When we were in Alaska, we had occasion to see eagles soaring high overhead and one of them was flying along the river, likely anticipating the taste of the duck that we saw flying just ahead of it. The eagle was beautiful, sleek and fast. Its talons were strong and its beak was sharp.
Our traveling companions snapped this picture of a bald eagle while they were on an excursion along the glaciers.
Eagles are referenced in the Holy Bible for various reasons. One is as a warning for disobedience. See, for example, Deuteronomy 28:49:
The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, …
The picture is clear. If the people are disobedient to the commands of God, a nation will come against the disobedient Israelites bringing swift destruction.
Like an eagle!
But, Deuteronomy not only warns us by using an eagle as an illustration, the book also tells of God’s love for is people, again using the eagle as an illustration.
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.
Of this passage, Matthew Henry makes the following comments:
The eagle is observed to have a strong affection for her young, and to show it, not only as other creatures by protecting them and making provision for them, but by educating them and teaching them to fly. For this purpose she stirs them out of the nest where they lie dozing, flutters over them, to show them how they must use their wings, and then accustoms them to fly upon her wings till they have learnt to fly upon their own. This, by the way, is an example to parents to train up their children to business, and not to indulge them in idleness and the love of ease. God did thus by Israel; when they were in love with their slavery, and loth to leave it, God, by Moses, stirred them up to aspire after liberty, and many a time kept them from returning to the house of bondage. He carried them out of Egypt, led them into the wilderness, and now at length had led them through it. The Lord alone did lead him. God needed not any assistance, nor did he take any to be partner with him in the achievement, which was a good reason why they should serve the Lord only and no other, so much as in partnership, much less in rivalship with him. There was no strange god with him to contribute to Israel’s salvation, and therefore there should be none to share in Israel’s homage and adoration, Ps. 81:9.
The eagle teaches her young to arise and to be industrious. She teaches them to fly, at times carrying them on her own wings until they can do it on their own. God worked alone in accomplishing Israel’s release from bondage and, thus, God is to be praised and worshiped. There is no other god beside Him.
In Psalm 103, David is praising God for the numerous benefits given to His People. I encourage you to read it in its entirety, but here are the first five verses:
1 Of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The theme of the psalm is our blessing of the Lord. Blessing, here, refers to one who kneels or gives humble adoration – it is absolute praise of the one who is to be blessed.
David knows that we would forget to bless the Lord given our natural tendencies. It is for this reason that he exhorts us to bless the Lord with all that is within us … all that we are, our thoughts, words, actions, feelings, desires … all that is within us should praise the Lord.
He then goes on to remind us that the reason we should be compelled to bless the Lord is the remembrance of all the benefits that come with following our Lord.
Forgiveness of our sins
Healing of our diseases, both of mind and body
Redemption from hell
Crowns us with steadfast love and mercy
Satisfies us with good
Renews our youth like the eagle’s
That last one, renewing our youth like the eagle’s, threw me for a loop. What does that mean? So, I consulted Matthew Henry, again.
The eagle is long-lived, and, as naturalists say, when she is nearly 100 years old, casts all her feathers (as indeed she changes them in a great measure every year at moulting time) and fresh ones come, so that she becomes young again. When God, by the graces and comforts of His Spirit, recovers His people from their decays, and fills them with new life and joy, which is to them an earnest of eternal life and joy, then they may be said to return to the days of their youth. Job 33:25.
Matthew Henry was born in 1662 and died in 1714. I don’t know how long eagles would live in our day, and it may not be the 100 years that he referenced. But, the explanation of molting I do understand. And, I also understand the new life and joy that comes to the believer when God, by His grace and mercy, because of their faith in Christ alone, adopts them into His family.
Why should we bless the Lord? The reasons as too numerous to count. They are as the grains of sand on the seashore, or as the number of stars in the heavens.
Pick your reason to praise the Lord for today!
Then, praise Him frequently throughout the day. Don’t skimp … praise when you feel joyful, and when you are grumpy! Praise Him when things go well, and when they are not so hot! Praise Him when you want to, and even when you don’t.
Father, I praise You for the gift of life and I praise You for your loving kindness, patience, mercy and grace extended to me each day, moment-by-moment.