Tuesday, January 4, 2011

But...What about the animals?

Animals - God's Creatures

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.
(Genesis 1:24)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

There are of course many differences between humans and animals, but are you able to see from the above verses, the one most important difference? God formed the first human from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being. In the King James Version that last phrase reads; and man became a living soul. Humans are made in God’s image and likeness. We are spiritual beings in that along with our body, God has given each of us a soul. He made us like Himself. Each and every person living on this earth has the breath of God in him. Without it we are dead. So, do you see the difference? God did not breathe into animals to make them alive. He spoke, and it was so. He spoke them into existence. (Genesis 1:24).

As a child I was told that animals do not have souls. When they die they are just gone and will never be seen again. In actuality, we don’t really know for sure that animals do or do not have souls. God does not tell us in His word one way or the other. He refers to animals many different places in the Bible, but not very often as pets and In Genesis 1:26 He commanded Adam to rule over the animals.

God created animals for the purpose of enhancing our life here on earth and to beautify and give glory to His creation. The following are just a few of the things animals have been used for in the past and are still used for today:

• From the Bible we know that livestock animals were used in the Old Testament sacrifices. They were also used for food as they still are today.

• Years ago Oxen were used by farmers for plowing and planting and hauling heavy loads. They are still used for these purposes today in third world countries.

• Donkeys are considered beasts of burden. In spite of their relatively small size, they are able to carry heavy loads on their backs. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode on a donkey through the streets of Jerusalem. In fact the Bible states that He rode on a “colt, the foal of a donkey”. (Matthew 21:5)

• Horses were used also to carry heavy loads and for transportation. Because of their strength, loyalty and trainability, they have also been used in time of war to carry soldiers into battle.

• Special work horses have been used in the lumber industry in past years to haul huge logs out of the woods to the saw mills. In pioneer days they were also used for plowing, planting and harvesting crops.

• The skins of animals have been used in the past for clothing and to provide shelter. They are still used today for coats, shoes, purses etc.

• In our world today dogs are trained to help the blind and the disabled to lead more independent lives.

Now let’s look at just a few of the references to animals which we see in Scriptures and see what kind of conclusion we can come to regarding animals as to their purpose here on earth, how important they are to God, and where they go when they die.

The first specific animal we find reference to is of course the serpent or snake. The devil took on the form of a serpent to deceive Eve and lead her to sin against God, after which God cursed the serpent and said; you will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

Although we don’t know for sure, according to what God says here it is possible that the serpent may have had a different appearance before this point in time. Perhaps he had legs like other animals.

At the time of the flood God commanded Noah to take into the ark seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.
(Genesis 7: 2,3)

Noah did not need to go out and look for or capture the animals for the ark. God sent them to him. In verse eight we read; Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark. After the flood we read in Genesis 8:1; God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. He then commanded Noah in Genesis 8:17; Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number.

From the story of Noah, we can surmise that God does communicate with the animals in that He actually sent the animals to the ark. We see His communication with the animals today also during natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Animals seem to have a special sense of when to seek shelter from the elements.

I have heard many stories over the years of how animals have survived natural disasters against all odds, but the stories that come to mind from most recent years are those of the elephants and other wild animals and how they reacted before the Tsunami which took place in Indonesia back in 2004. We read and heard on the news how the animals (elephants especially) fled to the mountains before people even had a clue what was coming. They seemed to instinctively know they needed to get to higher ground.

The instincts which animals are born with were given to them by God. In my opinion, it is His way of communicating with them to teach them how to survive and to protect them from harm. We see a good example of animal instinct when we observe animal mothers; both wild and domestic giving birth. Although it may be an animal mother’s first experience giving birth, whether to kittens, puppies, cubs, kits, a fawn, a foal or a calf, she knows exactly what to do for them. Animal babies also instinctively know how to suckle life sustaining milk from their mother.

In the story of David and Bathsheba the prophet Nathan references an ewe lamb as a pet when he is rebuking David for murdering Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband. You can read this story in 2 Samuel 11 & 12. The only other place I know of in the Bible where a pet is referenced is the story of a Canaanite woman who came to Jesus begging Him to heal her daughter who was possessed by a demon. He replied to her; it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” She answered Him; Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. (Matthew 15: 27,28) From this we know that dogs were sometimes kept as pets, although not as commonly as we see today.

Then there is the story of Balak and Balaam. Balak king of Moab summoned Balaam, a prophet of God to curse God’s people Israel because there were so many of them and he was terrified that they would overpower him and take over the land and people of Moab. God commanded Balaam not to go with Balak and his people, and not to curse the Israelites because they belonged to God and they were blessed by Him. Balak kept insisting, and Balaam, instead of just saying “no, I can’t and I won’t”, kept going to God and asking; “What shall I tell them?” Finally God said to him; since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you. (Numbers 22:20) So Balaam went with them, but God was very angry with him for going and for his persistence. God placed the angel of the Lord in the pathway of Balaam’s donkey with a drawn sword in His hand. The donkey could see him there, but Balaam and his servants could not. Three times God placed the angel of the Lord in her path and each time the donkey refused to move forward even though Balaam was beating her trying to make her move. Finally God opened the donkey’s mouth and she said to Balaam. What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times? ... Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? Numbers 22:31 tells us finally that; The Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. God had allowed the donkey to see the Angel of the Lord but kept it from Balaam.

God created humans with a brain that could store knowledge and with the ability to reason and to make decisions as circumstances demand. Balaam understood that what he was doing for the king of Moab was not pleasing to God. He made the bad choice to go ahead with his plan anyway. The donkey, on the other hand, was only obeying the command of her master. She had no idea why the threat was placed before her, but she knew that it was put there by God and that she needed to heed the warning.

The fact that she wouldn’t move forward should have been a warning sign to Balaam also that there was danger ahead, but in his desire to succeed in his own plan, he refused to heed the warning. Even when God allowed the donkey to speak, he didn’t catch on. Finally God opened his eyes and allowed Balaam to see the angel of the Lord blocking his path. His response to Balaam is recorded in verses 31 and 32... Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her. We see here God’s concern for the donkey when he asks Balaam; why have you beaten your donkey these three times? We also observe that He demands obedience from all living creatures including the animals and that he would have rewarded the donkey for her obedience to Him by sparing her life.

I believe that in times of danger and maybe at other times also animals are allowed to see God. They are His creatures. They are one of His many gifts to us. They make our lives more fulfilling. Animals are affected by the devastation of sin on our world also. They suffer at times along with us and often because of us. Domestic animals as well as wild animals are often abused and neglected by sinful humans. They also suffer from disease and sickness as humans do.

Will there be animals in heaven? I personally believe there will be. God does not specifically say they will be there, but He gives us a picture of heaven in Isaiah 11: 6-9; The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Do animals have souls as we humans do? We don’t know because God doesn’t tell us, but we do know that God has a genuine love and concern for them as a part of the beauty of His creation. We can trust that whatever happens to them when they die is controlled by our Almighty God who knows how to give good gifts. Their destiny is in His loving, caring and gentle hands. We do not need to worry. In heaven we will have perfect knowledge. We may or may not see our pets there, but either way, we will be perfectly happy living in the light of the Son.

By Kristeen – To God be the Glory!

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