By Larry Rice
Job declares in Job 12:7, “… but ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you.” This verse reminds me of a prayer walk I took at 5:45 one morning. While I was earnestly praying, God spoke to my heart to be quiet and listen and learn from the birds. As I did, I heard the cry of a Bob White Quail, and the Lord reminded me how He fed the children of Israel and how He would continue to provide for New Life Evangelistic Center. Then he had me hear over and over the call of a dove. As I listened to this dove the Lord reminded me how I needed to let His peace sweep over me in every area of my life and be reconnected to the reality of the power and presence of God. Anxiety had gripped me by the throat and God was telling me I needed to surrender everything to Him and experience His peace. Philippians 4:6-7 came to mind, where we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” As I did this I started to become aware of a chorus of many different species of birds singing and praising God in their many different bird languages. As I joined my fellow birds in praise, it wasn’t very long until I found that the burdens began to lift, and I began to be free again. The reconnection to this singing was in progress. But that wasn’t all that our Risen Lord wanted to teach me that day from the birds. After all, we shouldn’t be surprised by the lessons the birds can teach us, for Jesus Himself declared, “Look at the birds of the air” (Matt. 6:26). As I continued to look and listen I saw and heard a large black bird which brought to my attention how the ravens fed Elijah at the brook in the Kerith Ravine (1 Kings 17:1-6). Our Lord wanted me to be connected to Him in every way and to rest in the fact that He is in control and will take care of every need. Each time I see a bird float so effortlessly in the air, the Holy Spirit impresses upon me the hope I have in Christ. As I experience the strength and freedom He provides, as I learn to trust in Him, this enables me to soar over every difficulty. “The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40:28-31). Such people are the ones who have discovered the joys of reconnection to God and His creation. Martin Luther, in his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, stated,
“You see, He is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the Gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men. We have as many teachers and preachers as there are little birds in the air. Their example is an embarrassment to us.… Whenever you listen to a nightingale, therefore, you are listening to an excellent preacher…. It is as if he were saying, ‘I prefer to be in the Lord’s kitchen. He has made heaven and earth, and He Himself is the cook and the host.’ Every day He feeds and nourishes innumerable little birds out of His hand.”
John Stott, in his book, The Birds Our Teachers, points out that Jesus not only Knows every species of bird but every individual bird when he says not a single sparrow falls without God’s knowledge (Matt. 10:29, Luke 12:6-7). Jesus told us to be bird watchers when he said, “Behold the fowls of the air…” (Matt 6:26). The early church fathers would point out that God reveals Himself in two books which include the book of creation and the Bible. Birds are a very important part of the book of creation, but of course the scope of such a “book” is finally far greater. The second verse of Psalm 111 declares, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” George Washington Carver, in his essay entitled “How to Search for Truth,” gives us insight into what it means to study the works of the Lord and delight in them.
“More and more, as we come closer and closer in touch with nature and its teachings are we able to see the Divine and are therefore fitted to interpret correctly the various languages spoken by all forms of nature about us. From the frail little mushroom, which seems to spring up in a night and perish ‘ere the morning sun sinks to rest in the western horizon, to the giant redwoods of the Pacific slope that have stood the storms for centuries and vie with the snow-capped peaks of the loftiest mountains, in their magnificence and grandeur. First, to me, the varied forms of nature are little windows through which God permits me to commune with Him, and to see much of His glory, majesty, and power by simply lifting the curtain and looking in. Second, I love to think of nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour and every moment of our lives if we will only tune in and remain so.”
It is because of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ that we are able to tune in and look in on God’s goodness and glory. The curtain of sin has not only separated us from God but has disconnected us from our Giving, Loving God. Jesus, through his death and resurrection has made it possible to get reconnected. “For He hath rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14). Even though I know and believe this I still have a tendency to get disconnected in my thinking and actions as a result of worry. That is why Jesus uses birds and flowers that we see daily to remind us not to let worry disconnect us. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:25-34). The question each one of us must ask ourselves is, “Am I a pagan or a practical atheist at best?” If you answer no, then the question remains, what is the basis for your answer, if you spend so much time running after the things of this world and keep saying you don’t have time to read your Bible or seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness? Dr. J. Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room director and chief of medical staff, wrote a book entitled, Serve God, Save the Planet. In this book he said the following,
“One of the textbook features of depression is a lack of interest in – or a fear of – the future. One gifted psychiatrist I had during training put it this way: ‘Ask patients what they see themselves doing a year, five years, or ten years in the future. If they start rattling off answers, they aren’t depressed.’ The more depressed a person becomes, the more shortsighted they are. The Twenty-Third Psalm, recorded three thousand years ago, says the Lord restores our soul by leading us to streams and pastures. In the 147th and 148th Psalms, we are taught that the Lord will heal our broken hearts; He calls each star by its name; He makes the rain fall and hears the cry of a hungry blackbird. He sends the snow, and frost, and cold, and wind. Beasts of the field praise Him, as do the sun, moon, fish, timber, and fruit trees. God has created cattle, insects, and robins to praise His name. ‘He hath also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which shall not pass away’ (Psalm 148:5-6). For three thousand years, believers understood that the world was created and sustained by God. This truth was known to Maltbie D. Babcock when he wrote the beautiful song, ‘This is my Father’s world, and to my list’ning ears / All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.’ We increasingly live in a man-made world, and that world is making us ill. When the Psalmist advises us to heal spiritually, they do not tell us to purchase a television, car, house, self-help book, or exercise equipment. God, they say, is to be found in the natural world that He created, a world filled with the grandeur, beauty, and peace that are so often lacking in our material world…. You are God-made. We have forgotten that we have far more in common with a honeybee than we do with our SUV or DVD….. Perhaps many of our problems, including those of depression and anxiety, are warning signals that we are living a lifestyle that God does not sanction or want us to lead. The response of mental pain and discomfort should be to seek a restoring connection with God.”
Jesus came to set us free from a materialistic world and reconnect us with God from whom sin had disconnected us. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ” (Col. 2:9-10). “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15-17). Jesus holds all things together in our “Father’s world” – including you and me, the birds, animals, flowers, etc., in his great tapestry of love. The Message Bible translation of Colossians 2:2-3 expresses it this way, “I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds, confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else.” Being woven into the tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God, is possible only through the redemptive work of Christ. Such a work is absolutely essential because sin has not only separated us from the rest of creation, but from the Creator Himself. “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjects it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:18-22). This liberation from the bondage of decay caused through sin is possible because of “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life and is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). It is Jesus the Redeemer who reconnects us to God the Creator and Holy Spirit, life’s sustainer. “For, since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Creation awakens us to the reality of God while Jesus takes away our sin and reconnects us to God. The reconnection between God and creation, humanity and God, and creation and humanity, is illustrated in the Trinity. Jürgen Moltmann, in his work God in Creation, states it this way: “In the free, overflowing rapture of His love the eternal God goes out of Himself and makes a creation, a reality, which is there as He is there, and yet is different from Himself. Through the Son, God creates, reconciles and redeems His creation. In the power of the Spirit, God is Himself present in His creation – present in His reconciliation and His redemption of that creation. The overflowing love from which everything comes that is from God, is also the implicit ground for God’s readiness to endure the contradictions of the beings He has created. And here too is already the source of His will towards reconciliation and the redemption of the world through the suffering patience of His hope. The Son, the eternal counterpart within God Himself, becomes the Wisdom, the pattern through which creation is made. The Son in whom the world is created becomes flesh, and Himself enters into the world in order to redeem it. He suffers the self-destruction of creation in order through His sufferings to heal it…. God the Spirit is also the Spirit of the universe, its total cohesion, its structure, its information, its energy. The spirit of the universe is the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and shines forth in the Son.” Through the power of the Holy Trinity we are awakened to God through the Spirit’s work in the creation theology of life all around us, and through God the Son, Jesus Christ, through whom, as fully God and fully man, we are given the redemptive theology necessary for us to be reconnected to God Himself. One more time we need to return to the birds and let them teach us what it is to migrate home. From the birds we are reminded of the need to repent which means to turn around and fly back into the presence of the Living God. Jesus Christ, by dying for our sins, makes it possible for us to be reconnected as we turn from the sin that has disconnected us from the source of life and experience the salvation of reconnection provided through Christ, both now and for all eternity. What a great God we serve, and what a wonderful opportunity He has provide for each of us to really live, and be connected to all that is truly good and great which is celebrated in the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touches of each day.