4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Reflection: I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
So far, over the past couple weeks, as we have explored the different metaphorical images for God from Scripture, we have looked at two conventional images of God (God as Shepherd and God as Monarch) and one slightly unconventional image (God as Mother). This week, however, we look at my personal favorite, which is a tad unconventional – God as Bird. It might seem odd to think of God in such a way, but this is a metaphor employed by the biblical writers repeatedly for God. In some places, God is even referred to as having wings that provide protection for the people of God.
I have long loved birds. As a child, flamingos and ducks were my favorite animals. As an adult, I have come to admire everything from penguins to cardinals. One thing I love about birds is their dual communal-individual nature. In that way, they are a lot like us. If you have been around a bird-feeder, you will notice that birds like to congregate. Sometimes they will sing together on the various branches of a tree. They are familial animals, caring deeply for their young. Yet, when they want or need to get away for awhile, they are equipped to happily fly away by themselves for some restful solace. Before long, though, they are back with the flock, perhaps even leading a V-shaped flight group.
Flying is the most enviable of all the bird traits (except when we are talking about my beloved penguins and a few others!). Perhaps this is why at times God chose to reveal Godself as a bird. We all, at some point, have dreamed of flying, I suppose. It has always been my great desire – though I have had to settle for planes and high rollercoasters! God flies us into unreachable places of grace and love that we would be unable to discover on our own. And when we find ourselves in seemingly impossible struggles, God can swoop in and lead us to safety.
This is what God did for the Israelites when they were enslaved in Egypt. At least that is how God described it when talking to the Israelites in the nineteenth chapter of Exodus. God desires to put you on God’s back, so to speak, and carry you through difficult times. Will you let God do that? If you go along for the ride, you never know what land of promise God might take you to. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you have strength for the flight or not. As the prophet Isaiah said:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
This passage was prominently displayed throughout the campus of my college, Asbury University. Our mascot was the Eagle, and this passage was used to remind us that God, in our weakness, would carry us and lift us up to him and his loving grace. God certainly lifted me on the “wings of an eagle” during some difficult times throughout my four years there. And God continues to do so today. So, ask yourself, how is God giving me wings to reach that which is seemingly unreachable? What difficulties am I facing that God can cause me to soar over in safety? Where might God want me to fly through his presence today? Remember that God undergirds you the whole way; you fly not on your own power, but in God’s power.
Journaling Focus: I bore you on eagles’ wings. // The Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
In the two passages above, we witness God appealing to the image of a bird to describe Godself, and yet God does not use the same type of bird in both scenarios. In fact, elsewhere God (through the person of Jesus Christ) employs the image of a mother hen to describe Godself. Why would God choose to reveal Godself as a different type of bird depending on the scenario? What different truths might God want to communicate through the images of an eagle, a dove, and a mother hen? In what ways is God like other types of birds? Explore these different avian images and metaphors as you reflect in your journal this week.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Explore: If you would like to explore the Scripture more deeply, go to our Exploring Scripture page!
Listen to the song The Power of Your Love. As you listen, allow God to hold you closely in power and grace. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: The Holy Spirit descended…
Pray for the Holy Spirit to fall upon you and upon your church this week. The good news is that God does not expect us to climb to the heavens to reach God. As one of our hymns states, “to us He’ll condescend” (Come, Christians, Join to Sing – UM Hymnal #158). This means that God will come down to our level to reach us. However, when God descends to us, the result is that we will ascend with God to the heights of spiritual communion. Trust the Holy Spirit to come down to you in order to lift you into the presence of God. May this be your most fervent prayer throughout the week.
Meditation Focus: The Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
NOTE: During these ten weeks, as we explore the images of God, the meditation will be an audio meditation. There are four pictures that will appear with each meditation. These pictures are referenced in the audio meditation and are intended to help bring focus to the audio meditation.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- Where have you witnessed God’s power?
- In what ways have you experienced God’s peace?
- In what ways has God claimed you?
- How is God bringing you to Godself?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Spend some time outside observing the birds, or some other gentle, humble creature (or, if it is too hot, look outside a window and observe). Notice the movements, interactions, and vocalizations of this creature. Imagine yourself as a creature like this, wholly dependent on God for your survival. How would God provide for you? Just take a moment and observe and ask God what you might learn from these small creatures whom God loves so deeply.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, lift us to you.