“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.” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12)
Now we are going to talk about eagles—God’s eagles. In the first place, how does God make His eagles? Moses says that God has several stages in the process of making a spiritual eagle.
The first thing, He stirs up the nest. As an eagle stirs up her nest, so the Lord stirs the nests of the people out of whom He designs to make eagles.
The eagle builds a large nest on the mountain crag, or in the highest tree that it can find, a great nest of sticks; and then it lines that with wool and skins of the animals which it destroys—rabbit skins and goat skins and sheep skins—making it soft. Thus the young eagles get fat and lazy, and when the time comes for the young eagles to fly, they are not disposed to get out of their nest, just like people exactly. So the mother bird with her bill picks out every soft thing in the nest and throws it outside and lets the eaglets down on the sharp briars and thorns and sticks. The young bird is uneasy, tries to find a soft spot, and cannot find it. It gets on this side of the nest, and there is a stick, and on the other side is another stick. It cannot sleep, and gets so miserable and unhappy that finally it is willing to get out and go somewhere else.
This is God’s method with those who are going to be His eagles. God stirs the nest of every true saint. It may be the home life that God stirs and takes away the soft lining, takes away the property, takes away the loved one—the father, the mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, parents, or children. He stirs the church nest, makes things unpleasant and disagreeable so that we find no peace or rest in the home or church. He stirs up the neighborhood and digs away the soft things, the pleasant things, the nice things, and makes life miserable, so that we are perfectly willing to move out and go anywhere or any place, north or south; go to some other neighborhood, some other surroundings. He stirs up our theology, our notions, our opinions, our beautiful dreams, and all kinds of crucifixions come.
All the apostles had their nests stirred, and all the patriarchs and all the reformers and all the evangelists and all the pastors in some way or another have had their nests stirred—the social nest, or the family nest, or the church nest. In some way or other, God stirs up the nest and lets us down on hard things that draw blood, that make us ache, that make us suffer. And so, friends, this is the way that God works and is working. Go back twenty-five, thirty, or forty years and see how you were fixed. Look at the change in your life from then to now; see how God has taken all the props from under you—that church, that preacher, that Christian, that piece of property. God took away the props until you lay down on hard rocks, thorns, and briars. He tore up the nest. That is God’s method.
God not only stirs the nest of His saints, but fluttereth over them. When God allows trouble, sorrow, poverty, and desolation to come to us, and we are sad and weep and cry and look down to find something to lean upon, then God flutters over us—the sound of wings. God does it to draw attention to Himself, to get us to look away to Him; to look away from the coffin, and the grave, and the old house, the deserted farm, and the departed friend. And when God can get our attention, then comes a change. The mother bird might flutter all day long, and the young birds would never look up while lying on a sheep skin or a rabbit skin. But when it is all thorns and briars and sticks, they look up.
The next thing God does is to spread abroad His wings. God unfolds His magnitude, His attributes, His majesty, His might, His power, His glory. I shall never forget when we lost everything we had, after trying to save a little for twenty-odd years. Everything was swept away, and we were two thousand dollars in debt without a dollar to pay it with. Then God began to reveal Himself to us, and my wife said one day, “I believe God is a living God.” We all say that we believe that, but I never knew what it meant until He began to spread abroad His wings. When God shows you the amplitude of His providence, the vastness of His resources, it is a revelation to your soul. You have read it and believed it all your life with the intellect, but that doesn’t count like it does when God shows you the magnitude of His grace.
The eagle spreads abroad her wings, and then the young bird sees that the mother is larger than the nest. Just so, when God shows us the resources that He has, and that these resources are larger than all our need for body and soul and spirit, for time and eternity; when God shows us that more than we need is in God, provided for us, what a sense of assurance comes into our souls! When I had not a dollar on earth—only fifteen cents—and a family to support, I felt just as safe and safer than I do now. I felt that Almighty God was just as able and willing to help me as though I had a million dollars. The best was gone, everything was gone; but God showed me His long wings. He spreadeth abroad His wings. Are you an orphan? Is your mother or father dead? Are you poor? Are you hated? Are you cast out? Are you ostracized and minimized and undersized? Are you perplexed? If you will get your eyes on God and God alone, you will not have a care, you will not have an anxiety. All we need is to see God.
“Spreadeth abroad her wings.” When God comes to a soul and begins to unfurl His attributes, unfurl His inexhaustibleness, and draw the vision of the soul away from briars and thorns and rocks and distress and sin and everything on earth or in hell, and you begin to see God and let God unfold Himself to your soul, oh, what a wonderful epoch that is.
The next step: “she taketh them [and] beareth them on her wings.” The first is, stir the nest, tear it all to pieces. That is what God did to the Christian church in Jerusalem. He stirred their nest, and they went out everywhere preaching the gospel. They never would have gone fifty miles if God had not stirred their nest in Jerusalem. He stirred the nests of Luther and Wesley and Whitefield, and my nest also. What for? To make us go. The mother bird will spread out her wings from tip to tip and lay them right flat down, and the young eaglet will step from the briars and thorns and sharp sticks, and climb upon mother’s wings. It is only a step from the sharp sticks to mother’s soft wings, and it will step out and put its claws in her wings and hold onto her feathers; and when she begins to shake her wings, it takes a stronger hold. The little bird can look back and see the tree and nest, but around and around the mother goes into the sky, and after she has soared one thousand, two thousand, three, four, five thousand feet, she will give a sudden lurch, and off falls the little bird. Oh, how it tumbles and rolls, and puts out its wings and beats the air! The mother bird watches, and when that young bird is about halfway down to the earth, she shoots in with the accuracy of a bullet and gets the young one. Then around and up she goes, and the process is repeated until that little bird knows how to fly.
So God stirs our nests, and we weep and sob and cry—money gone, friends gone, church gone; nobody loves me. Then Jesus Christ stretches out one great wing, and we begin to take hold of Him, and then He moves out and up and away. It is a regular, real holiness camp meeting when the Lord has taken you up about five thousand feet high. He gives a lurch—“My! Oh! What shall I do? I thought I was sanctified; I thought I was going to heaven, and now it seems to me that my religion is gone. Down, down, down; the devil will get me.” God is watching from the skies, and when we get almost down, He shoots under us and bears us around and around, higher and higher until we get to where we have learned the lesson. “Oh, Lord, forgive me. I was leaning on my sanctification; I was leaning on the camp meeting: I was leaning on what You had done for me. Now I see, Lord, I dare not lean on anything in this world, not on my feelings and shouts and blessings; not in what You have done in the past, but I must trust You and live by faith.” When we get there, we learn to fly; lean on the Lord and Him alone. That is God’s way to make us eagles.
Then God can turn us loose in a thunder storm or at midnight, or on a cold winter day with the wind blowing forty miles an hour. The eagle has been known, in a storm where the wind blew sixty miles an hour, to set his face into the face of the blinding storm and beat his way like a sailing ship right against the storm. God teaches us how to fly, and how to go through storms and keep alive and pressing on, willing to live by faith, to trust God for soul and body, to trust Him for all things.
God stirs the nest and makes you fly,
Then you begin to weep and cry;
His hand has failed and down you go,
With naught in sight but rocks below.
A dreadful sight and fast the fears
Take place as all hope disappears;
Oh, how you miss the downy nest,
But God has stirred it for the best.
He knows your lack of faith and trust,
He knows how for vain things you’d lust.
He knows you’d lean on men and creeds,
And would not to His Word take heed.
So from your nest He picked the down,
Left naught but thorns and briars around;
Then gladly you step on His wing,
And to this thought you’d always cling.
But still on this you could not grow,
The way of God to fully know;
’Tis time to exercise your wings,
And get the faith that launching brings.
So—quick He lurches, down you go,
And help you cannot see or know;
Then to your wings you swiftly take,
While fears increase, your heart to break.
Far down, down, you swiftly go,
Until you’re near the rocks below;
Then quick beneath your trembling frame
He darts: you’re safe from care and pain.
This lesson He repeats quite oft,
Until you learn to soar aloft,
Above all troubles, trials and waves,
Until you learn Christ always saves.