Returning: Learning from the birds
In the book of Job, God says, ‘Even birds and animals have much they could teach you; ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom’ (Job 12.7-8). This is good encouragement to learn lessons God has provided in their example.
We find further information on this topic in Jeremiah 8.4-7 and Matthew 6.26-27, although birds are mentioned in many contexts throughout the Bible. Therefore, if God considers they have much to teach us then it figures we ought to try find that wisdom.
It was Jesus himself who told us to be bird watchers, giving us the highest possible authority to consider these incredible creatures and learn from them. Martin Luther said that God made the birds to be our schoolmasters and teachers.
God built qualities into birds that fascinate science, with their migration patterns still being studied for various reasons. Birds instinctively sense the times and seasons; they know exactly when it’s their time to fly many miles and return each year to where they need to be.
Migratory birds fly in one direction early in the year and return in autumn, following a pattern passed on from generation to generation. Doesn’t that remind us of many teachings in the gospel message to return to God, for example in Acts 3.19, ‘Repent and return to God’? Similarly, this echo’s the words from the prophet Jeremiah, who illustrated repentance to return to God in terms of bird migration.
We see how this requirement of repentance, in returning to God, flows throughout the Bible and is an issue we cannot ignore. As God’s creation, we ought to know instinctively now is the time to return to the Lord. Repentance is the requirement of the Lord, because He needs us to know this is fundamental to a relationship with Him.
When birds observe the time to return to their breeding grounds or to their winter home, they do so with extraordinary regularity and precision, no obstacle will hold them back. They begin their migration because of a God given instinct, using inherent navigational skills.
Likewise, when it comes to returning to God, even though we have the inherent instinct, this should be a deliberate choice. God gave us freedom of choice but we still need to remember, we don’t get to heaven by chance, we get to heaven by choice. So, although we have the instinct to return to the living God our Creator, God still entrusts the dignity of that choice with us.
Repentance is not a once in a life time act, which never need be repeated, for the sad truth is that we often stray from God in disobedience or sin, so we need to keep returning to Him in repentance.
In Jeremiah we learn, ‘This is what the Lord says: “When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return?”’ (8v4). When we turn away from God, when we fall from grace, we must get up at once and return to a right relationship with our Creator. No obstacle should hold us back, anything that comes between us and God should not be left to lie dormant, but addressed directly through a choice to return to God with a prayer.
Returning is as important to us as it is to the birds, instinctively or by choice, the requirement is to repent, confess and seek restoration with God. This can be likened to having the wisdom of a homing pigeon, once we have moved away from God our mission should be to return to Him in the most direct and quickest way we can. We need to develop a strong homing instinct, spiritually, just as birds have naturally.
In Matthew, Jesus said to look at the birds and become aware of how God looks after them. Comparing our needs to those of the birds, Jesus highlights the great care God takes over us, because He cares for us more. God’s love is incredible, no human experience excels His love because God is love, in His innermost being (1 John 4,8,16).
Jeremiah compares our repentance to the stork, the dove, the swift and the thrush who observe the time of their migration. Let’s be wise to observe the timing of the Lord, who today, is calling us to return to Him.
Lord God, may we learn from your teachings and come to know the extent of Your love for us. May we truly learn the lessons of your ways from the examples of the birds in the Bible with wisdom driving us forward to take possession of Your promises. In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.