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There is a great difference between plants and animals in connection with life. A plant has life but not the sort of life that is enjoyed by an animal. The animal is not just alive but is alive in a way in which it is aware of the world around it and can recognise its offspring. We can also say that there is a great difference between animals and man. Man was made in order that he might know God and serve him. The animals can show God's wisdom and power only because they are his creatures made by him. What they are shows their Creator's glory. Man was made to love and obey God and to live to his glory in a much higher way. Animals are therefore far, far below people and in the beginning were put under man. About man God said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Genesis 1.26) Adam was to rule over God's creation as his steward and to use the animals as would best honour God.
Not only did God place man over the animals he made the animals so that they would be serviceable to man. It was to be part of man's duty to study the animals so that he could better understand the suitability of each one in connection with his own service to God. Some animals would be more useful than others in connection with man's replenishing the earth and subduing it. Some would come to be used to carry loads or pull carts others would provide milk and later meat and from the animal kingdom man would obtain wool, horn, hides and so on. The wisdom and goodness of God is so obvious in these provisions although further searching brings to light more and more ways in which our Maker showed his fatherly kindness.
A study of animals is full of spiritual lessons for men. If we would but think about these things we would be much wiser for it. There is much to be learnt about the character of God from this part of his general revelation. We learn of God's greatness when we think about his great works. The Psalmist thought about these things and could say, 'O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches'. (Psalm 104.24) We learn of God's greatness in the great whales which he created some of which weigh as much as forty elephants! We see God's greatness in the tiny swallow which can fly for thousands of miles or in the falcon which can dive on its prey at a speed faster than a car can travel! We also learn from the animals how richly the Almighty gives his gifts. We read that in the beginning the waters 'brought forth abundantly', that is, they 'teemed with swarms' of creatures. There would be so many that we could not have counted them.
It is also among the animals that many signs of man's own fallen condition are to be seen. Adam was made to have dominion over the animals, but when he rebelled against God he afterwards found among the animals a kind of rebellion against himself. Instead of harmony Adam would find ferocity, and many of the animals would not be safe to approach. It remains so today and lions, tigers, crocodiles, pythons, sharks and a host of other living creatures are not safe to approach and have to be avoided or kept in high fenced compounds. Because this is so, the world as restored by the Saviour is spoken of as one in which savage beasts would no longer be known. "The wolf ... shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox." (Isaiah 11.6,7)
Animals also feature very much in the Old Testament in showing the way of the forgiveness of sins. Before the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world as Saviour to die in the place of sinners the ancient Israelites had to be taught and encouraged to put their trust in the coming One who would save them from their sins. In part this was done by the ceremonial killing of bullocks, sheep and goats as sacrifices. The sinner who brought them saw them put to death instead of himself. Their blood was poured out instead of his own. The sacrificial animal died and the sinner went free. God saw the blood and forgave the sinner. These sacrifices did not, however, take away sin but were given for a time to stand for the blood of Jesus Christ, until he came and died for his own. For this reason he was called, "the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world". His is the blood through which forgiveness is to be found, not only by sinful Israelites but sinners all over the world who put their trust in him. Because he died, believers go free and because his blood was poured out in death they are forgiven and escape the punishment they deserve but which he suffered. Isaiah the prophet foretold this in these words: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth'.(Isaiah 53.6,7)
The final sentences given above. (Isaiah 53.6,7)
Aware, offspring, dominion, replenish (as in fill), manifold, swarms, harmony, compound (noun).
1. How does an animal differ from a plant?
2. How does an animal differ from a person?
3. How are we to treat animals?
4. To what good uses can men put animals?
5. What do we learn about God and ourselves by studying animals?
6. What does the prophet Isaiah teach us about the Saviour's Kingdom by speaking of the wolf, lamb, leopard, kid, calf and lion?
7. What kinds of animals did the ancient Israelites sacrifice?
8. What were the sacrifices to teach the people?
9. How is sin taken away and forgiven?
1. Collect pictures of animals, birds, fishes and insects.
Display them in a book or on the wall under headings such as: strange animals, beautiful animals, powerful animals, dangerous animals, useful animals.
2. Build your own model farm.
3. Visit a wild life park.
4. Construct a bird table. Watch the birds that come and record what you see.
5. Collect shells at the beach to identify them on your return.
6. On a map of the world fix small pictures of animals to show their usual locations.
7. Prepare a table like the one following and complete the details.
ANIMALS, ENVIRONMENT AND MAN
Kind of Animal
Importance to us
1. Use a Bible Concordance to find Scripture passages which mention the following animals. For each one record in your note book what is said in the Bible about it.
Ass, Camel, Dog, Fox, Goat, Horse, Lamb, Lion, Mouse, Ox, Sheep, Swine, Wolf, Eagle, Owl, Peacock, Quail, Sparrow, Swallow, Ostrich, Whale, Frog, Worm, Ant, Locust, Moth, Spider, Caterpillar.
2. Find books to tell you more about the following subjects:
(i) Habitat, (ii) Conservation, (iii) Migration, (iv) Pond and river life, (v) Butterflies, moths and insects, (vi) Hibernation.
3. Choose a particular kind of animal life and read as much as you can about it.
Psalm 104.17-21 (Common Metre)
Birds of the air upon their boughs
so chuse their nests to make;
As for the stork, the fir-tree she
doth for her dwelling take.
The lofty mountains for wild goats
a place of refuge be;
The conies also to the rocks
do for their safety flee.
He sets the moon in heav'n, thereby
the seasons to discern:
From him the sun his certain time
of going down doth learn.
Thou darkness mak'st, 'tis night, then beasts
of forests creep abroad.
The lions young roar for their prey,
and seek their meat from God.