The phrase mount up with wings like eagles can be found at the end of Isaiah 40, in verse 31, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (ESV).
During Isaiah’s lifetime, the dispirited nation of Israel suffered a period of great distress politically as oppressive Assyrian powers invaded and conquered their lands. Isaiah chapters 40–48 contain promises of redemption and deliverance from the suffering. That section of the book starts with the words “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). Israel had nearly given up hope, thinking God had abandoned them, yet Isaiah drives his point home in Isaiah 40:27–31, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (ESV).
Ancient Hebrew culture revered eagles as mighty warriors that also cared fiercely for their young. Eagles carry their eaglets to safety, away from the threat of predators. Eagles are also known for their strength and courage in dangerous, turbulent weather, soaring above storm clouds and to safety. Eagles’ wings was a figure of speech commonly used to attribute these fine characteristics to a person. The Lord references eagles’ wings in Exodus 19:1–6, which is a recollection of how God delivered Israel from the Egyptians. In this passage, the Lord gives Moses a message for His people: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (verses 4–5).
The prophet Isaiah uses wings like eagles in the same way, attributing the great characteristics of eagles to those who remain faithful to God and look forward to their heavenly reward. The phrase mount up is a translation of the Hebrew word ˈalah, which means “to go up, ascend, to go up over a boundary.” Isaiah is communicating the promise that God will provide renewed strength and courage to overcome obstacles, if Israel would only have patience and trust in the Lord’s sovereign timing.
Upon reading Isaiah’s words, perhaps Israel recalled what God had said to them long ago as they fled Egypt, about how the Lord had delivered them “on eagles’ wings” with His great strength and power. Isaiah tells them that they, too, could have access to such deliverance. If they remained faithful to God, they would soar.
Christians today can apply the principle of Isaiah 40:31 by trusting in God’s sovereignty and waiting faithfully for Him. “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). God in His grace will provide power, strength, and courage to the weary, weak, and downtrodden when they are willing to be patient and wait on Him. God will cause us to mount up on eagles’ wings.