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The Sky is Beckoning

“This is what our man-made religions are like. They are wings of wax and feathers that melt when we encounter the bright beauty of the holiness of God. They can give us the feeling of flying for a time, but in the end, they send us crashing to our death.”


Birds are creatures that live on the earth but reach for the heavens. They exist in the space between heaven and earth. They have their feet on the ground but their heart is in the sky.

We are a like the birds.

We are of the earth but we are built for heaven. Our stomach desires food but our heart longs for God. We nest on the earth but we long for the skies. Our toes grip the soil while we gave up at the stars.

But we have sinned in two ways.

Becoming Beasts

We have sinned and become beasts. Like the beasts that go about on all fours with their face towards the ground, we have become enamoured, not with God, but with the pleasures of this earth. We have not seen that we are designed to nest on the earth but soar through the clouds. Instead, we have trimmed our own wings and become like the emu or the kiwi – no better than an animal.

Jesus points to this aspect of sin in the Sermon on the Mount when he speaks of people laying up treasures on earth, rather than laying up treasures in heaven. He speaks of people turning their eyes from the light and longing after darkness. He speaks of those who anxiously pursue the security that is offered by the base necessities of life – food and drink and clothing – because they serve wealth and not God (see Matt. 6:19-34).

When we serve Mammon, we voluntarily become enslaved. We are birds in a cage being fed by our master, but not free to seek the things our soul is designed to desire.

When God freed the Israelites, they looked back on their captivity and longed for the security that their masters gave them (see Ex. 16:3).

Like the Egyptians, sin provides for our immediate appetites and desires. The slavery of sin seems secure.

Freedom brings us our knees. Freedom displays our dependence. Freedom feels full of risk.

But we must be free to fly and to live in that space between earth and heaven.

Icarus

We have sinned in seeking to manufacture our own ascension.

Humans have long dreamt about and sought after flying because we were made like the birds. From the time of Babel we have longed to reach higher and higher. We have told stories about people soaring through the skies for thousands of years and our modern technology has allowed us to fly like birds with our parachutes, hang gliders, jet planes and spacecraft.

Our man-made religions are the spiritual equivalent of our physical desire for the sky. We manufacture ways for our soul to ascend. We create rules and techniques that we believe will enable us to rise above the dirt of our own sin.

Man has forever invented ways to pull himself up from the corruption of earth into the clear blue sky of spirituality.

The Greeks tell the story of Icarus, the son of the great inventor Daedalus. In order to escape from the Island of Crete, Daedalus made wings of wax and feathers so that he and Icarus could fly to safety. Icarus, in his great joy and desire to rise higher, flew too close to the sun. The wax melted, the feathers came lose and Icarus fell to his death.

This is what our man-made religions are like. They are wings of wax and feathers that melt when we encounter the bright beauty of the holiness of God. They can give us the feeling of flying for a time, but in the end, they send us crashing to our death.

God as a Bird

If we observe the birds of scripture, we see that we do not need to be like Icarus, making wings of wax to reach the heavens, because God is a God who draws near to his creation. He flies down from heaven, bridging the gap for us.

Right at the very beginning of the Bible we see that the Spirit of God ‘hovers’ over the waters. This is a bird word. It is used elsewhere to speak of God as a bird fluttering his wings over his young to save them (Deuteronomy 32:11). When all was chaos on the surface of the earth, God’s Spirit flew down to lovingly bring order into creation.

Throughout the Bible, we see that the angels are like the birds in that they both have wings and both go between heaven and earth. God has created an entire category of bird-like spiritual being in order to connect heaven and earth. Angles are messengers, bringing God’s word and his rule down to the earth.

We see a bird appear at Jesus’ baptism. The Holy Spirit descends like a dove on Jesus as he is baptised pointing not only to the fact that Jesus is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but also to the fact that Jesus is the centrepiece of God’s answer to the bridging of heaven and earth. Jesus is the great messenger. He is the bird who has come down from heaven and set up residence on the earth.

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Holy Spirit can come down like a bird on the followers of Christ as well. And the Holy Spirit gives us wings that we might soar with God in heaven.

In Exodus 19:4 God uses this language: ‘you … have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.’ (see also Is. 40:31).

This is what God does for us through all of the examples above. Where the chaos and disobedience of our sin places us in cages, God rescues us from the chains of this Egypt and bears us up on his own wings, fulfilling that great longing we have of living with God.

Jesus invites trapped birds to come to him. He has the power to free you and I from the captivity of sin. He calls us from a life of hungering after security to a life of humble dependant trust in our Heavenly Father. He calls us to live like the birds (Matt. 6:26).

The freedom he offers may feel risky, but the sky is beckoning.

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