The Eagle and its Brood
Deuteronomy 32:11-12
As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings:…

The sentence should read thus: "As an eagle stirreth up his nest, fluttereth over his young, He spreads abroad His wings," etc., the person spoken of in the last clauses being God Himself.

I. A GRAND THOUGHT ABOUT GOD. What he brings into view are the characteristics common to the eagle and the vulture: superb strength in beak and claw, keenness of vision almost incredible, magnificent sweep of pinion, and power of rapid, unwearied flight. And these characteristics have their analogues in the Divine nature, and the emblem not unfitly shadows forth one aspect of the God of Israel, who is strong to destroy as well as to save, whose all-seeing eye marks every foul thing, and who often pounces on it swiftly to rend it to pieces. But the action described in the text is not destructive, terrible, or fierce. The monarch of the sky busies itself with tender cares for its brood. Then there is gentleness along with the terribleness. The strong beak and claw, the eye that can see so far, and the mighty spread of wings that can lift it till it is an invisible speck in the blue vault, go along with the instinct of paternity; and the fledglings in the nest look up at the fierce beak and bright eyes, and know no terror. The impression of this blending of power and gentleness is greatly deepened if we notice that it is the male bird that is spoken about. Modern tendencies, legitimately recoiling from the one-sidedness of a past generation, are now turning away far too much from the Old Testament conceptions of Jehovah, which are concentrated in this metaphor. And thereby we destroy the love in the name of which we scout the wrath. "Infinite mercy, but I wish as infinite a justice too." "As the vulture stirreth up her nest" — that is the Old Testament revelation of the terribleness and gentleness of Jehovah. "How often would I have gathered thy children together," etc. That is the New Testament modification of the image. But you never could have had the New unless you first had the Old. And you are foolish if, in the name of the sanctity of the New, you cast away the teaching of the Old. Keep both the metaphors, and they will explain and confirm each other.

II. AN ILLUMINATING THOUGHT OF THE MEANING OF LIFE. What is it all for? To teach us to fly, to exercise the half-fledged wings in short flights, that may prepare us for and make it possible to take longer ones. Every event that befalls us has a meaning beyond itself; and every task that we have to do reacts upon us, the doers, and either fits or hinders us for larger work. Life as a whole, and in its minutest detail, is worthy of God to give, and worthy of us to possess, only if we recognise the teaching that is. put into picturesque form in this text — that the meaning of all which God does to us is to train us for something greater yonder. Life, as a whole, is full of sound and fury, and signifies nothing unless it is an apprenticeship training. What are we here for? To make character; to get experience; to learn the use of our tools. Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones. So life is meant for discipline, and unless we use it for that, however much enjoyment we get out of it, we misuse it.

III. A CALMING THOUGHT AS TO THE VARIETY OF GOD'S METHODS WITH US. To "stir up the nest" means to make a man uncomfortable where he is; — sometimes by the prickings of his conscience, which are the voices of God's Spirit often; sometimes by changes of circumstances, either for the better or for the worse; and oftentimes by sorrows. The straw is pulled out of the nest, and it is not so comfortable to lie in; or a bit of it develops a sharp point that runs into the half-feathered skin, and makes the fledgling glad to come out into the air. We all shrink from change. What should we do if we had it not? We should stiffen into habits that would dwarf and weaken us. We all recoil from storms. What should we do if we had not them? Sea and air would stagnate, and become heavy and putrid and pestilential, if it was not for the wild west wind and the hurling storms. So all our changes, instead of being whimpered over; and all our sorrows, instead of being taken reluctantly, should be recognised as being what they are, a loving summons to effort. Then their pressure would be modified, and their blessing would be secured when their purpose was served. But the training of the father eagle is not confined to stirring up the nest. What is to become of the young ones when they get out of it, and have never been accustomed to bear themselves up in the invisible ether about them? So "he fluttereth over his young." It is a very beautiful word that is employed here; the same word that is used in Genesis about the Spirit of God "brooding on the face of the waters." And it suggests how near, how all-protecting, with expanded wings, the Divine Father comes close to the child whose restfulness He has disturbed. A vile piece of Greek mythology tells how Jove once, in the guise of an eagle, bore away a boy between his great wings. It is foul where it stands, but it is blessedly true about Christian experience. If only we lay ourselves on God's wings — and that not in idleness, but having ourselves tried our poor little flight — He will see that no harm comes to us.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:

WEB: As an eagle that stirs up her nest, that flutters over her young, he spread abroad his wings, he took them, he bore them on his feathers.

The Eagle
Top of Page
Top of Page