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What About the Animals?
By Dr. Mary Craig
Having traveled to all seven continents, I have heard many different beliefs about animals. Some of these beliefs include the idea that animals have no souls and therefore people are not accountable for their treatment of them. Another belief is that animals have no purpose but to serve humanity, and therefore, it doesnít matter how they are treated or cared for. Itís all right, then, to work an animal to death, or neglect them, or use them in an exploitative manner for entertainment, or use them for reasons and purposes that suit people alone, even sexually.
There is also a belief that holds that everything is here by time, matter, and chance, that there is no Creator who has designed creation and decreed purpose for existence. Thus, marriage, for example, is merely species survival by means of biological drive, not a covenantal relationship exhibiting the relationship of Christ and His Bride. Doing away with God and a Creator gives people sexual freedom, but at a cost of reducing them from being created in the image of God with a high calling and purpose to being mere matter here by time and chance, the product of evolution. Could it be that the reduction of humanity to evolved animals rests below the increase of violence we see today? I think that reducing the struggle of life to survival of the species removes the significance of being and enhances violence as a means of staying alive.
Are humans nothing but evolved animals? And if animals have no souls, then what does that mean for humanity? If animals have no souls and man is merely evolved from the ape or whatever, do humans have souls? And if the Bible is correct about man being created in the image of God, what does that mean for how we are to live in relationship to the rest of creation? What about the animals?
The Bible has been recognized by many as being the inspired and infallible Word of God, i.e., Truth. For all, the Bible is the worldís continual "best-seller," basic to three world religions, and the basis of law and life for many nations. What does it say about animals? And then what does that mean for humans, for you and for me? Is there any purpose to our lives? Do we have souls? Are we more than animals? And if we are, then what is our relationship to animals in regards to our treatment of them? Are we "free" to dominate them or is the concept of dominion different from domination?
Some in psychology have believed man is an animal and therefore is best guided by conditioning, reward and punishment. Man has natural drives, and is seen by some as primarily a sexual being rather than as a spiritual being. But I believe this reduction of self-image leads to violence; and while anger and hate and the drive to survive by whatever means is certainly strong, love is a stronger motivation, a higher purpose. Jesus Christ calls us to love one another. Love summarizes the law of God. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1.5: "Now the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned."
Even animals respond better to love and loving relationships than they do to mere obedience extracted from fear of punishment. Love works miracles. Love is stronger than death. But before we try to raise the level of humanity to the commandment to love, letís look at some scriptures and definitions found in the Bible, the Word of God.
First, letís get it straight. Animals are living creatures. They have nephesh, i.e., breath, respiration, life; soul, spirit, mind; being, and selfhood. Nephesh is the vital principle which results in death when it leaves the body. (Genesis 35.18; 1 Kings 17.21) Animals have nephesh (Genesis 1.21,24; 2.7, 19; 9.10, 12, 15; Leviticus 11.10) The life (nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood. (Lev. 17.11) Animals also have ruach, or breath. (Genesis 7.22, 23) Ruach applies to the vital spirit. (Genesis 6.17; 7.15, 22; Job 17.1; 19.17; Psalm 135.17) Ruach is the element of life in a person (i.e., his natural spirit), and in animals (Genesis 7.22; Psalm 104.29; Ecclesiastes 12.6).
Though found to be unsuitable to be Adamís helpmate, animals nonetheless have what the Bible calls "heart" as well. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar relates his dream/vision to Daniel. In this vision, the king hears a watcher, or holy one come down from heaven, issue a judgment. In that judgment, it is said, "Öand let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: let his heart be changed from manís, and let a beastís heart be given unto him: and let seven times pass over him." (Daniel 4.16) The word for "heart" here corresponds to a similar word indicating the center of anything, feelings, will, and intellect. The king was driven from men and his dwelling was with the beasts of the field. He ate grass as oxen, his body was wet with the dew of heaven, his hair grew, and his nails became claws. This was a judgment on the kingís pride, and at the end of the time of judgment, the king had his understanding returned unto him. He blessed the most High and praised and honored Him that lives forever. He came to understand that the true Godís dominion is an everlasting dominion and His kingdom is from generation to generation. (Daniel 4) This should give us pause to reflect upon the power of God to change hearts and cause for us to humble ourselves under His mighty hand.
It is interesting to note Godís intervention in Numbers 22. Not only is He in control of hearts, understanding and wisdom (Job 39); He is in control who/what speaks what language. God was angry with the prophet Balaam. The angel of the Lord stood in the way against him. Balaamís donkey saw the angel of the Lord and turned aside into a field. Balaam smote the donkey. Again seeing the angel of the Lord, the donkey thrust herself into a wall and crushed Balaamís foot against the wall. Balaam smote her again. Then they got into a place where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. At that, the donkey fell down and didnít move. Balaam hit the donkey with a staff. And then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, who defended herself. Balaam wanted to kill her. The donkey meekly mentioned her faithfulness to serve Balaam. Finally, God opened Balaamís eyes and fear came over him. The angel of the Lord explained how he had withstood Balaam because of his perverse ways. The donkey obeyed. Of the donkey, the angel said, "Unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive." (Numbers 22.33) God rewarded the obedience of the donkey, who suffered because of her obedience and yet was vindicated.
God placed living creatures under the rule of humanity. Humans differ from animals in image, conscience, moral reasoning, destiny, and relationship with and to God. God called their creation "good." Man was to exercise dominion over them, not domination. After the Fall, evil in the heart of man escalated until violence covered the earth. God brought the Flood. After the Flood, estrangement and fear replaced harmony between humans and animals, and humans were given permission to eat animals. God established a covenant with creation as part of the covenant with Noah. (Genesis 9) Notice:
"But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall you not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every manís brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheds manís blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man." (Genesis 9.4-6)
All created life is sacred, yet manís is of the highest value. Reverence must be shown for the life principle, i.e., the blood. Godís own image is stamped upon man. Therefore, God will exact justice man-to-man and as to manís rule over the created order.
Humans have a responsibility to relieve animal suffering. (Exodus 23.5, 34.26; Numbers 22.32) Animals as well as people are to rest on the Sabbath. (Exodus 20.8-10; 23.12; Deuteronomy 6.14) The Sabbath year was a year of sacred rest for the land, yet what the land produced that year was to feed animals as well as people. (Leviticus 25.6, 7) Leviticus 22 places restrictions in the killing animals. Inflicting suffering on animals is forbidden, as evidenced in Godís taking up the cause of Balaamís donkey. (Exodus 23.5; Numbers 22.32) Animals of different species were not to be yoked together because the weaker animal would suffer yoked to the stronger (Deuteronomy 22.10). Oxen could not be muzzled during threshing because humans were using them to reap and the animals had a right to share in the harvest. (Deuteronomy 25.4)
Love does no harm to its neighbor, and this harmless love is to extend to all creation. God desired a sacrifice of thanksgiving, not bulls and goats as if He were hungry. (Psalm 40, 50; Isaiah 1.11-17, 66.3-6; Micah 6.6-8) Godís tender mercies are over all His creatures. Instead of vain offerings and hands full of blood, God wanted His people to wash themselves and make themselves clean, to cease from doing evil and learn to do good. God is a good shepherd. He feeds the sheep. Moses and David were chosen as leaders of Godís people because they learned to be good shepherds over their flocks. (See Davidís heart for sheep in 2 Samuel 12.)
Ezekiel 34.2-5 exhorts:
Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
God desires steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6.6, 8.13) Envy, greed, and idolatry are to be put away. "If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it." (Isaiah 1.19, 20) Relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Proverbs 12.10 states: The righteous person regards the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. "The animal test" reveals what is in the heart. Cruelty to a defenseless animal indicates cruelty also to defenseless people. With honor comes responsibility. God is for life. Those who are His image that.
Humans have the right to use animals for legitimate needs, but slaughtering should be done in a manner that causes the animal the least suffering. Concern for the physical or psychological suffering of animals and all life must be considered. Thus animals are not to be overburdened, but rather relieved. A mother is not to be killed in the same day as its young. A mother bird was to be sent away before taking the eggs. Rescue of animals in its show of mercy could and should be done in spite of violating the Sabbath under Jewish law. Always, mercy triumphs over justice. (Read Jonah.)
Animals were provided by God to be companions for human beings. (Genesis 2.18, 19) They work for us, symbolize spiritual truths, and are depicted in Revelation as being in heavenly places praising God for their redemption. When sin entered the system, relationships between human and human became violent, and violence spread towards the other creatures with which they shared the earth. Because of manís sin, the rest of creation suffered. (Romans 8.19-22) The creation groans, awaiting redemption. Manís dominion included responsibility for the creation, all creatures, to provide for their safety and well-being. Itís a cultural mandate.
Isaiah 66 says that God is looking for the one that is poor and of a contrite spirit, one who trembles at His word. He says: He that kills an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrifices a lamb, as if he cut off a dogís neck; he that offers an oblation, as if he offered swineís bloodÖFor by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh. (Isaiah 66.2, 3, 16)
While animals are not the same as human beings, in that human beings are created in the image of God, and while humans have more value (Matthew 10), animals are to be respected, cared for, and loved, just as God in His providence and goodness cares for all His creation. False sons (and false teachers) put creation into bondage. (2 Peter 2) Creation anxiously longs for the appearing of the [true] sons of God. True sons of God set creation free. (Romans 8.17-23)
Manís treatment of animals is now coming under the judgment of God. We must repent for the violence and abuse of animalsÖand of each otherÖin order to be free from the sorrow and suffering resulting from hatred, greed, and exploitation. The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. All creation will be restored. (Ephesians 1.8-10) We are to extend Godís eternal love and justice to all creation, as they share in the redemption bringing peace between predator and prey. (Colossians 1.19, 20)
It is interesting to note that when God made the covenant with Noah that He included the creation as well. God established His covenant with Noah and with his seed after him and with every living creature that was with him, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with him; from all that went out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And He gave the rainbow as a token of the covenant between Him and the earth. (Genesis 9) Saved in the ark were eight of Noahís family and the clean by sevens and the unclean by twos. Here again we see Godís heart that in wrath He remembers mercy, and that He is both Creator and Redeemer.
Jesus cleansed the Temple area in Jerusalem: How date you turn My Fatherís house into a market? (John 2.13-16 NIV) This aggressive act seems uncharacteristic of Jesus, but was it? This act compelled His arrest, trial, and death because in this act Jesus confronted the economic foundation of Jerusalem and the sacrificial system. It was not an impulsive act, for when Jesus had entered Jerusalem, He went to the temple and looked around at everything. (Mark 11.11) He would have seen the animals jammed into the Temple enclosure, the number of sacrificers and their victims. Between 3 p.m. and sundown, about 18,000 animals would be dead. There were so many that it had to be done in shifts.
Once in the place of slaughter, people lined up in long rows next to a row of priests. The shofar would sound and men would wrest the lambs to the ground, slitting their throats according to the Law. The blood would be caught and passed to the altar, where the blood would be thrown against the side of the altar. (Leviticus 17.10-14)
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ ended the need for this kind of sacrificial system. The blood of bulls and goats were only a shadow of the better covenant to come. Hebrews 10.4 tells us that it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. God had no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. (Isaiah 1.9-20) To obey is better than sacrifice. Yet even today, hundreds upon hundreds of animals are still slaughtered in ritual sacrifices in appeals to the gods worshipped by idolaters. It only brings the curse.
Jesus, slaughtered as the innocent Lamb of God, took away sin. He came to do the will of His Father through the offering of His body once for all time. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. (Hebrews 10.11) Jesus is the final sacrifice. The requirement of blood shed for blood-shedding is met in Christ, restoring harmony between God and His creation. The life is in the blood, and only the shedding of the blood of Christ can meet the necessary and sufficient conditions for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus is Godís precious Son, whose Blood is of infinite value. Yet God spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. His death and resurrection have ramifications for all creation.
Godís judgment is coming to humanity for issues of dominion over the creation. It will begin with the household of God. I exhort all to allow the Holy Spirit to search your hearts for greed, idolatry, violence, envy, etc. Then let Him bring you to remembrance of times of cruelty to those weaker, younger, oppressed, likely to win over you, defenseless, having no voice, those humans/races/people groups considered by you as sub-human and therefore having little or no value (to you). Yes, humans are of more value (Matthew 10), but if God knows when the sparrow falls and the nature of the lilies, we are to form a culture glorifying to God. Remade in Godís image through Christ, we take this gospel to all creation, to every creature. (Mark 16.15)
If you have been using animals in ritual sacrifice, eating or drinking blood or cooking in animal blood, repent for shedding innocent blood and dishonoring life. If you have done violence and been cruel to animals, repent. Examine the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sins and for the sins of the cosmos. Let the Blood of Christ cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God. Let the Holy Spirit purify your heart and renew your mind. Man, created in the image of God, has a responsibility to the creation to reflect Godís goodness and love, His holy heart, His justice.
Let the Law of kindness be in your mouth and in the work of your hands. Be kind to animals. Tend and care for them properly. Do not overburden them or "work them to death." Have compassion for their young. Rescue them. Do not beat them or "whip them into shape." After they have been trained to work for you, do not exploit them and withhold praise and/or proper care. Rather, reward them. Show compassion. Intercede on their behalf and be their voice. Remember Godís ways in using creatures and the creation to provide companionship, helpers for your work, comfort, lessons in your life, etc. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
What about the animals? Ecclesiastes gives us pause to ponder:
And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yes, they have all one breath; so that a man has no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better that than a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? (Ecclesiastes 3.16-22)
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (ruach) shall return unto God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12.6)
Man was created a living soul, or living creature, a nephesh. (Genesis 2.7) Man was made in the image of God. Man was given a cultural mandate in creation. Man fell into an estate of sin and misery, but redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, those who believe can properly fulfill that mandate. Will you?
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
To receive power, and riches, and wisdom,
And strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth,
And such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heart I saying,
Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto
Him that sits upon the throne, and
Unto the Lamb forever and ever.
Revelation 5.12, 13
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