Animals and God
Today I thought I’d start by sharing some pics of my dog, Tank:
Tank. I didn’t pick the name; the shelter did. Still, the moment I saw the size of his feet I thought it fit him well. He was a mess. He still is in some ways, but we love him. He’s our dog.
We were given dominion over the Earth in the Beginning, and this includes sovereignty over animals. Some we hunt, some we train to help us hunt. Some we keep and treasure, and others we eat. Many we observe and admire, and at times they’ve even received undue worship from fallen human beings who have placed the created in the stead of the Creator. A good number of species have disappeared by our hands; since people sometimes equate sovereignty with right of exploitation, we have often misused and abused them, regrettably. But what does the Bible teach about animals, their relationship to God, and our relationship with them?
Let’s start off with the Beginning. In Eden, God placed Man in sovereign relationship with the Earth and the animals of the Earth when He gave us dominion. But because we have become corrupted by the Fall, we don’t really understand what that means. Look at the words used in the original language. God says that He placed us in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. The word which means “work” can also mean “serve,” and the word meaning “keep” can also mean “protect.” To serve and protect. I guess that makes gardener or police officer the world’s oldest profession. It’s interesting to me that a warden is someone who either manages a game preserve or administers a correctional facility. It’s a shame we’ve largely forgotten these things, and ironic that so often it seems that the people who remember the first charge given by God to us are also the ones who deny Him and His Sovereignty. By this I refer to those who carry a love of nature to extremes and reject the Truth of Christ, like nature-worshipers.
God often uses animals to teach us lessons. We know that God spoke to a man through an ass. Looking around, we can see that He's still using that strategy today. Also, we know that when Jonah basically told God that he’d rather die than obey, God used a great animal of the Deep to take him into a symbolic grave. We can understand Jonah’s motivation better when we realize that all along Jonah knew God was quick to forgive, and that if he’d repented, he knew God would have calmed the storm without requiring him to be tossed into the sea. Even in the end, Jonah still insists that he’d rather die than live. But the really interesting thing about this section of Scripture is what God says at the end of the book of Jonah. In the end, God tells us, essentially, that He’s not just concerned about people, but He also cares for their animals.
God doesn’t just care about animals. In fact, He has a relationship with them that is different from our own in our fallen state. In Psalm 104, we are told that all creatures look to God for their food. If we believe the Bible is Truth, and we should, we must understand that their relationship with God, though suffering under the burden of the Fall, is not sundered by sin as in the case of Man; they do not, therefore, require the restorative work of Christ on the cross to heal what is broken in us. Indeed, they are without sin. It is for this reason that they were able to hold the place of Christ symbolically until He went to the cross to offer the True Sacrifice once and for all. It is for this reason that they were slaughtered to make our first garments in Eden. It is for this reason that they are given to us for meat, to sustain us when we cannot find suitable food otherwise. No, I’m not a vegetarian, but there’s a reason that God didn’t give us the right to eat meat until after the Flood.
How much does God care about animals? Jesus tells us that not a single sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge or permission. With this single statement, we are being told so much more than we often realize because we need to understand the nature of a sparrow to really get this verse. Have you ever watched sparrows? They are messy and noisy, and tend to drive other more beautiful birds away. They will pick at garbage under cars in parking lots and have been known to be so annoying that not even a red-tailed hawk can withstand their bullying. I promise, I personally have watched a small group of two or three sparrows chase a hawk from their nesting area more than once. You see, it’s not just that Jesus is saying that God loves the little things of this world and, therefore, loves us so much more. It’s that Jesus is also saying that God loves the annoying, messy little bottom-feeders and bullies sparrows can be, so then how much more must He love us? God really is wonderful and merciful.
So, the next time you look at an animal, think about these things. Consider how amazing it is that there is no boundary line of sin between them and the Creator. Then think about the way animals are being treated in the name of convenience and a fast meal. Maybe we need to do more than just think about these things.
Actually, although this post is old I just have to add something. I know for a fact we need to do more than just think about these things. In Acts 15, when the disciples of Christ sent word to the gentile followers, among the rules they ought to obey were these:
To abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what is strangled.
By this, not only was God demonstrating His hatred for idolatry, but also His concern for the suffering of animals. Now the famous words of southern wisdom I've heard more than once:
Everyone loves sausage, but nobody wants to know how it's made.
I do not believe that we can do no better than we have done. I believe we may be asked to give an answer for the suffering these animals endure every day so that food may be placed upon the tables of American households. Consider buying directly from local butchers and/or farmers who treat their animals humanely.
God bless and keep you. Thank you for reading these words.