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)]

Other birds

As we have seen, Leviticus rules on birds as clean or unclean. The cormorant, heron, sea gull, the hoopoe and water hen are all considered ‘detestable … an abomination’ [Lev 11. 16 – 19] and not to be eaten.

Isaiah, although presented as a single book of prophecy, has several sections. Chapters 36 – 39 form a bridge between the first part and a second section which begins at chapter 40. Much of this text has connections with the history of the kings of Israel. One of them, Hezekiah, is defeated by Sennacherib and he goes to the prophet for help [Isaiah 37]. Later Hezekiah is struck down with an illness and again he consults the prophet who gives him a sign that the sun will go back [Is 38. 7 – 8] and Hezekiah recovers. In his praise of God, Hezekiah describes the troubles he has been through:  ‘Like a swallow or a crane I clamour, I moan like a dove’ [Is 39. 14].

In the story of Tobias, his father, Tobit, blames his blindness on the droppings of the sparrows: ‘their fresh droppings fell into my eyes and produced white films. I went to physicians to be healed, but the more they treated me with ointments the more my vision was obscured by the white films, until I became completely blind’ [Tobit 2. 10]. Later his blindness is cured when the angel Raphael (the healer) advises Tobias to smear his father’s eyes with fish gall: ‘the medicine will make the white films shrink and peel off from his eyes’ [Tobit 11. 8].

In the New Testament, sparrows appear again. Jesus uses them to help us understand how much God is aware of and cares for each individual human person: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows’ [Mat 10. 29 – 31].

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