Not a subject usually taught on – but of great importance when we see how God Himself values His creation – is the treatment of animals by mankind and is an interesting study for the student of the Bible to contemplate.
Addressing the ‘Elephant in the Room’
Animals are delicious! From beef, to chicken, to sizzling crispy bacon on a cold winter morning, the gift of an animal diet from our Lord is a blessing.
To my Jewish friends, I’m sorry for the mention of pork, but for Christians, we have an out. Actually, we have a few outs.
We have Peter’s vision of clean and unclean animals, which, after God told Peter to rise, kill, and eat, Peter refused because of his Kosher diet (Acts 10:9-16). God’s response was, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”
Although God was showing in this vision a metaphor that Gentiles will also be saved by the blood of Christ for remission of sins to those that would put their faith and trust in Him, the allusion to foods should not be dismissed.
When Gentiles began coming to Christ, many Jews had problems with these new converts because of what they ate and that they were uncircumcised – both of which were an abomination to the Jewish mind.
The council of church leadership in Jerusalem, headed by James the brother of Christ, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, wrote to the new Gentile converts who were distressed over this situation. Here was their advice to these new Gentile converts:
“Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well” (Acts 15:24-29). (emphasis mine)
Therefore, keeping Kosher isn’t necessary for a Gentile believer, for the dietary laws were for the Israelites exclusively as a holy nation that was to be separate from the other nations of the world. There is no problem for a Gentile to keep Kosher, as long as he or she does it for health concerns and not due to legalistic reasons, attempting to live up to the laws of the Torah, which no man or woman could ever live up to. For the law is a taskmaster to bring us to the knowledge that all men are sinners in need of a Savior and can never fulfill the law.
In Matthew 15:1-20, the context is eating with washed versus unwashed hands. But the Lord’s words are illuminating when it comes to the act of eating when He said:
“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (Matthew 15:11). (emphasis mine)
Clearly, the Lord was referring not only to unwashed hands but also to the consumption of food when He said:
“Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?” (Matthew 15:17).
Lastly, we have Paul’s revelation to Timothy concerning the latter days:
“[Those who depart from the faith will be] Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer“ (1 Timothy 4:3-5). (emphasis mine)
(For a look into this prophecy concerning eating meat in the last days, please see New Take on an Old Prophecy: 1 Timothy 4:1-5).
While we can, with thanksgiving and prayer, partake of the animals God has created for food and physical nutrition, we should always have the welfare of these and other animals in our minds.
Animals Have the God-Given Breath of Life
God “giveth to all life and breath, and all things,” and this includes the animals He created.
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:24-25).
Animals possess the same breath and spirit that mankind does:
“And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life” (Genesis 7:15).
The Hebrew word for “breath” is 7307 רוּחַ “ruach” and means breath, wind, spirit.
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so” (Genesis 1:24).
The Hebrew word for “creature” (also for creature in Genesis 1:20 for fish and fowls) is 5315 נֶפֶשׁ “nephesh” which means a soul, living being, life, etc.
This is the same word used when God created Adam as “a living soul.”
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul“ (Genesis 2:7). (emphasis mine)
But, as we all should know, animals were not created in the image of God and, as such, have not the ability to communicate, fellowship, and – because of our fall – find salvation with their Creator, as mankind does.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
Solomon elaborated on this truth, though rather cynically, in Ecclesiastes:
“For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21).
God’s Provisions for His Animal Kingdom
The seventh-year sabbath was a gift for all, including the land, the poor, and “the beasts of the field.”
“And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard” (Exodus 23:10-11).
So, too, was the weekly sabbath a time for rest for the people as well as the ox and the ass.
“Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed” (Exodus 23:12).
The children of Israel were also allowed to save their animals on the Sabbath.
“… Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5).
The importance in showing kindness to animals was considered to be an outward expression of a man’s righteousness.
“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast” (Proverbs 12:10a).
God’s people should always show regard to the Lord’s animal kingdom.
A Personal Story of Conviction in Animal Relations
The following is my own testimony regarding the treatment – or in my case, mistreatment and abuse – of animals and may strike many with a sense of horror; but I would be disingenuous if I didn’t mention my story in this article. You have been warned.
Born a Hunter and Torturer
For starters, I did have pets – cats and dogs – as a child and loved them very much. And all through my life, pets have always seemed to love me. But when it came to the rest of the animal kingdom, I was as cold as ice.
In my mind, animals were nothing more than inanimate objects, like rocks or sticks, that moved. They were there for my amusement and nothing more.
As a child, I would hunt flies in the house. My mom still talks about how I went about it: I’d put my hand up slowly and gradually move toward my prey – patience was a must to have success. My eyes wouldn’t blink, and my movements were almost unseen. Once I got close enough to the fly, I would quickly pinch my fingers together and grasp the fly’s wing.
Then, I’d either take the fly and throw it against the wall or toward the floor as the fly was severed from its wing, with the wing still between my fingers. Then I’d watch the fly struggle to take flight – which was impossible – and stagger on the floor. This, of course, all depended on whether they fly survived the full force trauma of being thrown against the wall or floor.
Another technique of mine was to throw it into the toilet and watch it struggle and drown.
Other bugs were treated in essentially the same way, but my weapon, like most people, was my foot. But I wasn’t content with squashing a bug; my aim was to maim it by gently stepping on my prey until I heard a little crack in its exoskeleton or skeletal frame. This way, I was able to watch it suffer as it attempted to flee away in pain.
I also tortured and cut off tails of lizards and maimed other wildlife along the way.
My Own Biblical Quail Encounter
My turning point came at about the age of 10. A friend of mine and myself were out in our three-and-a-half-acre desert wilderness (sand, lava rocks, Juniper trees, bushes and brush) when we spotted a flock of quail roaming in between bushes.
I immediately found a rock and, with precision aim, winged one of the quail from about 15 yards. My friend and I, ecstatic over the shot, jumped into action while the rest of the quail high-tailed it out of there.
I grabbed the quail by his broken wing while my friend was shouting what I was thinking in my head: “Throw it into the creek!”
We had a fast-running irrigation creek that ran throughout the many properties where we lived, and I threw the wounded quail into the creek. We both were screaming and yelling as we ran alongside the creek, watching the quail flutter and flail as it was desperately trying to keep its head above water. The rapids would spin the quail forward, forcefully dunking its head into the water, and with both the good and broken wing, would, with all of its might, push itself backwards as it tried to gasp for another breath of air until the cycle quickly repeated itself.
We finally lost the battle of keeping up with the doomed beast being forced down the rapids. To this day, I can see this episode in my minds-eye as if it was yesterday.
When we both stopped, gasping for breath from our run, my friend and I looked at each other with a rather inquisitive and disturbed expression on both of our faces. We didn’t have to say a word; what we saw, we didn’t like. We were having fun at the time, but when it was being replayed in our minds, we instinctively knew that what we did just wasn’t right.
This was the beginning of understanding that what I had been doing to animals might not be something that I should continue to do. I was realizing that they were life and had breath. The other animals that I had killed and tortured didn’t show signs of breathing like this quail did. Animals were no longer inanimate objects that moved, nor were they for my pleasure to do as I pleased with them anymore.
A Dear Deer Encounter
Within the next year or two, I had moved, but I came back to visit during the next summer. While there, I visited another friend who lived close to where I had lived before, and we decided to go hunting. I was about 12.
We grabbed a couple of rifles from his dad’s locked gun-storage unit, loaded up, and went outside.
My friend was behind me, and we spied some rabbits coming out of some bushes. Before I had a chance to lift my rifle, I heard rapid-fire ejecting from a gun with bullets whizzing right past my left ear, and I hit the deck! My friend, who was behind me, had just immediately started shooting at these rabbits that were right in front of me and never thought about me being directly in his line of fire!
I shouted at him from the ground with some language that would have made a sailor blush. I couldn’t believe he could be that stupid! But I forgave him – after he profusely apologized – and we continued on in our hunt.
It wasn’t more than 15 minutes later, and a buck was standing right in front of me, no more than 30 yards away. I couldn’t believe it. I had been hunting with my stepdad on many occasions, and never once had we seen a deer without the aid of a scope. Yet, here was a mighty buck standing right in front of me!
My friend – evidently a little gun-shy from our previous engagement – whispered, “Shoot it!”
So, I lifted up my gun and scoped this beauty out. Because I was so close to him, I found myself literally looking at his entire head in my scope with his dark eyes in the center. It seemed that I could actually hear his eyes speak, and they said, “What are you doing, Mark?”
I lowered my gun down, and I looked at the buck one last time, and it was as if he shook his head slowly up and down as if to say, “Now you understand — you did the right thing.” He slowly turned around, looked back at me, and started to dart away.
I fixed my eyes toward my friend and said, “I’m done. Let’s go.” My friend knew I was serious, and he knew I wasn’t going to let him try and shoot the escaping buck, so we left and returned the guns to the gun cabinet.
I never hurt, tortured, or killed another animal again – other than ‘quickly’ killing bugs found inside the house. I had learned my lesson, and I wasn’t even saved. Though I wouldn’t know the Lord for many years after, I just instinctively knew I shouldn’t continue to do what I was doing. This lesson, along with many other factors, may have very well helped prepare my heart for accepting the Lord later in life.
It’s been said that, when interviewed, most murderers will confess that they took much pleasure in torturing and killing animals when they were younger. The most recent confirmation of this correlation is the gunman in the Uvalde school shooting. Generally, with these types of people, the thrill seems to lose its edge later in life, with the only remedy being that of torturing and killing people. One can honestly see how this demented progression can take place.
God Cares for His Animal Creation, and So Should We
God knows and owns, personally, His created creatures within His animal kingdom.
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine” (Psalm 50:10-11).
God cares for His created animal kingdom.
“For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?” (1 Corinthians 9:9; Deuteronomy 25:4).
The animals in God’s creation are always remembered before the Lord.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” (Luke 12:6).
God – as He does for mankind who are created in His image – provides, with care, for His animal kingdom.
“He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth” (Psalm 104:10-14).
Though God’s creation suffers the curse because of the fall of man, even in this fallen state – with predator and prey – God’s provision is evident.
“The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.
“Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
“So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
“That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psalm 110:21-30).
Though man is God’s ultimate creation, even the fowls – who neither sow nor reap – can never escape His loving provision.
“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
Man’s concern for the animals God has lovingly provided for them is equated with God’s unceasing love for men and women and His desire for their salvation.
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).
God’s infinite love is manifest throughout His creation and, second only to the Lord’s love for mankind, is His care and provision for His animal kingdom.
To hear exciting ways our Creator Jesus Christ has engineered his creatures with His ingenuity and care, I highly recommend signing up for Creation Moments daily emails. You’ll discover many incredible symbiotic relationships between animals – and animals and plants – that truly declare the glory and creative mastery of the Creator, among many other captivating creation facts. It’s truly fascinating!
How much does God love His creation? Would it surprise you to know that bacteria have shown signs of mind, memory, individual learning, and even personality? It sure does surprise me until I’m reminded of just how great and awesome our God really is!
And when the Lord’s Millennial Kingdom arrives, we will see the love of God in his creation – as Creation was originally intended – especially in His beloved animal kingdom:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
“And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Truly, how we treat God’s animal kingdom is a reflection on how we end up treating others. While it is true that some people seem to value animal life more than human life – which is quite despicable on many fronts – these people should never name the Name of Christ on their lips.
For us, though, our love for our Creator and His creation is evidenced when we declare through our lives The Importance of Showing Kindness to Animals. Ultimately, though, this will inevitably be characterized by how we truly love God and others.
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
May we all continue to be Answering the Call of The Great Commission and giving an answer to every man and woman who so desperately needs Jesus and asks us, “Why Am I Here and What Is It All About?”
Keep reaching the lost for Christ while we still have time.
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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