“Far as the curse is found”.
These stories likely grew out of the accounts of the nativity because animals were the first to lay eyes on the Savior, along with Mary and Joseph. Only then came shepherds, others, and eventually Wise Men. Animals were also given hope of creation made right. They are as they were made—not in need of grace or salvation, forgiveness or reconciliation. Before the Fall, there was no blood shed. People did not eat animals. Animals did not eat other animals. But under the curse of sin, it seems animals received the short end of the stick. They neither sinned nor cursed God, and yet, as is true with the most vulnerable, they are often put upon in ways that are too sad to mention here. Still, they know their creator, therefore they know at their very core that
they have hope.
Several Bible passages mention God’s compassion for animals: “He knows when a sparrow falls,” or “Who, that loses one, will not leave the other 99 lambs to go and find it?” And of course, the story of Noah’s Ark. One of the most humorous encounters between man and beast is in the Book of Numbers. In the story of Balaam’s Donkey, Balaam beats his faithful beast three times for disobedience before she says (to paraphrase), “Why have you beat me these three times? Do I not always do what you ask? But look: I have just saved your life!” The donkey could see what Balaam could not: Three times their path was barred by an angel of the Lord bearing a sword. Now the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to his recklessness and told him,
“I would certainly have killed you, but spared her.”
Maybe we haven’t actually seen an ox and lamb keep time, but thanks to the Internet, we can witness an elephant beat “eight to the bar”. The eighteenth century philosopher, Jeremy Berthram, asked, “The question is not whether they can reason or talk, but can they suffer?" Well, of course they can. But they never question their creator, and they wait as we do, for the old earth to pass away and a new heaven and earth to come, free of sin and death; to be once and for all reunited to God through the birth, life, and death of His Son Jesus Christ.
Joy to the world!