Just three months after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, the Lord had to scold Israel, His chosen people, of something that they were beginning to forget. In fact, they were murmuring. He commanded Moses to go and not-too-gently remind them, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I [did] bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself” (Exodus 19:4, emphasis added).
He loved them because they were His chosen people through Jacob (Israel), the grandson of Abraham. He had promised them that “all the people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 28:10).
In these latter days, His covenant people continue to be gathered from “out of all countries whither I have driven them” (Jeremiah 23:3). As we come to a knowledge of Christ and receive His ordinances, we also become “the children of the covenant” (3 Nephi 20:26).
We no doubt have many things in common with ancient Israel. They found themselves in oppressive bondage to the Egyptians, and subsequently wandering in the wilderness. We also may become incapacitated by some of our surroundings, choices or thoughts. This may lead us to spend a wasteful amount of time meandering in our “wilderness,” often for far too long.
In Deuteronomy we read that the journey Israel took could have been done in approximately 11 days (Deuteronomy 1:2). However, they spent 40 years preparing to enter their promised land.
In our case, we need to shorten our wilderness sojourns just a bit, maybe even a lot. Perhaps we should just move to the “promised land” and reside there.
Understanding redemption can help us to shorten our often-too-long wilderness digressions
Perhaps a new set of glasses might help us see heaven more clearly. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are admonished to “cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17, emphasis. added). Cheerfully do what we can! And then smile and watch for the promise of God to send “mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).
After sanctifying themselves in the wilderness for 40 years, Israel was now ready to cross the Jordan River into the promised land. The priests went forward with faith bearing the ark of the covenant and it was not until they stepped forward into the water that it parted and they all passed again on dry ground. Faith was the power and always will be. But we must step forward.
As we trudge toward our promised land, we should reflect on what the Lord promised Joshua. He said, “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them; for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
King David, the psalmist, illuminates the Lord’s help to us in these beautiful words: “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped” (Psalms 124:7). What a beautiful visual. Our soul as a bird. Raising serenely from the marshes of doubt and born on wings, our souls can soar in the clouds of assurance towards the loving outstretched hand of God.
But we first must open our hearts and surrender unto Him all things that only He can bear for us. We cannot allege belief in Christ and then diminish the Atonement. That would be a grievous insult to the great drops of blood shed for us all in Gethsemane.
Expect angels, eagles, and miracles
Eagles’ wings no doubt represent the power of God. Metaphorically they lifted Israel out of Egypt. In Deuteronomy the Lord tenderly expresses His love for Israel. He pronounced:
“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. 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, and there was no strange god with him” (Deuteronomy 32:10-12).
As Isaiah delightfully explains it, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Eagles’ wings seem to epitomize the omnipotence of God. I think they may also represent big dreams and possibilities, and most of all, hope.
Eagles can soar upwards of 10,000 feet as they catch the gentle updrafts of air beneath their wings. Their eyesight is eight times more powerful than ours and they can spot prey up to two miles away. But if their wings are not spread or their eyes open, they are markedly restricted. I believe the Lord taught this to ancient Israel through symbolism which they could grasp.
Are our wings cemented to the ground by the glue of despair, doubt, fear or guilt? We must truly believe we can fly in order to soar as ancient Israel eventually did with the help of God. As we look up, we just might also see a benevolent God reaching down with an understanding tear in His eye, to offer us a handful of eagle feathers.
Then, every day we must allow the mitigating forces of faith and hope to provide the updraft which allows us to ascend into the welcoming clouds of God’s creation. It is powerful. And by covenant, it is ours.