9 But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. 10 He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. 11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, 12 the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.
The people of Israel were called by God's grace. God chose to set his affections upon them, just as God has chosen you and I. There is nothing you and I can do to earn our way to God. Sometimes we need to hear this again. ... We need to be refreshed in gospel truth. Sometimes when we sin we think God gets disillusioned with us and He's giving up on us -- God never had any illusions about you to begin with. When he started that project, when he took you up, he is going to see it through to completion.
It's all by grace, whether it's Old Covenant, New Covenant, we're all saved by grace. There is nothing we can do to earn our way to God. The people were God were chosen by him, he set his affections upon them. So it's sovereign grace.
Now we'll look at the next verse, and this is at the heart of what I want to get at today. This speaks of God's dealing with his people. God chose the children of Israel, and here's a description of how he dealt with them:
"Like an eagle that stirs up his nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions. The Lord alone guided them, no foreign god was with them."This verse compares God with an eagle. An eagle is a majestic bird, it soars on high. How many know our God is high and lifted up? He rules, he reigns, he is powerful, and we are his children. Just as an eagle will look after her baby in the nest, so our God is looking out for us, preserving us, protecting us. And he wants to lead us and guide us. [An eagle] is looking out for [baby eagles’] safety, and God is looking out for our safety.
But God is a little bit more concerned about other things in our life besides our safety. How many know the Christian life isn't just supposed to be a life of safety? In fact, if you walk with God at all, He's not very safe. He does things that will completely upset your apple cart and mess with your head. He's not doing it because he's mean spirited, he's doing it to help us grow up.
How many know eagles were meant to soar? They weren't meant to remain in the nest. There comes a time in the life of a baby eagle when the mother will stir up the nest.
"Like an eagle that stirs up its nest." [verse 11]The eagles nests in Israel they are tucked high up in a precipice. They can be several feet wide and 2 feet deep, massive structures that eagles put together. It's a safe place for baby. On the inside it will be lined whatever grass [the mother eagle] can find, anything that's soft it'll tuck in there, feathers or whatnot, just make it a nice soft warm place for her baby eagle to hang out for the next 6 or 7 months. Mom takes great care of baby and looks after it. They do all the feeding.
But there comes a day when baby eagle is growing up he's getting to be a juvenile, growing big, getting a little big for that nest. Momma swoops down and begins to disrupt the nest, begins to stir things up, begins to toss things out. All those nice soft eagle feathers that were in there... It was a nice, comfortable place for baby eagle but mom swoops down and begins to tear that nest apart, begins to toss all those things out.
It gets to the point where there are thorns and it's all bristly in there. And baby is uncomfortable. And baby is like "Mom, what's going on here? Are you going nuts or what?" Baby is standing on the precipice of the nest because it's the only safe place... baby is complaining. Mom's looking down. And mom gives the baby a push... and according to this passage the mom spreads out its wings and goes caches the child, and brings it back up again. And flying lessons begin. And it takes awhile. Baby begins to catch on. Baby begins to think "Maybe I'll try that." And eventually it gets enough strength in those wings where it learns how to soar on its own.
But the mother has to stir the nest for that to happen. Mother has to disrupt things. Mother has to bring change. In the baby's mind it's whole world is coming apart. But in mother's mind this baby had to leave. It's time for this baby to begin to walk in its identity. God has created us to walk in our identity, right?
God is in the business of raising up mature sons and daughters. We weren't meant to remain as babies. God is developing us. God is growing us. He has intentions for our lives. He's not just working willy-nilly when he comes and stirs up the nest. He has an intended end in your life. God will bring you through His "school of the Spirit" where you learn to grow and develop and lean on him in ways that you never have before, because he's coming and he's stirring up the nest.
Now that stirring of the nest can take different forms for different people. Pastor has announced his leaving. For some of us it's like our nest has gotten quite a stir. Pastor's nest is being stirred too… and pastor’s wife!
Here's the deal. There's different ways God stirs our nest. God has customized schools of the Spirit for each of us. He'll teach us one thing, and, before you know it, we're enrolled in another school. We think we've mastered something and then God will bring something else along.
God will turn off a financial tap in our life, and we need to continue to walk in faith even in the midst of some financial struggles. Am I going to continue to walk in faith? Am I going to continue to tithe? Am I going to continue to trust God even though things are looking a little bit thin. And God comes through and I have a testimony, a living testimony of how God has provided for me. I've learned to trust him, I've learned how to grow and develop and move onward and upward in my life with God. That's how God works in our lives.
God does it corporately as well. God will stir up the nest of a whole body of believers. As Americans we tend to think of things individualistically. We read the Bible individualistically too. Most of the New Testament was written to communities of faith. It was written to groups of people. It wasn't just written to individuals sitting at home in their bed reading their Bibles. Praise God we can do that. But it was written to communities of faith. God will come into communities of faith and begin to stir up the nest and begin to do something new and something different. It's disruptive. For some of us it's hard. It's like "What is God doing?" We need to learn how to relax and flow with what God is doing what God says.
So the eagle comes, messes with the baby, the baby learns how to fly. That's a good thing. God wants us to grow, God wants us to develop. That's how God works in our lives.
Have you ever prayed "Lord, I need more fruit of the Spirit in my life." I need it to develop more. I know it's there. Make me more like Jesus. O Lord, grant me patience." God says "Oh, I'll answer that prayer!" And God will bring somebody into your life where you need to learn how to be patient. And you're thinking, "Where did this person come from?" Well, that's an answer to prayer. That's how God develops and works on us.
You know, we just want something mystical to flow through the room and come to rest on us. I come from a charismatic pentecostal background—that's kind of how we are. We think we're going to have an altar call and some crazy thing with the Holy Spirit's gonna happen and I'll be transformed, or the pastor going to cast the flesh out of us somehow. That's not how God [usually] works. God [usually] works through circumstances and through people. God will work through an altar call though too, but God works primarily through the circumstances in our lives. He will take and shake things up and cause us to be uncomfortable so that we learn how to lean upon him and grow in him.
Now with the people of Israel, it says that the Lord alone guided him, referring to Jacob, which also means the whole community of faith. “The Lord alone guided him; no foreign God was with him." We need to get our guidance from God alone. In the midst of God stirring things up, in this midst of difficult circumstances in our life, don't try to get your advice, your counsel, from somewhere else.
Psalm 1 says
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of the sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful—but his delight is the law of the Lord and in His law he delights day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water."Get your counsel from God and you will flourish. Even in the midst of difficult times. Don't get your counsel from Oprah. Don't get your counsel from Dr. Phil. Don't get it from self-help books. Get your counsel from the Word of God. Get your counsel spending time on your knees, praying and listening to God's voice speaking on the inside. He will do that. But we need to get our counsel from Him.
“The Lord alone was their God, the Lord alone guided them.” [verse 12]Well, unfortunately, later in the chapter, it describes how the people of Israel began to complain and murmur and [they] fell away from God, and, as a result, spent 40 years in the desert. It could have been an 11 day journey, instead, God came and stirred the nest, they complained, they muttered, murmured, rebelled, 40 years and that generation died in the wilderness.
When God comes and begins to stir things in our lives I want embrace it. I don't want to spend 40 years, I don’t want to spend 1 year in the wilderness. I'll take an 11 day journey over a year in the wilderness—but [the people of Israel] lost a whole generation of people that could have been dwelling in the promised land, a land described as flowing with milk and honey. Instead, they dwelt in what the Bible refers to as a “waste howling wilderness.” Not good. God wants to deal with us and grow us up in the midst of change, in the midst of transition.
This church is in the midst of transition and change and we need to embrace that and be okay with that and seek God for his counsel. Let him guide us through; not just our opinions. Our opinions need to be informed and formed by what we read in the Word of God, what we're hearing on our knees in prayer, and what we're hearing from our fellow brothers and sisters who are doing the same. Because in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom; but they have to be good counselors and in tune with the heart of God. ...