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The Fifth Day
 

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. Genesis 1:20-23

 
 
 
 
 
God Created Whales

 

The greatest American novel is Moby Dick, or The White Whale , written by Herman Melville, who enthralled Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife with his vivid tales, the most famous involving the story of an obsessed Captain Ahab pursuing Moby Dick around the world. The Biblical language andallusions in the novel enrich the story, based uponallusions in the novel enrich the story, based upon historical fact of a whale attacking and sinking theEssex, whose survivors Melville met. More importantly, the novel championed the greatness, power, and intelligence of the whale.

Children find the size and power of the dinosaurs impressive, but the whale makes all other animalsseem puny in comparison. Even the brontosaurus is dwarfed by the largest whales.

Moby Dick was a sperm whale, with a great square head filled with the richest source of oil. No one has concluded the exact purpose of this store of oil, whether for buoyancy or communication. Melville thought it made a marvelous battering ram. The pursuit of whale oil created an industry in England , New England , Scandinavia , and Japan .

Whale oil has been prized for the anointing of kings, for lighting lamps, for cosmetics, and recently for use in automatic transmissions. The heart of a blue whale is as large as a VW car. The aorta of the blue whale is large enough for man to stand upright in. A baby could crawl through its arteries. The strength of that heart and the volume of the blood pumped is beyond our comprehension. God designed a perfect creature for swimming the oceans, diving as deep as 2,000 feet. Several humans have reached a depth of 558 without deep diving equipment, but one died in the attempt. The whale endures incredible pressures far beyond 500, surpassed by humans only with the help of nuclear submarines, which borrow the whale's pings to navigate.

Jonah's whale became the point of contention in the doctrinal battles of the conservative Lutherans in the 1970's. Those who doubted the Book of Jonah - judging it a myth, allegory, or fable – stuck on two topics addressed by Melville himself. Sceptics have always choked on the concept of a whale swallowing a man and vomiting him on the shores of Ninevah. Both the swallowing and the expresstrip have troubled those who seek errors and contradictions in the Bible.

 
 

Melville was not an orthodox Christian. In fact, his novel displays the world religion notions of his Masonic relatives. However, he did address the two issues of rationalism, based on his observations and knowledge.

The swallowing seems impossible for whales and fatal for any human. Melville had another perspective:

It is not necessary, hints the Bishop, that we consider Jonah as tombed in the whale's belly, but as temporarily lodged in some part of his mouth. And this seems reasonable enough in the good Bishop. For truly, the Right Whale's mouth would accommodate a couple of whist tables, and comfortably seat all the players. Possibly, too, Jonah might have ensconced himself in a hollow tooth; but, on second thoughts, the Right Whale is toothless. ( Moby Dick , Jonah Historically Regarded)

Melville also recorded the miraculous movement of whales across the globe. He spent years on whaling ships, observing that the ability of whales to traverse the oceans defied reason. The sailors noted the weapons they used and discussed distinctive whales they had wounded but did not kill. When the whalers compared notes or captured a previously wounded whale, the speed and length of their trips indicated a method of movement unknown to man, perhaps secret passages.

The truth of Jonah does not depend on Melville's authority that the story could happen. So much abuse has been poured upon the slender Book of Jonah that the testimony of a whale-expert skeptic to Biblical skeptics remains the ultimate irony. Neither aspect of Jonah's adventure is crucial. The range of incredible animal abilities continues to fill the latest books and television specials. No one thinks animals can do certain marvelous deeds until those marvels are filmed, explained, and viewed in slow motion. Then the miraculous becomes commonplace.

The real issue of Jonah involves God bending all of Creation to His will, by His Word. When God commanded Jonah to preach repentance to Ninevah, the prophet booked a passage for the opposite end of the earth. God sent a mighty wind to stop the ship, terrifying the suspicious sailors. They tossed goods overboard to lighten the load. They tried to row the ship to shore, because no one ventured far from shore in those days. The sailors, with fear driving their muscles, could not fight the storm. They hauled Jonah out of the hold where he was sleeping, cast lots, and identified Jonah as the reason behind the monstrous storm.

And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land . Jonah 1:9

They did not want to throw him into the sea, but rowing failed them. Finally, they cast him into the sea.

So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows. 17 Now the LORD had prepared great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:15-17

The story of Jonah requires faith in the Creator, not in a whale's ability. God determined to have Ninevah repent through Jonah, so He made any other action impossible. No distant port was far enough away to be beyond the reach of God's Word. Just as God brought the prodigal prophet back through a whale, so the Triune God pursues us with His gracious Promises, using every instrument in His mighty arsenal to include us and keep us in His Kingdom.

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:39-42

Jonah foreshadowed the death and resurrection of Christ. If God cannot command a storm and a whale to remove His prophet to Ninevah, then neither can He declare believers forgiven through the merits of Christ.

 
Fowl That May Fly
 
 
 

The birds God created through the Word are constant reminders of His wisdom.

The fifth day of Creation gave us the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. Nowhere is it stated that God created lizards that evolved into birds, although the evolution-fans would have us believe it.

Birds are difficult to define. Not all of them fly. Some are great swimmers and use their wings to swim underwater. They do have one thing in common – feathers. No other creature can boast of this miracle. A television program promoting evolution simply stated that the feather is a miracle, so we must accept that verdict, although the definition is all wrong. A miracle is an event where God sets aside His own laws to benefit mankind. For instance, when the man who was blind from birth was healed by Jesus, that was a miracle.

Still, it is good to think of the feather as a miracle.We see so many of them that we take them for granted. Clean a pool and feathers will be floating on it. Sweep the patio and feathers may appear in the debris. We sleep on feather pillows and rest under down comforters. Many cultures adorn themselves with feathers. Most of all we admire the great splendor of the peacock's feathers, which are hidden most of the time and glorious when displayed to prove his grandeur and territory. God has given the peacock extraordinary beauty, down to the comical topknots on his head, but deprived him of a matching voice or anything resembling intelligence.

 
 

The feather is a vital part of the bird's equipment for flight, but the Lord of Creation did not simply adorn a creature with feathers and nothing more for soaring through the clouds. Every part of the bird is uniquely designed by God for this task (although some are modified for other chores, such as diving for fish, swimming under-water, or running pell-mell across the Australian plain). The bones of a bird are hollow and light, which is why we do not allow cats and dogs to chew on them, for fear of causing terminal indigestion. Their lungs are built for the rapid breathing necessary for their great exertions. Their legs tighten up when they sleep, so they stay on branches while sound asleep. Put a flock of humans in a tree and they will fall to the ground as they slip away and lose their grip on the branches and trunk. A flashlight shining in a tree will reveal birds dosing away, secure on their branches, somewhat awakened by light but slipping back into sleep.

We use the term bird-brain to demean someone's intelligence, but birds are quite intelligent. We often associate a sense of humor with intelligence, and birds have plenty of that quality. A bird will imitatea man's limp. One photographer found the rare bird he wanted to capture for history. He got his tripod and camera ready and the bird disappeared. He looked up and found it resting on his long telescopic lens.

Birds have personalities. The blue jay is a humorous bully. He will make the sound of a hawk to scare birds from the feeder. One blue jay took his bath every day and then lit on the kitchen bird-feeder to scream at me to put the food out. He was always hilarious to see, wet and frazzled looking (no longer blue, for his feathers are not blue but refract light – when wet they are a neutral color). He always screamed in a most obnoxious, self-centered way and then flew to the tree when I opened the window to fill the tray. After that he always lit on the tray and took the best tidbits of food for himself.

 
 
Blue jays share with squirrels the honor of planting oak trees. One study of blue jays showed that they were quite earnest in planting acorns without any thought of digging them up again. Thus the Creator allowed His creatures to plant forests and to enjoy the fruits of their labor, or at least the fruit of their ancestors' labors.

A scientist was asked to summarize his work studying nature at the end of his life. He said, “God was inordinately fond of beetles.” We could just aseasily say He was inordinately fond of birds, because we have such a wide variety to delight us and serve us. We do not think of them often because they are constantly present. When our dogs are done with their morning breakfast, several birds hang around to pick up the scraps. At any of the outdoor venues in Phoenix, birds work the tables to pick up scraps from diners. So many of the Phoenix hardware or gardening centers are half sheltered from the sun (but easily available to birds) that birds frequently flit around the shelving. At one Home Depot, ten birds took over the charcoal grill department, cheerfully hopping from shelf to shelf.

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Matthew 6:26

Clearly Jesus, the Lord of Creation, created the birds so that they would be a centerpiece of His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is both Creator and Preacher, reminding us with an earthly example so obviously before us at all times that we can hardly deny the truth of His wisdom.

 
 

With amazing ingenuity birds build nests of all sorts and care for their families. How does each morning start out? There is no food in storage and no promise of food for the day. Nevertheless, birds cheerfully Matins to their Creator. This wonderful chorus each morning is designed for our benefit, for God's creatures can communicate many different ways. There is a recent example of prairie dogs calling out beyond the human spectrum when they sound an alarm. Tasmanian devils make horrible sounds. Lions roar to declare their territory. Although whales chirp and make other sounds, they are beyond our hearing. What other creature sings? A singing dog is one who howls more than most. Cats screech longer and perhaps louder, but no more harmoniously.

Except for the peacock, the one animal we associate with beautiful singing is the bird. Birds do not sing the same song but join in a wonderful chorus in the morning, allowing us to pick out the various songs. A blue jay may screech to get some food, but he will make a unique bell-like sound when he is happy. Cardinals and robins have beautiful calls. The hummingbird is not a singer but he more than makes up for it by flitting about and showing off his jeweled vest. Gardeners brag about hummingbirds that fly close to them, even seeming to peer in their faces. The flying rainbows seem to know who feeds them and cares for their favorite flowers.

These birds start each day with nothing to eat and yet they sing God's praises. They use their intelligence to build homes useful for their children but they rely on nothing but God's generosity to feed them. They lack the ability to store fat and water in their bodies.

Jesus' comparison is aimed at making us see how cheerful the birds are. And He asks us, “Are you not much better than these birds? The Heavenly Father cares for them, and He will care for you as well.”

In the novel Vanity Fair (its name borrowed from Pilgrim's Progress ) William Makepeace Thackeray wrote about the energies expended by people who were so anxious to get an estate. One chapter is titled “How To Live Well on Nothing a Year.” It told how the young couple kept creditors at bay by hinting that a great estate was coming to them.

In so many fake religious works of today we are urged to have more faith, that prosperity will follow. But what faith is being promoted? Faith in ourselves and not in God. They advocate the cleverness of man, not the wisdom of God. It is no surprise that these fake religious leaders are so full of themselves. They have followed their own advice and find themselves living in great luxury with many people bowing to them. The novel Vanity Fair reminds us of those same symptoms. In old England , everyone was measured by his annual income and his team of horses. Now it is annual income and horsepower (the car's). Several people were shocked at the extraordinary income of a synod vice-president ($100,000 per year). The synod presidents receive $200,000 per year and who-knows-how-many perks, such as free trips around the US and the world. The splendor is not considered a mark against them but proof of their infernal cleverness in gaining the advantage over their political opponents. So they sneer at pastors and congregations who want to be faithful, even if it means being poor in comparison.

Anxiety is a mental condition caused in part by one's limited faith in God. It is true that the weakest faith still holds the complete treasure of the Gospel. However, a weak faith will easily let go of the treasure if the Gospel seems to be getting in the way of inner peace. Thus we need constant reminders not to be anxious. The birds of the air are never anxious. They go about their duties with great cheerfulness. The coyote lurks and sneaks around, hoping for a meal and worried about being shot. A bird will do his work with great trust and courage. A flock of birds will appoint several to man the picket. One will light on the ground, then another. If they are undisturbed, the rest follow. Likewise the rapid and noisy exit of one bird will alarm the flock and send them all into the air, whether they see the danger or not. Then the sentinels return, one at a time, until the whole flocks feels good about landing again.

Birds know their benefactors. Many who drive to feed birds will learn that the birds in question (ducks, blue birds) will make their happy Shriners' Convention noises when they hear that one particular engine (and no other). A flock of birds will chortle among themselves while waiting for a gardener to finish working a worm and bug rich area of fresh soil.. Similarly, if a large amount of food is scattered on the ground regularly, the dominant birds of the area will settle in and wait for their main meal. Someone called them Entitlement Birds , waiting for the meals they felt owed to them.

Every land has its rare beauties in the bird population to admire, its commoners to despise. Most of us would love to have the parrots they enjoy in Australia . We look down on the common grackles and starlings that thrive everywhere. In Midland I saw the grackles slowly work the lawn, pulling out grubs with their powerful beaks. They are corvids, relatives of the cagey crows, lacking in colorful beauty but overflowing in intelligence. One grackle will watch out for another, calling to the one in danger. Starlings are also related and equally despised. Worst of all, they travel in great flocks. What harm do they do? They walk through a garden (in a comical drunken gait) and fish around for insects under the mulch. Ask a boy or a man to look for every insect in the mulch and that helper will cry out in pain. The birds search for pests with great alacrity and skill.

God's wisdom can be shown in how He plans the eruption of the bug population during that time when birds must feed their young. Insects are the mutton, poultry, and beef of the bird's table. Robins will tug at the lowly earthworm and feed it to the children, but the favorite meal for most birds (doves excepted) is insect meat. (Doves digest seed and give their children “dove milk” or half-digested seed. These seeds are weeds for the most part.) Why give birds food and water? So they stay in the yard and patrol for insects. They do not become dependent on man's food, which is only 15% of their diet at most. But they do survive the winter better and feed their young more effectively with some help.

A jay can be quite raucous in demanding food. In New Ulm, there was a different bird to tend. I scattered sunflower seeds on the front feeder whenever I could. One day I went out to do an errand. A pretty robin stepped out on the branch and chirped at me, not in a demanding but in a reminding sort of call. I went inside and got her ration of seed. It was nesting time, so a snack of sunflowers had to be good for the parents.

We should stop in wonder when we think of the complexity of God's Creation. For instance, people will generalize about a problem and produce one rather rigid solution. For instance, the solution for teen alcoholism is to stop the companies from advertising, as if there is one cause and one effect. How can we generalize about birds? They live in many different zones. Some burrow in the ground ( or occupy burrows ). Some live in the highest trees, others midway, still others in bushes near the ground. Many birds are content to nest on the ground. Birds do not like to compete with their own kind in a given area, but they tolerate other species. The result is that we can have birds nesting at each level of our yard and feeding at various levels, allowing a fairly large population to be sheltered with the proper plants, water, and food.

The birds of the air do not sow, reap, or gather into barns, but the Heavenly Father takes care of them. The message of this verse is that God will take care of us, too. It is a small matter for Him. He sent His beloved Son into our world to redeem us from sin, to die on the cross and rise from the dead. In comparison, our material needs are nothing for God to supply.

Knowing that Jesus is the Lord of Creation helps us to be thankful for the blessings around us day by day. If we feel sad, oppressed, and worried, a remedy is provided for us in the joyous singing of the birds. How can we not think about God creating these wonderful animals? How can we not think of His care for each and everyone of us. It is not enough that He cares for us. He wants our lives to be full, complete, satisfying, filled with joy, humor, and love.

 
All Things Bright and Beautiful
 

Refrain

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

Refrain

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

Refrain

The purple headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

Refrain

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

Refrain

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

Refrain

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Refrain

 
Birds We Love
 
Robin
 
 

The most loved bird of America may be the robin as the herald of Spring. In cold climates the snow, ice, sleet, and cold make winter a long ordeal. The sighting of the first robin of spring is a common game for people to enjoy. The robins appear in small numbers at first, while the snow is still melting away. They wear their sweaters in the cold weather. The birds look strangely bulky, using their feathers fluffed out to keep their bodies warm.

 
 
Although people think of feathers as an essential ingredient for flying, the use of feathers for warmth has attracted man's attention since the earliest times. Down comforters, jackets, and slippers are ideal for warmth, softness, and lightness: unmatched in luxury by any man-made fiber. Feathers are not only a marvel for their complex design in making flight possible, but also in trapping air to maintain bodily warmth. The downy feather is especially soft to the touch, a tiny emblem of divine purpose.

The robin's cheerful song is just as much a trademark as its habit of pulling up earthworms for its nesting children. The lawns of America have provided a boon for the robin population, harboring an endless supply of worms for a hungry population of chirping nestlings. If a robin builds a nest within easy reach, the script for feeding can be observed easily. When the tiny birds see an object over their heads – even a human hand - they reach up together with their beaks open, chirping for food while looking like a choir of earnest singers, raising their voices to Heaven.

Because the robin brings in the spring, feeds its young close to humans, and offers such a cheerful song, the robin best represents the home and family, devotion to children, and the tireless energy of caring parents.

The Savior created birds to serve many different purposes, including our entertainment and edification. No other creature is so numerous and delightful at the same time. When foreign potentates visited the throne of the Byzantine Empire , they were astounded to see a golden tree with jeweled mechanical birds singing in different voices. The mechanical marvel of that opulent court was nothing compared to the constant glory of birds throughout the world. People stop and ask when they visit a new region, “Which bird is that?”

 
Hummingbird
 

The humming bird is one favorite we all know on sight, although there are many different varieties. They are the most entertaining of all birds because they have no fear. People have reported seeing hummers racing their cars down the road, but a more common sight is the personal greeting. A humming bird will not only fly back and forth through the spray of a garden hose, but also fly up to the face of gardener and hover in an amused and unhurried way. Seeing a humming bird so close is so rewarding and gratifying that it becomes a bragging point for bird lovers, especially since hummers seem to favor those who do the most for them.

 
 
 
 
People love to attract hummers, so they buy feeders and fill them with sugar water, whose spigots are promptly attacked by bees and ants. Although the birds will show great appreciation for the feeders and even return to that space to look for them, they love natural food even more. Hummers cannot exist on sugar water anymore than humans can. They need insects for long-term energy. The best plan for a humming bird haven concentrates on natural feeding stations – the flowers they love most. They will dip into any flower for nectar and insects, but they seem to prefer small red blooms the most. They feast at:
  • Impatiens
  • Bergamot ( Oswego Tea)
  • French horticultural bean flowers
  • Canna
  • Cape honeysuckle
  • Hibiscus
 

Hummers and all birds need shelter. Bushes provide a great hiding place for the tiny humming bird nest, which is as tiny as a half walnut shell. Pussy willows are a favorite ingredient for their nests. All birds appreciate string, yarn, animal fur, and mud for their nests. The Savior designed all His creatures - except modern man – to recycle with 100% efficiency.

An ideal yard will feature a fountain for birds. Birds want a safe place to bathe: shallow, noisy, splashing water. Hummers prefer a mist to fly through. They can get their shower safely on the fly and then preen in the seclusion of a nearby tree or bush.

 
All Praise to Thee
 
Thomas Ken

All praise to Thee, my God, this night,

For all the blessings of the light!

Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,

Beneath Thine own almighty wings.

 

Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,

The ill that I this day have done,

That with the world, myself, and Thee,

I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

 

O when shall I, in endless day,

For ever chase dark sleep away,

And hymns divine with angels sing,

All praise to thee, eternal King?

 

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

( The Lutheran Hymnal , #558)