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)]

The Lion

Lions could at one time be found living in the Negeb desert, south of Jerusalem [Is 30. 6]. As we read in the stories of Daniel [Dan 6. 7], the lion is a ferocious animal. Our adversary, the devil, is portrayed as ‘a roaring lion [who] prowls around, looking for someone to devour’ [1Peter 5. 8].

In the Book of Judges we meet Samson who has an encounter with a lion. A riddle is set by Samson [Judges 14. 12 – 17]. Can you solve the riddle? The subject of the riddle was suggested to him when, after he had killed a lion with his bare hands and left it to rot, he noticed that a swarm of bees had set up their home in the carcass. He enjoyed the honey.  In this text the lion is described as the eater and the strong. His encounter with a dead animal and the fact that Samson wants to marry a Philistine woman, means that he has broken his Nazirite vows and so his downfall begins.

The ferocity of the lion is also shown in a story concerning a ‘man of God’ [1 Kings 13]. In the time of Jeroboam the man of God received a message from God who instructs him not to eat or drink or go back for hospitality to Bethel, from where he had come. This implies that the man of God is not to involve himself with this city and its behaviour. However, he is persuaded by the lies of a false prophet from Bethel to go back and enjoy the hospitality offered. Because he has disobeyed God he is punished. He sets out and is attacked and killed by a lion and left on the roadside. The prophet of Bethel is horrified by what has happened but notices that the body of the man of God has not been eaten by the lion. This means that the body can be brought back for the mourning and burial rituals. This would be accepted in recompense for his lying. Here the fierce lion is used to show that God’s word cannot be flouted.

Isaiah prophesies that, in the New Creation, the lion will lose its violent behaviour and it will ‘eat straw like the ox’ [Is 65. 25]. Ezekiel has a vision in which he sees strange creatures. They have faces: ‘the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle’ [Ez 1. 10]. These four images appear again when they are used as the symbols of the four Gospel writers [Rev 4. 7].

At the end of his life Jacob blesses his sons [Gen 49]. Judah is described: ‘a lion’s whelp, from the prey, my son you have gone up. He crouches down, stretches out like a lion, like a lioness – who dares rouse him up’ [Gen 49. 9]. Since Jerusalem was the capitol of the kingdom of Judah, the lion has been its symbol and is still used as the emblem of Jerusalem.

Jacob’s son, Judah, appears in the lineage of Jesus [Mat 1. 2; Luke 3. 33] and Jesus is named In Revelation, ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David’, who is found worthy to open the scroll [Rev 5.5].

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