Did the Lord tell us to be like doves and snakes (we are used to the word “serpent”)? Well, not exactly, but to have the characteristics of doves and serpents. Matt 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” “Shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” How do doves behave?
Last year there was a dove on my clothesline, a small “peaceful dove.” They are very shy, and if you approach, they depart rapidly. From the patio I sprinkled a little bit of bird seed (the seed is for the king quails I have) over the railing, down about 4 meters onto the concrete. It took a little time, but the dove got used to that, though very frightened. It flew from the clothesline to the concrete path, all the time glancing at me and back to the concrete. That continued for a couple of weeks, daily, and then its mate came as well; and before long there were 8 of them. Then 12.
This year I decided to sit at the bottom of the back steps, and I was surprised that they came closer, though extremely wary, and the slightest movement meant they flew off so fast. Slowly they got used to me and will now come to about 60 cm away (2 feet), even a bit closer. There are up to 40 of them now! The word seems to have gotten around. Every afternoon they gather on the clothesline, or in the trees, or on the concrete 14 meters away, and even on the railings outside the kitchen door.
Then I got thinking, the Lord used the dove in illustrations; could I do that? Here are some thoughts:
- THEY SHOW LITTLE OR NO INITIATIVE, not willing to take the lead. They don’t like action. Some might say shy, reticent, hesitant, cautious, wary, stuck in the mud. Like one-ton stones you hope to move along but they won’t budge! Some even say cowards. In politics, there is an expression, “hawks and doves.” The hawks are those who are itching for action and to be aggressive, and the doves are those who don’t want to change anything to upset the status quo, even a little, and hang back. They won’t have any change.
How can that apply to Christians? Aggressive people don’t make for harmony, and doves get nothing done. There needs to be a correct blending of those two. The Christian needs to be forthright, to have initiative, to harmonize, but also to be gentle, harmless, considerate, and rightly cautious. Sometimes it is very hard to be the mix of those two attitudes (hawks, doves); mostly it is one or the other.
Having opposite traits is not easily combined. There is a story I heard years ago from an Irish preacher. One farmer had two pigs to send to market and gave one son a pig each. The stipulation was that they had to get to the market on time. It was essential. One son belted his pig along at a fast rate and got there on time. He was faithful to his father’s wish but was not merciful. The other son let the pig take its time; and when he got to the market, it had closed. He was merciful but not faithful to his father’s wishes. Faithfulness and mercy, neither son had. We struggle to combine the two seamlessly, but our Lord Jesus Christ is our Faithful and Merciful Great High Priest.
- WHO IS THE LEADER AMONG US? There might be a group of them together, and they look from one to the other, but not one of them wants to take the lead. It takes ages for one to move, to fly down to where I am; then, in such a short time, all the rest follow. In the early stages of feeding, the doves from the back steps, they would sit on the clothesline for some time, then one would fly down to about 4 meters away and slowly walk and stop, walk, stop. When it came almost to the seed I was slowly sprinkling, all the others would descend, also to about 4 meters away and come in slowly. They are a lot quicker now. In fact, some of them sit on the patio rails cooing for me as if they are in charge.
Leadership is a quality much needed in Christian circles because some in leadership should not be there. Any leadership is a calling from God as the times of the Judges shows (Bible book). Leadership is contained within humility, but often the humble are pushed aside. In these days too many think they have the right to leadership and control. Develop your skills in the Bible and look to the Lord for a door He may open for you to guide others. Leadership must be strong, responsive and compassionate.
- FEMALES AND MALES. I hope I don’t get into trouble here, but I share my observances. It is very clear among the doves I feed that the first to come are females. They have a narrower tail. I can have 4 females fairly close before a male will come. The females are more trusting. In fact, I think in the whole of nature generally, even in humans, that the female is more trusting. That is what the feminists rebel against.
In applying this to Christians, what do we say?
It must be noted that the women who interacted with the Lord were more trusting and sensitive. We see them in the opening verses of Luke 8 and in the gospels. I am convinced that women, as a rule, show more devotion to the Lord than men possibly do. I think it might have something to do with the way God made us, the distinctive difference between men and women. Women are also more dependent. This makes for a deeper relationship with God than a lot of men have. HOWEVER, there is a warning here. Some women tend to be more gullible than men, and their trust can lead them into problematic relationships and a greater chance of being deceived. Satan worked on Eve, not Adam.
I won’t name them, but many of the cults and strange things around us these days from the New Age, clairvoyants, and strange happenings in churches come more from women than men. Because women seem to trust more, or more readily than men, this is what the cults prey on. 2 Tim 3:6 “Among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses.” Both men and women must consider their attitudes and be careful in all things.
- GOD ENCOURAGES US AS I ENCOURAGE THE DOVES. Sometimes the doves get spooked and are reluctant to come closer than about 3 meters. They might take a couple of steps then stop. They keep their eyes on you all the time. When that happens, I take a bit of seed, not much, and sprinkle it a little further out. Then a bit more seed, and a bit more. It looks like encouragement for the doves to come. It works because they do come. Their confidence is strengthened. That was in the earlier stages. Now they come a lot more trustingly.
God is the great encourager. He bids us come. We might not be able to get further than a few faltering steps. He encourages our faith. He sprinkles hope before us to take more steps. He enlarges our faith. He points the way out in front of us. His purpose towards us is always good. What must we do? Just have faith to trust in every circumstance, because God will not gobble us up. There is no reason for us to get spooked. “Come unto me… and I will give you rest.” God even helps us come in the first place. Over time our confidence is strengthened.
- CALL ON ME. These doves are fed about 3-4 pm each afternoon; well I try to! Quite a number of them have learned to sit on the decking rails outside the back door about 2 pm and start cooing and making other noises in an effort to get my attention. It is almost as if they are demanding to be fed. It is as if they are calling on me for their needs.
Of course, I applied that to these verses: Matt 6:25-26 “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, nor for your body as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body than clothing? Look at the birds of the air that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” God is the Kind Provider.
Deut 4:7 “What great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him.” This was a great comfort to Israel. God is the Responder. God listens for the voice of His children.
- SQUABBLING AND AMBITION. One nasty feature these doves have, and it is fairly common in this fallen world to every created living thing, is that each one is jealous for position and to strive ahead of others. Like the lion, which will snarl and growl, warning to another lion that approaches the food it has obtained, these doves can argue among themselves at food time. Suddenly, one might dive at another, or lunge at one other to peck it on the body or head, usually on the side of the neck when a few feathers fall loose. The idea is to chase away the rivals to have as much for themselves.
We know this happens with non-Christians as envy, jealousy, greed, ambition, rivalry and hatred motivate individuals, but what about Christians? Are they like that too, even in a lesser way? Consider these verses: James 4:1-3 “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures, that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
The answer has to be, Yes, Christians, with their fallen natures, can be that way too, like the non-Christians. These wrong attitudes, and that sin, must not be functioning among God’s people. Our motives must be right, and then we can call on God who will hear us!
- THE CUCKOO IN THE NEST. A few weeks ago, there were about 15 doves just in front of me eating; and behold, a male metallic starling (Aplonis metallica) flew right in and stood in the middle of them about half a meter away from me. It had long ugly feet and blood red eyes. It was totally out of place, just like a cuckoo in another bird’s nest. These metallic starlings migrate from Papua New Guinea into northern Australia for a few months each year and eat the seed nuts on palm trees. The flesh is digested and the nuts expelled. Male and female have different patterns. They build great combined hanging nests in trees and screech all the time. This visitor had come to my doves to spy out what was happening and to see if there was something to steal. I think they are awful birds.
There is a real lesson here. We have liberty in Jesus Christ but the enemy wants to take that away by spying on us just like China is doing to the rest of the world. Satan will steal our heritage and faith and our joy. We must always be on guard lest a “starling” comes among us like a cuckoo in the nest. Stand firm. Be on guard, for so many false doctrines and practices are about, and so much liberal theology and political correctness. They are starlings and must be resisted. The following verses are relevant:
Galatians 2:4 “It was because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong.”
- RISE UP AND WORK! The parasitic “Pseudolychia canariensis,” all these doves have that fly in the Hippoboscidae family, known as “the lousy fly” or “louse fly.” I saw them early on at the start, running over the backs of the doves and then disappearing under their wings, but had no idea what they were until I did a lot of research. They move from one dove to another; pigeons have them too, and if they get dislodged, they quickly find another host. Both adult males and females feed on the blood of their host. The feet are adapted for clinging to and moving through the plumage and pelage of their hosts. Strongly specialized claws help them cling to the hair or feathers of their particular host species.
Hippoboscids will bite humans when given no other choice of host, and their bites are definitely itchy, but the flies did not survive long or reproduce when fed only human blood. Despite their mobility, they rarely spend any time off of their hosts. A fly dislodged from its host will quickly fly back to it, or the next closest host. Their bodies are distinctly flattened (from back to belly), as if someone had dropped a book on them. This flat body shape allows them to slide between the feathers and scuttle around in the fur of their hosts. Their shape and tough exoskeletons also make them hard to squish, both for their hosts and for the humans that study them. According to one scientist who has worked on hippoboscids, you can’t just smack them; you have to “roll them between your fingers” to kill them.
No parasite is good. God did not create human beings to be parasites, living off others, but ordered it after the fall that we work for our living “by the sweat of our brow.” Christians must not be parasites, living off their families or off the government, as that can’t be a good witness and must displease the Lord. No one who makes a living bludging [sponging] off others can really have a good conscience about it.
Those who want to be “lousy flies” in churches are the ones who leave all the work to others and exist off the free will and Christian grace of believers. There is work to be done but these “flies” sit back and watch others do it, and take the benefits from it. In a team of 12 bullocks, if 11 pull the load and one is “freeloading” then it puts extra strain on the others; and in churches, God’s willing ones have extra burdens.
How practical this revelation is: 2 Thess 3:10-12 “Even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat, for we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”
Paul is definite about this working principle. He would not have stood for parasites. We should all know, this has nothing to do with people who are ill and disabled, physically and mentally, or who have lost their jobs; those categories should be covered in Christian and church support. The verses apply to the “parasite.” Isn’t it true that those who are lazy and unwilling to work for their living have time on their hands to mind other people’s business and interfere in the concern of others, and are troublemakers?
- THERE IS SOMETHING STRANGE ABOUT YOU! The other day a dove turned up but it was not quite “right.” It appeared to be a bit of a mutant. It seemed to be a cross between a peaceful dove and some similar dove, but I cannot find any “similar dove” in my specialized bird books. Its head is smaller, more elongated; bigger beak; not quite the feather patterning of the true peaceful dove. Around the eyes is darker, and eyes are bigger. Let’s say it is a mystery. It was shy at first and hung back, and others tried to reject it but it comes close to my feet readily now. The other doves squabbled with it a bit and now accept it, but it tries to fit in and can be pushy like the others. Maybe it is learning their habits. It has become one of the first to arrive, so it is not as shy as others.
What can we understand by this? How do we react when someone comes among us whom we judge as a “bit strange”? Do we reject that person or ignore him or her, or do we go out of our way to accept those who are different? I have been to churches where social cliques operate, friendship groups; and if you are a stranger, you feel like a shag [one who is isolated] on a rock, and some let you feel that way. This is not right when God’s people are one in the Lord. There are places frequently in the world where nationality, skin color, and ethnic backgrounds count against a person. Even now, some churches have a discrimination against black, or Asian, or white. This is unacceptable before God. People there feel uncomfortable with one another.
God created only one man, yes, only one, but with the inbuilt genetic diversity to expand into many variations. We see that in skin color, eyes, facial features, hair, body shape and size. Why is it then that we want to discriminate by physical characteristics according to what our eyes see? God doesn’t, and neither must we.
The Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 was a black man. The Queen of Sheba herself was different. In the Bible, among God’s people, there did not seem to be any judgment of others because of ethnicity or language or culture. Why should it be so with us?
Matthew 7:1-5 “Do not judge lest you be judged, for in the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you, and why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. I was a stranger and you invited Me in.”
- WHAT UGLY LEGS AND FEET YOU HAVE! I have to say that if it came to a beauty contest for feet, these doves would come in near the bottom. Their reddish legs are not attractive – scaly and wrinkled, with their trident-like feet running towards you, and just as unattractive. Doves have a smaller reverse foot as well.
They come towards you with their legs going ten to the dozen [rapidly] and the feet splayed out. At the same time, with each step they take, the head bobs forward and back; so when they hurry along, their heads go up and down with rapidity. If we tried that, maybe out heads would come off! There is one thing about their feet, though – they really grip the ground with great stability.
Beware of picking flaws in others. Sometimes we might need to if it could affect the fellowship in serious matters like false teaching. We must endeavour to edify one another. One of the subtle sins is to judge according to financial position or status – (those ugly ones are the poor and smelly, and “not like us” with our well-furnished homes and expensive care). James had to deal with that.
James 1:9-10 “Let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position, and let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.”
And this one that far too many people have dismissed from their lives:
James 2:1-4 “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. If a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
As far as that “ugliness” in us goes, remember what Paul wrote. 1 Cor 12:21-25 “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary, and those members of the body which we deem less honourable [those with “ugly feet”], on these we bestow more abundant honour, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honour to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”
- WHAT IS THAT HITTING AND BANGING NOISE? Two days ago, before writing this, I heard a whacking noise on the back steps and went to investigate, only to find two male doves were having a real ding-dong of a dispute, and it was over a female. They faced each other, then lunged forward with outstretched wings to meet with clashing wings, much the same way as male deer do with their antlers. This is what created the bangs. I suppose it was a test to see which was stronger or which had the most endurance.
What application can we make for Christians? Christians can clash just like the doves, and I have heard of cases where they have come to blows. There is the clash of wills, and of ambition, which bring division and even hostility into churches. It is pride, is it not? The combatants persevere to see who is the stronger, and they wear a medallion engraved with “Pride Rules Me.” Pride was Satan’s downfall, and is the downfall of many a Christian and churches.
As doves battle for mating with the female, so some Christians battle for their own prize. Again, we go to James. James 4:1-3 “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
Christians, don’t battle against one another, but live in humility and truth, for you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Do not boast in your arrogance because all boasting is evil before God. Gal 5:15-16 “But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
- Get away from me! I witnessed a most interesting thing today. The male dove has a courting dance where he bows his head and chest downward and raises and spreads his tail with its inner border of white feathers, while at the same time cooing with up and down movements. I have only ever seen this done when trying to win over females. Today, one male began courting another male, and before long, the other male attacked it quite fiercely and drove it off.
I thought, “How interesting!” Even nature knows.” Birds have no conscience or moral compass as human beings have, but even the humble doves know right from wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable. They reject homosexuality. It is a pity that humans, even in their depraved state, don’t do the same. God has built into Nature His essence of decency. When Solomon said, “Go to the ant, you sluggard,” there was recognition that Nature has lessons for us. It would do us all good to study the birds and animals and all creatures; and if you do so, you will realize even more how God is a wonderful Creator.
- READY, SET, GO!Only it is not ready, set, go. It is instantaneous co-ordination. These doves are always on the alert, cautious and suspicious, and are easily spooked; and for some unknown reason, when something sets one off, in only a fraction of a second, they all suddenly flap the wings and are all away at a great pace. The reaction and speed are astounding. There is no considered thought or examination; it is instant reaction.
How can that apply to us? I am wondering about mob mentality. Can Christians be guilty of that? Yes, they can. What has happened to independent thinking, and why do we get on bandwagons? I find it most disturbing these days that too many of the church folk get into conspiracy theories as if they are immediately spooked about rumor or the latest trend. Christians are to be considered moderate in behavior and thought, quick to think, and slow to react. We must examine all things carefully, not react suddenly to some idea that has spooked us. Don’t be like spooked doves in this regard, but rather be at peace in God and let the God of peace rule your heart. The Holy Spirit, like a Dove, will spread that peace in our lives.