Faith News

A message from St George parish church


All God’s Creatures

Introduction

Last year I presented a series on the trees of the Bible which ran all through the season of Trinity or Ordinary Time. This year we will engage with the members of the animal kingdom that appear in the Bible.

In this occasional series I may suggest that you to do some additional reading and investigation for yourself and I may not use the most obvious texts.

The list of animals in the account of Creation in Genesis chapter 1 is very familiar but there are other descriptions of creation in different books of the Bible and many more animals appear throughout the text. I will take a very broad approach including living creatures from smallest to largest; virus and gnat to elephant and whale; vertebrates and invertebrates; and various borderline cases. Texts are from the New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Edition, with the Apocrypha and Deutero Canonical Books. The collection of animals included in this series is not exhaustive and the names for some creatures may differ in other translations.

Do take some time to look at our creation window: the great west rose window in St George’s.

Consider the variety and beauty of the creatures depicted there.

In the song of praise sung by the three young men, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were thrown into the burning fiery furnace we find:

The three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace:
“Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors,
and to be praised and highly exalted for ever.

Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods,
Sing praise to him and give thanks to him,
For his mercy endures for ever.

                                           [Prayer of Azariah. 28, 29, 57 – 59, 68 (Apocrypha)]

 

Animals in narratives of creation

If we look at Genesis chapter 1 we can see that God, the creator, speaks the universe into existence.

The animals, living creatures, begin to appear on the fifth day. They teem or swarm implying great fertility. God blesses them: their existence depends upon God. And ‘God saw that it was good’
[Genesis 1. 20 – 25]. This account is very familiar.

Psalm 104 offers a similar account but the emphasis is a little different. This is a song of praise rather than a legal or official list as in Genesis 1. The psalmist describes God’s splendour and the way in which God has provided water for the animals to drink and so that grass grows for them to eat. Day and night also order the behaviour of animals.

Another perspective is provided in Job chapters 38 – 41. Here God lists God’s achievements in the area of creation, its workings, processes and secrets. Many animals are mentioned here including some that we either cannot identify or that we might now think of as mythical: Behemoth, probably the hippopotamus, and Leviathan, probably the crocodile. While God is transcendent and all powerful, he is also attentive to and concerned with every part of his creation.

In the prophetic book of 2 Esdras, found in the Apocrypha, the story of God’s encounter with his people leads to the listing of the problems of humanity since Creation and what might come to be at the end times. Ezra recounts a description [2 Esdras 638 – 54] of the first creation which follows the pattern of Genesis chapter 1. Many of the same animals are named as well as some less familiar ones.

 

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
maker of all living creatures:
fish in the sea, birds in the air, and animals on the land.
May we always praise you
for all your beauty in creation.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, in all your creatures.
Amen.