By Alfred Bouter
The eagle is a large bird of prey with a massive hooked bill and long broad wings, known for its keen sight and powerful soaring flight.1 It may have the status of “king” among birds, much like the lion on land. Eagles are powerful, having striking features that God has used to describe some of His actions in delivering His people Israel from Pharaoh’s bondage in Egypt. “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (Ex. 19:4 ESV). He led them out of their servitude and brought them to absolute safety, resembling the eagle who builds its nests very high in the mountains to keep its young out of the reach of foes (Job 39:27). The LORD fed, guided and protected them, as Moses wrote, “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him” (Dt. 32:11-12).
However, Moses predicted that Israel would become disobedient, and God would discipline them by delivering them to a strange nation, which would act like an eagle swooping on its prey (Dt. 28:49; Job 9:26). God will act in a similar way with all nations because He controls everything, even though all are fully responsible and accountable to Him (please read carefully Acts 17:24-31). Moses compared God’s care of His people when leading them through the wilderness with a man who carries his son (Dt. 1:31). Paul summed up this protection and treatment by saying that God nourished them, implying the idea of a mother taking care of her baby (Acts 13:18). Others link this verb with a slightly different reading, that God “put up with them,” which would highlight their resistance during the wilderness journey (see Dt. 8). What a contrast with the Lord Jesus who always obeyed!
Nonetheless, God did take care of them – something that He does for us all, whether we see and appreciate it or not. David praised God for His care by saying that He “satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps. 103:5). From observation we know that the eagle parent at some point in the upbringing throws its young out of the nest to teach it to use its wings, and swoops underneath to catch and carry it back on high. Perhaps we may link this point with Isaiah 40:31: “ … shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary.” This verse describes how God re-energizes the believer who puts his trust in Him, even in old age (Ps. 92:12-14).
Ezekiel described very remarkable visions in which he saw amazing creatures, each with the faces of an eagle, a man, lion and ox (Ezek. 1:10) or an angelic being called a “cherub” (10:14). These details are associated with God’s unfathomable greatness, acting in judgment according to His wisdom and power (Ezek. 1:10, 10:14; see Jer. 4:13, 48:40). Revelation describes these created beings, calling them “living beings,” as being intimately linked with God’s supreme power, wisdom and control (Rev. 4:6-9, see Jer. 49:16,22; Lam. 4:19).2 For sure, all these things are “too wonderful” (Prov. 30:18), or beyond our grasp. Nevertheless, they describe God’s wisdom, control, power and loving care of His creation, as displayed in His providence and righteous judgment. These details have been written and communicated to us that we may bring honor and glory to God, now and forever.
Let us worship Him who was manifested, or seen, in the flesh, and for whom the wise men came all the way from Babylon to Jerusalem. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16 NKJV).
1. Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th edition.
2. Mentioned 20 times in Revelation (4:6-9, 5:6,8,11,14, 6:1,3,5-7, 7:11, 14:3, 15:7, 19:4).