In 39 years of preaching, I can’t remember ever preaching or hearing a message on animals. As we continue looking at the Christmas story, we can’t help but talk about them. They are in every manger scene we see! Luke 2:7 tells us that Mary laid Jesus in a manger, because there was no guest room for them. Why was there no room in the Inn? Don’t you think the God of the universe could get a room anywhere He wanted to? Why was Jesus born in a stable and laid in a manger which is a feeding trough for animals? The birth of Jesus in a stable and His birth witnessed by the animals was no accident.
The fact that the Bible and the earth are both filled with animals show their worth and importance to God. There are over 120 species of animals in the Bible. God made man and then He made animals. In Genesis 2:18, God says it wasn’t good that Adam be alone. He didn’t create Eve until verse 21! The animals came next. God gave Adam a pet before He gave him a wife! In 2 Samuel 12:3, we read about a man with a pet lamb. Proverbs 12:10 says, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” In addition to companionship, animals teach so many life lessons – responsibility in caring for them, the difference between male and female, etc. God loves animals. We see it in the covenant in Genesis 9. We see it when He didn’t want to destroy Ninevah because of all the people and animals (Jonah 4:11).
Jonah would have drowned if it had not been for a great fish that God sent to save him. Elijah was fed by the ravens. Jesus rode a colt on Palm Sunday that had never been ridden. Mary probably rode a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. There is a close connection in the story of Creation between Adam and animals. You see that close connection in the story of Redemption with Jesus being born in a stable and laid in a manger. The animals give us an example of submission and service. They gladly offered their home, their manger to welcome the King of Kings! We see so many examples of service animals today as well. Various church fathers wrote about animals, regarding when creation will be restored. Isaiah 11:6 says, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” If animals were part of God’s original design for his creation, it is probable that they are part of his eternal design. Their service on earth and in eternity will be the same – to bring pleasure and glory to God.
Proverbs 30:24 says, “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise.” In the following verses we see the ant with the lesson of preparation, the badger with the lesson of protection, the locust with the lesson on partnership, and the spider with the lesson on perseverance. In Ezekiel 1 we read a description of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. The description includes a lion, ox, and eagle. You see it again in Revelation 4:6-7. Have you ever wondered why there are 4 gospel books in the Bible? No one gospel could describe who Jesus is. We see the face of the lion in the Gospel of John, the face of the man in the Gospel of Luke, the face of the eagle in the Gospel of Matthew, and the face of the ox in the Gospel of Mark. (Watch Sunday’s sermon HERE for further explanation.) Animals are used to symbolize both good and evil. Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah. Satan roams around like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. Think of all the idols that were made in the likeness of animals. Animals today can represent travel and transportation. They can represent politics – donkeys and elephants. They can represent sports teams. Just like the idols were no substitute for Jesus, none of these things today are meant to be our source, identity, or what we live for.
Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Do you know what you have to do to plant weeds in your yard? Nothing. The seed is already there. Do you know what we have to do to become sinners? Nothing. With Adam, Eve, and Abel, one lamb died for one person. In Egypt, one lamb died for one family (the Passover). In the tabernacle, one lamb died for one nation. Jesus is the one lamb who died for the whole world. The question that Isaac asked, “Where is the Lamb?”, was answered by John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb!” It is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sin. Only Jesus can take away our sins. 1 John 1:7 says, “The bloodof Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” What is sin? It is rebellion against God. We all like sheep have gone astray. God requires justice. Either the guilty person or an acceptable substitute must pay for our sin. God created the animal sacrificial system to help his people understand this reality. Jesus was the baby born to die. His tiny feet would one day walk up Mount Calvary. His tiny head would one day wear the crown of thorns. Those little hands would one day bear the scars where they drove the nails. Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.