God is Love
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“Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves” (Exodus 23:12 NAS).
Dave and Joanna Christiansen
Much in scripture is devoted to the relationship of God to mankind. God’s love is shown so beautifully through His plan to bless all people who have ever lived (1 John 2:1,2, 1 Timothy 4:10, Acts 24:15), and a special blessing for those who will now follow in Jesus’ footsteps (Romans 2:6-8). As the Creator of the Universe, God’s love and wisdom are also shown in the Scriptures for even the lower creation. He has preserved the species through the flood by bringing the animals to the ark to be cared for by Noah and his family. God also has shown His love and kindness through the laws given to Israel, and through the examples used by Jesus in his parables.
Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” This was to be a day of rest out of seven, and was to put God above people’s own earthly needs. Psalm 92 shows this to be a time to appreciate God’s love and faithfulness and praise His holy name. A closer look into the Sabbath law shows that it not only benefitted mankind, but also the animals. In Exodus 23:12 and Deuteronomy 5:12-14, the Sabbath law was not only for the Israelites, but also for their servants, the strangers among them, and their animals: the ox, donkey, and cattle — and not only theirs, but also those of the guests and strangers in their land. This was even extended for the Sabbath year when the land rested, so the poor people and the beasts of the field could eat (Exodus 23:10,11).
In Deuteronomy 22:10, animals were to pull the plough equally. Putting an ox and donkey together would be bad for both of them, as one is strong and slow, the other is not nearly as strong but faster, and the yoke would not fit evenly. This principle was brought out to have a fuller application by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, that believers should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, as they would be going in different directions and would not be working together for the same goal.
In Deuteronomy 25:4, the ox was not to be muzzled while he was threshing the grain. The Apostle Paul used this principle in a fuller sense, applying it to the elders in 1 Timothy 5:18, showing that those who ruled well and worked hard at teaching were to be considered worthy of double honor. This application by the apostle shows that we should notice and appreciate those who are actively serving the Lord. Their example is one for us to follow in that we also can serve, even if the only service we can do is to pray for others (Hebrews 10:32-36, 1 Thessalonians 5:25). This is an important application, and the original law still showed God’s care for his lower animal creation.
When Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees were trying to trap him in his words, Jesus reminded them that they would take their animals to water, or would help them out of a well, even on the Sabbath (Luke 13:15, 14:5). If an animal was lost or under too heavy a burden, other Israelites were to help the animal, even if the animal belonged to an enemy (Exodus 23:4,5). God clearly cares for his animal creation, and even more for the world of mankind. He has also used the animal creation to illustrate deeper lessons for the Christian — His New Creation.
Deeper Lessons for the Christian
Jesus as a Shepherd — Jesus said that the shepherd who had 100 sheep would leave 99 to go look for the one that was lost (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4-6). This implies thoughtfulness and care, as does also the fact that he knows his sheep by name (John 10:3,27). There is also much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents. This is such a beautiful picture of his love and care for the Church, his body, his bride, his sheep.
Jesus showed us the way to go when he laid down his life for us and we should lay our life down for our brethren (1 John 3:16). His commandment for us is to love one another, and this is how we are known as his disciples (John 10:3-5, 15:10-14, 13:34,35). Just as Peter was told to care for Jesus’ sheep, we also should do the same (John 21:15-17).
All things that happen will work together for good, if we truly love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). He never allows what would not be for our best eternal interests. His wisdom is too great for him to make a mistake. How grateful we are for this tender love, that we should know his voice by studying his words, keeping his commandments, and following him.
Other Lessons — God cares even for the little birds (Matthew 10:29-31, Luke 12:6), and feeds them (Matthew 6:26). Even so, He will make sure all of our needs are fulfilled. We should not seek to have more than our needs taken care of, however. If we are looking to have our fleshly desires fulfilled, and looking to satisfy our own will and not God’s perfect will, then we cannot expect our prayers to be answered, as God is too wise to give us what would not be good for us (James 1:5-8, 4:3).
Even though the Lord wants us to be kind to animals, He also emphasizes that people are always above animals (Matthew 6:26, 2 Peter 2:12, Jude 1:10). In the sacrifices in the Old Testament, humans were never to be offered.
What a wise and loving God we have! He looked on all His creation and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31). He made provisions to take care of all of His creation, and made laws to ensure their happiness. He told us to be kind to each other, and even to the animals. He used the animals to help us understand His great love for us, in providing a great Shepherd to take care of us, and to make sure that all of our needs are met.
How grateful we are for His love and provisions for His creation! What a great motivation to be faithful to our great God, to love Him with all our hearts, and to serve Him with joyful hearts forever!