THE EAGLE

 

"Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed away from my God? Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary: there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint: and to him that hath no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 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; THEY SHALL WALK, AND NOT FAINT," (Isaiah 40: 27-31, R.V.).

 

Nature is full of spiritual parables, with none lovelier perhaps than the heaven-soaring eagle - the Golden and Imperial Eagles are the two species most abundant in the Holy Land - as an emblem of the redeemed soul.

 

The eagle is built for flight, and supremely for upward flight.

 

"An eagle," says Solomon, "flieth TOWARD HEAVEN" (Prov. 23: 5). Its anatomy combines strength, lightness and power: the cylindrical structure of the bones and feathers gives a balloon-like effect, so that when the wings are spread in flight, the tendency is upward instead of downward, and the body is buoyed up in air. It is so constructed as to overcome hostile forces and currents in the heavenly places. Built for heaven, and far out-stripping every other bird in ascending power, the eagle will continue soaring in tireless flight where none can see it but God. "God, ... being rich in mercy, raised us up with him [Christ] and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2: 4). Purer air; clearer vision; untroubled quiet rare landscape; cloudless sunshine:- what a home! "I have watched an eagle," says Mr. Seton Gordon, the chief living authority on eagles, "commence to mount when just above the tree tops, and with never a movement of the wings reach a height so great as to be invisible to the eye - and for an eagle to be invisible it must be, at a conservative estimate, at least eight thousand feet in the air." The [obedient] Christian is not only one who seeks the highest ideals, but who has the power to reach them put into his very bones: far above every other terrestrial creature, he is so a sharer of the Divine nature that he is capable of a life which, in all but infinity of scope, is the life of God. Solomon said:- "There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: the way of an eagle in the air" (Prov. 30: 18): how much more wonderful, the way of a Christian in the heavenly places!

 

The eagle is a solitary bird.

 

Other birds go in flocks; the eagle, never: if two are seen together, they are mates. He is lonely because he is lofty: he is remote from other birds because no other bird can live where he lives, or follow his tremendous lead. When the Lord says, "Follow Me," men do not rise in flocks, but here one, and there another; and the higher the ascent, the lonelier the flight. The further earth recedes, the less the world appeals. "I noticed a small dark speck," says Mr. Seton Gordon, "against the blue of the sky, and thought it was an insect. Then I saw the black speck was approaching with incredible speed, and realized that it was a Golden Eagle rushing down to the eyrie from the high snow corries behind. He was travelling like a thunderbolt. His speed must have been at least two hundred miles an hour, and I am confident this is no over-statement."

 

The eagle has one peculiarity of vision which belongs (we believe) to no other creature.

 

It is furnished with a double eyelid, the inner one transparent and always drawn over the eye; so that while other birds see in the light of the sun, the eagle SEES the sun. It lives so much in the land of light that God has made it, alone among creatures, to be undazzled, unblinded, by the fount of day. Satan's design is to keep an unsaved [and carnal] soul a hooded, blinded eagle, - "in whom the god of this age hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving," to rob them of "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ"Ļ (2 Cor. 4: 4). What makes us God's eagles is that we see Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, as He is: it is the alchemy of the Beatific Vision.

 

God is careful in the training of His eagles.

 

The eyrie, or eagle's nest, is generally on the jagged edges of a precipice: the nest of the Sea-Eagle is enormous, sometimes with a diameter of six or eight feet. So Jehovah says:- "As an eagle that stirreth up her nest" - pulling the straw away and thus irritating the nestlings with the sharp points, and exposing the thorns, or even thrusting the eaglets out of the nest - "that fluttereth over her young, He spread abroad His wings, He took them, He bare them on His pinions" (Deut. 32: 11). Only by a broken nest, and the apparently heartless precipitation over the precipice, together with the actual testing of the Divine power to uphold, can God make strong and developed eagles; and as the mother-eagle entices the nestlings outward and upward, or catches them if they flutter dangerously, and spreads her pinions between them and any possible enemy, so God does with His own. Between the arrow and the eaglet is God. Earth is its greatest danger.

 

But there are times when we shall find a sad, tired, drooping eagle:

 

the bird's power to soar is gone: it is the moulting season. But what does the eagle do? It basks quietly in the sunshine; slowly the plumage returns; and then she "mounts up with wings as eagles," and the extraordinary rapidity of flight and power of ascent comes back. "They shall put forth" - says the Greek version of Isaiah 40: 31 - "fresh feathers as the moulting eagle." "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth" - thy spiritual prime - "is renewed LIKE THE EAGLE" (Psa. 103: 5).

 

The eagle is the only non-human creature on earth which God has ever chosen for the proclamation of His truth to all mankind;*

 

just as the snake is the only non-human creature on earth that Satan has used for the proclamation of his falsehood. John says, in Patmos:- "And I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in midheaven, saying with a great voice, Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth" (Rev. 8: 1, 3). "Where the slain are," God says, "there is she" (Job 39: 30). A lectern (presumably for this reason) is often constructed, on the under side, with the figure of an eagle. "What was it in my sermon that won you to Christ?" a preacher asked a new convert. "It was nothing you said," was the reply, "but something that came out of the back of the eagle." We are Christ-based. "She dwelleth on the rock, and hath lodging there" (Job 39: 28). The Eagle is the greatest enemy the Serpent has on earth: some species of eagles are called "snake-eating eagles," which they disable and consume, with rapid blows from the beak: and so it is when the Dragon approaches (Rev. 9: 11), that God sends forth (Rev. 8: 13) His warning Eagle. Eagles are also used for hunting wolves, and in Turkestan a wolf-hunting eagle will fetch as much as £50, or six times the price of a horse. ** By harmlessness and goodness we wrestle with wolves and serpents, unafraid - "for them an evident token of perdition" (Phil. 1: 28).

 

[* An ass (2 Pet. 2: 16) warned a single prophet.]

** Mr. Matthew Edwards describes the combat between a wolf and two hunting eagles. "The wolf stood at bay, and though his eyes were gone he lashed out this way and that with flashing fangs in the hope of finding his assailants. Ballah and Naja had been taking turns in dealing sharp, quick blows with their razor-like beaks. As we watched, the wolf sank to the ground, and, as quick as a flash, Ballah seized him by the scruff of the neck with his terrible talons and swept up into the air. Up and up the big bird mounted, and at about two hundred feet he picked out a rocky spot and let his quarry drop. When we got to Mr. Wolf he was nothing but a bag of broken bones".]

 

So powerful is its upward flight, and so native is it to heaven, that the eagle, alone of birds, disappears altogether from the sight. It is a rapt eagle.

 

"I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself" (Ex. 19: 4). "Where the carcase is," our Saviour says, "there will the eagles be together" (Matt. 24: 28). Above the carcase of a corrupting world, death-doomed, in the eyrie of the Holy City, Godís eagles may be gathered at any moment; for "they mount up with wings as eagles" (Isa. 40: 31). So Enoch "walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Gen. 5: 24) into the empyrean.

 

But the very soaring capacities of the human soul can make it a more awful wreck. The largest and most powerful of all eagles (or vultures) is the Condor; and Nietzsche, of moderns the most virulently anti-Christian - "Christianity," he says, "is the one immortal blemish of mankind" - says : "I am a condor of the air." Such swarm around all who would soar to-day. A flock of black condors above the Brazilian jungle, the greatest and swiftest of soaring birds charged and wheeled, and charged again, swooping closer and closer. In momentary dread lest one of the huge creatures, with its wing-spread of ten or twelve feet, should foul the propeller and bring down the plane, de Pinedo resorted to - "the manoeuvres and trick stunts in his gamut of airmanship Diving, soaring, speeding, looping, tumbling, he sought desperately to shake off this terrifying pursuit, only to find himself still the quarry of an ever-augmenting flock of the great birds of prey." But the end of the earth-bound eagle is tragedy itself. A man one winter's day was scanning the whirl of the waters above the Niagara Falls, as they eddied and rushed around the blocks of ice, and through his telescope he saw the dead carcase of a sheep, and an eagle alighting upon it. He watched the bird as it gorged itself upon the carrion; then suddenly it attempted to rise, as it was nearing the Falls; but its feet were embedded in the damp flesh, and were frozen to it. In vain the eagle struggled: it was held fast by the thing it gorged, and was swept over into instant death.

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Note

[1. The literal translation of 2 Cor. 4: 4 is: "In whom the god of this age blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving with a view not to shine forth the enlightenment of the GOSPEL OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST." Satan blinds the thoughts of unbelieving Christians relative to Christís coming glory.]

 

2. See also Prov. 23: 4-8.