What “Instinctively Wise” Creatures Can Teach Us
AIR-CONDITIONING, antifreeze, desalination, and sonar are inventions that have become widely known to mankind in the 20th century. Yet, they existed in the animal world thousands of years earlier. Yes, mankind benefits by studying such “instinctively wise” creatures. (Proverbs 30:24-28; Job 12:7-9) Certain animals, it seems, have become mankind’s nonspeaking tutors, and we can find great interest in examining them.
Can we benefit from considering the traits of certain animals? Well, Jesus Christ likened his followers to sheep, serpents, doves, and even locusts. What did he have in mind when he compared his followers to these creatures? Let us see.
“My Sheep Listen to My Voice”
Sheep are mentioned in the Bible over 200 times. As Smith’s Bible Dictionary explains, “the sheep is an emblem of meekness, patience, and submission.” In Isaiah chapter 53, Jesus himself was prophetically likened to a sheep. How fitting that he should compare his followers to the same animal! But which particular characteristics of sheep did Jesus have in mind?
“My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me,” said Jesus. (John 10:27) He thus highlighted the meekness of his disciples and their eagerness to follow him. Literal sheep listen to their shepherd and willingly follow him. The shepherd also has a close attachment to the flock.
A flock may be scattered across a meadow when grazing, but each sheep keeps in contact with the group as a whole. Thus, when the animals feel insecure or frightened, “they can hurriedly gather together,” states the book Alles für das Schaf (Everything for the Sheep). If sheep run away to escape danger, they do so as a flock, stopping at times to reassess the situation. “Fleeing in stages allows lambs and weaker animals to keep up. The herd even offers them special protection.” What can we learn from this behavior?
True Christians today are not scattered among the denominations and sects of Christendom. Instead, they are gathered into one flock. Each Christian feels a personal attachment to this flock of God, and this contributes to the unity of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whenever a crisis occurs—whether it is serious illness, warfare, or natural disaster—where does each worshiper seek guidance and protection? In Jehovah’s organization, which offers spiritual security.
How is Bible counsel made available? Through publications such as The Watchtower and its companion journal, Awake! These magazines and Christian meetings even offer special help to those who need extra care, like the lambs and weaker sheep in a flock. For instance, attention is given to single parents and to those suffering from depression. How wise it is, therefore, to read each magazine, to attend every meeting of the congregation, and to apply what we learn! We thereby exhibit meekness and a strong attachment to the flock of God.—1 Peter 5:2.
“Cautious as Serpents and yet Innocent as Doves”
Smith’s Bible Dictionary states: “Throughout the East the serpent was used as an emblem of the evil principle, of the spirit of disobedience.” On the other hand, “my dove” was a term of endearment. (Song of Solomon 5:2) What did Jesus have in mind, then, when he encouraged his followers to be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves”?—Matthew 10:16.
Jesus was giving instructions for preaching and teaching. His disciples could expect a mixed reception. A few would show interest, whereas others would reject the good news. Some would even persecute these true servants of God. (Matthew 10:17-23) How were the disciples to react to persecution?
In Das Evangelium des Matthäus (The Gospel of Matthew), Fritz Rienecker says regarding Matthew 10:16: “Shrewdness . . . must be coupled with integrity, sincerity, and straightforwardness, lest anything should happen to give enemies valid grounds for complaint. The ambassadors of Jesus are among ruthless opponents, who show no consideration and who set upon the apostles without mercy and at the slightest opportunity. Hence, it is necessary—just like a serpent—to keep a watchful eye on opponents, and to take stock of the situation with eyes and senses alert; to stay master of the situation without trickery or deceit, to be pure and true in word and deed and thus prove themselves dovelike.”
What can God’s modern-day servants learn from Jesus’ words found at Matthew 10:16? Today, people react to the good news in much the same way that they did in the first century. When faced with persecution, true Christians need to combine the shrewdness of the serpent with the purity of the dove. Christians never employ deceit or dishonesty but are uncorrupted, genuine, and honest in declaring the Kingdom message to others.
To illustrate: Colleagues at work, youths in school, or even members of your own family may make caustic remarks about your beliefs as a Witness of Jehovah. The immediate reaction might be to respond in kind by being equally scathing about their faith. But is that innocent? Hardly. If you show your critics that their comments have no effect on your pleasant demeanor, they just might change for the better. You would then be both shrewd and blameless—‘cautious as a serpent, yet innocent as a dove.’
“The Locusts Resembled Horses Prepared for Battle”
The magazine GEO reports that in 1784, South Africa was hit by “the largest swarm [of locusts] ever registered in recorded history.” The swarm covered an area of two thousand square miles [5,200 sq km], which is about five times the size of Hong Kong. Smith’s Bible Dictionary says that the locust “commits terrible ravages on vegetation in the countries which it visits.”
In his God-given revelation of things that would take place during “the Lord’s day,” Jesus used a vision of a swarm of locusts. Concerning them it was said: “The locusts resembled horses prepared for battle.” (Revelation 1:1, 10; 9:3-7) What was the significance of this symbolism?
Jehovah’s Witnesses have long understood that the locusts of Revelation chapter 9 portray the anointed servants of God on earth in this century.a These Christians have been assigned a particular job—to preach the Kingdom message earth wide and make disciples. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) This calls upon them to overcome obstacles and to stick to their work. What could better illustrate this than the indomitable locust?
Though little more than two inches [5 cm] in length, the locust commonly travels between 60 and 120 miles [100-200 km] per day. The desert locust may even stretch this to 600 miles [1,000 km]. GEO explains that “its wings wave 18 times per second and for up to 17 hours a day—something that no other insect manages to do.” What an immense task for such a tiny creature!
As a group, Jehovah’s Witnesses are steadfast in spreading the good news of the Kingdom. They now preach in over 230 lands. These servants of God overcome many difficulties in order to have a share in carrying out the work. What sort of problems do they face? Prejudice, legal restrictions, illness, discouragement, and opposition from relatives are just a few. But nothing has managed to stem their advance. They stick to their God-given work.
Continue to Exhibit Christian Qualities
Yes, Jesus likened his followers to sheep, serpents, doves, and locusts. This is truly fitting for our day. Why? Because the end of this system of things is imminent, and problems are more pressing than ever.
Bearing in mind Jesus’ illustrative words, true Christians stick closely to the flock of God and meekly accept counsel from Jehovah’s organization. They keep on guard and are alert to situations that could hamper their Christian activities, while they remain irreproachable in all things. Moreover, they persevere in doing God’s will in the face of obstacles. And they continue to learn from some “instinctively wise” creatures.