When God Is Like An Eagle

Of all the animal images applied to God in the Bible, none surpasses that of the eagle. Since ancient times, this majestic bird has been recognized as a symbol of strength, speed, ferocity and power. The eagle has been designated by our country as our national symbol of strength. Interestingly, of the 27 times that the word eagle appears in the Hebrew Scriptures, only twice does it refer to the actual bird; all other occurrences are a fitting image to be applied to God.

Read Exodus 19:1-6; Psalm 91:1-16. The context in which the symbol of the eagle is used for God is important. First, there is the image of Egypt, the enslaving, nation, itself enslaved to its own pride. What fates befell Israel and Egypt are in contrast. Egypt is weighed down with pride and drowned in the sea, while Israel was borne up out of bondage on the wings of God.

Second, the image of eagles’ wings has multiple implications. To the strength, speed and ferocity of the eagle are added the qualities of protection and education. The comparison of God to an eagle is parental. Both mothers and fathers train their little hatchlings to fly by example. They rouse the young ones to flight by flapping their wings. When the young are aloft, the parent birds fly under the eaglets, ever ready to catch them if they falter and fall.

So those first Hebrew slaves, recently freed after 400 years, immature in their thinking, not having a real relationship with God, are being protected by the Father as an eagle protects her young. However, these people, must not remain nestlings forever. Now rescued and protected by God they are charged with embracing adulthood, for God told them, “If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples” (Exodus 19:5 NRSV).

Yes, Israel as a people, were chosen and protected by God. Through these very people, “stiffed necked” and disobedient (Exodus 32:9), the promised Messiah came. He came first to the house of Israel and then to the whole world. But God will keep His promises. He also holds us as an eagle protecting its young. When we can no longer count on our own strength to manage our lives …..God is there. Teaching us, protecting us and nurturing us. He is the God of power and strength.

How has God carried you on his wings? —Barbara Hyland, guest writer

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets

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