As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings:…
The power of aerial flight, of leaving the earth and traversing the fields of circumambient air by the use of wings, is the most perfect mode of locomotion we know of, and one of the most wonderful of physical prerogatives. It is the one that man most desires and covets, and yet that has most defied attainment or imitation. It is doubtless this longing for a life of ampler freedom and wider scope that has given birth to the idea that the power of volantation will be a human attribute in another stage of existence. But, though denied to man as a physical attribute, the power of aerial flight seems more fitly than any other to illustrate the activities and movements of the soul. We speak of the flight of thought, scarcely conscious of the use of metaphor. The eagle possesses this physical power in the highest degree. But the eagle's power of flight needs strenuous nurture. The position of the eyrie where the young are reared enhances the difficulty of this training. It is usually on a ledge of some precipitous rock, or shelving escarpment beneath the beetling brow of a craggy cliff. The eagle's young cannot, therefore, be lured or driven forth from the nest and allowed to flutter to the ground as the young birds of lower nest and habitat. They must be led forth with judicious care, lest their first flight prove their last.
I. The first truth with which this inspired object lesson impresses us is — THE ESSENTIAL GREATNESS AND STUPENDOUS POSSIBILITIES OF OUR NATURE. Man is not a low creature, with no potencies to be developed, no noble aptitudes to be brought into play, no faculties in which the prophecy of high achievement lies. He is an object of Divine regard and care; and he is that because, far above every other terrestrial creature, he is a sharer of the Divine nature, and capable of a life that, in all save infinity of scope, reflects the life of God. He is infantile — a mere fledgling as yet; but it is the infancy of a glorious being, with a possibility of growth of which an immortal existence is the only adequate term. He is a fledgling, but a fledgling of an eagle's nest.
II. Another truth which this striking object lesson illustrates is — THE STRENUOUSNESS OF THE DIVINE NURTURE. The eagle stirreth up her nest, and fluttereth over her young, not that she may delight her young in the nest, make them content therewith, and detain them there, but that she may lead them forth, induct them into a life of grander scope, and make them actually the great, free, competent creatures they were meant to be. There is an appearance of harshness and severity in this until we realise what it all means. How can the parent eagle take the young ones forth on such perilous adventure, and even stir up the nest and lure them forth to do it? So is it with the Divine training of our souls. God loves us with a love so deep and true that it can afford to be severe; yea, that must and will be severe, as the unfolding of our nature and the shaping of our life may require. The love that only indulges and does not nurture is rebuked even by the instinctive care of lower creatures. But God's love transcends all the love of finite beings, and the finest effects of either instinctive or intelligent love only dimly reflect its surpassing and perfecting grandeur. To a merely sentimental view God's nurture of His children does seem severe. We deem our safety and weal to consist in remaining in the nest, but God knows otherwise; and He acts on His sure knowledge, not upon our misapprehending ignorance. He will not allow us to remain callow and crude. The nesting life may be beautiful, but it must be brief, for it is inceptive. He breaks up the nest of authoritative instruction and easy and implicit faith. We build for ourselves nests of faith, but neither can these abide; and we build and build again, but always with the same merely temporary result. In hours of spiritual exaltation and vigour wondrous vision is accorded, and wonderful disclosures are made. We see the centring Christ. And straightway we propose to build our tabernacles and there abide till faith is changed to sight. Yea, we say that we can never doubt again. The nest is stirred as soon as we begin to live supinely therein, and faith must encounter new trials that it may exult in new triumphs. So is it, too, with our nests of experience. How sweet these are! How deep the peace, how rich the joy, how intense the delight which they afford! What clear and permanent gain they seem to denote! And how confidently we assert that life can never more be the same, can never more move on the old levels, or know the old ungladdened struggle, and sterility of joy. But these experiences are to gird us for the struggles that are to be, as well as to crown the struggles through which we have passed. Their best result is attained when this is realised, but, whether it be realised or not, the nest is stirred. And so it is also with our nests of achievement and of satisfaction therewith. What gladness comes to us sometimes in our work, what sense of achievement, what evidence of acceptance and success! But even these nests, substantial as they seem, abide not. Sometimes they last for a very little while, not even from morning to evening service on the Sabbath Day. So God stirs up the nest in which His children would live a supine or circumscribed life. Men are not for nests, but for flight. God does indeed give us nests, but He gives us also wings; and the wings are the richer gift. But God does not leave us alone when He leads us forth from the nest. He is with us in all the adventurous essays to which He constrains us. These times of nest stirring are the epochs of spiritual advancement. The past is annulled and a grander future opens. Life becomes more real, acquires grander range, wider scope, and sublimer pitch.
III. THE AGENCIES WHICH GOD EMPLOYS IN THIS NEST STIRRING. They are sorrow, disappointment, vicissitude, opportunity, voice, vision, inward rest, and other things which cannot be tabulated.
IV. ONE DAY GOD WILL BREAK UP OUR LAST EARTHLY NEST. Death is a mounting upward. It is a necessary fulfilment of the present life. Here we never reach the sun toward which we soar. We cannot even steadily gaze upon it; it burns and blinds us; but we shall. The eagle's fabled flight to the sun is a pagan prophecy of our destiny. And God will be with us in that last long flight.
(J. W. Earnshaw.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: