“I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:4-6
The bald eagle is the official emblem of the United States and is represented on the American coat of arms. Native to the United States, this majestic bird came close to extinction a half century ago but is now flourishing. The majesty and grace of a soaring eagle is awe-inspiring—a powerful symbol of freedom, grace, and strength.
The eagle is also a powerful biblical metaphor. In Exodus 19:4, God speaks to the children of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Under Moses’ leadership God had rescued them from the tyranny of the Egyptians, helped them cross the Red Sea, and provided manna in the wilderness. God’s deliverance and provision—rooted in love and grace—is summed up: “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
With that reminder of his saving acts, God asks for obedience as a response to their deliverance, described in the way of life laid out in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). They describe a way of obedience that is the best possible life. In the New Testament, Jesus summarizes it all this way: Love God and love your neighbor. This is what it means to be God’s “treasured possession” among all peoples, a treasure fit for God the King, a treasured people sent into mission.
“You shall be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” alludes to the mission of God’s people. A priest’s role in the ancient world was to represent God to the people and the people to God. When we love as God loves, we represent the reality of what God is like to those around us. Colleagues, neighbors, friends, or family members get a glimpse of the nature and reality of God when our lives are lived with love-saturated obedience.
This is the pattern for the people of God then and now. Loving God and others is a response to the deliverance and rescue that God provides. It is how we were created to live best. When we do this, we are propelled into mission, living as authentic representatives of God to a global parish!
PONDER: How does my life represent the reality of God to those around me?
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• ON EAGLE’S WINGS • (lyrics)
You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in his shadow for life, say to the Lord: “My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!”
And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.
The snare of the fowler will never capture you, and famine will bring you no fear: under his wings your refuge, his faithfulness your shield.
For to his angels he’s given a command to guard you in all of your ways; upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
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The eagle is such a majestic bird. Imagine riding on eagles’ wings up toward the arms of God. God deeply desires to be in relationship with us, and he brings us to himself. If this is how deeply he loves us, we should want to respond in obedience and love. Through this response we are set apart as his people. Read Exodus 19:3-6. Moses was about to receive the Ten Commandments from God. Talk about the commandments you know as a family. Why do you think God gave his people the Ten Commandments? How can you obey God today?