I read recently where a popular Christian writer likes to eat foods mentioned in the Bible in order that he might better associate with his biblical ancestors or be reminded of what they experienced. I can see where there might be value in doing this. A similar practice I would recommend is to look in nature for things that are mentioned in the Scriptures. There are an endless number of natural references found in the Bible. Some are general references to things like rocks, hills, clouds, rivers, trees, birds, and animals. Other references are more specific. You’ll find references to particular animals (foxes, bears, lions, horses, mountain goats, wild ox, etc.); particular birds (doves, sparrows, ravens, eagles, etc.); and specific trees (cedars, sycamores, oaks, poplars, junipers, etc.)
If we will become familiar with some of the Bible’s references to nature we might find ourselves moved to think of their role in Scripture when we see them in our world today. At my bird feeder I can readily find two examples—doves and sparrows.
For people in biblical Palestine the dove was a sacred bird. People were forbidden to hunt or eat a dove. William Barclay notes that when Genesis 1:2 says “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” at the beginning of Creation, some thought of the dove for “the Rabbis used to say that the Spirit of God moved and fluttered like a dove over the ancient chaos breathing order and beauty into it.” Seeing a dove at my feeder may lead me to remember this and prompt me to give thanks for God’s gift of Creation. Seeing a dove might also remind me of Jesus’ baptism and how the Spirit of God descended upon him in the form of a dove at that pivotal moment in his life. This might lead me to remember that God’s Spirit has likewise been bestowed on all who follow Him.
Another bird I often see at my feeder is the sparrow. When I see sparrows I can’t help but remember Jesus’ words, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7) It is very comforting to me to know that God sees even the little birds that come to my feeder or fly overhead. As Jesus noted, that also means he see and cares for me too.
I encourage you to become familiar with some of the specific plants, birds, animals or trees mentioned in the Bible. You may even want to purchase one of the many good books that discuss these. Knowing these species and their biblical connections can add a new dimension to your spiritual journey.
(The mourning doves and sparrow above were photographed at my home in Pikeville.)