Serpents and Doves

Author’s note: if you’re terrified of snakes, don’t scroll past the first four paragraphs!

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Mourning Dove. Walton County, Georgia. March 24, 2017. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

Jesus threw an interesting paradox before us when he preached, “Be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” The outcome of combining these two critters can be quite perilous… primarily for the dove! Snakes are often found raiding birds’ nests, seeking to devour eggs and chicks. So why this conflicting counsel from our Lord?

A.B. Bruce writes, “The serpent is the emblem of cunning, the dove of simplicity. No creatures can be more unlike; yet Jesus requires of His disciples to be at once serpents in cautiousness, and doves in simplicity of aim and purity of heart. These qualities are not easy to combine; yet the combination is not impossible.”

Christians must have serpent-like wisdom and shrewdness in order to make a stand for righteousness in the arena of worldly politics and social unrest; yet have dove-like care and compassion to peacefully present the gospel and welcome the sin-suffering into the flock of God.

The apostle Paul was wise-as-a-serpent when utilizing his status as a Roman citizen to escape being mauled by a crowd and unlawfully flogged by the local police. Yet, his dove nature remained on top as he stood for Christ while on trial, even though it may not have been advantageous to his personal outcome. And it may have been a prudent idea for Peter to distance himself from a leader that was arrested for insurrection, but the serpent devoured the dove as he publicly declared thrice, “I know not the man.”

Eastern Ratsnake coiled in a kitchen sink. Pantherophis alleghaniensis is a common snake found in the eastern United States. Walton County, Georgia. June 30, 2020. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

Losing the Balance…

I was a bit saddened this past week to watch events unfold in our small town. Citizens from our city, as well as agitators from out-of-town, gathered to condemn our public safety officers and demand the defunding of the police department. But that is not what saddened me, for peaceful protests are the American way.

Another group of citizens – many from the local churches – also gathered to show support for our people in uniform. Here was the perfect Christian balance: the “dove nature” desired peace and unity in our community; and the “wise-as-serpents nature” was making a stand for righteousness in the political arena. But as passions rose, the serpent began to swallow the dove…

One gentleman who identified himself as local Christian minister, had his microphone snatched away by a protester. In frustration, the minister shoved the protester to the ground. Of course, the media was there to photograph the incident and title it, “Preacher Assaults Protester.” Sadly, the serpent had swallowed the dove when the Christian man lost his temper.

SORRY FOR THE GRAPHIC CONTENT, BUT IT EXEMPLIFIES THE DAMAGE DONE WHEN THE SERPENT OUTWITS THE DOVE IN OUR CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Eastern Ratsnake devouring a Mockingbird; Walton County, Georgia. August 13, 2019. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

Let us at least be doves…

A.B. Bruce continues, “Happy are they who can be both serpent and dove; but if we cannot, let us at least be doves. The dove must come before the serpent in our esteem, and in the development of our character. If we invert the order, the dove will be devoured by the serpent: the cause of truth and righteousness will be betrayed out of a base regard to self-preservation and worldly advantage.”

The recent social and political issues are causing a rise among many. Passions are brewing and blood is even boiling. Yet as Christians, we must remember to balance our serpent-like shrewdness while engaged in this arena, with our dove-like nature to win the lost to Christ. For what does it profit if we win the worldly battles, but lose many souls? If we can’t balance the serpent/dove natures, let us at least be doves.


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

Jesus And Birds – His Baptism

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17 KJV)

White Dove – Transparent Background PD

Matt. 3:1617. In the process of His baptism, Jesus went up . . . out of the water, the prepositions suggesting that He was completely in the water and came up out from it, again indicating immersion. The descending of the Spirit of God fulfilled the predicted sign to John in order to indicate the true Messiah (cf. John 1:33Is. 11:2). The dove was a symbol of innocence and purity (cf. 10:16) and served as an ideal symbolic representation of the Holy Spirit. The voice from heaven is that of the Father (see also 17:5John 12:28 where He speaks at the Transfiguration and just prior to the Crucifixion), giving His verbal approval to the ministry of His beloved Son. There can be no doubt that all three persons of the Trinity are actively involved here as distinct persons of the Godhead. The Father speaks, the Spirit descends, and the Son is baptized. (King James Study Bible Notes)

Matt. 3:16 Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus not to overcome sin (for he was sinless), but to equip him (see note on Jdg 3:10) for his work as the divine-human Messiah. (Case for Christ Study Bible)

Matt. 3:16 the Spirit of God descending: This was God’s official recognition of Jesus as the Messiah. (NKJV Study Bible)

Here are the other three passages from the Gospel writers:

“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 KJV)

Dove PD By Malone

“Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22 KJV)

White Dove – Transparent Background PD

“And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34 KJV)

Dove Landing PD

John 1:34 I saw. John gives his final, definitive answer to the Pharisees who were challenging his right to baptize in water. God Himself had sent him to do so (John 1:33), so that when Jesus also would come for baptism (Luke 3:21-22) to “fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), God could identify Him by sending the Holy Spirit upon Him in the form of a dove (John 1:32-33), in order that “He should be made manifest to Israel” (John 1:31). (New Defender’s Study Bible Notes)

I trust you are enjoying and learning from these post of Jesus and the Birds. Stay Tuned for More. (I’m just letting the Word speak for itself.)


See:

 

Birds Are Wonderful: D, E, and F !

BIRDS  ARE  WONDERFUL  . . .  D,  E,  and  F !

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”   (Matthew 6:25-26)

For ushering in the year of our Lord 2020,  below follows the second advance installment of alphabet-illustrating birds of the world, as part of this new series (“Birds Are Wonderful  —  and Some Are a Little Weird*).  The letter D is illustrated by Diamond Firetail, Dead Sea Sparrow, and Doves.  The letter E  illustrated by Eiders, Egrets, and Edible-Nest Swiftlet.  The letter F illustrated by Flamingos, Flamebacks, and Frogmouths.

“D” BIRDS:   Diamond Firetail, Dead Sea Sparrow, and Doves.

BAW-DiamondFiretail-DeadSeaSparrow

BAW-Doves

“E” BIRDS:  Eiders, Egrets, and Edible-Nest Swiftlet.

BAW-Eiders-Egrets

BAW-EdibleNestSwiftlet

“F” BIRDS:  Flamingos, Flamebacks, and Frogmouths. 

BAW-Flamingo-Flameback

BAW-Frogmouths

Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like Edible-Nest Swiftlets and Frogmouths, are a little bit weird!  (Stay tuned for more, D.v.)


* Quoting from “Birds Are Wonderful, and Some Are a Little Weird”, (c) AD2019 James J. S. Johnson   [used here by permission].

Frogmouth-tawny

 

Reflecting on Floodwaters (and a Dove): How Do We “Return”?

Returning Earthly Lives to Normalcy, After the Flood:

Yet Whereunto (and How) Do We Return our Souls?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Ark-with-returning-Dove.olive-HoshanaRabbah

ARK ON WAVES, with returning dove   (credit: public domain / Hoshanah Rabbah)

But the dove [Hebrew: yônah] found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned [a form of the verb shûb] unto him [i.e., Noah] into the Ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth; then he [i.e., Noah] put forth his hand, and took her [i.e., the female dove], and pulled her unto himself, unto the Ark.  And he waited yet other 7 days; and again he [i.e., Noah] sent forth the dove from the Ark; and the dove came back [a form of the verb shûb] unto him at evening; and, lo! — an olive leaf, plucked off, was in her [i.e., the female dove’s] mouth!  — so that Noah knew the waters were abated from upon the earth.  And he waited yet other 7 days; and sent forth the dove, who returned [a form of the verb shûb] not again unto him anymore.  (Genesis 8:9-12)

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, in recent weeks, both visited the southeastern United States (as well as some Caribbean islands nearby) with powerful devastation. Thereafter those hurricanes left flooding and turmoil in their wakes.  The need for restoration and a return to normalcy will continue.

Yet imagine how much more devastation faced the human race when only 8 humans were alive, who themselves, for more than a year, had just survived the only worldwide Flood that ever was – or ever will be. What an aftermath!  And what a need for ecological restoration, to say the least!

In fact, that is part of what we read about within the 8th chapter of Genesis.

White-Dove-flying.background-clouds

DOVE (credit: Fanpop Wallpaper)

Furthermore, what an amazing report of scientific research is reported in Genesis chapter 8 – Noah used a dove to take, in effect, an ecological snapshot of the Flood’s aftermath, so that Noah could observe – with the help of a dove (who served his need for information, like a passenger pigeon) – when Earth was drained sufficiently to permit recovered/sprouted olive trees to produce some pluckable leaves, an early sign that Earth was regaining a vegetated condition.

Noah-dove-raven-Ark

DOVE RETURNS TO NOAH   (image credit: Pinterest)

Thus Noah, as the greatest empirical scientist then alive (not to mention the greatest zookeeper to ever live!), concluded that the Flood’s wake was subsided sufficiently to permit the first stages of ecological recovery. Meanwhile, Noah (and his family, as well as the other Ark-borne animals) remained aboard the Ark, until God Himself instructed Noah that it was safe for their disembarkation (Genesis 8:15-19).

White-Dove.Journal-of-Consumer-Research

WHITE DOVE   (photo

credit; Journal of Consumer Research)

Much more has been said, and should be said, about Noah’s disembarkation after the Flood. (For example, consider the entire book by Britain’s premier historian, Dr. Bill Cooper, titled AFTER THE FLOOD.)

But for now, however, consider just one Hebrew word, the simple verb shûb. It basically means to “return”, to “come back”.  In Genesis 8:9-12 the dove twice returned, after which she did not return on the third occasion.  What a simple action verb, yet how mighty its meaning in Scripture!  Two other usages of this action verb will be noted, below, to illustrate the importance of this simple verb, the root form of which is only 3 letters in Hebrew (shûb).

In Psalm 23:3 we read that the LORD “restores my soul”  —  literally, God “returns” my soul, because of His shepherdly care for me.  Because God created me, as a unique human (Psalm 102:18), my being began with and by His divine command, so He is the author of my creaturely existence.

However, as a sinner, I have strayed from God my Creator (Isaiah 53:6a), so I cannot belong to Him, so how can I be successfully returned unto Him?  Lamentably, as a sinner, I cannot accomplish a satisfactory solution to my personal predicament – my problem of sin-caused alienation (Isaiah 59:2 & 64:6; Romans 3:23).

Wonderfully, however, without compromising His holiness and justice, God has provided a redemptive solution to my sin problem, the gift of substitutionary atonement (John 3:14-16). Christ has voluntarily and magnanimously accepted the punishment due for my sin (and for all of Adam’s race), to justify the gifted exchange of Christ’s own perfect righteousness (Romans 6:23), generously producing the marvelous result that I can be justified and forgiven (because His blood on the cross paid my sin-debt), so long as I happily accept that redemptive gift by believing that God has chosen to give me that redemption (Ephesians 1:3-14; John 14:6)!

What a privilege to be one of the “sheep” of God’s flock (see Psalm 100).  In John chapter 10, we read that Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-14), Who knows and cares for His sheep, and Who gives unto us, His “sheep”, everlasting life, as a gracious and redemptive gift of His love (John 10:16-18 & 10:26-28).

In other words, like an errant sheep (Isaiah 53:6), I have (as has every human sinner) wandered away from God, yet God has redemptively sought and retrieved me (Luke 15:4-7) as if I was a sheep separated from 99 other sheep, and Christ deemed me valuable enough to find and to fetch, and to safely secure me within His flock!

Jesus-Shepherd-with-sheep.watercolor

JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD  (image credit: Pinterest)

But notice that the gift of redemption in Christ is not automatically applied to the eternal destinies of every human being – there is a choice to be made, a choice with moral (and everlasting) accountability – the choice must be willingly made, to accept (rather than to decline accepting) Christ as one’s personal Redeemer. No one is forcefully drafted into Heaven against his or her will – there are no “robots” in Heaven!

It is “whosoever will” who enters Heaven by God’s grace in Christ, so no truth-opposing (and thus Christ-rejecting) unbelievers enter the ultimate Haven of rest. And that requirement of believing acceptance of God’s grace, a/k/a saving faith, is the choice that is needed, in order to benefit eternally form Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection (John 1:12 & 3:14-18).

This crucial need to consciously and voluntarily accept, by belief (what is sometimes called a “love of the truth”), God’s promised gift of salvation in Christ, is consistently taught throughout the Holy Bible. Just as the serpent-bitten Israelites needed to believe God’s promise about the only sufficient remedy for deadly snakebites, we must believe God’s promise that looking to the once-for-all crucified Christ is the only sufficient remedy for our own sin problem (John 3:14-16, in light of Numbers 21:7-9).

John3.14-15-picture

JOHN 3:14-15 with NUMBERS 21:4-9   (image credit: Godisrevealed.com blog)

That requires us, as individuals, to personally believe the truth of God’s promise of saving grace in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:22-26 & 4:20-25 & 10:13).

Notice that this kind of belief is not the same thing as promising to serve God (or “to follow Jesus”), because real saving belief involves expecting God to give us something, freely and graciously, apart from anything we do (or promise to do) for God.

Oddly, this is hard for many to accept —  the idea that eternal life in Christ really is free is rejected by many, despite the Bible’s clear teaching that salvation in Christ is a GIFT (Romans 6:23).   No one merited the right to be conceived in the womb, or to be born.  Yet it is undeniable that our creaturely lives are gifts we did not earn (or work for) — obviously God made us, or else we would not exist!  So, since our very lives are unmerited gifts from God, to us, why should we have difficulty with the idea that God gives us forgiveness and salvation in Christ, as an unmerited gift that we neither earn nor work for?

Thus, it is simply believing God’s Word (like a trusting toddler would believe a loving parent), —  specifically, believing the promises in God’s Word regarding the Lord Jesus Christ as the unique Messianic Savior (1st Corinthians 15:3-4),  — that constitutes saving faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 1:12 & 3:14-16).  It is that all-important belief that God uses to return our souls unto Himself, the psalmist (David) says in the 19th Psalm:

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting [a form of the Hebrew verb shûbּ  —  literally “returning”] the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)

And it is God Himself Who is our ultimate and only “haven of rest”, our souls’ true “home”.  (See “Why We Want to Go Home”, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/why-we-want-go-home .)    In other words, although some would say that “home (on Earth) is where you hang your hat”, our eternal home is where we belong forever – with God Himself (and with His forever family), thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:20-21)!


Lee’s Seven Word Sunday – 6/18/17

***

Silver Diamond Dove Female ©MediaCache

WINGS OF A DOVE

COVERED WITH SILVER

***



“Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.”  (Psalm 68:13)

Silver Diamond Dove Female ©MediaCache

*

More Daily Devotionals

*

Lee’s Six Word Saturday – 10/15/16

***

Dove resting on board the Ark

BUT THE DOVE FOUND NO REST

***



But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.” (Genesis 8:9 KJV)

Dove resting on board the Ark Encounter by Lee

*

More Daily Devotionals

*