Written by Charles Barnes
All the names of this community we call home can be an encouragement to us, the body of Christ in Idaho Falls, to remember what Jesus has done and what our mission here is.
The first name for this place was “Flathead Crossing.” This story is well documented in Chapter 27 of Barzilla Clark’s, Bonneville County in the Making, published in 1941. In a nutshell, this is the story of an unreached people group hungry for the gospel, so hungry they would send several delegations, the first two of which lost their lives, on long journeys to learn the gospel from what, at the time, was known as the “White Man’s Book.” And it’s a reminder to us that there is still a harvest; God is at still work drawing hearts of residents of Idaho Falls and elsewhere to Himself.
The name “Idaho Falls” is a reminder of God’s hand in transforming a place that all the early explorers called desolate and inhabitable into the city we have today through water. The pioneers dug the irrigation ditches, but God supplied the water to sustain life, just as he supplies the water of His Spirit to give new life to barren lives.
During 25 years or so prior to 1891, this place was called “Eagle Rock.” Eagle Rock is the place that eagles live. One history of the city reports that 20 eagles were seen at the site of the Eagle Rock Ferry. Recent Idaho Fish and Game studies indicate that there are more nesting eagles along the South Fork than any other place in Idaho. At least 23 businesses and 2 churches in town incorporate “Eagle Rock” into their name.
Of Scripture verses that mention eagles, two in particular are rich in meaning. In Exodus 19, when Moses climbed Mount Sinai to meet with God, the first thing God tells him to tell the people of Israel is “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I lifted you on eagles wings, and brought you to Myself” (Ex 19:4). Many translations, instead of “lifted” read “bore” or “carried” and the Hebrew word can mean any or all of these. But it’s the same word that used in Ps 24:7, Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! The word is used in Isaiah 6:1, I saw the Lord, high and lifted up, and it’s the word used in many Psalms referring to lifting up hands or hearts or eyes to the Lord in worship. Why did God use eagles, rather than camels or horses or oxen, to illustrate how he brought His people out of slavery and to the mountain where He chose to dwell? Because eagles fly; eagles fly high, and God needed to lift His people up to where He was.
Isaiah 40:31 is another verse mentioning eagles – Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not become weary. God’s people, who would be taken captive to Babylon, would need to get their eyes off of their captivity and onto God, and to “see” that he would deliver them like he did His people from Egypt, that He would give them strength to return to the land, to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. But before they could run and walk and build they needed to ascend like eagles into God’s presence, to grasp the work that He was doing and involving them in – “Get yourselves up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily” (Is 40:9), to proclaim the news of His return to the mountains (powers or kingdoms) of the world.
Jesus was lifted up on the cross; He was raised from the dead; He ascended into heaven and seated at God’s right hand, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named. And God raised us up with Him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6).
As God lifted up the Israelites to the place where He dwelt, so God has raised us up in Christ, has brought us to Himself, so the eyes of our hearts can be enlightened. So we can see farther. So we can see clearer. So we can see in His light and not be blinded by the darkness of the world, the lies of the world, the gods of this world. So we can get a perspective that’s normally hidden from us by the sinful world we live in. So we can receive new strength, strength that transforms us and enables us to be His priests.
So whenever you see the name “Eagle Rock” or see an eagle soaring above the city or the South Fork, remember that God raised Jesus and has raised you up in Christ to where He dwells, to see, understand and be empowered to do His work in this city.