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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Thursday, March 13, 2014

In the Biblical context, what can the Great Spotted Cuckoo, the Hen, the Ostrich or the Eagle teach us about parenting our kids? Part One

In the Biblical context, what can the Great Spotted Cuckoo, the Hen, the Ostrich or the Eagle teach us about parenting our kids? Part One

 As often happens, I recently find myself taking to bird watching. That is not too hard to do with the vast multiplicity of native bird species here in the Holy Land, not to mention all the migrating birds that pass through this country on their way too and from Africa.

 Recently, I was enjoying a few moments in the park with my youngest daughter. We were amazed to see scores of white heron/egret type birds sitting in the tall cypress trees. These migratory birds were resting on a seasonal migration that they make to and from Africa and my little girl and I got to observe them on their way.

Just as we were leaving, I saw another bird fly past my car and I got a good glimpse of it. It was a Great Spotted Cuckoo. These birds are fairly common here in the Mediterranean zone and they have an amazing story (we’ll get to this shortly) that people throughout the centuries have observed here and in Europe.

I reflected on those birds and am reminded of how much we can learn from animals and birds are no exception. Let us remind ourselves of what the Bible says on this quoting here a Scriptural text which has been a repeated reference for me of late:

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10) (ESV)

This text seems quite clear that “the birds of heaven, they will tell you…” Yes, birds can tell us something related to the One that “in his hand is the life of every living thing and breath of all mankind.” (v.10)

Birds and winged creatures are as old as creation and even older. We even encounter the Spirit of God “hovering” over the newly created earth in Genesis 1:2. This verb used in this text relates precisely to the same verb used in Deuteronomy 32:11 to describe an eagle “hovering” or “fluttering” over its nest saying:

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions,…” (more on this text later)

But I said that birds and winged creatures are older than creation? Yes, this is what I believe.

You might think it a bit strange to use the term “older than creation”, but in fact, the Bible speaks of actions taking place before creation took place. Some of these are fairly obvious like John 1 or even the more cryptic Proverbs 8 talking about Wisdom saying:

            “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work,
                        the first of his acts of old.
            Ages ago I was set up,
                        at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
            When there were no depths I was brought forth,
                        when there were no springs abounding with water.
            Before the mountains had been shaped,
                        before the hills, I was brought forth,
            before he had made the earth with its fields,
                        or the first of the dust of the world.
            When he established the heavens, I was there;
                        when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
            when he made firm the skies above,
                        when he established the fountains of the deep,
            when he assigned to the sea its limit,
                        so that the waters might not transgress his command,
            when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
                        then I was beside him, like a master workman,
            and I was daily his delight,
                        rejoicing before him always,
            rejoicing in his inhabited world
                        and delighting in the children of man. (Proverbs 8:22-31 ESV)

This text gets right back to the beginning of the earth, but, if we are willing to look carefully, we can find information which talks about times even before this if we are just willing to consider it and as I said earlier, this period pictures God undertaking creative works well before the creation of the earth. And who do we find there with God Almighty: Angels who are depicted often as winged creatures. Where is this referenced?

It is found in the book of Psalms. The book of Psalms is a carefully designed group of five separate collections of books. These collections, or divisions, are lost to the English reader, but are well known in Hebraic scholarship. These divisions are enumerated as follows:

Book I of the Psalms – Psalm 1 to Psalm 41
Book II of the Psalms – Psalm 42 to Psalm 72
Book III of the Psalms – Psalm 73 to Psalm 89
Book IV of the Psalms – Psalm 90 to Psalm 106
Book V of the Psalms – Psalm 107 to Psalm 150 (1)

Now, in Book IV of the Psalms, the last four Psalms of that book are connected together. No one can read these four Psalms consecutively without noticing the progression of events described therein.

My father always taught that these four Psalms were like a separate history of the world written by King David,(2) though it is not easy to prove that David wrote these Psalms though his name is ascribed as the author of Psalm 103 and the three Psalms that follow are all connected by a specific historical context well known in other parts of the Bible.

We even herein in these Psalms find information not mentioned in other parts of Scripture and herein is where I want to mention Psalm 103:19-22.

            The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
                        and his kingdom rules over all.
            Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
                        you mighty ones who do his word,
                        obeying the voice of his word!
            Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
                        his ministers, who do his will!
            Bless the LORD, all his works,
                        in all places of his dominion.
            Bless the LORD, O my soul! (Psalm 103:19-22 ESV)

This text does not really come across as that important, but it points to something that according to the context of these four Psalms points to which happened before the creation of the heavens and the earth that we are familiar with today.

That is exactly what Psalm 103:19 says. “The LORD (here using the Tetragrammaton name of God, known in English parlance as ‘Jehovah’ – יהוה) has established his throne in the heavens.” This Hebrew word which is translated as “established” has many nuances, but is used in the laying a foundation of a house (Judges 16:26, 29); of establishment of kingdoms, (I Samuel 20:31; I Chronicles 17:24) etc. This is undertaken in the presence and with His helpers – angels, winged creatures like the cherubim and seraphim mentioned in other parts of Scripture. So we can see even before creation, bird like creatures were there working with God even in the most remote of time periods.

God also likened and compared to birds

God is even likened to an eagle Himself saying: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4 ESV)

We can also note the importance of bird imagery to God Himself in that He chose the form of a bird to reveal the Holy Spirit to mankind. (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32) This is quite an important point to the Evangelists considering that each one of them mentions specifically that the Spirit descended upon Jesus like a ‘dove.’

What Can Birds Teach Us?  

Wise men have been speaking about birds in particular over the ages because like all animals, we can learn something from them as they exhibit aspects of God Himself through their behaviors. These behaviors can show the individual birds wise or foolish.

For example, Jesus mentions “a hen gathering her chicks under her wings” in a sense of something good and denoting His own feeling for His own people that He wanted to offer them the protection that a mother hen affords her chicks taking them under her wing, but as the passage says: “they were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34)

This metaphor remains today in English parlance where a senior person takes a junior person in some way “under their wing” (be they a man or woman without gender distinction as both men and women use this metaphor) in the sense of helping, sheltering, protecting or guiding. Hence, one who takes another “under their wing” is doing so to bestow wisdom, protection, guidance, etc.

This illustration of the hen has its opposite in Scripture. It is the ostrich. Note the following:

“The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love? For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them. She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear, because God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding. When she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider. (Job 39:13-18)

So the bird who leaves its eggs to be unprotected, “who deals cruelly with its young as though they are not hers”, is an animal without wisdom or understanding!

Isn’t it also interesting that the LORD tells Job says that this bird “deals cruelly with its young, as if they were not hers” and this behavior is characterized as one who “forget[s] wisdom” and has “no share in understanding.” (ibid.) This is a very interesting description which may have some teaching for parents, especially when we consider the writer in question.

Job certainly seems to have bee influenced by God in his actions toward his own children. When we read of the actions of Job concerning his own children, in the descriptions we have concerning his habits in relating to his children, he certainly comes across as a gentle, caring and loving father. (Job 1:5)

Birds and nature have been the subjects of discussions among the wise for thousands of years. Note that is highlighted in the description of Solomon in all his wisdom.

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east (he is wiser than even Job, the wise man of Uz (Job 1:1) and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. (I Kings 4:29-33 ESV)

Solomon in this text is shown to have spoken about different kinds of birds. This was no doubt done by observation and by collecting written information about birds or commissioning studies about their habits and then having them written down.

It should not surprise us that when Solomon spoke of birds, he would have almost certainly focused primarily on the bird species within his sphere of influence. It seems reasonable that his focus would have been on bird species that would have been more familiar to him and to those in neighbouring regions. While we do not have any specific scriptural evidence for this suggestion, it is not outside the realm of a reasoned approach to the materials that we do have in Scripture. END PART ONE

(1) See Ernest L. Martin "Restoring the Original Bible" Appendix One, pg. 477, ASK Publications: Portland: OR, 1994)

(2) The Story of Creation (1988) and The Post-Flood Creations of God (1989)  by Ernest L. Martin - ASK Publications Alhambra:CA)

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