Once and For All | Part 1: Animal Lovers
April 12, 2021
April 12, 2021
I’m wondering how many of us are “animal people.” By that I mean, “Do you have an affection or an affinity for animals?” What kind of animals? Any specific animal? What is it about that animal (or animals in general) that you specifically love?
I am an animal person. Not so much “wild” animals (i.e., I have little interest in going on an African safari), but I do love domesticated animals. Certainly dogs, certainly cats, but even when we go to the zoo, my favorite part is the farm petting zoo section. I love the whole idea of cows and goats and sheep and horses, etc. … being able to care for them, love on them … I genuinely value the relationship that one can have with such animals.
So it probably won’t surprise you that I love animal shows on television. And one of the TV shows I particularly enjoy is The Incredible Dr. Pol. Dr. Pol runs a veterinary clinic in rural Michigan. As a result, his clinic is not just a small animal/pet clinic, but one in which a lot of farm animals are cared for as well: cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, horses, emu, and the like.
And one of the things that stands out to me about people on this program is how emotionally attached they are to their animals. Their work animals (horses, donkeys), herd animals (cattle in particular) – so many of them have names. Owners can discern different personalities in cows. They talk about herd animals like they are pets.
But when the time comes when that animal best serves the family dead, there’s closure, but not much mourning. Underneath all of the affection and all of affinity for a domesticated work animal is an understanding that this animal’s ultimate purpose is not relationship, but provision. Ultimately, the animals give their lives for the lives of their owners.
I bring this up because to truly understand our text in Hebrews 10, which is about Jesus and us and the church, we have to understand something about bulls and goats. Specifically, bulls and goats and their relationship to the people who owned them in Old Testament times.
To give a reminder, Genesis chapters 3-7 show us the fall of mankind and how sin entered the world. A few chapters later, God makes a covenant with Abraham.
Go from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Genesis 12:1–3 (CSB)
But he said, “Lord God, how can I know that I will possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 So he brought all these to him, cut them in half, and laid the pieces opposite each other, but he did not cut the birds in half. 11 Birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was setting, a deep sleep came over Abram, and suddenly great terror and darkness descended on him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be resident aliens for four hundred years in a land that does not belong to them and will be enslaved and oppressed. 14 However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions. 15 But you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” 17 When the sun had set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the divided animals. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram. Genesis 15:8–18 (CSB)
God made a promise to Abraham that he would restore divine blessing to the nations through Abraham’s offspring. By his own word, God obligated himself not to completely destroy His people when they sinned against him.
Next time, we’ll explore this concept a little more fully.
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.