Dr. Joe Temple


In this lesson we will be talking about eagles. I have reserved this subject for last for two reasons. More is said about eagles in Scripture than any other one bird. The other reason—maybe more important—the eagle is my favorite bird as far as scriptural bird watching is concerned, and the Lord has used the truth taught in the Word of God concerning the eagle in my own life personally a number of times over. For that reason, it is a precious study to me.

The Lord gave me one verse concerning the eagle that we will be thinking about upon which I am still resting. Because of that verse, my children started an eagle collection for me, and I have nearly a hundred different kinds of eagles: wood, ceramic, and silver from various parts of the world. These all have a special significance to me, and I think that I can share some of the blessings with you from them.

I have mentioned to you before that the eagle is mentioned some twenty-six times in the Scripture by way of illustration. We are not counting the times that the eagle is simply mentioned as a fowl, but by way of the eagle used for illustration, it is something like twenty-six times.

Perhaps the reason for that is the amazement of Solomon concerning the eagle. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and he certainly had a special gift of wisdom from God, as you know from your studying of the Word of God. He said that he was mystified by some things, and he named them in chapter 30 of the book of Proverbs, verse 18. He said:

Proverbs 30

18There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:

He said, “There are three things that simply amaze me, actually four. I don't have the explanation for all that I see in connection with them, but they amaze me.” Then verse 19:

Proverbs 30

19The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

He said, “All of these things are so intrinsically interesting that it is difficult to explain all of the activities related to them.” We notice, particularly, the first statement of verse 19. He said, “Something that is too wonderful for me, something that I never get tired of watching, and something that I can't fully explain is the way of an eagle in the air.”

Eagles Used as Illustrations

I am going to suggest to you the various things about the eagle which are used as illustrations, and I am going to give you the Scripture references. If you are interested, you can pursue them at your own leisure because we are only going to talk about four of them. The bird watchers in the Bible observing the eagle were impressed with the strength of her wings and used them as an illustration for redemption in Exodus, chapter 19, verse 4, and in Revelation, chapter 12, verse 14. They were impressed, likewise, with the swiftness of the flight of the eagle and used it as an illustration of the swift judgment of God upon those who were disobedient in Deuteronomy, chapter 28, verse 29; Jeremiah, chapter 48, verse 40; Jeremiah, chapter 49, verse 22; Isaiah, chapter 8, verse 1; Jeremiah, chapter 4, verse 13; and Habakkuk, chapter 1, verse 8. All of these are references to the swiftness of judgment. As the eagle flies swiftly to their prey, so does the judgment of God come. Each one of these verses has a little different flavor to it, so it isn't empty repetition.

The swiftness of the eagle is also used as an illustration of the brevity of life. We had already established Job as a bird watcher; and in Job, chapter 9, verse 26, when he observed the eagle in her swift flight, he was reminded of how swiftly the days of our lives pass by. Interestingly enough, Solomon wrote of the swiftness of the eagle, and it has always been amusingly interesting to me the swiftness of the eagle as it is illustrated in how quickly your money gets away from you. I suspect that all of us have had some problem along that line. You have money and then the first thing you know, you don't have it.

When the biographies of both Saul and Jonathan were being written in II Samuel, chapter 1, verse 23, the swiftness of the eagle was used as an illustration of their prowess as warriors. In Ezekiel, chapter 17, verses 3 and 7, the swiftness of the eagle was used to illustrate the mighty power and the swift judgment that the king of Babylon brought upon those who were disobedient to his rule and to his reign.

You have heard of the bald eagle. The bald eagle is called a bald eagle not because he has no feathers on his head, as men have no hair on their head when they are bald, but because the feathers on the eagle's head are white; and at a distance, it gives the appearance of baldness—hence the name, bald eagle . The baldness of the eagle was used by Micah in chapter 1, verse 16, to describe the devastating judgment that God was going to bring on disobedient people. Micah said, “Your baldness will increase as the baldness of the eagle.”

There are several references to nesting habits of the eagle. The fact that the eagle builds her nest on the highest crag and in the topmost part of the tree in each instance is used as an illustration of the foolishness of pride. In Job, chapter 39, verses 27-30, Job's pride was rebuked by a reference to the nesting habits of the eagle. In Jeremiah, chapter 49, verse 16, Jeremiah said, “Though Israel raised herself to the pinnacle as high as the eagle's nest, even to the starry sky, God would bring her down to her own level.” In Obadiah, verse 4, the same truth is emphasized concerning Moab: “Though she builds her nest as high as the eagle's nest, there certainly would be a coming down.”

In Psalm 103, verse 5, a habit connected with the eagle's molting process describes the rejuvenation that is possible for all who place their faith and their trust in God, and then the unusual strength of the eagle as far as her ability to last in long flights is concerned, is used by Isaiah to illustrate the enduring strength that is made possible for all believers in Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31.

Then the eagle is used in several prophetic visions such as Ezekiel, chapter 1, verse 10, Ezekiel, chapter 10, verse 14, and Revelation, chapter 4, verse 7. There the eagle is used to describe one of the four descriptions of the living creatures, known as the cherubim and the seraphim . In Daniel, chapter 2, verse 4, the nation of Babylon is described as having great strength by picturing her as an animal that had eagle's wings.

I think you will find a perusal of these Scriptures at your own convenience profitable to you, and it is very possible that the Lord will give you some thoughts about them that I haven't even made an attempt to suggest.

An Illustration of Deliverance and Redemption

I would like for us to look at four of the passages that I gave you for the spiritual lessons and illustrations that we can draw from them. I would like to begin by saying that the first spiritual lesson that we may learn from the habits of the eagle is an illustration of deliverance and redemption. Turn back, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 19. You will notice the address of Moses to the children of Israel after they had come out of the land of Egypt after they had been delivered from the hand of the Egyptians. I think it would be a good idea for us to just begin with the first verse. Notice as we read together:

Exodus 19

1In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.
2For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.
3And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;
4Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.

Actually, if you read the account of the exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, you know that they walked; but if you keep in mind that behind them was the Egyptian army and before them was a body of water which they could not cross in their own strength, you will realize that their deliverance was divine. As Moses thought upon the divine deliverance—without the aid of human effort—there came to his mind a picture he had often seen of a mother eagle putting her eaglets on her wings and flying great distances with them. They did absolutely nothing but rest upon the wings of the mother. They were carried about through no strength of their own. It was all upon the mother eagle.

When we think of salvation by grace without the aid of human effort, I don't think we can find a better illustration than this one of the eagle. Just picture in your mind's eye how those little eaglets are supported entirely by the one who bears them on her wings. Can you imagine any of those little eagles claiming any credit for the journey, even being able to say, “I at least had to get on the wings.” Yet, I know any number of people who are so afraid to say that salvation is by grace alone—without the aid of human effort. They say, “Well, you have got to at least believe,” and they want to take some merit even for the faith that they put in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, we are told in Ephesians, chapter 2, that even the faith with which we believe is a gift of God. We can't even claim any credit for that. The wonderful thing about it is the eagle's wings are always underneath as long as we need them, but there will be times when we must do without them, as we shall see.

Comparable to this verse in the book of Exodus is one in the very last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, chapter 12. While you are turning to Revelation, chapter 12, let me remind you that this chapter is the record of a sign. The book of Revelation is full of signs. People are concerned about the signs in the book of Revelation, and they wonder how anybody could know what the signs mean. Let me suggest here that any signs, any symbols in the book of Revelation that need an explanation is explained either in the book of Revelation or somewhere else in the Word of God. Notice what I said—any sign which needs an explanation. There are some signs and some symbols that don't need an explanation. If the explanation is needed, the explanation is found either in the book of Revelation or somewhere else in the Word of God. Will you notice verse 1:

Revelation 12

1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

We do not have time for a detailed study of the book of Revelation, so you are just going to have to accept by faith what I say if this is new material to you, but this woman is the nation of Israel. Then in verse 2:

Revelation 12

2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon [the dragon is the devil] , having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5And she brought forth a man child [the man child is the Lord Jesus Christ] , who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

The child was the Lord Jesus Christ. After the Lord Jesus Christ was born and fulfilled His purpose on the earth, He ascended up into Heaven in the last part of verse 5. Notice verse 6:

Revelation 12

6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

Between verses 5 and verse 6 is the age of grace in which we live. In verse 6, the Tribulation has begun and this woman has to flee into the wilderness because of the persecution that was leveled against her. In verses 7-11, there is the story of the final rejection of Satan from Heaven. In verse 12, the middle of the Tribulation has occurred and judgment on the earth is going to increase, so you read in verse 12:

Revelation 12

12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

The persecution of Israel increases in The tribulation period. What kind of trouble was Israel in in the land of Egypt? Persecution. That is the reason that she cried unto God, and God delivered her from the hand of Pharaoh. At the end of the age, yet future as we are concerned, during the Tribulation period, the nation of Israel is going to be in need of deliverance. How is God going to provide that deliverance? In the same way that He provided it when He delivered her from Egypt. Look at verse 14:

Revelation 12

14And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time [three and one half years] , from the face of the serpent.
15And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
16And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

At the beginning of Israel's history, redemption was the theme provided by an eagle. In the end of Israel's history, redemption is the theme illustrated by the strength of an eagle. We are borne—what was true of Israel in many ways—on eagles' wings. Salvation is by grace without the aid of human efforts.

An Illustration of Renewal

Turn to Psalm 103 and notice a molting habit of the eagle which the Spirit of God is pleased to use as an illustration of the rejuvenation that we as believers need from time to time. Let's begin reading with verse 1:

Psalm 103

1Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
2Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
3Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
4Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
5Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; [now notice] so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

I wonder why David said this. He was familiar with the habits of eagles. Periodically, after a certain number of years, an eagle will go off to some distant point by itself. It will shed all of its old feathers and grow new feathers. It takes a period of time. Its claws will grow until new claws have appeared, the old claws being dead. When it leaves this secret place, it returns to its natural habitat looking like a young eagle, though it is many years old. This was the habit with which David was familiar when he said, “You know, God treats us like that. He meets our needs in such a fashion that our youth is renewed; our youth is restored to us just like the youth of an eagle.”

I would like for you to notice that word renew there, because it is very significant to me that it is one of two Hebrew words which could have been used. The Spirit of God was pleased to use the Hebrew word z ered , which may be translated by the word rebuild or by the word repair . It is interesting that when the Spirit of God said, “We may renew the strength of our youth like the eagles,” that He used the very word that describes the process that I have shared with you.

Sometimes airplanes have to be put into the garage for repairs. Oftentimes I call the young man who flies me places that I need to go, and I say, “I need to go to such and such a place.” Sometimes He says, “I am sorry that I can't take you. The plane has so many hours on her. She is in the garage for repairs.” It doesn't mean that she is broken down; it means that after so many flying hours, it has to be gone over completely. It needs to be renewed.

I hope that you are getting the lesson without a great deal of comment from me because surely you recognize that you and I need the same kind of renewal. You and I need to have the opportunity of renewing our experiences in the Lord, renewing our lives, so to speak.

For an illustration of what I am talking about, turn to the Ephesian letter, chapter 4. In this chapter of the Ephesian letter, we are told that we have been in right relationship to Jesus Christ through the new birth, and since we have that experience, there comes a time in our lives when we have to shed our feathers, when we have to get rid of the old claws. Those words are not actually used, but if you look at verse 22, you see:

Ephesians 4

22That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Sometimes when we gather together in a place like this, away from all of the ordinary demands of life, it provides an opportunity for us to have our youth renewed. Sometimes that is true physically if you do not play too hard, but if you have your spirit renewed, you go back home with a new vigor and a new strength you did not have, and you feel young spiritually again.

I just ask this question to provoke our thinking, but I wonder, haven't you felt sometimes that your relationship to the Lord is a dry and a dusty thing, sort of an old hat? You are really not enjoying it. You are going through the motions, but they really don't mean to you what they once did. Maybe what you need to do is to follow the practice of the eagle: Get away somewhere and shed the old feathers and the old claws and sharpen the new ones, and be ready for new and interesting experences.

An Illustration of God's Training

Turn to Deuteronomy, chapter 32, as Moses calls to our attention another practice of the eagle which is an illustration of God's training for us as His children. Notice the paragraph that begins with verse 11:

Deuteronomy 32

11As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
12So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
13He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;
14Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.

As Moses was thinking about God's provision for His people, he said, “God's people don't want God's best for them. They have to be trained to trust.” Do you realize that? Trusting does not come easily. You have to be trained to trust, and Moses called to mind something that he had often seen high up on the mountain crag. A mother eagle had been feeding the young eaglets for a long time, and as he observed their practices, he discovered that the mother eagle was frantically flapping her wings over the nest and, of all things, was pushing the eaglets out of the nest. There they were, plummeting down from that high mountain crag. Moses thought, like any of us would think, what a horrible thing that was to do, but before those little eaglets had fallen very far, the mother eagle had swooped down underneath them and caught them on her wings and was bearing them back up to the nest again.

This practice was repeated over and over again, and he saw the eaglets flying before it was over; but he also noticed something else, and that was that they always returned to the nest. The mother eagle could push them out of the nest, and it wasn't necessary any more for her to catch them. They could fly about by themselves, but they always returned to the nest.

Moses recorded something else that he had observed. Notice verses 11-12 again:

God Sometimes Stirs Up Our Nest

Deuteronomy 32

11As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
12So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

The eagle finally tore up the nest. There is a tremendous lesson there. I just want to ask you, “Have you had your nest torn up?” Maybe you have been secure in what you were doing. You have been secure in your home or your work or whatever you are doing. Your plans have all been made. Things are going exactly like you want them and things couldn't be better, then your nest has been torn up, and you have wondered why. You have even complained about it. You have even objected to it, but you really don't need to because as the eagle had to tear up her nest to train her young to trust their God-given ability to fly, so God sometimes has to stir up our nest to teach us to trust Him.

Did you notice in verse 13: “He made him ride on the high places of the earth.” If that nest had never been broken, those eagles would have stayed on that mountain crag, fed by their mother, never having had the thrill of flying on their own and soaring to the highest heights to see what it was to really trust God.

I am wondering if you realize that God may have to stir up your nest to accomplish His purpose in your life. I mentioned the eagles which my children have been collecting for me, and I made reference to one of my daughters who is an artist at the drawing board. For Father's Day one of the artists painted a watercolor of an eagle tearing up the nest, and then my daughter put an illuminated manuscript along side of it with this verse that I have just read to hang in my study. Look at the words again:

Deuteronomy 32

11As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
12So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

When God breaks up the nest, you do not have any problems. There are no strange gods; there is no false leadership.

We don't know what is going to happen. We may never be together again like we are now. The Lord may be here before there is time for another conference. He may not; I don't know; but will you try to remember that if for some reason God breaks up your nest, He has a purpose for it, and you will be the better for the experience whether you can believe it now or not.

Waiting On the Lord

One last thought: Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31, is the verse that the Lord gave me in 1971. I have mentioned to some of you who have been with us here and in other meetings, that I have followed the practice for a number of years of asking God to give me a year verse. He directs my attention to some passage of Scripture for the year. As I have said, they are never calendar years; they don't always begin and end with January; sometimes they last longer than twelve months. The verse that God gave me in 1971 has continued in my thinking up to this very moment. When I ask God to give me a verse that I can rest upon in the Word of God, I ask Him to give it to me in view of what He knows is going to come up in my life, something that I can rest upon. I may not need the verse at the time that He gives it to me, and I always know why He gave it to me before it is over with.

Some people say, “Well, how does He give it to you?” I don't close my Bible and drop it on the floor, then wherever it opens that is the verse that God gave me. I just study the Word and ask Him to direct my attention to a particular passage, and He always has. In 1971, He directed my attention to Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31:

Isaiah 40

31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

I did not know why the Lord gave me that verse until my wife became very ill with cancer. In 1971, she was diagnosed with cancer, and in May of 1972, she went to be with the Lord. During all of that time, we had a real testing time. Yes, the Lord broke up the nest, and He taught us some things when He did it; but during the time of waiting for her departure, because that is what we did, we planned her funeral service. We planned everything about it and just waited for the time of her departure. From January to May, I had a room at the hospital, and I never left except for special things that I had to leave for. We were very, very close to each other, and I didn't want her to go through this ordeal by herself, so I stayed with her all of the time.

I knew why God gave me this verse. There were times when I felt as if I couldn't go another step. My strength was gone. I felt like I couldn't live another day, then I would remember this verse:

Isaiah 40

31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Did you notice the word renew here? We had that word renew in Psalm 103, but this is an entirely new Hebrew word. This is the Hebrew word chalaph . The Hebrew word kered meant “to build and repair.” This word chalaph describes a growing up or a sprouting up of a new plant. As a matter of fact, Job, in chapter 14 of his book, uses the word in just that way. You might turn back there to get the full significance of what this kind of renewal means. You see, there is more than one kind of renewal, and this kind of renewal is described in Job, chapter 14, the paragraph which begins with verse 7. Notice:

Job 14

7For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout [there is the word chalaph ] again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
8Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
9Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.

You see, there was a time during this experience when the root waxed old in the ground, when there was apparently not any life in me left. Yet, as I waited upon the Lord, I found myself springing up like a tender plant out of the dry ground.

Something else I want to mention to you about this verse. Did you notice the order in which it is written? Notice:

Isaiah 40

31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

It is backward, isn't it? Our order of progression is to walk, run, then to fly, but God put it backward to emphasize the power of His strength. You see, it is easy to fly. It is exhilarating to fly. You don't get bored flying, and there is a certain thrill to running because it is fast movement and things are happening. But finally you get down to the walking stage, and here the Hebrew word for walk is a word that describes a man who is walking very slowly because of an exceedingly heavy weight upon his back. You can see what God says: If you wait upon the Lord, when you get to the walking stage where you have that heavy weight and you are plodding along and you don't know if you can take one more step forward, He is giving you a promise: “Thou shalt not faint.”

A Personal Illustration

Just this one illustration I will share with you. During one of those days that I was caring for my wife, the doctors were in the room trying to find a vein in her arm where they could administer some medicine. They couldn't find the vein. They had to make an incision to try to find that vein, and because she couldn't be put to sleep, I stood there and held one hand under her head and held her arm with the other hand. She was going through terrible suffering, and I realized that I was going to faint. I knew if I did, it would create all kinds of problems. I wasn't going to faint because of the sight of blood; I was just so weary, so exhausted that I knew that I was going to faint. I just lifted my eyes and said, “Isaiah 40:31, Lord,” and I had a surge of energy. I sprouted up like that proverbial plant about which Job speaks.

I share this with you not to draw attention to myself nor to take things that are rather personal and make them public, but to let you know that it works. To learn to trust God works.

Think about the eagle in redemption, the eagle in rejuvenation. Think about the eagle the next time your nest is broken up, and think about the eagle the next time you feel like you can't go on another day. You will be able to.

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