Four animals in one single verse! And they all tell us something about man; about you and me and the rest of us.
To be like sheep among wolves is not a situation to envy, but nevertheless it is a situation that many Christians are familiar with. Mobs in the streets, politicians in parliament, neighbours in our area, and the media; at times they all act like wolves, looking for prey. You may feel intimidated in such situations, and yet Jesus says it is possible to live in these circumstances; the situation isn’t hopeless.
That’s where Jesus uses two more animals to make His point. ‘Be as shrewd as snakes!’ I don’t know in what sense snakes are shrewd, but if you’re as limited in mobility and defence as an ordinary snake you’ve got to be shrewd to survive. If not, that’s the end. ‘Be like them’, says Jesus.
Jesus tells His followers not to worry, rather to trust in Him. But that doesn’t mean we should be foolish, or just sit down and wait to see what happens. On the contrary, the Bible teaches us to ask for wisdom, a wisdom that’s from above; a wisdom and shrewdness that makes it possible for us, as sheep, to live among a flock of wolves, and still survive.
The numbers of wolves in our forests is rising fast in my country, and sheep breeders and shepherds are paying the price. Electric fences and different grazing habits are of limited help to keep the wolves away from the flocks. The sheep owners are taking stock of the situation and giving up in many areas. The land is fast becoming a land for wolves.
When Jesus speaks about us as sheep in wolf-land He’s not giving us a picture of hopelessness, and suggesting that we give up. The Christian life is always a life of overcoming, of doing the impossible, of triumph against all odds. Christian life, even on the most basic level of survival in the face of satanic resistance, is nothing less than a miracle. For it to happen Jesus tells us we must be shrewd, and seek wisdom from above. He’s not sharing with us a picture of this world becoming wolf-land. On the contrary He said ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5)..
And that takes us to the fourth animal, the dove. While involved in the battle between darkness and light, between good and evil, and between God and Satan, be as innocent as doves! No place for conceit, hidden agendas, deception, or cunning. No foul play! So the wisdom Jesus commends is not a wisdom to do tricks, but ‘the wisdom that comes down from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere’ (James 3:17). Be like doves!
Jesus isn’t putting a heavy burden of things to do on us. He’s showing us an arsenal of weaponry that will enable us to overcome the evil one and all his hordes in this dark world. The sheep will over¬come the wolves! The meek shall defeat the wild! Not in a distant future, somewhere, but in our daily life, here and now.
So, brother, sister: Be not afraid when you see the wolf nature in people, or when you hear the sound of the wolves. Instead, follow the instructions of Jesus, and wolf-land will become sheep-land for you! Today!
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