Last week I wrote of Toads, Stones and Ant Empires the Lesser Creatures in the Garden commenting on Psalm 104:24.
In his sermon on Sunday Vicar Nick Shults suggested we read Psalm 104 several times during the next week. I’ve been trying to follow his suggestion.
After lunch Sunday, while walking near our home, I heard crows cawing in the tops of the oak trees. It’s a familiar sound when they have gathered to “hound” an owl or hawk. I had not walked more than a few steps when a hawk went soaring directly overhead veering around St. Lucas UCC church. I don’t know if this oft repeated scene in our neighborhood is part of the wonder of God’s creation or a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience when everything came apart at the seams in the universe. I don’t know if it’s a cruel game crows play on birds of prey or if the birds of prey are a danger to crows. But it is a fascinating drama to observe as it is played out in the air. Incidentally, I was later in the day and the crow were still chasing through the sky.
Psalm 104: 17 refers to the trees of Lebanon, “In them the birds build their nests.” However, in Isaiah 34, hawks, owls and ravens are part of the scene of God’s judgments against the nations. When a city is defeated, destroyed and abandoned, the ruins soon are inhabited by creatures of the wild. Isaiah 34:11, “But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.” Other translations differ from the ESV, but all of them add to the visual effect of chaos and a jumble of stones.
The chaos of battle between humans is replaced with the air battles between with hawks and owls and ravens. They all will flourish even as they try to wipe out each other’s existence. Isaiah 34:15, There the owl nests and lays and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow; indeed, there the hawks are gathered, each one with her mate.” Though many of the former human inhabitants will be left alone and forlorn, when it comes to the new inhabitants, “Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate.” (Is. 34:16)
And yet, in the very next chapter of Isaiah we have the return of the exiled citizens. “”They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.” The city will be a place of singing, gladness and joy, “and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”