Episode 8: Does God Actually Care About Animals? Will there be Animals in Heaven? + Learning from Noah how to face hardships like a (possible) coming war.
Today’s reading is fairly meaty – big, important and theologically rich passages in Genesis 8, Ezra 8, Matthew 8 and Acts 8. However, because the last two episodes of the Bible Reading podcast went long, today’s big Bible question is an important one that will be fairly short. Does God care about animals? I suppose a subset to that question – one that we will cover in depth at a later date – is a very common biblical question: Will there be animals in Heaven? Before we dive into that, however, let’s read our passage for today – Genesis 8.
John Owen was an interesting fellow. A nonconformist pastor, theologian and writer in the 1600s in England, he was also an MP and an Oxford Academic. He was a bright mind and a lover of Jesus and had an interesting take on today’s Genesis passage, and how we might apply it to our lives in 2020. As I write this, it looks possible that the U.S. – my home country – might be about to go to war with Iran. Australia is on fire, and other things have people in a very disquieted, alert and heavy state of mind. Owen asks and answers a question about how Christians should live and trust God when going through such dark and difficult times. Listen to his answer:
What is our duty with respect to dark and difficult dispensations of God’s providence in the world?John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 9 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 397–398.
The fourth and last peculiar duty which I shall mention is, to hide ourselves. And how shall we do that? The storm is coming; get an ark, as Noah did when the flood was coming upon the world: which is stated for a precedent of all judgments in future times. There are two things required to provide an ark,—fear and faith:—
(1.) Fear: “By faith Noah, being moved with fear, prepared an ark.” If he had not been moved with the fear of God’s judgments, he would never have provided an ark. It is a real complaint; we are not moved enough with the fear of God’s judgments. We talk of dreadful things that can befall human nature, and expect them every day; but yet we are not moved with fear. “Yet were they not afraid,” said Jeremiah, “nor tore their garments.” Nor do we do so. Habakkuk, upon the view of God’s judgments, was in another frame, chap. 3:16, “When I heard,” saith he, “my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.” This is the way to find rest in the day of God’s judgments….
(2.) FAITH We cannot well provide an ark for ourselves, unless we be guided by faith, as well as moved by fear. “By faith, Noah prepared an ark.” How many things have you heard of that encourage faith;—the name of God, the properties of God, and the accomplishment of the promise of God. By virtue of all those properties, encourage faith in providing an ark.
But you will say, “We are yet at a loss what this providing of an ark and hiding of ourselves is. ‘A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself.’ God calls us to enter into the chamber of providence, and hide ourselves till the indignation be over and done. If we knew what this was, we should apply ourselves unto it. I will tell you what I think in one instance:—give no quiet to your minds, until, by some renewed act of faith, you have a strong and clear impression of the promises of God upon your hearts, and of your interest in them. If it be but one promise, it will prove an ark. If, under all these seasons, moved with fear, acted by faith, we can but get a renewed sense and pledge of our interest in any one promise of God, we have an ark over us that will endure, whatever the storm be. Think of it, and if nothing else occur to you, apply your minds to it, that you may not wander up and down at uncertainties; but endeavor to have a renewed pledge of your interest in some special promise of God, that it belongs unto you, and it will be an ark in every time of trouble that shall befall you. (slightly modernized)
You probably caught the verse that triggered today’s Bible question, because it was the first verse we read: “God remembered Noah, as well as all the wildlife and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.” (Genesis 8:1) So – God was thinking about Noah AND the wildlife and the livestock in the Ark. There are several indications in Scripture of God’s love for animals:
9 Then God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”“Yes, it’s right!” he replied. “I’m angry enough to die!”10 So the Lord said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. 11 But may I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”Jonah 4:9-11
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,Psalm 36:6
your judgments like the deepest sea.
Lord, you preserve people and animals.
He causes grass to grow for the livestockPsalm 104:14-15
and provides crops for man to cultivate,
producing food from the earth,
15 wine that makes human hearts glad—
making his face shine with oil—
and bread that sustains human hearts.
28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.Matthew 10:28-31
So – Yes! God cares about animals, and watches over them. God knows when animals die and cultivates the earth to preserve their lives. We might also mention Proverbs 12:10 here as well, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” But – could animals have eternal life? That’s a different question entirely – one we will spend quite a bit more time on in a future episode. We do know for sure that there are horses in Heaven, because Jesus is riding on one in Revelation 19. Isaiah 6 also gives us the tantalizing idea that eternity will indeed have animals:
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 6:9-10
More on that later. Thanks for reading!
Until tomorrow, Godspeed!