Rev 4:7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.Last week, we established that the four beasts at God's throne are symbols of God's nature. Each of the faces of the creatures represents an aspect of the Lord. These aspects are reflected in the four gospels. Matthew portrays Jesus as king. This is represented by the lion. Mark depicts Christ as servant and sacrifice, as represented by the ox. Luke focusses on Jesus' humanity. John tells us about Jesus' divinity, as reflected by the eagle.
God seems to like birds, I think. Jesus refers to himself as a mother hen who desires to gather his chicks (Jerusalem) under His wing. In Ezekiel, God the Father tells a story with Himself represented by an eagle. The Holy Spirit's most well-known physical manifestation is as a dove. I sometimes like to joke that I have an animal spirit guide- a dove.
So why does God use birds to represent Himself? Let's think about that for a minute.
One thing that amazes me about birds is their power. Not raw strength like you find in an elephant or a lion, though eagles are very strong. Birds as a group are associated with the power of flight. They soar high above most other animals. But here's something interesting I have noticed. The greater the bird, the less it flies under its own power.
Take the hummingbird. It flies completely under its own power. Consequently, a hummingbird must feed almost constantly, or it will quickly burn out and starve to death. Large birds such as eagles and condors rely on thermal updrafts to give them lift. They rarely flap their wings for altitude, spending most of their flight-time soaring. Thunderbirds, the largest birds in the world, rely almost completely on outside power to fly. They use the air currents within storm systems for their power. Because of this, they are almost never seen by human eyes. They are so rare, in fact, that science does not recognize their existance. Now this is not to say that a thunderbird cannot fly under his own power. Most certainly he can. And when he does, it is a breathtaking and terrifying thing to behold.
During his life on Earth, Jesus did many amazing things, but never under His own power. He instead used the power of the Holy Spirit at the direction of the Father. Does this mean that he had none? By no means.
What does our reading say about Jesus? Verse 3 tells us that all things that were created were created by Him.
That brings me to another wonder of birds. Birds lay eggs. The egg is an almost universal symbol for life. most of us celebrate the resurection of Jesus every Easter with colored eggs. Birds not only produce these symbols of life, but nurture them and protect them, in some cases up to the point of death, so that they may mature into miniatures of the parent. Take the penguin. A father penguin will go without food for months, coming to the very point of starvation in order to protect his egg from the cold. That egg means more to him than his own life.
Such is he love of the One who created us. He gave us our existance, but it doesn't stop there. He loves us so much that He lay down His life for us. It is because He did so, and because He continues to care for us, that we can mature from being soul-dead into "little Christs".
Have you ever noticed that birds don't hide much? hen was the last time you heard of someone walking through the woods and suddenly realizing that a herd of wild bluejays was stalking him from the underbrush? It occurred to me recently that my rat and my parakeet are two very different animals. My rat likes to spend her time hiding in nooks and crannies. My parakeet, on the other paw, is claustrophobic. She is generally silent. He sings loudly. Her fur provides camoflauge. His plumage is electric blue. Birds, at least of this variety, are all about being straightforward and up front.
Jesus, lkewise, is the God of truth. John calls Him "The true light" and "The Word". In the presence of Jesus, the walls of pretense crumble. The fog of ignorance lifts and the shadows of deception clear. Jesus illuminates the world and makes visible all truth, even what we would rather not see. This is why the world hates Him. it loves the darkness because the darkness hides its shameful deeds. But to those of who receive Him, the Light is comforting to the point of being a necessity. We see our flaws in His perfect light and with His help, we correct them.
But I think that the most prominent facet of birds is their gracefulness. Think about it. Every bird is graceful in its own way. The peacock may be the most beautiful bird in the world. The penguin, while slow and lumbering on land, when in the water becomes more graceful than any eagle. The dodo, while awkward in appearance, is (or was) the most serene of birds, having no fear. The cockerel is prized for its mighty voice, the canary for its gentle nature.
The beauty of our God encompasses all of these. While more glorious than the peacock, He put that glory aside to become plain as a pigeon. Nevertheless, He was gentle like a canary. He was fearless in the face of death like a dodo. Yet as the rooster's voice transforms a farm from sleep into wakefulness, so Jesus' voice transformed the world.
And like the mythical phoenix, Jesus rose again from death. As the tears of the phoenix can heal even the greatest wounds, so the suffering of Jesus is able to cleanse us from the poison of sin and create in us new life. I'm reminded of a certain fictional hero who was dying from a basilisk bite. All he had to do to be healed was allow the phoenix to cry on his wounds. So, too, is Jesus' gift of life. All one needs to do is receive it. If you have not, I urge you to receive it today.
Praise Jesus, the Lion of Judah and the Eagle of Heaven.
Pastor Oren Otter
December 9, 2006
Today's reading: John 1:1-5, 9-14
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.