“On Eagles’ Wings”
Exodus 19:3-7, October 7th,2018
Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now the ancient words from the book of Exodus, chapter nineteen, verses three thru seven.”
3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” 7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him.
“Having heard these words from the book of Exodus, surrounding the conversation between Moses and God at the time of the writing of the Ten Commandments, let us open our hearts to hearing the depth of their meaning.”
“On Eagles’ Wings”
There are songs which have been written about being ‘lifted-up’ by God upon ‘Eagles Wings’! The point being is through their magnificent wing’s eagles are allowed to soar through the skies! “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” /Exodus 19:3-4b/ This imagery is meant to uplift our spirits and the spirits of Moses and those he led out of Egypt, headed for the ‘Promised Lands”. When an eagle raises up into the air it can escape from would be perils and predators upon the ground. These words from the book of Exodus are meant to in-capture and portray the image of God as the rescuer, the sovereign and supreme being whom lifted the Israelites out of the bondage of slavery and set them free.
God is saying to us, reminding Moses, that it was God whom had lifted-up the enslaved people of Egypt and set them free! Then contrasting this with the imagery of a soaring eagle! When God spoke to Moses about delivering the people of Israel from the peril of their captivity he is reminding Moses, that Almighty God, the Deliverer, expects the people of God to follow in the Covenant they entered-into, when they accepted the outstretched arms of God, to bring them out from the bondage of slavery under the cruel whips and oppression of the Egyptians. Within this ‘not so subtle’ understated reminder is a request which could be ‘seen as’ a warning as well. “Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant.” /Exodus 19:5/ If, is a word of many uses, yet in this sentence, it is clearly saying that something shall be bestowed upon the listener, only ‘if’ they do something in return. In this context, it is being said: “one must keep the covenant,” implying there is and was an agreement that the recipients of this gift of freedom would now need to live into, live up to, their part of the bargain!
Let us be reminded that these delivered, these freed Israelites, where struggling even after having been led out from the bonds of slavery. The life in the wilderness had its challenges, actually… a great many hardships. The pounding, burning sands of the scorching desert, the unrelenting heat. The snakes and scorpions. There was a scarcity of food and water. No, they had not yet reached the ‘promised’ land of milk and honey! Clearly, the Lord our God, was reminding Moses that faith and trust was and is part of the covenant. At the same time God was reminding Moses, that the reward would be great for those that followed God’s dominion. “But you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” /Exodus 19:6/ “You shall be my treasured possession…” /Exodu19:5b/ Having read the entire passage of scripture surrounding Moses’ encounter with God and the receipt of The Ten Commandments, one can only glean that God was displeased with the unrest among the Israelites and was telling Moses it was time to rein them in! One could easily surmise that The Ten Commandments were first written for this reason.
Let us take a moment or two to come back into the Twenty-First Century. First, let me put forth a simple question for each one of us to ponder. How many times have we woken up in the morning ungrateful for all that God has done for us? How many times have we forgotten that the mere fact that we have opened our eyes and breathed in air and oxygen, and our body is still functioning, is a gift from God? Now, we all know that many of us wake up in the morning, filled with anxiety over facing yet another day, because things did not go our way yesterday. Some of us wake up with physical aches and pains. Some of us, if not us then perhaps our neighbors, wake up hungry. Yet, I do believe that there are lots of folks that wake up happy, excited to be alive and bound out of bed ready to face the challenges of the day! I pray, every morning that will be me! I also pray, that I have just described you, as well! The bigger question for us to grapple with is: “how do we find a balance between those great days and those less then good days we must face?” How do we stay grateful in the midst the in-between times of our lives?
I know that many of us have suffered loses; some more recently than others. Loss of a parent, or that of a child. Loss of a pet and beloved friend. There are so many ways in which we can be pushed off balance through the difficult moments of life. Things such as our fears, our anger and or our heartaches can knock us off center and disrupt our routines and even our prayer times. This is not a question… this is the harsh realities of human life. Mix with this the gift of free will which all of us mortals, us humans, and Mother Nature have, and we are left with the off times, those difficult moments and days along our journeys. It is easy to simply say: ‘we need to pick ourselves up and get back into the stream of productive useful living,’ yet, that is not always so easy. However, we do need to shack ourselves a bit, and remember that our God still loves us, and has not forgotten us, nor deserted us! That is where the strength of our character, our resolve and our deep-rooted faith need to guide us through!
When I get ready for bed at night, this is when I try to slow myself down and take stock of the day before shutting the book on it completely. This is a good time for me to check in with God, and with myself as I reflect on my day. I may be a bit tired, but oftentimes my head is still buzzing from the activities of the day. This would be a great time to remember an image of God uplifting me in times of trouble, doubt or anguish. This can be challenging, yet in the context of our conversation today, it is something worthy of our effort to do, on a daily basis. It is a time when I take at least a few minutes to be thankful for all that has gone well in my day. It is a time of reflection. No, this is not always easy, as my mind may still be soaring off into yesterday’s issues and trying to solve tomorrow’s problems. Perhaps this is why my friends and spiritual advisers suggest I ought to take time to meditate every day! I do, yet my friends still suggest I do so more regularly; suggesting to me this may be how to further slow down my thoughts and allow God to soothe my frazzled nerves. My point is: that I find this evening ritual helpful, as I seek to center my life around God’s presence in my life. I share this with you hoping it will be helpful to you and that you will add it to your list of choices for your daily routines.
The question we each need to consider is how we can maintain our gratitude toward God… in the midst of the changing realities of our lives. Prayer is also certainly a useful tool to constantly remind oneself of God’s promises to be with us in good times and in bad times. I often wonder if Moses encouraged those in his care to set aside time everyday to pray. Surely, life for the Israelites was not easy. We all need words of encouragement! The people of Israel and we the people of the Twenty- First Century, we all need words of hope and reminders of the constant love of God throughout the ages. We also need to be reminded of our end of the agreement, our responsibilities in our relationship with God. A covenant goes two ways. We must actively maintain our sense of gratitude if we want God to continued to lift us up, as on the ‘wings of eagles’! One of the things I have found helpful is to get out into the fresh air; look to the heavens, gazing upon the moon and the stars and marveling at the splendor of Creator’s marvelous works! Here in Florida, it is so easy to take in an ocean scene or a splendid sunrise or sunset. When I am bathed in such brilliance and the array of colors which spill upon the heavens and earth itself, it is virtually impossible to not marvel over God’s majestic landscape. When both my heart and my ears are open it is easy to be filled with gratitude for all which God has given, has gifted to all of humankind.
The ancient tribe of Israel had Moses, The Ten Commandments, The Prophets and the Palmist to guide them. “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For God will deliver you…and under his wings you will find refuge; God’s faithfulness is a shield and ‘protector’.” /Psalm 91:1-4/ We moderns, we have all of this plus the New Testament writings! With which we have come to know about the teachings of Jesus, as-well-as being gifted with the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us along our way. Indeed, there is so many ways we can draw closer to God’s love… with visions of being ‘lifted-up on the wings of eagles!’