There are few animals which inspire more awe and fascination than the eagle. Witnessing one of these powerful birds soar across the sky is truly a sight to behold. They’re powerful and graceful. Fearsome predators, yet surprisingly sharp navigators. It’s no wonder the United States chose the Bald Eagle as its national animal.
Yet, America is hardly the first nation to recognize the symbolic qualities of an eagle. Ancient Roman armies carried golden eagle banners which represented the honor and strength of the empire. Scandinavian mythology is rife with images of the powerful bird. Even Moses likened God to an eagle in his final words to the Israelites.
"He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. 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, no foreign god was with him." – Deuteronomy 32:10-12
Now, if you were paying close attention, you may have noticed a key difference between the ways Moses described the eagle compared to other cultures. While most people focus on the bird’s strength and power, Moses chose to focus on its gentleness. As it turns out, there is more to the eagle than meets the eye. Jessica Britt, of The Gospel Coalition, recently shared how this bird of prey can actually serve as a metaphor for God’s love. Below, you’ll find a few of her examples as well as some observations of my own. Britt begins with,
“Strength, tenacity, a keen sense of vision, swiftness of flight, intelligence, loyalty, and many other celebrated attributes characterize eagles. Less commonly known, but equally notable, is the tenderness they show their young--a surprising characteristic for such fierce birds of prey.”
“Parent eagles invest in, nurture, and vigilantly watch over their young. During incubation, one parent remains in the nest at all times to provide warmth and protection for the developing eaglet. The other parent hunts, supplies provision, and keeps a watchful eye from nearby, a pattern that continues even after the eaglet hatches.”
“Like a parent eagle tenderly meeting every need, so the Lord of hosts hovers over his people, protects us (Isaiah 31:5), provides for our every need (Phil. 4:19), and never, ever leaves or forsakes us (Deut. 31:6).”
I once saw a Bald Eagle do battle with another large bird over a stretch of river. The two birds locked talons and spiraled downward toward the water, only breaking away at the last minute before resuming the attack. Eventually, after several minutes of aerial combat, the other bird conceded defeat and flew off. I later discovered the eagle had built its nest nearby, and the parent had been defending its nest from a potential predator.
Scripture teaches us that the Lord is a defender (Psalm 46:1). He is our rock and our salvation (2 Samuel 22:3-4). Even in the midst of danger, we can take comfort knowing he will always remain to protect and bolster his children.
Stirring The Nest
“Eventually, parent eagles return to the nest less frequently and with less food. When parents do return they may thrash about removing the comforts lining the nest. Bewildered, frustrated, and confused the eaglet moves, branches out of the nest, and begins to test out her wings out of desperation. Frustration, hunger, and discomfort are their intention.”
“The parents wisely know that without this disruptive environment their young will not grow, learn, and develop the essential skills for survival. Though the eaglet does not understand this at the time, the lack of food and removal of comfort is an act of tender care and love, a gift of provision by her parents who know that without the ability to fly, she cannot survive and thrive. Unbeknownst to the eaglet, the parents are giving her the gift of flight . . . the gift of life.”
“Faith for the Christian is like flight for an eagle: essential to survive and thrive.”
Scripture teaches us that those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31). For us, this is more than a promise of strength and renewal, it is a testament to the compassion and love of our Heavenly Father. He is a mighty God who knows our names, and will never abandon or forsake us.
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor for Crosswalk.com