Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Could Animals Teach Us More?

Most of my television viewing is Animal Planet, so when I’m reading scripture where an animal is given the starring role, my attention fully engages. If there’s one thing the Bible isn’t short on it is weird stories about vertibrates, reptiles, birds, and fish. When God wants to make a point He often uses creation.  

For instance, in 1 Kings 17:2-6, the prophet Elijah courageously told the despot King Ahab that “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew or rain these years except at my word.” In other words, Elijah declared a drought.

With no rain, there would be no crops, no food, and the people would take their anger out on the king. Maintaining control of desperate people was every king’s nightmare.

Then God told Elijah to go into hiding near the brook at Cherith, which flowed into the Jordan River. He would be able to drink from the brook, but what would he eat? God instructed ravens to bring him food. They brought meat and bread twice a day and Elijah stayed until his water supply dried up and God told him where to go next.

This story always reminds me that God has ultimate dominion over kings and governments, the natural world, and every creature in it. I’m glad I don’t have to eat food hustled by ravens, but I am even more pleased that God promises to take care of my every need.

Jesus also had dominion over animals. In Matthew 8:28-34 the story reached a crescendo involving a herd of pigs.

Demon possession was not uncommon in ancient Israel; Jesus dealt with it many times. In this accounting there were two men living in a cemetery. Their possession was so violent that no one could even pass through that area. But when they saw Jesus, the demons spoke to him, “What have we to do with you, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

Apparently the demons knew they were about to be cast out of the tormented men, but seeing pigs in the distance, they begged Jesus, “… permit us to go away into the herd of swine.”

Jesus simply aid, “Go.” The demons went into the pigs and the pigs ran over a cliff, perishing in the sea below.

This story had a happy ending for the men who had been demon-possessed, but what about whoever owned the herd of swine? What about the poor innocent pigs themselves? Didn’t Jesus care about animals? Of course he did.

I have to remind myself that there is an orderly progression in creation. God made the earth and all living things, none of which are capable of sin. His last masterpiece was to create man and woman who do sin.

And yet innocent pigs were less important than saving the lives of two unnamed men who, no doubt, would go on to disappoint and frustrate God in their lifetimes. Jesus placed high value on human life. We are more important to Jesus than all the pigs in the world.

The Bible is filled with fascinating stories where animals are used by God to save the lives and reputations of human beings. Aaron’s staff became a serpent. Noah sent out a raven and a dove to see if the flood waters were receding. A donkey taught Balaam an important lesson about respect.

Perhaps we need to pay more attention to the animals God places in our lives. They bring us pleasure, but it’s possible they have much more to teach.