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March 13, 2009 / beidson

Divine Sovereignty and Dead Bird Theology

I want my children to see dead birds and worship God.  No, I do not want them to sacrifice birdssparrow to God, or worship dead birds like they were gods.  I want then to see a dead bird on the ground and think of the power and faithfulness of God toward us in Christ.  I want them to have a dead bird theology.

The other evening I was driving home with my daughter when we passed by a dozen buzzards on the side of the road, clawing and gnawing on the carcass of a deer.  Fortunately, my daughter did not even see the deer lying bloated in the grass–she was too short to see over the edge of the car door.  But she did see big black buzzards scattering around, flapping their nasty wings.  She asked me, “What’s happening?”  I told her that something had died and the birds were eating it, and so she just assumed that one of the birds had died and was now serving as a buffet for hungry flesh eating carnivores.  So I just went along.  It seemed better than telling her about a dead deer, although cannibalism wasn’t a much better option.

But what do I, as a parent and a Christian, make of all that carnage?  I must ask myself the very same question my daughterasked, “What’s happening here?”  Is this merely the evidence of a natural world spinning out of control, ruled by an unruly law (a contradiction in terms, I might add), destined to destruction?  Or is this disorder the consequence of a greater disorder, one set in motion by rebellion against the Divine Order himself?  Should I tell my daughter that only the fittest survive, or do I tell her that the dead animal on the side of the road makes sense when we understand that there is only One who was fit enough to survive the chaos of the curse, the deceit of natural desires, and the treasonous word of the Serpent, “Has God really said . . .?”  At that moment, I was presented with an opportunity to either display the fear of a natural, godless, meaningless existence which is even now at my doorstep demanding my life, or the fear of One who is in control of all this supposed meaningless, guiding it with perfect righteousness and justice, keeping count of every dead bird and every hair on my head?  So I told my daughter that Jesus did that because he is the King over death.  Though he may not be the king of death, nevertheless, he is over it, and has subdued that treacherous Satan under his foot and is soon to crush his head and judge those who loved to doubt the Word of God with him.

If you don’t know God, you may pretend to love the chaos, but you will not love it when you meet the One who spoke over the formless cosmos in the beginning and gained dominion over it, subduing it and bringing it into order.  You will see the folly of your ways one day.  This One, Jesus Christ, is sovereign over the mess that the curse has left in its wake, and is now ruling over it with a word of judgment and salvation: judgment to those who do not bow the knee to the King, and salvation to those who recognize the chaotic effects of the curse in their lives, and humbly receive the grace of forgiveness and righteousness offered in the death and resurrection of the One who now holds the keys of death and life.

A dead bird theology is the knowledge of good and evil, but not of the sort that Adam and Eve have given us.  A dead bird theology is an unwavering confidence in him with whom there is no variation or shifting shadows, whose faithfulness endures throughout every generation, whose power extends even beyond the creation itself.  Dead bird theology is biblical Christology, a proper belief and hope in the one who was slain by the decree of his Father, but was raised to everlasting life by the power of his Word, the very Word that spoke over the galactic darkness of our beginning.

If even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from the Father’s will, why would we be in constant trembling before an economy that seems to be crumbling and falling to the ground?  Why would we be anxious over the length of our lives, when God has told us our days have already been written, before even one of them has come to be?  Why would we fret over evil doers when Christ has told us that persecution is a gift, that if our Master has suffered, we must suffer also, and that it only proves his faithfulness?  Has he not said that his grace is sufficient, that we are to come to him for grace in time of need and to cast all of our cares on him for he cares for us and will sustain us?  Why then do we complain of having too much or too little?  Has not God prepared for us our daily bread, and clothed us with more splendor that Solomon, and even the lilies of the field?  If God is moving all things toward the Last Day, toward the Kingdom of Christ and his people, and if God has promised us that not even the smallest thing can happen apart from his sovereign counsel and decree, then ought we not to trust him completely, even if we see dead birds (deer) on the side of the road?

There was a gospel narrative for us on the side of that road that evening: find yourself within the context of Jesus’ divine lordship over all things, even dead sparrows and buzzards and deer.  Recognize that cars don’t hit deer apart from God’s wise and good purposes, even if we cannot clearly recognize those purposes.  Realize the extent of the curse: it reaches to the far corners of the universe, and even to the tiny backroads of your county.  Submit to the Word of Christ, even at the end of a gun, even at the news of cancer in your body, even at the threat of natural disaster, and even at the notice of nonsufficient funds in your bank account.  God is sovereign, wise and good, and nothing happens apart from the Father’s will.  If we learn this, it will make sense to worship a ruling Christ with our family when we see a dead bird on the side of the road.


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