The Divine Eagle: Part 1
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 25 October 2003
"Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distil as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of Yahweh: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
"They have corrupted themselves; They are not His children, Because of their blemish: A perverse and crooked generation. 6 Do you thus deal with Yahweh, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?
"Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; Your elders, and they will tell you: When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, When He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel. For Yahweh's portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance.
"He found him in a desert land And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings, So Yahweh alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him.
"He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him to draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock; Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, With fat of lambs; And rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, With the choicest wheat; And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes" (Deut.32:1-14, NKJV).
Throughout my life since becoming a Christian it has been one of my deepest desires to understand my Heavenly Father and His ways. It is not easy for a child to understand an adult and it is especially difficult for a child of God to understand the Almighty. As we all know, His thoughts are not as ours, and His ways are not as ours either - indeed, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Is.55:8-9). Which is probably why in the passage we have just read Yahweh likens Himself to a Divine Eagle. And it is that which I wish to speak about today.
I am sure you will all agree that the eagle is a magnificent beast. It is a predator with incredible eyesight and majestic flight. As a national emblem it is used by the United States, Russia, Germany, Austria, Serbia, Poland, Spain and other countries. Only the lion - which is used as a national emblem by Great Britain, Holland, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and others - rivals that of the eagle. Both these animals are used biblically as symbols of Divinity in certain respects.
In the passage cited from Deuteronomy Yahweh is likened to a mother eagle pushing her offspring out of the nest in order to teach them how to fly. She builds her nest in the tall trees away from the prying hands of men, taking the utmost care to line it with the softest feathers she can find. When her eggs hatch and the little eaglets are born, she gives them her complete and undivided attention. Every morning she fills the nest with tasty morsels that will keep them going for the whole day (cp. Mt.6:34). Nothing is too good for her precious brood. After several weeks of this tender, loving care, the mother eagle suddenly changes her behaviour. She knows it is now time for her eaglets to leave the nest and learn to fly. So, reaching down into the nest, she rips out the feathers, breaks up the twigs and overturns their nice, comfortable home. The little eaglets are frightened out of their wits. Gently, she nudges one of the birds toward the edge of the overturned nest and pushes it out into the air. The little bird, of course, falls like a bullet to the ground, squawking with fright, but just as it is about to hit the ground, the mother eagle swoops beneath it, catches it on her broad wings and carries it safely up into the sky. Then she tilts her wing and the bird falls once again, but this time, as it flaps its wings in fright, it discovers it can fly!
And this, my friend, is what Yahweh, our Heavenly Father, does with you and me. We may not like it, but it's what He does, because it's best for us, and He knows what He is doing. He pushes us out of our comfortable nests in order that we might expand our wings and soar towards His highest purposes.
As Christians we are rightly accustomed to think of Yahweh as our Protector. We read in the Psalms and elsewhere how He takes care of us:
"He covers you with His feathers, and under His wings you take refuge; His truth is a shield and armour. You are not afraid of the dread by night, or of the arrow that flies by day, of the pestilence that walks in darkness, of destruction that ravages at midday ... He commands His messengers (angels) concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone" (Ps.91:4-6, 11-12, ISRV).
"You have seen when I did to the Mitsrites (Egyptians), and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself" (Ex.19:5, ISRV).
Yahweh is our Protector but He does not intend that we remain as little children. We are not supposed to remain in the nest forever. And the reason we cannot remain there is that He created us to be useful to Him and to each other. He did not create us to be pampered.
Parents, consider how it would be if your children never grew up. Imagine what it would be like changing nappies (diapers) for ever, breast-feeding for ever, or having little humans with a childish mentality never growing up for ever. You'd go mad. Within you is an understanding that your rôle as parents is to bring up your children so that they can grow up and become useful to other people as you in your turn have tried to do the same. There is a drive in all living creatures to multiply and grow up. The whole purpose of reproduction is to ensure that the family, tribe, and species progress. Man has always had this drive to build community. And that, brethren and sisters, reflects the mind of the Elohim (God).
As we recall the attitude of the Israelite people when Moses first turned up on the scene to offer them a way out of bondage, we remember how umotivated they were. Last week we looked at the stubborn laziness which is in people and which belongs to the carnal nature. And so what does Yahweh do? He puts such pressure on the Israelites through Pharaoh that they reach a point where they decide that anything is better than that! The worsening oppression of the Egyptian King opened a door for them. Our discomforts, sorrows, disappointments, illnesses, persecutions and overturned nests become what Howard Thurman calls "the growing edge". The deprivations we experience are permitted only for one ultimate purpose: to motivate us towards greater usefulness. How many of us would be where we are today if Yahweh had not overturned our lives, changed our circumstances, allowed us to be disappointed and deprived, permitted us to walk through the deepest darkness in order that we might find ourselves on the "growing edge"? Yahweh has upset us in order to set us up.
We are asking ourselves what kind of Being Yahweh is and why He permits so many apparently meaningless and painful things to happen in our lives, and today we are receiving an answer to that question. It may not be the answer we want, but it is the truth. You will remember, I am sure, the story of Joseph. Of course you do. When he told his brothers years after they had sold him into slavery, "so now it was not you who sent me here, but God" (Gen.45:8, NKJV), he understood only too well that Yahweh was behind it. And he was not bitter. This was an incredible moment in Joseph's life. There he was, the Prime Minister of Egypt, and had experienced a torturous life to be where he was. His brothers lay prostrate before his feet in fulfilment of the prophetic dream Yahweh had given him years before. I can well imagine that his whole life must have flashed before him at that moment - the panorama of his strange and eventful life: his boyhood in Canaan, the dreams by which he had been haunted, the growing hostility of his brothers, the awful day when they fell upon him, cast him into a pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites, the journey down into Egypt and his life as a slave. He must have remembered, too, the extraordinary events that led him to becoming the Keeper of the Royal Seal with an authority second only to the throne. You know the story well.
But it is not the events - significant as they are - that interest me the most today, but the conclusions to which he comes as he ponders the past: "do not therefore be grieved nor angry with yourselves," he said, "because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life" (Gen.45:5, NKJV). He says it three times. The astonishing thing is that there was no anger or bitterness in his heart. Any why? Because he recognised the work of the Divine Eagle who had pushed him out of the nest in Canaan in order that he might be the provider of his family in time of famine. Of course, there were other purposes wrapped up in this too, but suffice to say that the stirring of Joseph's nest was Yahweh's way of moving him into a position of greater usefulness. "You sold me," he said, "but God sent me."
We all rebel against the stirring of our nests. We don't want the comfortable life to end, but we forget all too quickly what this life is for. Not only is this stirring for the glory of Yahweh but it is also for our eternal good. It is how we are perfected when we stubbornly refuse to let go of the carnal man.
You will find the same principle at work time after time in the Scriptures. Adversity is sent to us to force us to spread our wings. And we are forced to spread our wings in order to become what Yahweh made us to be: rulers.
There was a time when the Messianic Community in Jerusalem was the spiritual centre of the whole Christian movement. Yet Yahweh allowed it to be broken up by persecution (Acts 8:1-4). This was a hive of spiritual industry and was an inspiration for believers everywhere. Here the believers had reached such a stage of spiritual advancement that they were voluntarily laying all their worldly goods before the feet of the apostles and living the higher economic law of all things in common, whereas elsewhere the congregations were still living the former system of tithing. So why did Yahweh break up that community?
The first reason is that Yahweh knew that the Messianic Community would never come into its own in Jerusalem. It was already the centre of another religion and the majority of its practitioners were not about to repent. They were in what would become a lion's den. That Jerusalem community, great as it was, was too rigid, to racial, too authoritarian. The grave clothes of Talmudic Judaism still clung to them, hindering the community from becoming a clear model for future generations. It is ironic, therefore, that in some respects Messianic Judaism is restoring those grave clothes. The matrix of Jerusalem was too narrow to be universalised, so Yahweh overturned their nest and, through it, brought about the establishing of a new community and better model, first at Antioch under Paul (Ac.11:19), and then finally at Ephesus under John.
Secondly, the messianic community at Jerusalem tended to be introspective. Some evangelism flowed out to the surrounding areas, but largely they were inward-looking. When persecution came, and with it the overturning of their nest, they scattered everywhere and, as they did, they carried with them the seeds of the Gospel, causing New Covenant congregations to spring up all over the place. The persecution, instead of stopping them, furthered them.
Our own history is not at all dissimilar. I shudder to think what would have happened if we had remained in Oxford, England, and then in Norway. Twice Yahweh moved us, caused nearly all of our members to fall away, and then re-established us in Sweden. It is not an accident. Neither was the persecution we experienced in Norway which drove us across the Swedish border. Instead of stopping us, our persecutors furthered the work of the Kingdom. When Yahweh takes the good away from our lives, it is only because He wants to introduce us to something better. We must ever cultivate an awareness of this truth so as not to miss the path we are being called to walk.
The human problem is that our vision is too narrow. We can only see the short-term. The prophetic dimension is missing in the carnal man. Do you remember the howls of protests that Yah'shua (Jesus) was met with when He announced to His disciples that He was going to have to leave them after only having been together with them two or three years? I am sure you can imagine the hearts of the disciples sinking when He said: "It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you" (John 16:7, NKJV). They must have felt like premature orphans when He said those words. They realised that they would be alone in this world without Him. They had invested everything they had in Him - they had left behind families, friends, everything - and now here He was telling them that He was off. It was a collapse of all their hopes and expectations.
And yet, what did He say? "It is to your advantage that I go away." Yes, they were losing His physical presence, but in return they would receive His spiritual omnipresence. They would discover a new dimension in which He would be closer to them than at any time previously. He was trying to tell them - 'Yes, I am with you, but after I have gone I will be in you'.
True to His Word, He came back at Shavuot (Pentecost). Not only did they remember Him but they realised Him. They must have said to one another: 'He's gone - yet He is nearer than ever.' And not only was His presence available, but His power was available too - unlimited resources at their disposal at any and at all times. When this happened, they knew He had been right in taking away the comfort of His bodily presence to give them His spiritual presence - intimate, available, and within.
I have always wondered if there was a spiritual reason why wives tend to live longer than husbands. Men die younger and leave widows behind to mourn them. Some remarry but others remain true to their deceased loved ones because they know deep within there will be a reunion beyond the veil, and they don't want any other men in their lives complicating their feelings and loyalties. And the more spiritually sensitive can feel that their husbands are actually still present ... as though they never left. And so it is with the Bridegroom, Yah'shua (Jesus), and the Bride, His Messianic Community.
Let us remind ourselves before we end today that the Divine Eagle never disturbs our nest except for a good purpose, and He never takes away the good without giving something much better.
So my prayer today is that when our nest is stirred and we feel threatened and afraid, that we ask Yahweh to help us see that He wants to turn all our good into better, and all our better into best. This just happens to be the way He does things. It is a hallmark of the Divine, a signature of His Character. Amen.
Click here for Part 2
This page was created on 25 September 2003
Last updated on 25 September 2003
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