God is into birds (10.27.2013)

Exodus 19:1-6

Ervin was a member of a church where I served as pastor. I went to his house to visit his wife who was ill, and there, in his living room, was a stuffed Bald Eagle. I asked, “Aren’t they protected?” I never got the story straight of how he got that Eagle, but there it was, large and in charge. I had only seen Eagles in the sky. I had never been so close to one. They are massive birds – this one stood over 3 feet tall – and their claws, or talons, are menacing.
I am a novice when it comes to birds, but God is an expert. God is into birds! He created them and we find birds in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is represented in Scripture by the dove. Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem and said “like a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, so he would have liked to have gathered them.” Jesus reminded us that not one sparrow falls to the ground without our Heavenly Father’s knowing concern. And there is the great bird of our reading today – the eagle! The eagle is mentioned more than any other bird in the Bible, at least 30 times, and the eagle appears for the first time here in our text in Exodus chapter 19 where God tells Moses to say to the people, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you myself.” (Exodus 19:4)
How interesting that God would use the eagle to illustrate his work on behalf of his people. Let’s look at this image of the Eagle.
Let’s begin here: The Wings of God are Strong
From ancient times the eagle has been regarded as a symbol of courage and power because of the altitude at which it flies. The strength it displays in flight is remarkable.
God had this kind of strength in mind for us when he said through his prophet Isaiah, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Eagles are capable of carrying off lambs and monkeys and wild pigs. God, the Divine Eagle, is strong enough to care for you and me. The mighty Creator of this vast universe has wings strong enough to save you – from your fears, from your present trouble, from your weakness, from yourself, and from your sins.
The strong wings of God are visibly portrayed in the arms of the cross of his Son. Those crossbeams reach vertically, all the way from God down to earth, and horizontally, across the whole earth, with the power enough to save us all, to forgive and to free from all sin, to care for us in every trouble. The chorus of the song, “On Eagle’s Wings”, says it this way: “And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.”
How mighty are the wings of God! Not only strong enough to save us and help us, but powerful enough to teach us, and train us. In our verse from Exodus where it says, “I bore you on Eagle’s wings” we hear in those words how the Eagle carries her young her wings. The Good News Translation of the Bible brings this out in its translation of this verse, “I carried you as an eagle carries her young on her wings, and brought you here to me.”
The eagle teaches its’ young to fly by pushing the baby bird out of the nest and the little creature tumbles helplessly through the air, plummeting to earth. But then, just in time, the parent-eagle swoops under its young, catches the bird on its own strong, spreading wings, and bears it aloft again to try once more to fly. God will teach you and challenge you, always bearing you up by his own sturdy strength. Someone has beautifully stated, “God never puts a burden on you without first putting his own arm underneath you.”
The wings of God are strong.
And then, here’s another one: The Wings of God are Swift
Eagles are known for their speed of flight. It is said in the Bible of Saul and Jonathan, “They were swifter than eagles.” (2Samuel 1:23) Often we think God is slow in coming to our aid, in answering our prayer, in solving our problem. We think he is more like a turtle than an eagle.
A couple of weeks ago, at our church service, we read Luke chapter 18, and we heard these words, “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” (Luke 18:7) Never fear, God hears your prayer, God is concerned with what’s going on your life; God knows your situation.
We sometimes use the phrase “eagle-eyed,” referring to a person who misses nothing that goes on about him. Our swift-winged God has an eagle-eye to meet our needs as well. He sees our tears, he observes our troubles, he knows our needs, and he is acutely aware of all that goes on in our little world. An eagle has wondrous eyesight and eagle-observers have calculated that a bald eagle can see a small object on the water from a distance of three miles! With a swift, sweeping flight it careens through space to pluck the object from the sea.
God sees our need, and with amazing speed, he descends to help us. So swift is he, that often our prayers are heard even before we give voice to them. He promises us, through his prophet Isaiah, “Before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)
I think of all the things that God does in our lives that we don’t even pray for, things we take for granted. Things like life, breath, strength, eyes to see, ears to hear, a sound mind to think, shoes, clothing, food, drink, shelter, friends, family. God helps us even when we don’t ask for it.
A friend may say to us, “Now be sure and let me know if I can help you.” God is better than that. Often you don’t even need to ask for his help. He’s there before you open your mouth – and that’s really fast!
The Wings of God are Strong. The Wings of God are swift.
And then, third, the Wings of God are broad.
The prophet Ezekiel speaks of “A great eagle with great wings.” (Ezekiel 17:3) The wingspread of the eagle is from six to eight feet.
I remember visiting a farm as a child with my parents and brothers. The family had an apple orchard, but they also raised chickens. The owner of that farm would place eggs under a setting hen for her to hatch. In due time, there would be little chicks running around all over the place. One time, when we were watching those little chicks, it began to storm, with thunder crashing and lightning flashing, and the hen would begin to cluck to her chicks to come to her for safety. She would hover down on the ground, spread her wings, and the baby chicks would run under her wings and hide until the storm was past. One time I noticed, there were so many chicks they couldn’t all fit under her wings. Her wings simply were not broad enough.
At Mount Sinai in the wilderness, The Covenant relationship into which God enters with his people is rather selective. The party to the covenant is the nation of Israel. The covenant here doesn’t include the other nations, just the Hebrews.
The wings of God are broader than that. In the New Testament, God expands the Covenant. With the coming of Christ, the coverage increases greatly. With the New Covenant being ushered in, the wings of God now encompass all people everywhere who will look to him for refuge. No one is exempt. No one is excluded. What had been a covenant for a nation is now a covenant for the world! Anyone – everyone – can now flee to the broad eagle-wings of a saving, accepting God and be safe.
How broad then is the expanse of God’s wings? It is wider than the spread of the sky, broader than the sea; it covers farther than from east to west, or north to south. It includes men and women of every race and every nation. God says, “I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.” There is no place God will not come looking for you; in heaven or hell, earth or sky, or any address in-between.
And God adds this promise: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31)

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About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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