God and the Animals

Christians sometimes assume that animals were sort of an optional extra in the biblical story of God and humanity. Maybe created for fun, or for our benefit – so we could have an interesting environment to live in, filled with useful and beautiful creatures, to name, eat, swat, watch, keep as pets, or use for work. Words like ‘environment’ and ‘nature’ reinforce the view of this world as merely a stage set or backdrop for the human drama to take place, that we live IN nature, but we’re separate from it, unique and special to God. But the word creation reminds us that we are actually just PART of it – and a very small (albeit important) part. Do animals really matter to God’? Let’s put some mistaken assumptions to rest.

Humans were created on the 6th day (best for last, right?).
Actually, ALL land animals were created on day 6, wild, domestic, creepy crawlies – and us.
Ah, but God specially breathed the ‘breath of life’ into man.
Actually, ALL animals have the ‘breath of life’ in them (Gen1:31).
But God established a covenant with Noah (i.e. humanity) after the flood.
Nope, the covenant was with Noah, his descendants, and every living creature that was with you (Gen9:9-17). The flood is a story of destruction of human evil, but also a story of salvation for all God’s creatures.

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psa24:1). Yes, we were given a special task – to ‘rule over’ creation (Gen1:26); but as ‘image-bearers’ modelling God’s love and care for every detail of creation, naming the animals in relational understanding (2:19). How did we do? Huge fail! Sin and selfishness devasted creation, corrupting our relationships with its inhabitants. But the story doesn’t end there. ‘Creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed’ (Rom8:19).

Meanwhile God’s faithfulness continues: ‘Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God (Job 39:41)? ‘He makes springs pour water into the ravines… for all the beasts of the field. The birds of the air nest and sing among the branches. He makes grass grow for the cattle. The earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work’ (Psa104:10-14).

And in the end? ‘I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, singing: praise and honour and glory to the Lamb! (Rev 5:13)’

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