Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

A meditation on prophecy..........

It was a glorious Saturday afternoon.  The balmy weather made it a delight to be outdoors in the garden. I was enjoying the beauty of God's natural creation ... until the commotion erupted in the nature reserve behind our neighbourhood.  Two adult crows squawked and fluttered in a frenzy, attacking with beaks and talons the goanna that had climbed high up a swamp oak to their nest. It was devouring the two fledgling crows in the nest, undeterred by the efforts of the parent birds to save their young.  When all hope was lost and the two fledglings had disappeared into the maw of the goanna, the parent birds flew off, obviously distressed.

 Quietness returned to the reserve - apart from the murmurs of the onlookers, some seemingly upset by what they had witnessed; others feeling no pity for the crows, which are well known as merciless predators themselves. Perhaps the thought came to some of them that such natural violence would have occurred countless times throughout the world even while the goanna was engaged in this life-taking act of self-survival.

‘NATURE, RED IN TOOTH AND CLAW'

This blood-shedding by predators in the natural world (as well as humans' hunting and slaughter of animals for meat) has caused some to question the goodness and mercy of God.  How could God, they say, allow animals to wreak suffering and death upon one another in order to survive or, worse, to satisfy deep-seated violent instincts?  The Victorian poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, gave such protestors a slogan when he described nature as being ‘red in tooth and claw'.

Rather than justify God against this accusation by my own reasoning, I search the Bible for an answer.

In that search I notice that, in the pristine state of the newly created world in Genesis, herbs, fruit and seeds were provided as food for mankind, and for other animals.

(Gen. 1:29-30  Then God said, " I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 

And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground - everything that has the breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food."  And it was so.)

But the pristine state of the world was disturbed when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They ate the forbidden fruit of a particular tree in the Garden of Eden, bringing death and disorder into their world. This disobedient act and its consequences can be read in Genesis chapter three.

The long-term consequences are seen in our present world, where the goodness and beauty of God's creative work are often overshadowed by greed and violence.

The Bible, however, promises a future world order, which re-establishes the initial conditions of God's creation.  The prophet Isaiah, particularly, paints a picture of that idyllic time to come on earth:

Isaiah 11:6-9

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

If you read the whole of Isaiah chapter eleven, you will see the full details:

  • - The earth will be ruled by a wise and powerful ruler.
  • - The idyllic conditions will first be set up in the Promised Land ("my holy mountain").
  • - All earth's nations ("the Gentiles") will ultimately enjoy the same conditions.

This, of course, is a prophecy of the coming kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

John, in Revelation chapter twenty-one, has a vision of that happy time to come:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

In that transformed world of the future, no longer will men speak of nature as being "red in tooth and claw"; for all creation will live in "peace and harmony".