My wife has told me often how moving the last scene of the 1949 World War II movie Battleground was and how surprised to see a Scripture superimposed over soldiers staggering through deep snow: “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.” She was thrilled that a movie would use God’s Word as its final message.
In reviewing the use of the “eagle” image in Scripture, my mind asked, Could Creator-God have designed the eagle to use as images (word pictures) of himself? I’m not suggesting that, like the Roman emperor, God has a golden eagle perched on his shoulder or arm of his throne. However, since God created everything for a specific purpose, perhaps there’s a duality at work here, that is, both the bird itself and the image for God to use.
In Isaiah 40.31, “Those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,” the verb “renew” captures the idea of “exchange of strength” and means more than just “supports weary people.” God takes our lack of strength and exchanges it for his strength. And the word “eagle” serves, then, as a symbol of spiritual vigor and freedom.
Director William Wellman may not have had a spiritual application in mind when he put Isaiah 40.31 over the last scene of weary, wounded, frostbitten, fatigued soldiers trudging through deep snow hoping that would have their strength renewed like the eagle’s. And when we’re engaged in life’s battles and they leave us injured and defeated, we can remember the promise in Isaiah 40.31 that God longs to exchange his renewal for our failing strength.