Today, Janet and I had an incredible experience here at the Greenbrier. We did something that we have wanted to do for twenty years and just never took the time to do it – we took a class on birds of prey, their history, how they hunt – and then we saw a demonstration of their prowess up close and personal. In fact, Janet and I were the only two folks in the class so we had some private instruction and actually got to “fly the falcons.” These incredible birds, along with owls, hawks and eagles make up what are called collectively, “the raptors.”
Hunting with falcons is an ancient sport that goes back more than 4000 years in the middle east and is still the sport of kings and royalty. Rare birds can go for $500,000 EACH and that doesn’t include upkeep, food and all the other attention these birds of prey require.
We were surprised at how small these hawks and falcons were – weighing only about 1.5 pounds and we learned that a bird must have at least one foot of wingspan for each pound that it weighs or it won’t be able to fly. But the most incredible thing we learned is about the eyesight of these magnificent birds. It has been said that if our eyes were as developed as the eyes of these raptors, we would be able to read normal size newspaper print at 100 yards! Imagine that – and if you see something in the woods, you can be sure that the bird has already seen it long before you ever did.
In one demonstration, Janet and I stood about a foot apart as the falconer showed his bird a piece of chicken. The bird didn’t go around us, or even over us, but actually split the distance between us and flew through – holding its wings in just the right position to make sure it cleared us and never took its eye off the food. Absolutely amazing. Most of the things we saw were demonstrations of sight and how the term “eagle eye” or “hawk eye” is so well deserved. From across a meadow, the falcon could see a small piece of chicken held tight in the hand of the falconer.
Since we were alone in the class, Janet and I each had a chance to “fly the falcon” by putting on the protective glove and sending the falcon on missions – and then calling it back by offering a food reward. Janet thought it was the greatest thing she has ever done here at the Greenbrier. I thought it was pretty cool as well!
When the demonstration was over, the leader put a hood over the eyes of the bird. We have seen this in the past, but never knew why. Apparently, with birds of prey, out of sight is out of mind – so they are easier to transport and not distracted by external sources of food when they can’t see their surroundings. In fact, the small cord attached to the foot of the bird is wrapped around the little finger of the falconer – hence the term, “wrapped around my little finger.”
As you can tell, we were quite enamored with the whole class. And during our time together, I thought about the Bible references to falcons and birds of prey. One passage in particular came to mind. In the book of Job, Job is trying to figure out how to get wisdom. He finds that it is elusive – and uses a number of illustrations to reinforce how hard it is to find wisdom. That brings us to the verse for the evening – from Job 28:7, where Job laments, “The path no bird of prey knows, Nor has the falcon’s eye caught sight of it.”
I have to admit that this verse took on an entirely new meaning for me today. After having witnessed the incredible eyesight of these raptors, it has become clear that they see almost everything – and long before we do. So imagine that Job compares wisdom to a path that is so hidden that no bird of prey can even see it! That’s something that I find so remarkable in the Bible. When you study the original languages, and really learn what the words mean, the Bible comes alive. The same is true of experiences such as the one we had today – a new dimension of understanding opens up to us.
My encouragement tonight is that Jesus wants us to depend on Him for wisdom. That’s because it is so elusive that we wont find it on our own – although the counsel of other Christians certainly helps. My prayer is that God will open your eyes to see as much as you can possibly imagine and that you will depend on others, and on Him for the rest of the wisdom we each need in our lives. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…