Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! This is what the Lord says: “The children I have raised and cared for have turned against me. Even the animals – the donkey and the ox – know their owner and appreciate his care, but not My people Israel. So matter what I do for them, they still do not understand.”
– Isaiah 1:2-3
We have horses and dogs at our house, and during the summer we even have pigs. So, we definitely have a working understanding of the care of livestock. When my daughter goes outside at night to feed the horses she gives a little whistle, and you can hear her colt whinny back at her. He knows that she is coming to give him food – and he likes it! It is not only a time that he gets to eat, but she also will spend some time with him rubbing his back and talking to him. She is developing a bond with him as an owner. He knows her, and he trusts her. As the guy who fills in for her from time to time, I can tell you that he does not trust me. I am not his master.
Our dogs are very much the same way. I am amazed at the way our cocker spaniel, Charlie, is attached to my wife – and her alone. On a Saturday morning (the only day we have ANY chance of sleeping past 7:30am) the kids and I can be up for a couple of hours while Charlie sleeps peacefully in his locked crate. During that time he will not make a sound. Then he will hear it, the fan that is in our room for white noise will turn off, and that sets him into an absolutely obnoxious whine to get out of the crate to be with my wife. He knows that she is the person that gives him attention, and he craves it from her. (And the fact that he knows she is going to feed him soon.)
Likewise our outside dog Molly. When I go out to her kennel to let her loose in the morning she cannot just run off and play. She will not allow herself to do anything – even her “morning routine”- until she gets a pat on the head, and a scratch behind the ear. She knows we care about her, and that she belongs to us. She wants to be with us. I personally believe she is the finest dog alive!
When I read this passage in Isaiah, I immediately thought of our relationships with our animals. There is a bond there, and I can see that they know us as the people who care for them. I know that I may ruffle the feathers of some by saying this, but even though I know that animals are not capable of actual thought, when I look into the eyes of our lab, Molly, I almost hear her saying to me, “Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this family. I love you and I am so happy to just have an opportunity to be with you!” Gratitude!
These verses were written to the kingdom of Judah. Change a few of the names around, and you could easily read this as being written to America. Change them again and you could see it written to the church. Change them again, and I can say they were written for me. Not feeling any pride in that. Just looking at what is being said and being honest enough with myself to admit it. I am so thankful that God saw fit to give us a book that warns us about how God deals with sin that is allowed to rule our lives. I miss the mark on my gratitude to God.
God gives us the word picture of a donkey and an ox. These are not animals that we have ever looked at with high regard when it comes to advanced thought processes. “Dumb as an ox.” Or “Stubborn as a mule.” (Cut me some slack, I know a mule is different than a donkey, but for the sake of my point they are pretty interchangeable.) The idea is that they just don’t know anything. They are dumb animals… Are they? I agree, they are not capable of higher thought. They do not think, they do not have souls. In the eyes of our Creator, they are lesser creatures. The thing is, they understand gratitude.
I struggle with it. I get to a point in my life where I have given enough. I have done enough. I am lacking enough. It is time for mine! It is time for me. I forget to stop and think about what I have because I am too concerned with what I don’t have. There is no gratitude because there is no understanding of what I really have.
I’m not saying that I need to live a life of poverty. It feels like it sometimes, but I know I am not there. I just need to be more aware of what I do have and where it came from. That is where this understanding of God comes in. Acknowledging that the good things I have in my life are from Him, and showing a grateful heart and attitude. Not just when I am praying for the next thing I want, but all the time – even when I lost something.
I am trying to look at things in a new way. I’m starting to ask myself, “What did I do to deserve this?” when something elicits an emotional response from me. What I am finding is that I rarely have much to do with the good things that have happened to me. They are something that comes from another person, and I am choosing to see God’s hand at work through them to reach out to me. They are moments of beauty in creation that just make me pause and thing of how God made all of this for me to enjoy. They are the moments that I see my wife look at me with that loving look in her eyes that remind me of the good thing God has given me in her. They are the moments of pride at seeing my kids master some new skill or make a wise choice in a tough decision that tell me that God is working in their lives.
“What did I do to deserve this?” When the bad things come I see moments that I acted out of pride or selfishness. I see a broken world that I could blame on others, but that would be fooling myself into believing that I would have done everything right. This world is broken, but that does not mean we have to live a broken life.
There are times I wish my kids could understand the love I have for them. I would like them to understand the work that I have put into things so they can have the things they do, go to the places they go. I would like them to understand the sacrifices that Tammi and I have made, and would do all over again for them. If they understood all of that, then I would see more gratitude. Maybe it is better that they don’t, because if they did my pride would probably really get out of control!
The difference is that God is perfect and He has done so much for us. His love for us is perfect. His work in our lives is for our good. His sacrifice for us gives us life. Should I not at least give Him the same gratitude that an animal would give its master for caring for it? Does my ability to think and reason make me exempt from have a grateful heart? Is it a simple-minded thing to be grateful?
No. It’s not. It does not require a simple mind, but a mind that is focused on the simple thought that relationships matter, and there is no relationship more important than the one we have with God. If we are honest about that relationship then we should always approach Him with such a heart of gratitude for all that He has done, and all that we have.
Our purpose is to bring God glory. One of the ways we do that is by showing Him our gratitude. It is a discipline that requires us to be intentional in how we approach it because it is not our normal nature. It is a process that we will improve on through trial and error, and through that we can give God the glory.
I’m going to work at taking 5 minutes a day to think about what God has done for me in the last 24 hours. What has He brought me that was good? What has he protected me from that was bad? What lessons did he allow me to learn? Wanna join me? I think that by doing this I will start to see fewer things that I lack, and more of what He has given me.
I should. After all, I would like to be at least as smart as a donkey!
In His Grip,