Egret Feathers, Worth More than Gold !
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is Thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)
The fine-feathered Great White Egret (a/k/a “Great Egret”) could have gone extirpated in America (i.e., regionally extinct in the USA), about a century ago, if not for the timely intervention of the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty.
A summary of that avian conservation success story was reported earlier as “Looking Back 100 Years, at the Migratory Bird Treaty: A Bird’s-eye View of How It was Hatched” [ https://leesbird.com/tag/migratory-bird-treaty/ ]. In fact, the fancy feathers of Great White Egrets were once worth more than gold of equal weight!
The plumes of the Great Egret and Snowy Egret were widely used to decorate women’s hats in the late 19th century [A.D.].
An ounce of egret feathers cost as much as $32 — more than an ounce of gold at that time — and, as a result of overharvesting, egret populations [especially in Florida] began to decline. Some of the first conservation legislation in North America [e.g., Lacey Act of 1900, codified at 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371-3378, a forerunner of the much-later Endangered Species Act] was enacted to outlaw the hunting of Great Egrets. These egrets are now steadily recovering and expanding their range[s], probably to areas where they formerly nested.
The Great Egret is the symbol for the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest bird conservation organizations in the United States. [Quoting Wayne R. Petersen & Roger Burrows, BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND (Lone Pine Publishing, 2004), page 93.]
Of course, market prices fluctuate. What is “worth more than gold” today may not be so tomorrow. Consumer markets are fickle things: beaver top-hats, Toys-R-Us toys, decoder rings, Bazooka Joe bubblegum, Pogo sticks, Rock ’em-Sock ’em Robots, floppy discs, etc.
However, it is a permanent truth that God’s Word is more valuable than gold:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. . . . the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold. (Psalm 19:7 & 19:9b-10a)
In fact, I was once reminded of that truth by none other than Col. Jeff Williams, a NASA astronaut who was then in outer space, inside the International Space Station [“ISS”], during a satellite-phone-facilitated video-conference conversation (on June 17th of AD2017). By God’s grace, my wife and I attended that special Skype-like conversation, hosted by Col. Williams’s good friend, Col. Chas Morse (USAF, retired). The video-conference conversation was partially reported later, as “Videoconference with ISS Commander” [ http://www.icr.org/article/videoconference-with-iss-commander ].
[See also this short interview: http://www.icr.org/article/above-all-earth/ — as well as Michael Stamp’s article about astronaut Jeff Williams, “ISS Commander Returns from Space”, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/iss-commander-returns-from-space/ . ]
But on June 17th of AD2017, the last earthbound participant in that space-to-Earth videoconference call, to ask Col. Jeff Williams an Earth-to-space question, was me. (Of course, my wife and I will never forget that unique video-conference conversation!)
In particular, I asked astronaut Jeff Williams about his personal appreciation for Psalm 19, which begins with a declaration that “the heavens declare the glory of God”.
After discussing the first half of Psalm 19, which speaks of the wondrous astronomical glories that God operates in the heavens, Col. Williams added that he appreciated the second half of Psalm 19 (i.e., verses 7-14) even more than the first half (i.e., verses 1-6), because Psalm 19:7-14 speaks of God’s written Word (i.e., the Holy Bible), which is even more glorious (see also Psalm 138:2b) than all of the magnificent heavens! – and, of crucial importance, only the Bible tells us about how our souls can be redemptively returned to God through Christ as our personal Savior. Now that’s infinitely priceless!
Surely God’s Word is “more valuable than gold, yea, than much fine gold” – and even more valuable than marketed Great White Egret feathers during the AD1800s.