This past week I had the opportunity to help my son, his future brother-in-law, and his future father-in-law as they worked on the lodge facility where my son and his fiance will be married in October. The lodge is situated in the middle of a large undeveloped area surrounded by ponds and woods. One of the pleasant surprises as we began working on the facility was that a large rafter of turkeys (did you know that a group of turkeys is called a rafter?) frequented the grassy area behind the lodge. There appeared to be an equal number of males as females.
As they scavenged for food, they boldly strutted right up to the building, but once they caught sight of one of us humans they turned tail and headed off toward the woods. I brought our camera, equipped with a telephoto lens, to try to capture the birds as they went about their business. I especially wanted to get a few shots of the males “strutting their stuff” in front of the females.
I’ve previously seen wild turkeys on biking trips or while camping. The characteristic I’ve noted most was how frantically they would scramble whenever they felt the least bit threatened. It’s fairly comical because they bolt in different directions, almost running into each other in their urgency to get away. There is a scriptural basis for why turkeys, and most other animals, are so fearful of humans. It is usually assumed that, prior to the flood in Noah’s day, humans did not eat animals, so the animals did not feel threatened. But once the flood ran its course and as Noah, his family, and the animals all left the ark, God explained the following to Noah:
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”
~ Genesis 9:1-3 ESV
Obviously, things changed after the flood. We can only hypothesize about most of the conditions prior to and following the flood, but it is clear that not only plants, but “every moving thing that lives,” were now fair game for human consumption. Animals, indeed, should be fearful of humans.
And isn’t it true that, in the current “futile” state of the creation (see Romans 8:18-23), we humans are typically just as fearful of most wild creatures as they are of us? One day it will not be so. But, until then, animals and humans have this healthy respect for each other as we await the glorious day of redemption when all things will be made new.
We are told in Proverbs that fear is a good thing, something that should be cultivated when its object is God Almighty:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
This is the kind of fear that transcends concerns over our safety or even our lives. God, as the Master of His creation, is the determiner of our ultimate fate. Certainly, He placed in us and our animal friends a healthy aversion to death so that we could fulfill our roles in the here and now. But each of us needs to ponder, daily, the fact that our lives could come to an end at any moment due to unforeseen circumstances. Just today, in a conversation with an acquaintance of mine, he told me of a niece in her early 20’s who passed away a few days ago from a brief bout with cancer. She left behind three children and a husband who was serving in Afghanistan when he got the news. My friend also told me about the head-on collision last December in which he and two other family members were involved, and how their lives were spared even though they suffered many painful injuries. We all fear the possibility of suddenly finding ourselves in similar situations.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
~ Matthew 10:28-33 ESV
God holds our lives and the lives of even the most humble of creatures in the palms of His hands. But, unlike the animals, we have a life and death responsibility. If we are not afraid to acknowledge Jesus before men we need not be fearful about our ultimate fate. But those who do not proclaim Jesus as Savior and Lord have much to fear, because they will be on trial as “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” Even the most arrogant of men will cower in fear on that day.