Solomon, in Proverbs 30:19 said that there were four things too wonderful for him, one of which was the way of an eagle in the air. (Interestingly, Benjamin Franklin bemoaned the fact that the eagle was our national emblem, opining that the turkey would be more fitting!).
The eagle, faster and stronger than any bird whose home is in the heavens, has earned the title “king of birds” and majestic is the word that best describes this marvelous creature. In Proverbs 23:5 the wise king wrote that riches fly away as an eagle toward heaven. The build of the bird “combines strength, lightness, and power”; its unique bone design and built-for-flight feathers suits it for upward flight, with a spectacular wing-span which when wide open propels the eagle to heights enjoyed by few others of God’s wonderful world. It is at home in the stellar heavens and the bird’s incredible uniqueness has inspired both poetry and prose. Tennyson wrote of the eagle when he penned the lines: “He clasps the crags with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands; Ringed with the azure world, he stands. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls; And like a thunderbolt he falls.”
Fitting therefore that the child of God is likened unto the eagle in the Word of God: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as an eagle; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint….” (Isa. 40:31)
The Psalmist in Ps.103:5 declares that God satisfies the mouth of his children with good things “so that their youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
So, in two places, the eagle and the believer are compared one to the other. There are a number of analogies that one might draw from this biblical comparison:
- The eagle lives high above the world: “…doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?” (Job 39:27) In Paul’s epistles (Col.3:2; Eph. 2:6) he sets forth those who are in Christ as those who have been raised up and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Like the eagle we are made for heaven. The eagle cannot get around in a forest but needs to soar in the heavens much as believers are exhorted to “set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth.” (Col.3:2) The eagle is not a flocking bird and there are never more than two together; he is said to be “lonely because he is lofty.” The believer does “flock” with other believers, gathering together for worship, fellowship, praise and prayer; but when the Lord said “Follow Me” men did not “flock” after him, but rather one here and one there and the higher the ascent the lonelier the flight and the closer to Christ the further the world recedes from our person and the less appeal it has to us. We have learned to turn our “eyes upon Jesus, look full on His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Have you ever sung the song “I’m going higher, yes higher someday, I’m going higher to stay….”? One author put it this way: “He draws great lines across the sky; he sees the forests like a carpet beneath him; he sees the hills and the villages in many a colored tapestry; he sees the river as a sliver belt connecting horizons; we climb mountain peaks to get a glimpse of the spectacle that is hourly spread out before him. Dignity, elevation, repose are his.”
- The eagle builds his home on a rock, in a strong place: “She (eagle) dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.” (Job 39:28) Jesus in concluding His great sermon on the mount exhorted “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock.” (Matt. 7:24) “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor.3:11) Believers seek “a heavenly country, a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebs. 11:10)
- The eagle has sharp vision: “From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.” (Job 39:29) Thus, we say that someone has “eagle eyes.” Eagles have been observed spotting their prey three or four miles away; they have a double eye-lid, the inner one being transparent and always pulled over the eye so that whereas we are able to see by the light of the sun the eagle sees the sun. Like the eagle, believers have eyes that can see God’s Word and into a world unknown to the natural man; we can look straight at the SON and see Light that would otherwise blind us and we can “walk as children of light!” (Eph.5:8)
- The eagle cares for and trains its offspring; eagles live together as a family unit and build a home; they train their young: “As an eagle stirred up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.” (Deut.32:11) They typically live long lives: “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” (Ps.103:5) and due to moulting, an annual shedding of feathers and growing of new ones, they seem to have perpetual youth. Believers strive to stay together as a family, building our “nest,” taking care of and training up our youth, (Provs. 22:6) and generally enjoying to old age our blessings from God upon the family He has given us by grace;
- Eagles must live on a special diet. They eat meat. “But strong meat belonged to them that are of full age….” (Hebs.5:14) Eagles must have a daily “casting” or regurgitating of the ball of feathers, bones and other foreign objects they may have ingested. As a believer, it behooves each of us, as long as we live in this “flesh,” taking in much more than the meat of the Word, as the garbage of this world will often find its way into our daily consumption, to have a day by day “casting” spiritually, confessing our sin (I John 1:9) and having a spiritual cleansing or purging much as the eagle has its casting.
One final thought: in Revelation 8:13, during the Great Tribulation, an eagle is pictured as “flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice,” Woe, woe, woe to the inhibitors of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound.” Ryrie says in his commentary that the word angel in this verse would better be rendered “eagle.” We as followers of Jesus in these last days before Christ’s return have the privilege of proclaiming His glorious gospel and of warning of God’s pending wrath. May we be faithful in the discharge of that privilege, remembering that here and now we can, by God’s grace and by His design, “mount up with wings as an eagle.”
“But 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.” (Isiah 40:31)