Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com
“On Eagles’ Wings”
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.” (Exodus 19:4)
When a soldier is severely wounded in battle it is of little benefit to him to be told that there are doctors at the hospital who can bind up his wounds and give him medicine that will ease him of all the pains that rack his body. What that wounded warrior needs is someone to carry him to the hospital, and a doctor to administer the care he needs and give him the medicine that will help.
So it is with us. All the promises of God and all the doctrine of the gospel are of no benefit to our souls, until the Lord God, by his own gracious hand, applies them to us. We are thirsty, but too faint to crawl to the waterhole. We must be carried to the water. We are too weak even to drink. Someone must put the water to our lips and tenderly put it in our mouths.
That is what the Lord our God does for us by his Spirit. God the Holy Ghost, the blessed Spirit of Truth, takes of the things of Christ and applies them to us. Do not imagine that our blessed Savior has placed his promises, his blessings, and his mercies on heavenly shelves that we may climb up to heaven and get them for ourselves. That is not the case at all. He comes to us and sheds his mercy, love, and grace abroad in our hearts by his Spirit. Yes, he bids us come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. But, blessed be his name, he does much more than that!
He who is our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, comes to our poor souls and pours in the oil and wine of grace, by which he renews us day by day. Oh bless his name forever! Child of God, if you are laboring under deep distresses, your God does not give you promises and then leave you to yourself, to draw them up from the Word like buckets of water from a well. Oh, no! The promises he has written in the Word, he will write anew on your heart. He will manifest his love to you, and by his blessed Spirit, dispel your cares and troubles. It is God’s prerogative and God’s work to wipe every tear from the eyes of his chosen. The good Samaritan not only gives you the sweet wine of the promise, but he holds the golden chalice to your lips and pours the life-blood into your soul. The poor, sick, way-worn pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is borne “on eagles’ wings,” until he has reached the Mount of God above!
Glorious gospel! God our Savior provides everything for the helpless and brings grace to us before we seek it. So, he gets as much glory in the giving as in the gift. That is precisely what the Lord God declares in Exodus 19:4. And that is precisely what is portrayed for us in Israel’s deliverance out of Egyptian bondage.
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.”
What a blessed, blessed word this is from God our Savior to us!
What a precious word this is to us! What a picture this is of our God’s tender mercy toward us in Christ! First, here is a picture of our blessed Savior’s wondrous work of redemption. The eagle is declared in the Levitical law to be an unclean bird (Leviticus 11:13-16). Yet, our Lord delights to use the unclean eagle as a representation of himself as our Savior. He says, in Exodus 19:4, “I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” Certainly, this speaks of his protection of us. But it also seems to me to be an allusion to the fact that he took our uncleanness (our sins) upon himself, making our sins his own, making himself unclean before the holy Lord God, and bearing his redeemed on eagles’ wings, made us the very righteousness of God in him, that he might bring us to God.
What unspeakable mercy this is! He, who in such infinite love and grace became both sin and a curse for us (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13), compares himself to the unclean eagle, when made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
This word from God to us is used to describe the wondrous mystery of providence in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 12:1-17). God’s church, his elect, constantly persecuted by Satan, is there described as a “woman given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished.”
In Deuteronomy 32, Moses was inspired of God to use this same emblem of Israel being carried “on eagles’ wings” as a description of our pilgrimage through this world. As the children of Israel were pilgrims in the wilderness, so God’s saints are pilgrims in this world, pilgrims carried through their pilgrimage “on eagles’ wings.”
Moses is here giving his last word of instruction to the children of Israel. As he does, he begins his instruction with a song of praise to the Lord God, who had led Israel through the wilderness, caring for, providing for, and protecting them for forty-years. According to God’s wise and good purpose, causing them to walk “in a straight way,” the children of Israel made an 11-day trip in 40 years! Moses’ purpose here is threefold.
1. He wants to exalt and extol the Lord God who redeemed and brought his people out of the land of bondage. He begins his instructive song by calling the people of God to “ascribe greatness unto our God” (Deuteronomy 32:1-3).
You will remember that the Lord God proclaimed his name to Moses back in Exodus 34:6-7, when he hid him in the cleft of the rock and showed him his glory. When Moses talks about publishing the name of the Lord, he is talking about our Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah the Son. (Remember, his name is what he is, his character, his attributes.) He is saying, “I will proclaim the glorious attributes of God my Savior, in whom I trust.” There are many names by which the Lord God reveals himself to us in Holy Scripture.
Š Jehovah-hoseenu — “The Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). — He who is the Lord our Maker, not only made us, he has made us his people (1 Samuel 12:22).
Š Jehovah-jireh – “The Lord will Provide” (Genesis 22:14).
Š Jehovah-rapha – “The Lord that Healeth Thee” (Exodus 15:26).
Š Jehovah-nissi — The Lord our Banner (Exodus 17:15).
Š Jehovah-raah — The Lord Our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).
Š Jehovah-tsidkenu – “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).
Š Jehovah-m’kaddesh — “The Lord that doth sanctify you” (Exodus 31:13).
Š Jehovah-shammah — The Lord is there (Ezekiel 48:35).
Š Jehovah-shalom — The Lord our Peace (Judges 6:22-24).
Š Jehovah-Jesus — The Lord our Savior (Matthew 1:21).
As he tells us to publish the name of the Lord, Moses calls for us to do so by ascribing greatness to our God. — “Ascribe ye greatness unto our God.” Truly, he who is our God is great. He alone is great! Then, in Deuteronomy 32:4, he tells us four specific aspects of the greatness of God our Savior.
Š “He is the Rock.” — The Rock — The Rock of Salvation — The Rock of Refuge
Š “His work is perfect.” — His work is all one; and it is perfect.
Š “All his ways are judgment.” — All his ways are both righteous and wise.
Š “A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” — He who is God our Savior is the God of Truth, the God who is Truth, and the God who performs Truth.
2. The first thing Moses wanted to do was to extol and honor the Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior. His second object, here in Deuteronomy 32, was to remind us of God’s great goodness to us, to inscribe upon our hearts and minds the memory of his gracious works for us, with us, and in us, inspiring us with gratitude, love, and devotion to our God.
God’s faithful servant begins by reminding us that we are a corrupt, sinful people, altogether undeserving of the least of his favors (vv. 5-6). Then he tells us to “remember the days of old” (vv. 7-8). Remember that everything God does in this world is according to his everlasting, immutable, electing love and purpose of grace toward his people (v. 8). Remember, children of God, that you are the Lord’s chosen portion and the lot of his inheritance (v. 9). Remember where you were and what you were when he called you by his grace (v. 10; Isaiah 51:1).
Those words give us a biographical sketch of every saved sinner’s life. He found us. We didn’t find him. He found us in a desert land, in a waste and howling wilderness. He has led us about all the days of our lives. He has instructed us. And he has kept us as the apple of his eye. His providence has been good, only good. It is described in verses 13-14.
“He 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; Butter 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.”
3. Moses’ third object, in this chapter was to inspire our faith in Christ, our God and Savior. He does this by using this very graphic, tender illustration of our God’s gracious oversight of his people (vv. 11-12).
“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.”
This is a tremendous, instructive picture of the great mercy and grace of our blessed Savior in his dealings with us.
“As the Eagle”
Like other creatures of our God, the eagle not only appears to show great affection for her young, but manifests tremendous superiority over other winged creatures in taking care of her brood. She provides for them and protects them, as other birds of the air do. But, in training them, she constantly shelters them from danger, far more than other birds do their young. The Lord our God seems to have created her with such excellence, that she might be illustrative of his affection for, tender care of, and protection of his children.
John Gill wrote, “Of all animals the eagle is most affectionate to its young, and most studiously careful of them. When it sees anyone coming to them, it will not suffer them to go away unpunished, but will beat them with its wings and tear them with its nails.”
“She stirreth up her nest.” — Though they might be naturally inclined to do so, the eagle will not allow her young to be lethargic. She stirs her nest, calling them to life and excitement. As she stirs her nest, she “fluttereth over them,” over her young. The eagle does not go into her nest suddenly. She first makes a noise and awakens her chicks with her wings, striking them against a tree or its branches. Being awakened, they receive her gladly, without fear.
On Her Wings
She “spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.” — In this way, she both teaches them to fly and protects them. Other birds carry their young in their talons. Held in their claws, the young might be easily snatched away and killed by some bird of prey. If someone from the ground should shoot at the bird, her young might be killed and the bird herself unharmed. But the eagle carries her young on her wings, so that no arrow from beneath can touch the young, until it has first pierced the heart of the old bird.
I am aware that many refer to this text as a “proof” that the Bible contains errors, asserting that, “Eagles do not carry their young on their wings or on their backs, but in their claws, as other birds.” That is not true. But, if it were, that does not prove an error in Holy Scripture. But it does not matter, Moses simply gives us a metaphor, by divine inspiration, picturing our Savior’s care of his people.
As this picture is used to show us our redemption by Christ, the mystery of God’s providence, and the way the Lord leads us and teaches us throughout our pilgrimage through this world, it also gives us a vivid picture of our God’s wondrous operations of grace in salvation. — “So, the Lord alone did lead them.” — With those words, Moses portrayed the grace and power of our God in our experience of his great salvation.
He who was made sin for us is our omnipotent Savior. His wings, like the eagle’s, are broad enough and strong enough to carry his own. Our great God, “the God of all grace,” by the irresistible power of his Holy Spirit, stirs up his nest. He will not allow his children (chosen, redeemed sinners) to remain as they are born into this world. He would not allow us to sleep forever in the unawakened state of sin and death. He has brought us out of our unregenerate state of spiritual death.
We were at ease and had no desire to be awakened and stirred out of our death slumber. But the Lord our God, because of his great love for us, awakened us, stirred us up, and brought us out, by sending a gospel preacher in the power of his Spirit to arouse us. He sent his law into our consciences, working in us a sense of guilt, wrath, and death. By his Spirit, revealing Christ in us, he convinced us of our sin, of Christ’s righteousness, and of judgment finished. Exerting the omnipotent power of his grace, he plucked us as brands out of the burning. Taking us up on his omnipotent wings of mercy, he taught us to fly with heart aspirations after him, setting our hearts upon Christ and things above.
This mighty work of grace he performs by the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). — The gospel preacher is sent of God like “a flying eagle” (Revelation 4:7), with the word of grace to his chosen.
God our Savior has led us and fed us all the days of our lives. He has, as it were, hovered over us, though we knew it not, from our mother’s wombs. Even now, he causes us to “mount up with wings as eagles,” to soar aloft in the exercise of faith, hope, and love, entering within the veil, into the holiest of all by the blood of Christ, living in the constant and comfortable expectation of “the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” He lifts us up from our low estate and raises us in sweet communion with himself, bearing us on his heart, in his hands, and on his arms, supporting us in all our temptations and afflictions, and carrying us through all our troubles and difficulties, safe to eternal glory and happiness.
Yet, we are ever inclined to lethargic indifference. Are we not? Do you not often find yourself so? I know I do. But, blessed be his name, “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD” stirs and awakens our souls, spreads abroad his mighty wings of grace, bears us upon them, and so, God our Savior revives our languishing hearts with grace.
How often I sleep, though my heart wakes. How often when my Savior comes, I refuse him. Yet, he puts his hand into my heart, dropping the sweet-smelling myrrh of his grace into my wretched heart, and graciously causes me to awake, arise, and seek him, until at last I find him. Then, he brings me into his banqueting house and spreads his banner of love over me, and causes me to know more fully, with every experience of his love, that many waters cannot quench his love, neither can the floods of my sin drown it!
“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5)
“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But 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.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)
Compassed with trouble, in distress,
What fears possess my mind!
Savior, I long to see Your face,
For grace and peace divine!
With broken heart, and waiting long,
Beneath this crushing load,
I own my sin, confess my wrong,
And stretch my hands to God.
My wretched heart, my God, I mourn;
And for my sin I weep!
With every lust obscene I burn,
And sink into the deep!
As Satan raises Moses up
And roars against my soul,
Lord Jesus, my poor cause take up
And make Your servant whole!
Arise, O Lord! Shine forth in grace!
Your precious blood apply!
Embrace my soul, dear Prince of Peace,
Blest Rock higher than I!
Speak, Savior, let me hear Your voice,
Show me, again, Your face!
Oh! Hear my inmost groans and cries. —
Revive my soul with grace!
The eagle also portrays God’s sweet and blessed election of some to salvation in Christ. I have read that the eagle will usually lay three eggs, but normally only hatches and rears one, devoting everything to its chosen. So, the Lord our God has chosen One, even our Lord Jesus Christ, as his Elect; and, blessed be his name, he has chosen us in him and as one with him. Though all the rest of Adam’s fallen race are left to themselves, as the unhatched eggs in the eagle’s nest, our great God devotes himself entirely to his chosen.
Let every ransomed sinner rejoice and give thanks for this sweet, comforting word of grace from our God. — “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so, the Lord alone did lead him.” Christ, our God and Savior, has born and still bears us upon eagle’s wings. He stirred us up and brought us to himself. He will not allow any of his little ones to perish. It is written, “he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.” While on his omnipotent wings of mercy, nothing can touch us, until it first touches him. Nothing can harm us, until it first harms him. Nothing can destroy us, until it first destroys him! How safe, how secure we are on his wings!
Then, in verse 12 we read, “The Lord alone did lead him.” It was the Lord alone who performed all this work for his people of old. And it is the Lord alone who has performed all this great work for us. — “Salvation is of the Lord!” He alone separated us from the sons of Adam in eternal election, by special redemption, and in effectual calling. He alone chose us as his portion. He alone found us by his grace. He alone has led us about. He alone has instructed us by his Spirit. He alone has kept us as the apple of his eye. He alone spreads abroad his omnipotent wings, takes us up, and carries us on his wings to the Mountain of God in eternal glory. He alone shall have our praise forever (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Go back to Exodus 19:4-6. I want you to see this and rejoice. In the Book of God, God’s “ifs” are not conditions we must meet, but promises God will keep. God’s “if” in Exodus 19:5 is to be read, not as a condition that must be met by us, but as God’s promise to us that he would meet the condition, supplying for Jacob and Israel, the whole house of his elect, everything connected with the promise. So, read the promise again (Exodus 19:5-6). First, read it as we have it in the King James Version.
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:4-6)
Now, read those verses as they are given in Young’s Literal Translation.
“You have seen what I did to bondage; and I bore you on wings of eagles and brought you to Me. And now if listening you will listen to My voice, and will keep My covenant, you shall become a special treasure to Me above all the nations, for all the earth is Mine. And you shall become a kingdom of priests for Me, a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak unto the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:4-6)
As he promised, so he has performed the work.
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:5-10)
After commenting on this portion of Scripture, Robert Hawker made the following supplication to our God. Blessed are those whose hearts echo his prayer. — “Oh Lord, give me grace rightly to enjoy and use such marvellous blessings. And since, to the wisdom and strength of the eagle, thou hast now added the tenderness and solicitude of the hen, do thou, Lord, gather me under thy wings, and nourish me with thy love and favor, that I may be thine forever, and live here by faith, as hereafter I hope to live with thee in glory.”