Saturday, March 8, 2014

Will Pets (and Other Animals) Greet Us in Heaven?

Dan Story photograph

Part Five:  
 “If God Is Only Concerned about Humans, Why Does He Give Animals So Much Attention in the Bible?”

Someone recently told me that the Bible doesn’t say much about animals, so maybe we shouldn’t either. Is this true? Does God have little to say about animal life? In this and the following blog article (and previously in blog three), I’ll demonstrate that the Bible has a lot to say about animals. Together, these articles present the first Scriptural evidence I’ll present for why I believe we can be fairly certain that today’s earthbound, sentient animals will inhabit the new heaven and earth prophesized in both the Old and New Testaments (Isa. 65:17, 25; Rev. 21:1). In other words, if God created, loves, provides for, and has immense joy in the animals He created, there is every reason to believe He will redeem them along with His people at the end of this present age (Rom. 8:19-23).

So, how does God demonstrates His love, provision, and joy in animal life? To begin with, there are numerous passages in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, that describe how God made specific provisions for the survival and propagation of animals. It begins as early as Genesis chapter one. The creation story relates that God designed the earth from the beginning to support animal life. Before the first creatures were spoken into existence, He created vegetation to produce “plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds” to be food for both humans and animals (Gen. 1:12, 29-30). Thus, food and shelter were available when wildlife began to inhabit the earth—and there was no predation among animals. Moreover, God instructed Adam to name the animals (Gen 2:19). By assigning him this duty, God showed a personal attentiveness for individual species of animals, not just the broad categories of created “kinds.” 

Nowhere is God’s providential care for animals portrayed more dramatically and personally than His protection of wild and domestic animals during the sin-cleansing, worldwide Flood. God made sure that a genetic stock of every kind of animal was preserved on Noah’s ark to later repopulate the earth (Gen. 6:19-7:3). This command was not qualified. It included what many people consider “vermin” as well as animals that would eventually become dangerous predators. God did not save just the animals that were profitable to people.

After the flood waters receded and the wild animals were released to repopulate the earth (Gen. 8:17–18), God made a covenant with the human race that included animal life. It was an unconditional, permanent covenant, and it continued to reveal God’s providential care for animals (Gen. 9:8–11). In the eschatological future, God will set forth another covenant that will include animal life: “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety” (Hos. 2:18).

 This same concern for the welfare of non-human life continued with the emerging Jewish nation. God commanded the Israelites to adhere to specific stewardship guidelines that included provisions for wild animals. For example, in the Sabbath year instructions God told the Israelites:

For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. (Exod. 23:10–11; also  Lev. 25:1–7, emphasis added)

God has equal concern for the humane treatment of domestic animals. This is expressed in Proverbs 12:10: “A righteous man cares for the need of his animal,” and in God’s instructions on the care of farm animals (e.g. Deut. 22:1-4). Moses directed the Israelites to work only six days so that on the seventh day their oxen and donkeys may rest (Exod. 23:12). He instructed them not to “muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” apparently so it may feed on what drops to the ground (Deut. 25:4). God’s command to protect domestic animals also included an enemy’s livestock (Exod. 23:4–5).

Animals Have Value to God Independent of People

Nowhere does the Bible communicate God’s love and joy for animals, independent of His even greater love and joy for people, more clearly than in Job 38 and 39 (the longest passage in the Bible that focuses on non-human creation) and Psalm 104 (the most descriptive passage of God preparing  nature to support animal life). These passages mention specific animals and specific habitats, which God prepared for individual varieties of animals. The wild donkey was given “the wasteland as a home, the salt flats as his habitat” (Job 39:6). The Ostrich “lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand” (13-14). The eagle builds “his nest on high” and “dwells on a cliff . . . a rocky crag is his stronghold” (27-28). God “makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains” to give  “water to all the beasts of the field.” There “the wild donkeys quench their thirst” (Ps. 104:10-11). God waters the trees He created, and there “the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys” (17-18). God “provides food for the raven (Job 38:41) and the lions “seek their food from God” (Ps. 104:21). Indeed, all animals, the Psalmist declares, look to God “to give them their food at the proper time” (v. 27), and He sends His “Spirit” to give animals life (v. 30).

There are two significant things we can learn from these passages. First, God provides food, shelter, and habitats for wild animals apart from human considerations. Second, only God is present and observes much of what happens in nature. In many of His reflections on wild nature, humans are totally absent. God causes rain to “water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it (Job 38:26). He asked Job. “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth?” (39:1-2).  The self-evident answer to these rhetorical questions is that only God observes these events and is present when they occur.

In sum, God not only created animals and gives them life by His Spirit (Ps. 104:30), but He continues His care by establishing their habitats, providing their shelter, and giving them their daily food. Animals have intrinsic worth and value to God because He created and values them. So, does the Bible say much about animals? It says a lot, and I’ve given you just a sample. You might also like to read Job 38:41; Ps.136: 25; 145:15-16; 147:9; Joel 1:19-20; 2:21- 22; Luke 12:24 and many other passages. In next week’s blog article we’ll look at Jesus’ attitude toward animals.

*  The blog articles in this series are adapted from copyrighted material and may not  be reproduced in book or article form, either electronically or in print, without my written permission. But feel free to send links to these articles, with a brief introduction, to your personal email list, Facebook friends and groups, or other people who may enjoy them. Or post a link on your own website. If you would like to be added to my personal blog email list (people who receive an email notice whenever I post a new blog article), contact me through my website:

1 comment:

  1. We just lost our family dog and I am enjoying your current blog topic. Thanks and blessings!