Weekly Pastoral Message prepared by Rev. Murray Adamthwaite
for Sunday 14th June 1998
From the Pastor: Animal Lessons I
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? So also you can do good, who are accustomed to doing evil." Jeremiah 13:23|
One environmental factor which the Green Movement has highlighted is the extinction of fauna. A great hue and cry is raised about this or that project threatening the habitat of some species of marsupial or bird. However, extinction is nothing new: in Bible times large cats such as lions and leopards proliferated throughout Israel and the Near East. None is found there now. Yet at one time they were so common that they could be held up as familiar objects from which to draw some lesson or other.
Such a lesson we have in the text above. The familiar spots or rosette pattern of a leopard, whether the familiar African variety, or the probably smaller Palestinian form (similar to a cheetah), are characteristic of this feline. They are part of its make-up, without which it would cease to be a leopard. Let the point be clear: if a leopard ceased to be a carnivore (flesh-eating) animal it would still be a leopard, a possibility conceived for the lion in Isaiah 11: 7, but not to lose its spots. They are part of its leopard-ness , if I may invent such a vulgarism.
The lesson from this concerns the depraved nature of man: evil practice had become so prevalent in the apostate times of the prophet that it led him to declare that it was part of his whole nature and constitution. It is not a statement about habit. Habits can be changed, albeit with difficulty, over a period of time. Jeremiah recognized that; but the desperate state of man is that sin seems to be so much part of his very make-up that to change it he would be something other than man.
Seen in this light the statement is both really true, and only apparently true. Man is inherently evil, contrary to the fond belief of modern humanism that he is inherently good. But sin is not so much part of his nature that without it he ceases to be man. When we look at our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, we see perfect manhood: without sin, but truly man. In the new birth a sinful man begins a new life and begins a process to be conformed to His likeness. May it be true of each one of us, with each passing day.