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Extend Compassion to All Creation
Easter is a time when we think of the slaughter of the innocentsÖand the slaughter of the Innocent One, Jesus Christ. Easter week Betty Patten and I will be in Singapore. On Good Friday we will be calling all of the nations and islands of Asia, their people and people groups, to repentance and resurrection. This great service will be held, God willing, at Tanglin Christian Fellowship.
This mission came about as the result of Godís heart of mercy for animals. One night I was watching an investigative report on the practice of slaughtering dogs for aphrodisiacs in Korea. All night I prayed about what I had seen. The grief would not subside. A few days later, the Holy Spirit called me to go to Asia. The indictment against cruelty to animals, to the oppressed, and to the weak started to come forth. Then the blood shed was crying out to the Lord for justice. And God heard these cries.
What is Godís heart toward animals? Why is He concerned with how we, as human beings, treat them? And what relationship might there be between the slaughter of the innocents and the Slaughter of the Innocent One, Jesus Christ?
Animals are living creatures. God placed them under the rule of humanity. Humans differ from animals, e.g., in image, conscience, moral reasoning, destiny, and relationship with and to God. Nevertheless, God called their creation "good." Man was to exercise dominion over them, not domination. After the Fall, evil in the heart of man escalated until violence covered the earth. God brought the Flood. After the Flood, estrangement and fear replaced harmony between humans and animals, and humans were given permission to eat animals. God established a covenant with creation as part of the covenant with Noah. (Genesis 9) Notice:
"But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall you not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every manís brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheds manís blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man." (Genesis 9.4-6)
All created life is sacred, yet manís is of the highest value. Reverence must be shown for the life principle, i.e., the blood. Godís own image is stamped upon man. Therefore, God will exact justice man-to-man and as to manís rule over the created order.
Humans have a responsibility to relieve animal suffering. (Exodus 23.5, 34.26; Numbers 22.32) Animals as well as people are to rest on the Sabbath. (Exodus 20.8-10; 23.12; Deuteronomy 6.14) The sabbath year was a year of sacred rest for the land, yet what the land produced that year was to feed animals as well as people. (Leviticus 25.6, 7) Leviticus 22 places restrictions in the killing of animals. Inflicting suffering on animals is forbidden, as evidenced in Godís taking up the cause of Balaamís donkey. (Exodus 23.5; Numbers 22.32) Animals of different species were not to be yoked together because the weaker animal would suffer yoked to the stronger (Deuteronomy 22.10.) They could not be muzzled during threshing because humans were using them to reap and the animals had a right to share in the harvest. (Deuteronomy 25.4)
Love does no harm to its neighbor, and this harmless love is to extend to all creation. God desired a sacrifice of thanksgiving, not bulls and goats as if He were hungry. (Psalm 40, 50: Isaiah 1.11-17, 66.3-6; Micah 6.6-8) Godís tender mercies are over all His creatures. Instead of vain offerings and hands full of blood, God wanted His people to wash themselves and make themselves clean, to cease from doing evil and learn to do good. God is a good shepherd. He feeds the sheep. Moses and David were chosen as leaders of Godís people because they learned to be good shepherds over their flocks. Ezekiel 34.2-5 exhorts:
Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
God desires steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6.6, 8.13) Envy, greed, and idolatry are to be put away. "If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it." (Isaiah 1.19, 20) Relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Proverbs 12.10 states: The righteous person regards the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. "The animal test" reveals what is in the heart. Cruelty to a defenseless animal indicates cruelty also to defenseless people. With honor comes responsibility. God is for life. Those who are His image that.
Humans have the right to use animals for legitimate needs, but slaughtering should be done in a manner that causes the animal the least suffering. Concern for the physical or psychological suffering of animals and all life must be considered. Thus animals are not to be overburdened, but rather relieved. A mother is not to be killed in the same day as its young. A mother bird was to be sent away before taking the eggs. Rescue of animals in its show of mercy could and should be done in spite of violating the Sabbath under Jewish law. Always, mercy triumphs over justice.
Animals were provided by God to be companions for human beings. (Genesis 2.18, 19) They work for us, symbolize spiritual truths, and are depicted in Revelation as being in heavenly places praising God for their redemption. When sin entered the system, relationships between human and human became violent, and violence spread towards the other creatures with which they shared the earth. Because of manís sin, the rest of creation suffered. (Romans 8.19-22) The creation groans, awaiting redemption. Manís dominion included responsibility for the creation, all creatures, to provide for their safety and well-being. Itís a cultural mandate.
Isaiah 66 says that God is looking for the one that is poor and of a contrite spirit, one who trembles at His word. He says: He that kills an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrifices a lamb, as if he cut off a dogís neck; he that offers an oblation, as if he offered swineís bloodÖFor by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh. (Isaiah 66.2, 3, 16)
Manís treatment of animals is now coming under the judgment of God. We must repent for the violence and abuse of animalsÖand of each otherÖin order to be free from the sorrow and suffering resulting from hatred, greed, and exploitation. The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. All creation will be restored. (Ephesians 1.8-10) We are to extend Godís eternal love and justice to all creation, as they share in the redemption bringing peace between predator and prey. (Colossians 1.19, 20)
Jesus cleansed the Temple area in Jerusalem: How dare you turn My Fatherís house into a market? (John 2.13-16 NIV) This aggressive act seems uncharacteristic of Jesus, but was it? This act compelled His arrest, trial, and death because in this act Jesus attacked the economic foundation of Jerusalem and the sacrificial system. It was not an impulsive act, for when Jesus had entered Jerusalem, He went to the temple and looked around at everything. (Mark 11.11) He would have seen the animals jammed into the Temple enclosure, the number of sacrificers and their victims. Between 3 p.m. and sundown, about 18,000 animals would be dead. There were so many, that it had to be done in shifts.
Once in the place of slaughter, people lined up in long rows next to a row of priests. The shofar would sound and men would wrest the lambs to the ground, slitting their throats according to the Law. The blood would be caught and passed to the altar, where the blood would be thrown against the side of the altar. (Leviticus 17.10-14) The crucifixion of Jesus ended all this. God is after the heart.
The blood of bulls and goats were only a shadow of the better covenant to come. Hebrews 10.4 tells us that it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. God had no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. (Isaiah 1.9-20) Jesus, slaughtered as the innocent Lamb of God, took away sin. He came to do the will of His Father through the offering of His body once for all (time). And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. (Hebrews 10.11) Jesus is the final sacrifice. The requirement of blood shed for blood-shedding is met in Christ, restoring harmony between God and His creation. The life is in the blood, and only the shedding of blood can effect forgiveness of sin.
Jesus is Godís precious Son, whose Blood is of infinite value. Yet God spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. His death and resurrection have ramifications for all creation.
Godís judgment is coming to humanity for issues of dominion over the creation. It will begin with the household of God. I exhort all to allow the Holy Spirit to search your hearts for greed, idolatry, violence, envy, etc. Then let Him bring you to remembrance of times of cruelty to those weaker, younger, oppressed, likely to win over you, defenseless, having no voice, those considered by you as sub-human and therefore having little or no value. Yes, you are of more value, but if God knows when the sparrow falls and the nature of the lilies, we are to form a culture glorifying to God. Remade in Godís image through Christ, we take this gospel to all creation.
Repent. Examine the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sins and for the sins of the cosmos. Let the Blood of Christ cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God. Let the Holy Spirit purify your heart and renew your mind. Man, created in the image of God, has a responsibility to the creation to reflect Godís goodness and love, His holy heart, His justice.
Let the Law of kindness be in your mouth and in the work of your hands. Be kind to animals. Tend and care for them properly. Do not overburden them or "work them to death." Have compassion for their young. Rescue them. Do not beat them or "whip them into shape." After they have been trained to work for you, do not exploit them and withhold praise. Rather, reward them. Show compassion. Intercede on their behalf and be their voice.
Remember Godís ways in using creatures and the creation to provide companionship, helpers for your work, comfort, lessons in your life, etc. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Taking the gospel to all creation,
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power,
And riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory,
And blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth,
and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him that
sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.
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