I love the Bible, but I have to admit that I wish it had something a bit nicer to say about dogs. They just seem to be there to lick up the blood of wicked kings or to “turn again and rend you”. At best, like are like Israel’s ineffective leaders, “sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber” [Isaiah 56:10]. And as for cats- they are mentioned only once, in the apocryphal book of Baruch, where they jump onto the smoke blackened heads of heathen idols [Baruch 6:22]. Surely the ultimate insult for these false gods! But as for birds, well that’s a different story...
The same birds spoken of in the Bible are with us every day, in our gardens and right outside our window, bringing us a message from their creator as they did then. Just to pick three:
Ravens were sent to bring the prophet Elijah bread and flesh morning and evening when there was no other provision. St Luke names the birds which God feeds, who have neither storehouse nor barn, as ravens. Surely our Lord’s recognition for their service in once doing the providing themselves. Whenever I see a raven or one of his kin, I am reminded that God knows and will always meet my need.
Swallows and swifts whirl around us. Just as they carefully build their nests in or near our houses, as they built them in the eves of God’s temple, they bring us the message that we can always be close to God [Psalm 84]. I am sure that the doorkeeper in God’s house, who is mentioned in this beautiful psalm and quite possibly provided its inspiration, noticed them there and learned from them.
The ultimate bird appearance in Scripture must be the dove, in whose likeness the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus. Doves and their cousins the pigeons surround us. Just watch one land and in a moment of prayer see how all birds bring us something of His Holy Spirit, every day.
Many have seen birds and angels as closely related, messengers to us from God. In fact, if you read the account of Elijah being fed by ravens, you will notice two chapters on that it is now an angel bringing him food. If ever I need encouragement or inspiration, or a reason to look above my own small world and its cares, our creator God has given us birds, in all their variety, all around us. Even in lockdown.
Almighty God, who created in abundance the birds above and around us, along with all living creatures;
Who are waiting with us to join in the glorious liberty that you shall reveal,
May we learn, from your creation, your provision and care for us,
To be always close to your presence,
And to know the descent of your Holy Spirit.
by Dave Pitcher