Wednesday, February 22, 2017

She wears feathers - but she can teach us!

We're studying a feathered "lady" of the Bible this week . . . the dove in Noah's story.
As we study her, we'll see how she contrasts with the first bird that Noah sent out: the raven.

First of all, the raven was an unclean bird. Let's look at Leviticus, where the animals are listed that are unclean:
These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture,14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, (Leviticus 11:13-15)
There were certain animals and birds that God's people in the Old Testament were not allowed to eat. They were also not allowed to offer them as sacrifice to God. Most of the birds on the list are those that scavenge for their food -- and they are not connoisseurs. They'll eat anything. Including dead stuff. I know, ugh.
So, ravens actually feed on death. They eat the flesh of dead things. They look for, and hunt for, dead things.
In stark contrast, the dove is a clean animal. The people of God could not only eat them, but they could offer them as sacrifices to God. Let's look at some verses about them:
 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” (Genesis 15:9)
If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. (Leviticus 1:14)
But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”(Leviticus 12:8)
Doves were clean animals, in contrast with the ravens. But God also seems to have a special place in His heart for them . . . Jesus used them in His teachings as symbols of purity and innocence. We all probably remember His words to His disciples:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)
And perhaps the most memorable image of a dove in the entire Bible is after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan:
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. (Mark 1:10)
Have you ever wondered what the significance was, that Noah first sent a raven, and then our friend, the dove? Why not just send the dove the first time, too? First an unclean bird, then a clean one?

Well, I guess the most simple answer is that God told Him to! After all, Noah had been obedient to God, and was following His instructions to the letter. (Grin)
But there are some other reasons that we can look at, today and again tomorrow. . . .

First, God may have been reminding Noah and all of us that the flood brought death. Remember, ravens literally look for death, and feed on death. After the flood, there was plenty of death.
The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:18-23)
Everything that breathed on land was dead. Everything. Not being dramatic here. Everything was wiped out.

Why? C'mon, doesn't the Bible tell us that "God is love," and all that? Absolutely.
The flood was brought because it was God's judgement on mankind. That's a word that isn't used much nowadays, but I'm an old fogey, and I believe that "mankind" means humans, not just the male variety. Women and men were guilty before God:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.This is the account of Noah and his family.Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. (Genesis 6:5-12)
God had given mankind (yeah, I know, there's that word again) plenty of chances. Their wickedness was "great," and every one of their thoughts was "only evil all the time." All of the earth was "corrupt" and "full of violence."
Sound familiar?
Like our world today?
Yep. Kinda makes ya think. And makes us want to "redeem the time," and tell others about Jesus before it's too late . . .
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
But I digress.
The flood brought death. And there was plenty of food for the raven.

But let's move on a little in the story . . . the raven looked for death. But the dove looked for life.
The message of the dove is two-fold: it is one of hope, and of life.
We'll study her more tomorrow.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

I very frequently wonder how the Lord can be so patient with the wickedness of our world today. I wonder if the people before the flood were even worse than our world, if that is even possible. I wonder if the presence of the Church, as in redeemed people, not buildings, has a modifying influence in the wickedness. I wonder......... and then remember that His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His measurements of things are not ours. Somehow, there is comfort in that.