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The Eagle, the Nightingale and the Willy Wagtail
He's coming, are you ?
It was of course only very little. Many things are, when you come to think of it. How big are the synapses of your cranial neurones, but try excluding them from your work!
A bullet is small, and a leader is dead. Is it not a little thing ?
A lie is little, perhaps in size, 5 or 6 words, but it is fired and the truth of the matter, temporarily, lies sprawling.
A willy wagtail is little, surprisingly little, because, you see, his incessant activity, sprightly, unexpected in locus, alert, deft, nimble, sprawls his image across the field of vision, and his passion for motion can blur his insignificance into a spatial phenomenon: here, there, and elsewhere, as almost simultaneously, he goes.
That of course may be one reason why the eagle listened.
It had, at the time, a rather glassy eye, which may have augmented the effect of the significance of the wagtail. Eagles, after all, are not all eating, any more than a garbage collector has nothing better to do than collect rubbish, or a surgeon, than to dismiss the dispensable.
The eye, in fact both eyes, were glazed for the very good reason that their field of vision had been, shall we say, limited for a time to some professional duties. There was also perhaps, something about the wagtail which diverted. Professionally, it made an interesting conundrum. How take it if it was not there, and how know where it was when, if it knew what that would be in 2 seconds time, there would be few others who did! Musing on many things, the eagle was suddenly alerted. Little things! it thought, they ARE rather taking at times. He smiled inwardly (it would be difficult, in his case, to do so in any other way, but the point, it is a very little one).
The wagtail, he felt sure, was twittering some communication.
'Listen,' it said, 'the trouble with some of you big birds is this. You do not listen. That is why you do not hear.'
'Indeed,' said the eagle, used to being a rather frightening image, and bemused by the audacious splendour of this - he was going to think 'twit' when it suddenly struck him that not all that twitters is a twit. Strictly, in any case, it would be twitterer, not twit.
He therefore limited himself to a small probe on the bird's alertness of mind.
'Is that not rather a large generalisation for a very little bird ?' he asked, with the smirk of conversational triumph already beginning to curl on the imaginary lips of his inward bird.
'I do not recall,' said the little bird, with some expansion of the tail, which was certainly very pretty, and now the more so, 'making ANY generalisation at least, which would include the present company. It is a trouble: the extent of its occurrence was not something on which I ventured an opinion.'
'True,' said the eagle with that mixture of weariness and weight, of interest and concentration, which came from the prodigious size of his breakfast and the delicious experiences, recently engaged in, of fast flight with soaring air currents, with all but effortless majesty of performance.
'Listen, then, ' the wagtail added with what may have been masterly diplomacy, or simply a desire to get on with it. 'If you do, that would explode any concept of your being one of the category who have the trouble before noted.'
To be sure, the wagtail had been taking a course in business methods, and the rather formal sound of his speech may have come from the receptionist section.
'WHAT!' exclaimed the eagle, 'IF I may make so bold...' - heavy, certainly, but he began to feel he was getting out of his depth, when it was height which was his real aspiration and, for that matter, enticing ability. Still, they relate.
The air shivered a little. 'WHAT! ' he repeated, ' and what precisely is it that you wish to ... shall we say communicate, or would you rather just speak ? It could help you know.'
Now the wagtail was by no means oblivious of the varied ectypal*1 elements in the conversation. An eagle for all that, was big, majestic in some ways, and not to be trifled with; but on the other hand, a wagtail was for many, distressingly little, and like a Volkswagen in traffic at times, seemed to love the lustre of littleness, because space was less problem.
It decided - and it is time to introduce her, for she is Wondrous Wagtail, known as WW for short - that it was time to speak out, like some politicians, shortly after the election, if successful.
'Let me be plain!' she
said, her tail dilating expansively. 'It is coming to the point of His return,
She had long since learned the art of precluding answer before enough is said, by structuring things for continuance at an early stage.
'And what ?' asked the eagle, dithering, for all his majesty of performance, between the view that this was one wagtail that was a bit short in the wing, or tail, or somewhere even more significant, or maybe, just maybe, was a prophetic sort of bird.
'What what ?' asked the wagtail, all too well assured about this almost British sounding sentence structure, in what was really so elliptical that it could cause a sort of geometrical, grammatical pause, which was what she wanted.
'I'll tell you what,' she pressed the advantage. 'There is a mission for you people.'
'A mission,' the eagle leered. When a kingly bird leers, it is worse than a sneer, but not much.
'If you big birds would only listen ... anyway, I feel sure that some other eagle, or perhaps some other species of bird, will listen. Do you really FEEL like listening ? Let us be frank here.'
'Oh, aye,' said the eagle,
who had recently had some experience in
The wagtail, deft in social inter-relationships, did not respond to the bait, but proceeding inexorably, explained.
'There is a short intermission before your mission,' she said.
'How long ?' asked the eagle wearily, frankly quite entertained by the spatial activities of the little bird, and considering if there was any equation which could foretell or forecast where SHE would be next.
'It is not known,' said the wagtail readily, not being a JW or any of those other sects, like the Seventh Day Adventists, or their founders, who had been too much into ignoring the strict requirements of Acts 1, which advises the apostles, or rather in which is written the advice of the Lord to the apostles, who were keen to know "Will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ?"
Now Christ did not say,
'Emphatically not!' or this: 'The subject is misconstrued.' Rather He indicated
that the TIME or SEASON of such an occurrence was not for them to know. In
fact, He went very much further. It was not, He declared, for them "to know the
times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own authority." They were rather to "receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in
He had shown this earlier, in essence, as recorded in John 16:7-16. It was expedient that He should leave them, for then and then only would the Holy Spirit come with His great mission in Christ's name, not speaking of Himself (John 16:13), but enabling the work of testimony. Of course the Spirit had often come on the people of the Lord, and it was by Him that the testimony of truth was given to the prophets of old, the very Spirit of Christ being upon them (I Peter 1:10ff., cf. II Peter 1:21).
However, now as Hebrews makes so clear, the priestly structure, the ceremonial structure, the sacrificial structure was replaced by One in one, for He became the high priest replacement, terminating for ever the service of the priests in His own, HE the significance of the ceremonies, HE the sacrifice to end all others, the presentation of which the earlier forms were structures. NOW however the Holy Spirit would act with vast liberty, beyond the preliminary structures, but in accord with His word, sent by Christ from the Father (John 15:28, II Corinthians 3:17). Not some other Christ (II Corinthians 11), not some other Gospel (Galatians 1) and not some other Spirit would come: but this, the very Spirit of the unchanging, unchangeable God, whose word endures for ever, and whose definitive expression is Christ, now come in the flesh, the criterion of Christianity, whose word does not pass away (Matthew 24:34).
is not to say that heaven and earth will NOT pass away, for this is there very
assured destiny, as Matthew 24:34 expressly states, with Isaiah 51:6 and II
Peter 3. It IS to say that Christ's word
THE FLIT THAT FLOURISHES:
THE FACT OF FLIGHT
We have, however, somewhat interrupted the conversation of the wagtail and the eagle. We were taking part with the wagtail, in his 'it is not known' declaration about the return time for the Lord, to this earth.
'So you come here to tell me that something which in some unknown way is supposed to concern me, is not known...'
It was apparent to the wagtail that this was a crucial moment in the exchange. After all, a roused eagle, when air is the medium, and he is large, and you small, is not all that might be desired for a reposeful existence, interspersed with delightful dances.
She thought that, 'not precisely' would NOT be a wise answer. There was a certain negativity about the eagle's diction, however, that she could not ignore. It was monstrous. On the other side, an aroused eagle MIGHT just listen. She decided soundly, to speak out.
'No worse-advised misconstruction of my purpose is conceivable,' she declared, feeling that the theological training she had received when younger was very good indeed.
She paused. It was of course questionable whether a pause was wise here. An aroused eagle can arise in a smothering, subduing sort of way. Still, the parchment was obviously ready for writing, so she took the risk.
She DID however proceed, if without exactly what might be called haste, then with expedition.
'I want to tell you that Christ is due to return in the NEAR future ...'
'NEAR!' the eagle retorted.
'With what precision you have gathered my meaning!' she perhaps a little audaciously replied.
'What does 'near' mean ?'
Now this appeared to the wagtail a very easy question to answer, so she at once deployed her wits to the task.
'Near ?' she questioned. 'Why, it means not far, at no great distance, close, in comparison with whatever scale of operations is the current form of discourse, approaching towards one: you know, as when you swoop to seize something of interest to you, and while you are not yet actually there, your eye is keen, the flight is well under way, the precise positioning of your feet is becoming a relevant question... that sort of thing. Surely you KNOW!'
The eagle began to feel frustrated. Of course he knew what near meant. How had he got himself into so embarrassing a position. He decided to taunt.
'Thank you for your instruction,' he began grandly ...
'Not at all,' said the bird. 'You see it is all a matter of proportion. For a spacecraft captain, 'near' might mean a few thousand miles. For a surgeon, something like a millimetre, for a tennis player, perhaps a few feet if it is strategy that is in view, or a few millimetres, if it is a question of hitting the ball or the frame of the racket. In this case,' she aptly decided that uninterrupted discourse was now Š la mode, and to be modish, 'it is obviously relevant to the time of His NOT being near.'
'How long has that been ?' asked the eagle.
'About 2000 years!' replied the bird.
'So near might be a very small fraction of that ?' asked the regal flight specialist.
'Certainly very small,' chirruped
the wagtail, 'since the advice comes from Christ, as recorded in Luke , and it leads on to counsel about
what to do when this situation of nearness (of His return, you understand)
arises. He tells them to 'lift up your hearts' in view of this nearness. Now if you knew that it meant a
protracted period, like a few centuries, that would not at all be heartening;
and perhaps would not seem entirely relevant to the harassed. Besides, it is to
be in a pattern of events including the recovery of
'Quite!' said the eagle, who was by now becoming just a little sensitive to making mistakes, and so was becoming more agreeable in external appearance.
'Well, with the restoration
'Wait a while,' retorted the eagle. 'In MY view, it is NOT restored to them, because they still have a mosque on the sacred mount, and a mosque is not a must for a Jew, but an abomination. I was flying there quite recently.'
'So in that case, perhaps, YOU are not restored to your eyrie - oh I know you had a little trouble with other eagles, have been on a long journey, and have only recently returned,' said the observant bird, 'and because there are rocks about which you do not choose to try to move, you have not really come back ? Is that the sort of thing you are saying ?'
'THEY,' exclaimed the eagle, 'are natural objects, and I have no objection to them, except it is true, some are a little uncomfortable for me. But there is no matter of PRINCIPLE about having them. I, the eagle, AM back. THEY, the Jews, have the mosque in their site and sight!'
'I see you will have to understand a little more,' replied the wagtail. 'You see, the nation of Israel has no further need for the temple, and its operational presence would only be heresy, blasphemy and a further stab at the King of Israel, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice, but no, I have already TOLD you about his swallowing up those preliminary pictures in Himself, haven't I?'
'Well if you can't remember...' said the eagle, feeling a sharp word was almost as good as a sharp beak.
'I remember, the point being rather whether you did. This being ascertained, we may proceed,' said the wagtail with such an appearance of dignity that the eagle quailed, which, eagles being large and quail quite small, was quite a difficult performance, and one which left the eagle rather out of sorts.
While the eagle was busy being a little out of sorts, the wagtail proceeded.
'HENCE,' said the imperturbable flitter, 'while the JEWS themselves might - depending on the sort of viewpoint towards their historic faith they adopted, and they vary in this quite a bit - feel it unfortunate and worse, blasphemous, and certainly undesirable to have this trans-national imposition, this mosque on the city hill, it is really only a divine mark of disfavour and rebuke, to remind them that THEY blasphemed the CHRIST who REPLACED the temple, with death! Hence the site is divinely permitted to be blasphemed, perhaps as a sort of architectural reminder.'
'I see!' said the eagle, now beginning to become genuinely interested, and breathing deeply of the ambrosial air.
'Besides,' continued the wagtail, 'Israel IS back, and that was necessary if Jerusalem were to be delivered back to the Jews. That is the first point. It has not happened very often since Christ's day. In fact, it has happened with a very slight frequency indeed ... a matter of once in about 1900 years. It is hence an epochal event.'
'Undoubtedly you are right!' exclaimed the eagle, forming its wings into interestingly majestic curves, this way and that.
'And Jerusalem, really, to be 'trampled down' by other nations, when Jews in fact run it, this is NOT an easy concept! It fact it seems frankly contradictory, and if so, then the time HAS come when it is no more trampled down by the Gentiles, so that their day is done and the end time run is about to be done. THAT is one for lifting up the heart, for the time of "redemption" is at hand, that spoken of by Paul in Romans 8:23, the redemption of the body, the resurrection, the coming of Christ, the day of relief for His persecuted people.
'That is the point made by Christ in Luke 21:44, that there would come to be a time when the city of Jerusalem was NOT trampled down by the other nations, or Gentiles, when it would NOT need to be under the feet of the nations. If the Jews RUN the place, how is it under Gentile feet ? The conclusion of Christ ? in Luke 21:36, is that one should watch, and pray, and be ready for "escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." So is it likewise in Matthew 24, as it ends, when servants who thought their Master was delaying His coming, would be severed into pieces. I repeat, then, ' said the little bird, 'HOW is it under the feet, this Jerusalem, of the other nations, when the Jews now run the place ?'
'ONLY, I suppose,' replied the eagle, ' by the diplomatic sorts of constraints that limit the Jews, invisibly.'
'Well,' responded the wagtail, 'Japan would like certain islands back from Russia. Russia is not inclined to agree. Does that mean that Japan is trodden under foot by the Russian nation ?'
'Of course not!' said the eagle, who had had quite enough of communism, for it only led to the stronger eagles, sometimes total vultures (a deadly insult among eagles), forgetting all wisdom and governing the place with lengthy words and short commands.
'Does then the acceptance of certain constraints by Israel, temporarily, and as the situation develops, mean that it is not in charge; or this, that its charge is like that of other nations, limited in certain ways by its own observation, perception and desire ?
'The latter undoubtedly,' replied the eagle.
'Then,' chirruped the wagtail, 'that is that.'
'What is what?' enquired the eagle, with burning eyes.
'Israel is back, Jerusalem is not trodden under foot by OTHER NATIONS, and therefore this, as one of the criteria for the NEAR return of Christ, mentioned by Christ in Luke 21:24, is a unique signal of just that, like the accompanying return of Israel to its land, as sanctioned and authorised by Ezekiel, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah and so on, and guaranteed from Deuteronomy on, and implied from Genesis 15 on.'
'Any other signals ?' asked the eagle.
'I will,' said the eagle,
who was very good with the web, having a mind for distant things, and being
CHAPTER TWO of our NARRATIVE
Not everything happens all at
once. The eagle definitely needed time. But he did his task, and returned.
This was a two stage thing, like a rocket. The first launches, and the second gets there.
The wagtail, by arrangement, came back when the eagle beckoned, and this in itself was interesting; for an eagle to beckon, rather than merely behave with customary dash, shall we say, was quite a task in itself. However it had been agreed that when the eagle passed within two hundreds yards of a certain hill (the wagtail was wise, and left details of his habitat rather vague purposely), and tilted his wings in the RAF fashion, two times, then the wagtail would know. But if he did not happen to see, then the eagle would do this every morning at half past five, until the wagtail saw it. Now naturally, the wagtail being courteous in composition, he arose to look, and so in good time, they met again.
'But how does it concern me ?' asked the eagle. He was by nature of those creations which like to get speedily to the point.
'Look up Revelation ...'
But just as the chapter (and of course, verse) was about to be exposed to the triumphalist talons of the majestic bird, a song was heard, entrancing, intriguing, delicate as dew, persistent as a spider web. It seemed to rise and fall like waves on the sea shore. Undoubtedly, thought the wagtail, who also was quick to the point, although where the point was, always was a trouble to his friends, a nightingale.
'What is he saying?' asked the eagle.
'Do you want me to interpret his lissom tones ?' asked the wagtail.
Now it is to be confessed that this rather stumped the eagle, for the idea of being lissom was in his mind associated with tenderness of another sort, but he acquiesced anyway.
'Yes,' he replied, beginning to feel that the best way to 'handle' a wagtail, was to be brief, for they flit so sportively.
'He is calling tenderly and delicately...'
'I KNOW that!' replied the eagle. 'Anyone can tell that just by listening.'
'Well, Christ Himself calls in that way as you see in Matthew 11:28-30, but how many EVEN listen!' responded the little bird.
'I am listening,' replied the eagle, beginning to be given tenderer feelings by the very beauty and astral seeming loftiness of the nightingale's song. 'It has a peculiar quality, this song. It penetrates like claws, yet suckles like a mother, and it elevates like a wind current...'
'Yes, it does,' agreed the wagtail, now engaged in some of the flightiest flits you could ever wish.
'It is saying this. Christ is coming back, and He is tender. WHY die ? It is time to live. Judgment is all that is left when patience is fulfilled, and God is patient, but not daft. Christ is coming, so be ready. Christ is coming so rejoice. Christ's coming is near, so look like it, you Christians. Does a war bride not CARE WHEN her husband returns from the war front, to her side ? Is she indifferent to his promise, unalerted by His coming nearness ? could she even possibly think 'distance' when his words say 'near'!'
'Well to be truthful,' said the eagle, enjoying his own whimsy, 'she might if she were unfaithful. Indeed she might be alarmed by his coming nearness.'
'Well said,' mused the wagtail. 'I was really thinking of Christians, not formalists, ceremonialists, sacramentalists, liberal adulterers changing the message, tormentors of words, altering the words of God, the consignees to judgment, nor was I thinking of the sleeping, who are so sure of their ways that they do not WATCH AND PRAY. You know the case that shouts to you on that issue - Matthew 25:1-10.'
'What do you mean, 'watch and pray' in this context ?' asked the eagle.
'Ah! perhaps you have not
recently read Luke 12:35ff. ?' asked the interpreter. ' "But know this,
if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched
and not allowed his house to be broken into" - that is what Christ said about His return, and this too, that it would be unexpected. He is good at that. He can tell you all the details, rather like me,' smiled the wagtail, 'and you are STILL surprised at the precise place I land.
'With Him, the surprise is in the precise TIME, as He makes quite clear in Matthew 24:44: "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
'Paul says much the same in I Thessalonians 5:2. They will be saying 'Peace! peace!' perhaps with ecstatic feelings that NOW AT LAST they have stopped the world's blood flow, and have the answer WITHOUT CHRIST. It is precisely then that they find their error.'
'Ah! but what about the 'pray' bit ? Watch, yes, but pray ?'
'Pray without ceasing! is the order in Ephesians 6,' the little bird chirruped. This is the generic, the other is the specific. But look, it is time I took you to Revelation 19:17-18. The scene is the sceptre: Christ is coming in power and in judgment to a very recalcitrant earth, which despite the imposing precision of His word and His promises over all that time, disdains Him as is now so normal to it (just as Aids is becoming so normal in much of Africa). There is a battle, for in the enormity of their greed and gullibility, the world nations are still inflated with power, incensed against all rule that is not their own, or that of their devil's messiah, the antichrist (II Thess. 2), and they actually dare to make war on the Lamb! (Revelation 19:19). Knocking or trying to take Israel, in bits or altogether, is a wonderful way of doing that! It looks so easy to bullies, so appealing to belligerents.
'Anyway, the angel gives out an order and says this, and it is addressed to "all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven". The command ? "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God." '
Naturally, this Supper of Revelation 19:17-18, it is a very great one. The command also gives the purpose for this gathering in this way: "so that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." It is a very practical affair!
'YOU need to be prepared, for the time is NEAR! That supper is the second one. The first one, mentioned a few verses earlier in 19:8, when we see the garments appropriate for the giant reunion of the people of God with their Lord, is the one of delight; the second, that of torment. The second, however, is not obligatory, for Christ is still calling, COME TO ME! and how beautifully Revelation 22:17 reflects this,
The nightingale's song at this point was so beautiful, so intimate, with such sheer combination of tininess of sound and grandeur of theme, that the eagle and the wagtail almost touched, in their rapture at the wonder of the little thing.
Yes, it was a little song from a little bird; and for that matter, it is a little word, 'near' with only four letters. But it is a great King, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When HE tells you that the time is going to be so sure, WHEN it is near, THAT it is near, that you need INSTRUCTIONS which He gives, as to what to do when it IS near, then be sure it was promised, was real and must not be neglected. The ORDER is:
"LIFT UP YOUR HEARTS!"
HE is coming first for His own. We know that for one good reason. He said so, in Matthew 24:31 with 24:36-44, with the detail, and Paul affirms it in I Thess. 4 quite in detail likewise. He even affirms the internal order of events. THIS is the first thing. The rest is ... if you like, for the birds. It will not be pleasant.
When He comes WITH His saints (I Thess. 3:13), they repair with Him from the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19), retaining their vestments, since these are the symbols of eternal security. When Christ is Lord, the authority is His word. The time is to come when His return is near.
That time of nearness, it is now. Let not your heart lack the wonder of His promise because others abused its interpretation prematurely, foolishly. We do not KNOW how near, 'near' is, but this we know, that its relevance in context makes it ... quite close. Sophistication, when it is not blasť, realises WHAT the case in fact is, and neither flares up without warrant, nor ignores against it. Where sophistication jibs, it is much the same as anything else that jibs.
'How can I thank you? ' said the eagle to the wagtail and the nightingale.
'Oh,' replied the little bird, 'by being ready, by being ready, and taking heed, for timing is not given for nothing, but to enlarge the heart, increase the appetite and prepare the spirit. That is why He said it so far in advance, for a purpose. Do not let this purpose be frustrated in you,' she said as she performed such an artistry of aerial architecture that the eagle was temporarily stunned. 'I'll never give the bird to the wagtail race again,' he mused, ' nor to the nightingale ... hmmm,' he mused, ' "the night comes when no man can work!" I recall from somewhere.'
'John 9:4,' the words seemed to flit from the tip of the wings of the wagtail.
Or did they. The eagle was immersed in thought. How little, how very little the word 'near' is, he pondered, and how little that messenger. It is good to look at the little, a lot, that is for sure! he exclaimed aloud. Indeed, he seemed in the presence of the supernatural.
And that ? he reflected, it is only natural. He made me.
But the eagle, you see, it is able to see a long way, and to its eye, the battle - that of the birds, for their supper - it seemed very close, but he was tired now, and stretching his vast wings about him, he rested softly on the rock. Many who rest softly on the waves of the sea of the peoples and their philosophies, would do well to do likewise, and their Rock, it is Christ ONLY (Psalm 62:6, Deuteronomy 32:28-31, Psalm 18:31).
'Ectype' is a term used and defined on this site, to denote the actuality of the creature derived from the prototype which God created: viewed as one whole. Thus the horsiness of the horse, especially in conjunction with a rider who loves it, the character of the dog as a responsive being, the operational reality of the creature as distinct from what enables it to operate, is in view. See the commencement of Chapter 5 above.