Beasts, Prophets and the Bible

The Natchez Democrat / April 18, 2009

Watching nature shows on television is one of my favorite pastimes. The hunting methods of wild animals fascinate me.

For instance, wolves are among the most intelligent and violent of all hunters. While they often hunt alone, wolves sometimes hunt in pairs or in packs. Their favorite meal in North America consists of domestic sheep or cattle; nature's version of "fast food."

Wild prey such as deer, moose, and bison are much more elusive and require more effort to catch. Wolves seldom attack healthy adults, favoring young or weakened animals which lag behind in a chase.

Wolf packs have been known to use cooperative tactics to catch their supper, sometimes surrounding a herd while one wolf chases them into an ambush. Wolves will sneak into herds while they are asleep and steal a young lamb or calf. Mountain lions and bears kill quickly, but wolves tear their victims apart, leaving behind evidence of a violent and bloody attack.

I am intrigued at how the behaviors of wild animals are often used in the Bible to illustrate our experience as the people of God. We are warned that evil characters will sneak into the church like hungry carnivores.

In appearance they seem to be the real thing, wearing "sheep's clothing," but inwardly they are "ferocious wolves." They are cunning in their attacks with the result that the faithful are scattered much as a flock of sheep is scattered when wolves attack. Weak and inept shepherds, or pastors, will run away when wolves attack and leave the church open to destruction (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:28-30; John 10:11-13).

The Bible tells us that the devil stalks around like a "roaring lion" looking for someone to devour. However, we are told to "stand firm" and not run (1 Peter 5:8-9). God delivers his faithful from the "lion's mouth" (2 Timothy 4:17).

David is given as an example of how a true shepherd fights to protect the flock and defeats the most ferocious beasts.

Even trash talking giants are powerless against a true defender of the people when they stand with God against the enemy (1 Samuel 17:32-37).

God Himself takes on the persona of wild beasts. The Old Testament records a time when Israel killed the prophets God sent and promoted prophets of their own who told them what they wanted to hear. These wolves in sheep's clothing promised prosperity and peace to a nation destined for God's judgment.

The prophet Hosea announced to the rebellious nation that God "will come upon them like a lion, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open. Like a lion I will devour them; a wild animal will tear them apart" (Hosea 13:7-8). In the form of invading armies this literally happened.

I find it a marvel that the natural world so aptly illustrates spiritual realities. It's a God thing, for sure. The Bible offers a treasure of understanding for the perceptive. It's God's word to the wise.

Del Loy is pastor of Crosspoint Church.