As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings:…
It is no mere fanciful accommodation of my text, but indeed a fair interpretation of it, which finds in it a description of the calling and training of human souls for the glorious "inheritance of the saints in light."
I. There is NEEDFUL DISLODGEMENT. The eagle "stirreth up her nest," making it disagreeable to her young; so the Lord does with those whom He calls to Himself. In the day of our worldly comfort and business affluence we think little of God; we care little for the concerns of our souls; we are not in the very least attracted to the heavenly land. But when a reverse comes upon us, when poverty, or sickness, or bereavement, or affliction of any sort attacks us, then we are compelled to confront the great soul problem, "What must I do to be saved?" and as that anxious cry is crushed out of our heart, we find the Lord near us with His deliverance. It is no true blessing, therefore, for a man to have unbroken prosperity. It fosters a false security; it generates pride; it is apt to make the individual feel that he is independent even of God. Hence the Psalmist has said, "Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God." He is the really unfortunate man, therefore, who has never known adversity.
II. But I find in this figure, in the second place, PERFECT EXAMPLE. As the eagle fluttereth over her young, so the Lord did with His people. There is a passage, in Sir Humphry Davy's Salmonia (a book dear to every lover of the angler's craft) which may well illustrate this portion of my text. He says, "I once saw a very fine and interesting sight above one of the crags of Ben Weevis, near Strathgarve. Two parent eagles were teaching their offspring — two young birds — the manoeuvres of flight. They began by rising from the top of a mountain in the eye of the sun (it was about midday, and bright for this climate). They at first made small circles, and the young birds imitated them; they paused on their wings waiting till they had made their first flight, and then they took a second and larger gyration, always rising toward the sun and enlarging their circle of flight, so as to make a gradually ascending spiral. The young ones still slowly followed, apparently flying better as they mounted, and they continued this sublime kind of exercise, always rising, till they became mere points in the air, and the young ones were lost, and afterwards their parents, to my aching sight." Now, could anything be finer than that as an illustration of the method by which, through the example which He sets before us, God teaches us to live? He is not content with laying down the law for us, but in His own dealings with us He shows us the law glorified and brightened by His actions. Does He command us to be merciful? He is Himself "rich in mercy to all that call upon Him." Does He enjoin us to be benevolent? He has Himself "loaded us with His benefits." Does He require us to forgive? He has Himself "multiplied to pardon." Look at that youth with his brush and palette in his hands, standing before the masterpiece of the great Italian. He is studying every minutest feature of the superb original, and at length he becomes possessed, as it were, by the spell of the genius that is looking down upon him from the silent canvas. Then he sets to work for himself, and though his earliest efforts are about as awkward as the first timid flutterings of the eaglet, yet he tries again and again, lessening each time the interval between him and his model, until at last he stands out before the world recognised as one who has caught the fervour and the inspiration of his master. So let it be with us, and the perfect pattern which the great Redeemer has left us.
III. IT IS EFFECTUAL HELP. Mr. Philip Henry Gosse, the well-known naturalist, in his interesting work on the birds of Jamaica, speaking of the red-tailed buzzard, which is closely allied to the eagle, tells us that a friend of his, who was not likely ever to have heard of the verses before us, "once witnessed the emergence of two young ones from a nest near the top of an immense cotton tree, and their first attempt at flight. He distinctly saw the mother bird, after the first young one had flown a little way and was beginning to flutter downward, fly beneath it, and present her back and wings for its support. He could not say, indeed, that the young one actually rested on, or even touched, the parent; perhaps its confidence returned on seeing support so near, so that it managed to reach a high tree, when the other little one, invited by its parent, tried its infant wings in like manner." This, at any rate, is plain: the parent bird is ever near the struggling eaglet, and is ready in a moment with effectual aid, and so God has said to each of His children, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." "My grace is sufficient for thee."
1. In the first place, it is not intended to supersede our own exertions. A man is not carried helplessly into the new life any more than the Israelites were carried over the Red Sea. He lives when he chooses to believe, and that believing, however much Divine agency may be concerned with it, is his own act. Wait not, therefore, for anyone to spread for you the faith-wing on which you are to rise, but make the effort to expand it for yourself, and you will find beside you the guiding and sustaining Saviour.
2. This Divine assistance is always near. The parent eagle kept ever hovering near its young one, and in its moment of extremity darted in beneath it with speedy assistance. So God is ever nigh to them that need Him. There is, indeed, no one so near to us as Jehovah is.
3. This Divine help is all sufficient. It meets our every need. There are two practical thoughts —
(1) Let us see in this subject the key to the right understanding of God's providential discipline of His people. It seems a paradox to say that afflictions are an indication that God loves us; or, in the figure of my text, they stir the nest and push us over, that we may be urged to use our faith-wings, and soar aloft in the service of our God.
(2) Let us learn from this subject how we should proceed wisely and tenderly to train others for God. We should be to those whom we desire to benefit as near as possible what God has been to us.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: