But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:7-10, NIV)
God is in the life business. Its his desire that the sky and the air teem with creatures. He allows Adam the privilege and responsibility of naming each creature, and He entrusts us with their stewardship. We are charged with caring for and protecting the habitats they depend upon for survival. Even though God has entrusted us with stewardship of animals, the reality is that He still holds the deed to the planet. Its therefore not surprising that compassion for animals is associated with godly people, such as Noah, Moses, Rebecca, and Laben. In contrast, people such as Levi and Simeon are cursed not only because they are cruel to humans, but because they are cruel to animals. Jesus, our model for compassion, is called the Good Shepherd and the firstborn of all creatures. Hes born in a manger surrounded by animals, and his first visitors are shepherds who have come to see the Lamb of the World. After Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove. Christ gets his taxes out of the mouth of a fish and he rides into Jerusalem on the back of a colt. Theres an intimate connection between Jesus and Gods creatures. As followers of Christ, we should love what God loves. When we care about every bird in the sky as deeply as our Father, He is pleased.
For more of Dr. Sleeth’s reflections, see the Blessed Earth Hope for Creation Films and Guidebooks (Zondervan 2010).