For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
A Better Time to Come
Every living thing has to come face to face with death. That is the basis of the fear that characterizes every creature. It is usually quite an undertaking to approach an animal in order to tame it, and to get it to put aside its fear. Though you tiptoe lightly, it is no mean feat to lay your hand on a little lamb fast asleep in the field, or to get near a tomtit that comes to pick away at the corners of your windows. They only need to see your shadow, and off they go for their lives — yes! for their lives.
It is this innate fear that causes defenceless creatures like the sheep and the cow to chew the cud. All animals have some God-given means of protecting themselves, and this is theirs. It enables them to graze hastily, sending their food half-digested into their stomachs. Then, when they have had enough, and feel satisfied that all is safe and quiet, they will bring back the food to be chewed and re-chewed at their leisure, and in comparative freedom from all dangers and disturbances.
Every creature seems to live in this kind of fear. The only safety for the worms and insects in the soil is to keep out of the way of the mole. If the earthworm shows the tip of his nose above ground, some hen or other bird will see in him a nice piece of ham for breakfast. If chicken is on his menu for dinner, the crafty-eyed fox will lose no opportunity to catch and gobble one up. How cruel the animals are to each other! It is no wonder that there is some instinct in them which tells them that there is a better time to come. ‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time’ (Romans 8:22).
After reclaiming an area of mountain land, clearing away the bracken and scrub — ‘raising green pasture on the face of desert earth’ as Alun Mabon did in Ceiriog’s poem — it is indeed a sad picture to see that it has all been in vain! Without a constant struggle to keep old growth at bay in order to give the new a chance, it is all a waste of energy. In spite of the efficiency of the new chemicals, it is by ‘the sweat of your brow’ and the unyielding persistence of the tractor that ‘you will eat your food’ (Genesis 3:19). ‘Let the strongest oppress and the weakest cry’ is what holds in the world of plants and animals.
Yes, the earth and all it contains, as well as man, came under condemnation as a result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Here, without a doubt, we have facts of life that man can never change, however much he may strive to do so.
It is not always an unmixed pleasure to live within this old body. Weariness and pain come soon enough on the journey. Indeed, some member or other may refuse to work at all. Even though the surgeon’s treatment may restore its usefulness for a time, it will ultimately fail.
Man’s soul and conscience become one with God when he is adopted as His child here on earth. But when we are raised from the dead in the image and likeness of Christ, the body as well as the soul will be changed into full perfection. In that day, that will be the story of the whole of creation — a new heaven and a new earth — and all fear in the animals will cease: ‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea’ (Isaiah 11:6-9).
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
Mari Jones, In the Shelter of the Fold