Sunday, April 22, 2007

Eagle Court of Honor

This afternoon, I gave the following address during my friend, Seth Axen's, Eagle Court of Honor ceremony.


I was honored when Seth called and asked me to speak, today. And I was not surprised when Seth asked me to craft a message around Isaiah 40:31, which says this. “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

Only 5% of all Boy Scouts rise to the rank of Eagle Scout. My friend, Seth, today joins some 1.7 million scouts who have risen to this superior rank, since 1912. His achievement is worthy of recognition, and I’m, proud of you, my younger brother.

As Seth well understands, the eagle is not only a symbol of superior scouting. Nor is it simply the symbol of our nation’s strength. The eagle, one of God’s miracles of creation, epitomizes both strength and weakness in the spiritual realm.

The eagle is mentioned repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is mentioned in physical terms. The eagle is used both figuratively and symbolically. For example, the eagle is used to describe an attacking army rebelling against the Law of the Lord. Hosea 8:1 says, “Put the trumpet to your lips! Like an eagle the enemy comes against the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law.”

The eagle is used to illustrate an important theological point found in Obadiah 3-4. Here, the prophet uses the picture of an eagle building a nest high in the cleft of the rocks to illustrate how arrogant it is for man to think that he can remain beyond the reach of God’s holy and righteous judgment. The passage says, “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to earth?’ Though you build high like the eagle, though you see your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.”

The eagle is used symbolically by the Apostle John, in Revelation 4:7-8, to describe a beautiful scene in heaven, in which those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, through repentance and faith in Him, gather around the Throne of God to worship.

The passage reads: “The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’”

And, in Isaiah 40:31, the Eagle is representative of the end result of waiting upon or hoping in the Lord. “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” So, what does it really mean to wait on the Lord—to put your hope in Him? This is what the apostle Paul had to say.

“And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Hoping in the Lord means that you trust Him and Him alone to lift you up—to support you, as it were, with a strength that can only come from the Lord Himself, like the strength exhibited by the soaring, outstretched wings of an eagle. It means that even during the most negative circumstances in life your trust in Him is such that you find your contentment—not cause for complaining—in Him, no matter what the world or the people therein may throw at you.

If your hope is in the Lord then you will patiently wait for Him, recognizing that your own weaknesses are yet another opportunity for the Lord to renew both your physical and spiritual strength. When, by faith, you hope in the Lord you can agree with the apostle Paul and say, “Even though I am weak, I am strong—strong as an eagle soaring high above.”

But hope in the Lord is not a sentimental or superstitious belief, nor is it merely an encouraging rally cry. Hope in the Lord carries with it real and eternal consequences. One can only hope in the Lord, if one truly knows the Lord. And to know the Lord is not a superficial knowledge about Him. Rather, to know the Lord is to know Him intimately and personally, as both Lord and Savior.

The apostle Peter had this kind of personal relationship with the Jesus Christ. So, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was able to write the following about hope in the Lord:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-6).

But before any of us can live with such a hope, before any of us can wait on or hope in the Lord to renew our strength, we must turn away from being like the eagle mentioned in Hosea 8:1 who has come against the house of the Lord, through our violation of His Law. For we have all broken His Law (The Ten Commandments).

Who among us, with any sincerity of heart, can say that we have not lied, or stolen, or taken His holy name in vain, or disobeyed our parents, or committed murder in our heart through our animosity and bitterness toward people? And as Jesus’ half-brother, James teaches us, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

Like the eagle mentioned in Obadiah 3-4, we have all, at one time or another, put ourselves higher than God, through our disobedience of His Word. We have all, at one time or another, arrogantly ignored or disbelieved the fact that God is a righteous Judge who owes us nothing but righteous punishment in hell, for the sins we have committed against Him.

Not only is God holy, righteous, and just, but He is so very good and kind. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

So, what is required of us? We must believe and obey what Jesus said. We must “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). For if we are to be as one with renewed strength, mounted upon eagles’ wings; if we are to run the physical and spiritual race set before us without tiring; if we are to one-day be like the eagle mentioned in Revelation 4, worshiping at the throne of Almighty God, in heaven; then we must turn away from our sin and, by faith, put our trust and hope in Jesus Christ alone to save us.

It was Jesus who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). He also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:3, 7).

Seth is an Eagle Scout because of the many tasks he has completed, because of the various community services he has performed, and because of the exemplary character he possesses. But Seth can also rightly say that he is mounted up on eagles’ wings—a young man with strength-renewed everyday—not because of what he has done, but because of what Jesus Christ has done for him, through His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection. Seth understands and believes that it is “by grace [he has] been saved through faith; and that not of [himself], it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that [he may not] boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As an Eagle Scout who is selflessly other-minded, and as a follower of Jesus Christ who puts the Lord first in his life, I believe that while Seth will humbly receive your recognition for his accomplishments, he would prefer that everyone gathered here receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Seth, I congratulate you on your accomplishment. May the Lord Jesus Christ continue to bless you in all you do, as you seek His face and obey His Word. Serve Him well as an Eagle Scout, and continue to put your hope in Him as He renews your strength and carries you on eagles’ wings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An excellent exhortation!

BTW - Way to go, Seth!God Bless!