As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings:…
In describing His dealings with His people, the Lord often makes use, in Scripture, of similitudes taken from the natural world. A more vivid impression is thus made upon our minds of what He intends us to know, than if He had just employed mere didactic precepts; and besides, we are taught to associate thoughts of spiritual wisdom with the circumstances and events which pass before our natural eyes.
I. THE ORIGIN OF GOD'S CARE IS EXHIBITED IN THE FORMER PART OF THE TEXT: "The Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in a waste howling wilderness." It was unmerited kindness, not earned by any deservings, which influenced the Lord in His choice of Israel as His own peculiar inheritance. It was not for their goodness that God revealed Himself to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob as their God; but it was in consequence of that revelation, it was a result of His sovereign love as the cause. Now, this is admirably descriptive of the first cause of every believer's salvation, which the apostle expresses in plain unmetaphorical language, when he says, "Not that we loved God, but that He loved us."
II. THE MODE IN WHICH GOD EXERCISES HIS CARE. God does not treat men as mere machines. It is true He works in us both to will and to do, and without His aid we can do nothing; but then He would have us fellow workers with Him, yea, to work out our own salvation. His object is to draw out our faculties and powers, so that they may be consecrated to His service, and show forth all His praise. "The eagle stirreth up her young." And so God rouses and stirs up His people. There is a work to be done, there are talents to be employed, there is labour to be undergone. They must not, therefore, lie like children in the lap of quiet indulgence. The eagle "fluttereth over her young." And so God allures His people onwards. The eagle "spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them upon her wings." When actually taken out of the nest, she supports them that they may not fall, and flies underneath them to keep them from falling. And so God interposes betwixt His people and destruction: He bears their burdens; yea, He carries them with sustaining and encouraging love. Such is the mode, as indicated by the text, in which God exercises His care over His people: how much at heart He has their welfare in this may be seen from the expression, "He kept him as the apple of His eye." So jealously did He watch over Israel of old, that He would suffer no weapon formed against them to prosper.
III. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS WE MAY DEDUCE FROM THE SUBJECT.
1. The first is a lesson of humility: we stand by faith: we must not be high-minded, but fear. I have already shown you that the first beginnings of godliness are the gift and operation of God. I may add that we every day need His watchful care to keep us whereto we have already attained. No creatures can be more helpless or destitute, if deprived of a parent's care, than the young of any bird. And therefore the similitude of the text gives us a lively idea of our continued dependence on the Lord for all the strength and blessing we require. Were He to leave us we could not take a single step aright: our safety, therefore, and our comfort, depend upon our close and humble waiting upon Him. This is a lesson hard to learn: it is indeed, in general, acquired only by painful experience. Men will not practically keep in view the humbling truth that without Christ they can do nothing.
2. We may also learn a lesson of caution. They were not all Israel which were of Israel; for there were many disobedient and estranged from God, even in the nation particularly called by His name. And therefore we are not to take for granted that the privileges of which I have been speaking belong to us, or that the care I have described is exercised over us, unless we can discover the genuine marks in ourselves of reconciliation with God.
3. I observe, again, we learn hence a lesson of childlike and implicit faith. It is not wise, it is not grateful in God's people to be continually questioning, as they are very apt to do, His power or His love. Such conduct is a walking not by faith but by sight.
4. Lastly, I would say, we here have a lesson of a more devoted love. What cold and slothful hearts must we have, if they are not moved by a recital of such tenderness as the text unfolds!
(J. Ayre, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: