Life of an Eagle

Question
There is a story about eagles ("Life of an Eagle") which I included in my e-mail. While it is informative, it included no explanation with it. Please explain how it relates to Christianity.
Answer

The emailed story below is not factual!!! Please be sure to read the entire answer - the second part of the answer tells the "rest of the story"

First, IIIM did not send the email entitled, "Life of an Eagle" as it is pure fiction.

Second, we can learn many wonderful things both about God and ourselves from God's creation (general revelation). This includes the animal kingdom.

Isaiah 40:28-31 includes a reference concerning eagles.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? 
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Eagles are magnificent birds. They are beautiful. They are powerful. They may fly high and see untold sights of God's creation. However, being the person I am, the phrase, "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength" that appears just before "they will soar on wings like eagles" catches my heart time and again. I am one who needs God's renewing strength and uplifting constantly in my life.

When one begins to research the life of an eagle they can end up with all sorts of fascinating thoughts. Consider the "Life of an Eagle" story that you inquired about (copied from your e-mail):

The eagle has the longest life-span of its species. It can live up to 70 years. But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40′s its long and flexible talons can no lo>nger grab prey which serves as food. Its long and sharp beak becomes bent. Its old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its chest and make it difficult to fly. Then, the eagle is left with only two options: die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountaintop and sit on its nest. There the eagle knocks its beak against a rock until it plucks it out. After plucking it out, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its talons. When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old-aged feathers. And after five months, the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 more years.

What an inspiring story (if it were true). What could be our application of this? Renewing one's strength on the mountaintop may be rather painful, but needful. As we grow closer to God, we see that much of our lives are like an eagles. We discover we are weak in eating and applying God's spiritual food. We observe that our sharp beaks often speak things they should not; and that our aged lives are more weighed down with sin than we ever imagined.

However, God in his loving grace places us in his nest of maturity. Abundant grace resides there for us (Rom. 5:8). At times we soar and at other times we nest and grow. It is God's cycle of maturity.

Christians are magnificent new creations. They are beautiful. They are powerful. They fly high and see untold sights of the glory of God.

While I'm sure other applications could be made from the above story, I see no need to recount them as the story above in red is fictional; not based upon fact.

Now, for the rest of the story ...

Isn't this a great story and application? While the application may be helpful, it might be better if the above story itself were factual! The story above is not in any scientific journal I have researched. While, we can make a somewhat positive application of it, I believe God would have us look at the real life of an eagle.

The following is from the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee, in conjunction with Arizona Bald Eagle Management Program. They state:

In their five-year development to adulthood, bald eagles go through one of the most varied plumage changes of any North American bird. During its first four weeks of life, an eaglet's fluffy white down changes to a gray wooly down. At about five weeks, brown and black feathers begin to grow. It becomes fully feathered at 10 weeks of age. In its first year, the mostly dark-colored juvenile can often be mistaken as a golden eagle. However, the bald eagle progressively changes until it reaches adult plumage at five years. ... see how its beak changes form gray-black to a vibrant yellow. It is believed that the darker, more mottled plumage of a young eagle serves as camouflage, while the white head and tail announce that it is of breeding age.

This is a brief version of how an eagle matures according to at least three other journals as well.

We can make some biblical applications here. As an eagle goes through the different life stages, new feathers have already been planned for and are graciously provided by their Father who sees to the needs of his creation in advance. This is similar to how our youth is "renewed like the eagles." 1 John reveals we grow from children to young men to fathers (1 John 2:12-14). God provides for renewal (a plumage of change per se) of his children as they mature. We are reminded of this is several passages of Scripture. God reminds us that our new plumage (new feathers of maturity) is part and parcel of our natural growth cycle "in him"; that he indeed is the one doing the work within us:

Exodus 19:3-4 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself."

Ezra 1:5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites - everyone whose heart God had moved - prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

While God tells us that we already have feathers, and that we will put on newer ones as we mature in Christ, he also tells us that we should desire new feathers. Part and parcel of the evidence of our salvation is that we have new desires - new desires to grow and be more like God (Rom. 8:5-8; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 5:1):
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Ephesians 4:23 ...to be made new in the attitude of your minds.

Colossians 3:10 ...and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

So, true Christians will mount up with wings of eagles as they grow in Christ; they will soar to new heights, be conformed into the image of God's Son, be resurrected up in the last day with Christ. Desiring to grow and change is evidence of our past salvation, present sanctification, and the future glorified state as opposed to our depravity (Rom. 8:5-8; 1 Cor. 2:14). Paul wrote in Romans 8:29-30: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." He then explains in Philippians 1:6 that we can be "confident of this, that he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus". Also, John wrote: "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).

The life of an eagle can have some application for the Christian. We are saved, are being saved, and will be saved - our plumage is in a constant state of renewal and change. But one thing that does not change is that we are already eagles in that "if God be for us, who can be against us" (Rom. 8:35-39).

Related Topics:

Birds of the Bible

When is a bat a bird? (Leviticus 11:13-19)

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).