From Genesis to Revelation, a common theme can be seen from God-He uses illustrations that we can relate to. We can understand them because He uses common, everyday sights like seeds, mountains, flowers, coins, and animals. I recently took a closer look at animals in the Scripture and would like to share what I learned from them.
Growing up, I was blessed to have a Dad who was a nature lover. Although he was a Christian, he was not a public speaker or Bible class teacher, but his lessons about God’s creation all around us made a huge impact on me. I cherish the memories with him walking in the woods with all my sisters and my brother. He would point out birds in the trees and animals so far away that we could hardly see them, but he knew what sound they made, so he would look until he found them. Teaching us about animals, he was teaching about their Creator.
Let’s start at the beginning in Genesis 2:18-20. God showed all the animals to Adam and he gave them names, but not one was found suitable as his companion. Their purpose here seems to be to show Adam that everything God had created had a counterpart, a mate. What happens next is that God puts Adam to sleep, takes one of Adam’s ribs, and forms a woman for him. Remember his words, “bone of my bones,” and “flesh of my flesh”? (Genesis 2:23) Adam saw from the parade of animals that none of these were appropriate to complete him, so God made him Eve.
Next in the Garden of Eden we read about the serpent. He comes to Eve as she’s walking (Genesis 3:1-6). Note that this is the first time that an animal speaks, yet Eve does not seem to be startled by it. The serpent is a tempter that God has allowed. He questioned Eve, then enticed her with thoughts of how delicious the fruit would taste and added that it would make her wise.
Moving ahead to Genesis 24:12-15, Abraham’s servant used his camels as the sign from God in choosing the woman who would be Isaac’s wife. He prayed and then notice verse 15 says, “before he had finished speaking” God answered his prayer. Animals were even involved in prayers!
Another way we see animals as very important is how they were used essentially as money. A man was considered rich if he owned large herds or flocks. Genesis 30:43 describes Jacob as wealthy when he was living and working with his father-in-law, Laban.
Animals were also given as gifts. Genesis 32:13-18 tells the story of Jacob going to meet Esau after years of separation, and strife in their parting. Remember Jacob had deceived Isaac and taken his brother’s blessing. Jacob sent gifts of animals before him to meet Esau, to hopefully appease his anger. Another note from this story is that Jacob used the skins of animals in his deception to his father.
More examples of animals from the Old Testament…Animals outnumbered people on the ark. They were used for food and to replenish the earth after the flood. Seven out of the 10 plagues involved animals (Exodus chapters 7-12). Jonah was saved from drowning by a great fish (Jonah 1:17). The second time an animal speaks is in Numbers 22:21-36 when Balaam’s donkey talks to him. Animals were used as sacrifices on several occasions (see Genesis 22:2; 2 Chronicles 7:1-5; Leviticus 16:9-16; Judges 6:19; and 1 Samuel 15:9, for a few of these examples). Daniel was one of those who saw firsthand that lions were used as punishment for lawbreakers, and then for those who had maliciously accused him.
In the New Testament we see animals in both positive and negative references. In Matthew 7:6 we see dogs and swine being used as giving what is holy to those who will abuse it. Philippians 3:2 uses dogs again, comparing them to evil workers. Matthew 23:31-33 compares the Scribes and Pharisees to serpents with their sly ways, and in 1 Peter 5:8 the devil is compared to a roaring lion.
Some positive examples of animals being used can be found in Luke 2:22-24 where animals, specifically turtledoves or pigeons, are brought as sacrifices after the birth of a child. Matthew 6:25-26 tells us to look at the birds and how our Heavenly Father cares for them. “Are you not worth much more than they? And which one of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?” Another heartwarming example is found in Matthew 23:37 where He describes how He wanted to gather His children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. A turning point in taking the Gospel to all is another vision involving animals. (Acts 11:4-17) God was showing Peter that he needed to take the Gospel to the Gentiles also.
These are only a portion of the times when the Scriptures use animals, but it was interesting to me just how times animals are mentioned! One of the most amazing things that came to my mind was how our Lord, Jesus Christ, took the place of so many animals when He came to this earth as our Savior!
The perfect counterpart for man…Jesus is to be our greatest love, Mark 12:30
To offer as a perfect sacrifice…Jesus is the Lamb of God, John 1:29
He rescues and delivers…John 3:16-17
He speaks for God…John 10:30
Takes people’s sins away…Hebrews 10:10-14
Great worth…Matthew 16:26
Finally, we see beautiful illustrations that are found in the Scriptures describing Jesus as our Shepherd and we as His sheep:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
For Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:25 tells us, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” Jesus is also described by using animals. In John 1:29 and verse 36, Jesus is called the Lamb of God. He is the greatest sacrifice, given for our transgressions, by our great God in Heaven. Truly a gift that we should thank God for every day!
Going all the way to the book of Revelation, we read of Jesus as the Lion of Judah in chapter 5:5, and yet again as the Lamb. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’” (vs. 12, 13)
I am thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who teaches us from His creation all around us, and also thankful for the earthly father He gave me who taught me to appreciate all the handiwork of God.
By Robin Martin
Robin and her husband, Randy, work with the Lord’s church in Rosemount, Minnesota. They are blessed to have 7 children and 10 grandchildren. She is ever grateful for the grace of God and His undying love.