The majestic eagle
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Devotional text: Isaiah 40:31
The American bald eagle, the emblem of freedom, the symbol of beauty and grace, courage and bravery, and awe-inspiring majesty. It has graced the seal of the United States since June 20, 1782, named our national symbol since the presidency of George Washington.
Every time I see a bald eagle in flight, its white head and tail standing out from its brown body and wings, I feel a sense of awe. The bald eagle was chosen as the national emblem for the United States because it of its attributes such as a long life, great strength and its majestic looks.
It has been looked at as the most handsome bird of prey on earth. Its great wingspan can measure up to 7-1/2 feet (90 inches). It is called the American bald eagle because it is the only eagle native to North America, with sightings from Alaska, Canada, the lower 48 states and Mexico.
It’s no wonder we see the eagle mentioned in the Bible, as it is used both as an analogy of God and his protection. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say to us about the eagle and correlate it with what we know about the American bald eagle.
Starting with Deuteronomy 32:11, we read, “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions.”
This was but a part of a song Moses sang to the Israelites, reminding them of how God had led them through the desert out of Egypt to the land he had prepared for them. It reminds us of the parent eagles that mate for life and raise their young.
As we look at the life of an eagle, we find that during the first two weeks of the eagle hatchling’s life, the mother never leaves the nest while the father brings in the food. Then, for the next two weeks, both parents participate in bringing food to their nestlings. Although it takes six weeks before the young can begin to care for themselves, they remain in the nest for another eight to 14 weeks, until they are ready to leave the nest.
However, even before that time, the young birds will have begun taking short trips back and forth between the close branches while flapping their wings. Even though they are able to hunt their own live prey at six weeks, the little ones stay by their parents and are fed until the time they actually leave the nest and do not return.
The fledglings stay close to their parents in flight, building up their own strength and learning how to grow in their own confidence. The parents are good teachers. They stay by their little ones, helping them to soar and rise on the currents of thermal air.
These lessons from the lives of the eagle remind us of how God watches over us, his children. God loves to show us the way to grow confident and strong, able to make a life for ourselves. God always stay close to us as we develop our faith and trust in him. In the times we fail, just as the little fledglings falter in flight, God lifts us back up and continues patiently to show us the way.
These are the words of protection from God, found in Exodus 19:14: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.”
It was once believed that the bald eagle could fly higher than any other bird. This is not true; Ruppell’s griffon vulture has been seen at 37,000 feet and the bar-headed goose at 28,000 feet. The bald eagle has been seen flying as high as 15,000 feet, traveling at a speed of 65 mph.
For the eagle, it is more than the height; it is also its great power, strength and awesome presence. While its normal speed can be between 75 and 99 mph, it can sweep down from the sky at 200 mph to grab its prey.
In Jeremiah 49:22, we see how the Lord God works against the enemies of Israel, as he says, “Look! An eagle will soar and swoop down, spreading its wings over Bazrah.” This scripture was an analogy of God’s power and strength over the enemies of his people.
Here are a few other items of note about the majestic eagle: its eyesight is four to five times greater than humans during the daytime; it can see prey coming from as far as two miles away; the parent eagles will return to their same nest for years; and the nest is built high and deep in the very top reaches of a tree for added protection of their young.
It’s easy to understand the analogy to God: he sees our past, present and future, and he always wants to do what is best for us and keep us safe. He has great power and strength. He is always trustworthy.
One of my favorite verses is from Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up as wings of eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”
These words were given by the prophet Isaiah as the captives were released from Babylon. They are among an entire chapter giving comfort to the Israelites. God was telling the captives, as well as telling us, that even in difficult times, if we continue to trust and wait upon the Lord’s help, God will indeed renew our strength. In our joy, we will feel as though we are rising on the wings of the eagle.
I leave you with the eagle found as one of the four creatures around the throne of God in Revelation 4:7-11: “The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle.”
It has been thought that the creatures represent the attributes of God: majesty and power — the lion; faithfulness — the ox; intelligence — the man; and sovereignty — the eagle. Any way you choose to look at it, the sign of the eagle remains a powerful and gracious image of God.