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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Are Animals Saved?

Psalm 36:5-6
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the strong mountain, your justice like the great deep, you save both man and beast.

I have prayed this psalm maybe a hundred or more times in my life, but for whatever reason this day that verse jumped out at me. Perhaps it is because prior to this I was pondering the words 'saved' and 'faith' and asking myself if we translated saved in another way, like "rescued" or "helped" if it would make us understand what faith does a bit differently.

That verse is translated in the NIV (KJV, too) a bit differently:
"O Lord, you preserve both man and beast." 

Save or preserve. Translators have a difficult task as they seek to provide us non-Hebrew readers some idea what the Bible is saying.

The Hebrew word in question first appears in Exodus 2:7 (where Moses saves the women from the ruffians at the watering hole) and in Exodus 14:30 it is used in the declaration that God saved Israel from Egypt! Deuteronomy 20:4 says God will save Israel from her enemies. And as we have been reading lots of Isaiah lately I saw twenty-one uses between Isaiah 43 to 64. 

Two brief points. The word "saved" is a technical word today, it is the jargon of church folks and generally means "going to heaven." I think the Bible does not really support that as the main meaning. I think save means God intervenes in our current mess and rescues us from the situation. Resurrection from death serves no purpose if we are "going to heaven when we die",  who needs a body in Heaven? I think Heaven is coming here (let's call it the New Jerusalem descending from heaven and the remaking of heaven and earth.... cf Apocalypse). Will the world where God reigns have animals? Well, we are told it has trees. We can assume God made animals for a purpose. And we know that, translations aside, God 'saves' both man and beast.

Jesus was terribly involved in the nitty gritty of earthly life, healing and feeding folks, and I think that is because God cares about this world. I think salvation means He is coming here to set things right (interestingly words like justice and righteousness are connected to that theologically---the same words which were in that verse of the psalm). I think that if the world matters to God and His Kingdom is here that salvation is more about 'us' than 'me.' If I am reading the Bible right, worrying about "my" salvation may be overdone. If it is about God making the world inhabitable and people worthy of living there, than we are all in this together....

Here is to following Jesus, in His tribe!

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