to heaven because we were born to fly on the wings of eagles. Therefore Christian people should aim high. If our affections are on things upon the earth, then that is where our treasure and our heart will be. Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” Where your treasure is that is where your heart will be, where your heart is that is where your treasure will be. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Colossae. These people had been baptized into Christ (Colossians 2:12). And even baptism is a symbol of what we’re talking about today. We are dead in sin, we die to sin, we bury the old man of sin and we are resurrected to live a new life. We are resurrected to fly to heaven. The Bible declares these thoughts very plainly in this letter to the Colossians:
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3: 1-4).
Christ wants to take us home on eagle’s wings of glory to be with him.
And then in the book of Ephesians, Paul is talking there about how they were dead in sin, that God had quickened them and made them alive, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). God wants us to learn to fly.
THE EAGLE WHO THOUGHT HE WAS A CHICKEN
I relate to you the story of the farmer who was walking along one day and found an eagle egg. He took it to his house and put it under a setting hen. It was not too long until that little eagle was hatched. He was the oddest looking chicken that they had ever seen. When the other chicks chirped, he screeched. When the mother hen clucked, he would not come running. There seemed to be no understanding between them. They spoke two different languages. He was odd. The chicks picked on him. He was an eagle. One day when he was in the barnyard, father eagle passed over. He noticed a baby eagle down there in the barnyard. He gave out a loud screech. Father eagle asked the baby eagle what he was doing down there in the barnyard. You are not a chicken. You are an eagle. Eagles are not made to live in a barnyard. Eagles are meant to fly. The heavens are your domain. Come up here with me. The little fellow did not know what to do. He had been living in the barnyard all of his life. Father eagle urged him to just jump and flap his wings. You can fly if you try. The little eagle made a feeble jump and flapped his wings and landed on top of the barnyard fence post. Father eagle screeched again. Child, jump higher! Try again. Make a jump and see how high you can fly. The little eagle did what father eagle asked him to do. And father eagle did what he said he would do. And by a mighty jump of faith the baby eagle was riding on father eagle’s wings on his first solo flight into the heavens.
If you are a Christian and you’ve been spending more of your time and energy on earthly things, then I want you to think of Jehovah Father and Mother Eagle urging you to do the same thing that the baby eagle was able to do. Try harder! Jump higher! Flap your wings. Learn to fly. Soar on the wings of an eagle and fly to heaven. That is what you were meant to do.
THE MOLTING STAGE
Finally, I want to talk to you about another aspect of the eagle and that is the molting stage. This is a time of renewal and restoration for the eagle. The eagle must go through the molting stage. In doing this he prepares himself for the springtime. The reason they must do this is because their feathers become dull and they lose their ability to take the eagle flight high in the sky. His beak also becomes dull and not capable of hunting food. His talons have lost their strength and power. By the time spring comes around they have renewed their feathers, their beaks, their talons and their strength. They are ready then to do what an eagle is born to do. And that is to fly and be a fierce fighter. They are ready to protect their young and to live high in the sky on the tops of the mountains. How do we know that the eagle renews himself—we know this because the word of God says that the eagle renews himself! There is also a lesson in that for us. Many times we become lifted up with pride, we become arrogant, and we feel like we are so sufficient to the point that we don’t need a thing or anybody to help us. And sometimes we also forget that everything that we have and can become comes from God. Therefore God sometimes must put us through the molting process by humbling us. This is necessary in order to be renewed. This is what the apostle Peter meant when he said,
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6).
God wants us to humble ourselves and confess that we are sinners; that we really have no strength without him, and then we can start that renewal process, just as the eagle does when he goes through the molting process. God’s people must learn to do that. King David had to go through a humbling process. In the book of Psalms he said,
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalms 103:2-5).
Isn’t that a wonderful thing that when God created the eagle he also created the process by which he might renew his strength? He becomes like a young eagle every year by going through that molting process. So can we renew our strength! The Bible declares that when we are in Christ old things become new. We become a new creature in Christ Jesus. So that means our strength is renewed.
GOD BRINGS DOWN FALLEN EAGLE CHRISTIANS!
But make no mistake about it, we cannot soar like an eagle if we have sin in our lives and we do not do something about it. We must humble ourselves, confess our sins and seek the forgiveness of God. Sin will bring us down and keep us down. When we observe what is going on around us we notice that people’s lives are being destroyed by sin. God can do something about that. He can renew every person through the gospel. Something must be done about the problem of sin. We do not even like to mention that word anymore or even admit that it exists. But the truth is sin will bring us down, down, down to the pits of hell.
God said that because Israel refused his word and were full of sin, he would refuse to help them. He said to them through the prophet Jeremiah that because they were up there in Samaria and felt secure, even though they would build their nests as high as the eagle, he would bring them down to earth:
Your fierceness has deceived you,
The pride of your heart,
O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock,
Who hold the height of the hill!
Though you make your nest as high as the eagle,
I will bring you down from there,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 49:16).
The prophet Obadiah said the same thing as did Jeremiah. The prophets were all inspired of God:
Though you ascend as high as the eagle,
And though you set your nest among the stars,
From there I will bring you down,” says the Lord (Obadiah 4).
Sin will bring us down like the eagle that falls from the nest. Yes, the Bible teaches that a Christian can fall from the grace of God. But it doesn’t have to be that way because we were born to fly. God has made everything available for a Christian, to be forgiven of all of our sins and to renew our strength each day as we live the Christian life. The new birth by faith, repentance, confession of faith and baptism is the way we become like an eagle (John 3:3-5). Fallen Eagle Christians are forgiven by repentance, confession and prayer (James 5:19-20; 1 John 5:14-17).
We are appealing to you to become like an eagle in your service to God. Be an eagle Christian. Let us repeat Isaiah’s great statement,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
We urge everyone to respond to Heaven’s invitation.*
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon December 21, 2003, and February 23, 2020, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana.
*Copyright © 2004, 2020, All Rights Reserved.