Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DOVES, PIGEONS, & GOD


Scripture says, ‘Since the beginning of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead’ Romans 1: 20.

Doves and pigeons are fascinating examples of God’s creative ingenuity. For example, pigeons may be taken thousands of miles from their homes only to return. If that weren’t enough, they can do this even when blindfolded! How? They’ve tried strapping magnets to their backs to try to disrupt their uncanny homing ability. However, it has been noted that they tend to fly not ‘as the crow flies’, but by navigating along major railway lines and motorways, even turning left or right at intersections!  

They’re mentioned early on in the Bible. I believe the first was the dove sent out from the ark: ‘[Noah] sent out from himself a dove … But the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, and she returned into the ark to him, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself’ Genesis 8:9. And, doves and pigeons are mentioned when God cut a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15:9. They were numbered among the ‘clean’ animals (Lev. 5) that were included along with cattle, sheep and goats as part of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Every Christian knows that the Old Testament Ceremonial Law with its sacrificial system pointed to THE sacrifice – Jesus Christ and the shedding of His atoning blood on the cross.  He’s the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He’s our sacrificial lamb as well as our scapegoat.

Along with other ‘clean’ animals Noah, post-Flood, included doves and pigeons in his offering to God (Gen. 8:20). Jesus was baptized with water and with the Holy Spirit. Being baptised with water ‘He saw the heavens parting and the Sprit descending upon Him like a dove’ Mark 1:10b. Peter connects the rain that fell on Noah’s ark with baptism (1 Pet. 3:20-21). Thus Noah and his ark are types or pictures of Jesus: ‘The windows of heaven were opened’ and God baptized the ark with the people in it as the earth became flooded. Afterward, after flying to and fro ‘the dove came to him.’  Those in the baptised ark were saved from God’s judgment, as are those in the baptised Christ Jesus. Thus Noah’s ark is typical of Jesus, especially at His baptism (1 Pet. 3:20-21; cf., Matthew 3:16).

John baptized with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit who, like a dove, comes upon us too. The antitype of Noah has (with the Father) ‘sent out a dove’, i.e., the Holy Spirit (John 15:26) to ‘land on’ those God saves. Have no fear, ‘The Lord knows who are His’ (2 Tim. 2:19). Therefore, reminiscent of the pigeon returning home from thousands of miles away, reminiscent of the dove returning to the ark, or the Spirit alighting upon Christ, no matter how far away from God you are, if you are His, the Holy Spirit will find you! In the comforting words of the psalmist, ‘Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there’ Psalm 139:1a.

We can learn much about God through the study of doves and pigeons! If you’ve been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, ‘He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge’ Psalm 91:4a.

1 comment:

  1. Of course the prophet Jonah's name (יוֹנָה) means "Dove". An interesting Scottish connection is that the famous island name "Iona" may have been a misreading or intentional modification of "Insula Ioua/Iova" (Gaelic "Eilean Ì" = Yew Island) in order to associate it with the Hebrew term "Dove". Why? Because of course the man who founded a Christian monastery there in 563 AD bore the name "Dove". "Columba" is Latin for "Dove/Pigeon" (cf change from initial "c" to "p" in Spanish "paloma" = "dove"/"pigeon"). In Scottish Gaelic St Columba is called "Colum Cille" (Dove of the Church/ [monk's] Cell"). The current Irish name "Colm" and Scottish name "Calum" mean "Dove".

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