Dr. Joe Temple


In this lesson, we are going to talk about doves. In the Scripture, doves are said to be the most important bird mentioned. Two reasons are usually given for that. One is the dove was the first bird, along with the raven, mentioned in the Bible, other than the general references to fowls in connection with the creation story; and then the dove is the sacrifice which the poor man could bring to Christ in Old Testament practices as a sacrifice for his sin. Nobody needs to be left out.

I would like for you to open your Bibles to Genesis, chapter 8, for the first mention of the dove and the first lesson that might be learned from the dove. Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 6:

Genesis 8

6And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:
7And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.
8Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;
9But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.
10And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;
11And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

You will notice that the raven and the dove were both sent forth. We will be talking about the raven in this series of studies, but suffice it to say that the raven stayed away. The reason that the raven did not come back was that he fed upon dead flesh. He had no problem finding something upon which to rest and found no problem in finding something to eat, but the dove will not touch dead flesh. She came back until the waters had abated to where she could pluck an olive leaf and bring it back to Noah.

Symbol of Purity

You have seen the dove with the olive leaf any number of times as a symbol of peace, and generally that is the accepted symbol, but more important than the accepted symbol of peace is the symbol of purity, because that is what the Bible emphasizes—a purity that is emphasized by the dove. That is the reason the Holy Spirit came in the form of a dove in Matthew, chapter 3, verse 16, at the baptismal scene of the Lord Jesus Christ and lighted on the shoulder of the Lord Jesus—the visible evidence of the Holy Spirit. Why was the dove chosen? Because the dove is the symbol of purity.

That will become more evident if you will turn in your Bibles to the Song of Solomon. As you turn there, let me remind you that I am not among those Bible teachers who believe that the only purpose of the Song of Solomon is to teach the benefits and the blessings and the method of conjugal love. I believe that it can be that, but I believe that it has a higher and deeper significance than that. I believe that it refers to the relationship Christ has to the Church and that the Church has to Christ. I believe it is an allegorical representation of that fact.

We use the word allegory with caution, because too many folk, when using the word allegory, mean that the events didn't actually occur. What we are saying is that it is a representation of the relationship that Christ has to the Church. Notice chapter 5, verse 1:

Song of Solomon 5

1I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
2I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
3I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
4My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
5I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
6I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.

The purpose of our study at this time is not an exposition of this portion of the Word of God, but to recognize that this is a description of a conversation between Christ and His beloved, Christ and His Church, Christ and you as an individual believer. In verse 2, there is the fitful sleeping of the person who is conscious that communion with the Lord has been neglected: “I sleep, but my heart waketh”—conscious of a voice, and yet not altogether conscious of the voice clearly, and then the realization, “It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh saying to me, ‘Open to me my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled'…”

The dove here—the undefiled—is the Church. Christ is seeking, as He does often in the Song of Solomon, fellowship with the Church, but He looks upon His Church as pure. He looks upon His Church as undefiled in the world. Let's pause here a moment and let the Holy Spirit minister that thought to our hearts and recognize that quite often the Church is not the pure Church that it ought to be. You do understand when I use the word Church , I am not speaking of the organization; I am not speaking of a building; I am speaking of the organism, the Body of Christ.

Turn in your Bibles to II Corinthians, chapter 6, and notice the exhortation along those very lines. If the Church did not face constant defilement because of her relationship with the world, God would never have found it necessary to offer the exhortation in II Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 14. Notice these verses:

II Corinthians 6

14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 7

1Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

The ending of the chapter comes at an unhappy place here. The first verse of chapter 7 really belongs with chapter 6 because it is the climax to the appeal for separation from the unsaved. Here again, we don't have time for a detailed discussion, so let's answer the question that usually arises in the minds of men and that is, this passage of Scripture does not teach that you should never have anything to do with the unsaved. This does not teach that you should not keep company with the unsaved. It does not teach that you should not do what you need to do in order to be a witness to them, but it does teach that you should never enter into a binding yoke with the unsaved, whereby when God leads you to make a decision, you have to consider an unsaved person's viewpoint. Any relationship with the unsaved that does not involve your allegiance to God is quite all right, but any relationship with the unsaved that involves your loyalty to God must be avoided.

The Corinthian believers had slipped into that habit, so in verse 17, we are told:

II Corinthians 6

17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

I really feel that this Scripture has been much misused for splitting churches. I feel this passage of Scripture has been much misused for dividing Christians. It is not talking about that. It is talking about our relationship with the unsaved that hinders our loyalty to God. In such a relationship we become contaminated.

You will notice in verses 17-18 that God said that if you come out, if you touch not the unclean thing, you will be received. We are already saved, so this is not talking about salvation. We will be received into fellowship and God will be a Father to us, and we will be His sons and His daughters. The individual has broken his fellowship because of his alliance with the world. Those alliances must be broken that fellowship might be restored.

Then, “Having these promises…” What promises? The promises related in verses 17-18:

II Corinthians 7

1Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

The words flesh and spirit are not in the original text, and sometimes I think that with the inclusion of that phrase, the effectiveness of the verse is sometimes watered down, because we are oftentimes concerned about the spirit which is an intangible more than with the flesh which is evident. Perfecting holiness in the fear of God is a process that must be continuously followed. When we think of the dove, we must remember that God expects His Church, His people, to be pure people, a people that is separate and apart from the world.

Wings of the Dove

Turn in your Bibles to Psalm 68, where the Spirit of God calls attention to the wings of the dove. Psalm 68, verse 13, is one of the most precious verses to my mind that there is in the Word of God. I have often wished that an artist could portray what is in view in this verse. God is talking to the nation of Israel by interpretation and by application to all of His children. Notice the words:

Psalm 68

13Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.

Notice the comparison: …“you will be as the wings of a dove…” Here is our figurative emphasis producing truth. Get the picture: David had oftentimes seen a dove who lodged among the pots. There are two interpretations of this word pot in the Hebrew. One of them is in our King James text—pots that were set about the fire in the ashes, the ashes having cooled. The dove had come and lodged among the pots for the warmth that was there and taken up refuge, so to speak. A better word for lien is lodged . As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word that is translated lien here is translated “lodged,” in the story of the spies who visited Rahab. It is recorded: “They lodged with Rahab.” The dove lodged among the pots.

The other translation of the word pot is the word stall , where the horses were kept. Sometimes the dove took refuge there. David had often seen this, and while the dove was among the pots, regardless of which interpretation you put on it, the dove lifted, soiled and dirty; but when the dove arose from that place where she was and mounted into the sunrise (this is beautiful to me), the sun shone upon the wings of the dove, and David said that she appeared to be covered with silver and her feathers as yellow gold. I wish somehow an artist could picture a dove, soiled and dirty among the pots and then mounting up into the sky, the reflection of the sunlight on her wings, catching the beauty of this thing that David saw that day when he observed the dove.

Then he found a spiritual lesson. He said that we are like that. We lodge among the pots, figuratively speaking. We are dirty and soiled by sin, and yet when the grace of God takes hold of our lives, we are to soar up out of all of that filth and dirt and become a new creature in Christ Jesus, and that which is dirty and that which is unlovely becomes beautiful in the sight of God. There is nothing any more beautiful, nothing any more thrilling than a changed life in Christ. You can see why the Spirit of God was pleased to use this particular illlustration. Every time David saw a dove mounting up into the sunlight from the place where she had been soiled and dirty, he was reminded of the soul that is changed, that is revolutionized by the power of God.

Wings of Faith

Turn now to Psalm 55 for another lesson from the wings of the dove. I wonder how many of you know what it is like to feel as David felt when he wrote these words. Psalm 55:

Psalm 55

1Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.
2Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
3Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
4My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
5Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me [that is his sad condition] .
6And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
7Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.

Do you get the picture? Oftentimes David had seen the dove mount up and pause for a few moments on the wall that surrounded the palace and then soar off into the distance, and he said to himself, “I wish I had the wings of a dove. I wish that I could get away from it all. I wish I could fly away like the dove, far away and be at rest. Then I would remain in that quiet spot of solitude.”

Have you ever felt like that? Everything comes in on you, and you feel if you could just get away even for a little bit, it would help? David realized the need for coming apart, as Christ said to His disciples, “Come apart and rest awhile.” You can find your solitude and your rest in your fellowship in Christ. It is possible to be in the midst of everything and out of it at the same time. Have you ever noticed how individuals sometimes have a faraway look in their eyes and are completely oblivious to everything around them, so if there is some remark addressed to them, they don't reply? Someone else will say, “Well, they are out of it. Just forget it. They are just out of it.”

There is a sense in which it is not wise to be out of it, but there is a sense in which it is possible to be in such fellowship and communion with the Lord that you don't have to go away to a location to find that solitude. On the wings of faith, you can mount up to that place where you have real fellowship with the Lord.

Get Away to a Place of Safety

That brings me to the next suggestion that I want to make about the doves, related to their nesting habits. Turn in your Bibles, please, to Jeremiah, chapter 48, keeping in mind as you turn to these various passages of Scripture that different men in the Word evidently were bird watchers, because they drew the lessons that we need brought to our attention. Here in Jeremiah, chapter 48, Jeremiah is pronouncing a woe, a judgment upon Moab, because of their treatment of the nation of Israel; and yet God, true to His character, is providing a way out for those who want to take advantage of it. In the midst of the judgment that is being pronounced in verse 28, Jeremiah says:

Jeremiah 48

28O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole's mouth [a better translation would be “in the sides of the caves”] .

Where does the dove make her nest? Not down where all the activity is going on, but in the distant places in the mouth of a cave. Jeremiah is saying to those who are responsive to God's message, in the land of Moab, to be like the dove and get away to a place of safety.

Get Away to a Secret, Quiet Place

Turn to the Song of Solomon again, and notice another illustration of the dove and what her nesting habit ought to portray to the believer. Notice chapter 2, verse 14. It has already been established that God uses the figure of speech of the dove in the Song of Solomon, so in chapter 2, verse 14:

Song of Solomon 2

14O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

The dove makes her nest, we have already learned, in high places. The King James text says, “the secret places of the stairs.” Other translations suggest “in the high places,” but literally, “in the places of going up.” In order for you to have the fellowship with God that you need to have and for me to have that fellowship, it is necessary for us to get away from it all. It is necessary for us to be in that secret, quiet place away from all the busy turmoil of life.

Did you notice here in verse 14 where the appeal is? Christ says to the Church, “Let Me see thy countenance; let Me Hear thy voice.” Isn't it an interesting thing that Christ would be asking us to have fellowship with Him? We are prone to go to Him, and it is all one-sided. We go to Him for what we can get. He would like for us to come to Him because He loves us. The Scripture says that you are the portion that has been delivered to Christ, that you are the heritage of Christ. You are His and you mean something to Him, and I think we are oftentimes prone to forget it. That is the reason He said, “Let Me see thy countenance, and let Me hear thy voice.”

Check for the Little Foxes

How long has it been since Christ actually heard your voice and saw your face in sweet communion with Himself? We are talking about something very personal now, but it needs to prompt our hearts to the realization of the need, because the next verse is so true. Will you look at it:

Song of Solomon 2

15Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

It is not the big things that break our fellowship. It is not the big things that keep up apart from God. It is the little things described here as foxes . Every once in a while, we have to go and capture those little foxes that spoil the vines. It would behoove us, I think, to check the vines from time to time and see if the little foxes are not spoiling them.

You know, oftentimes we wake up suddenly and realize that we haven't grown spiritually. Our relationship with Christ is one of growth, and we realize that we haven't grown for some time. We have gone along riding—I think this is a great danger—on past experiences for our daily relationship to the Lord. It is not a continuous thing. We wake up suddenly and realize that we haven't grown like we should, or we wake up suddenly and realize that our fellowship is broken.

Broken Fellowship

Turn, please, to Isaiah, chapter 38, because that is what I would like to talk with you about next. This chapter describes one of the characteristics of the dove that causes them to be referred to as lovebirds , for the doves do come in that family where they have a real relationship to one another that causes men to refer to them as lovebirds . In Isaiah, chapter 38, Hezekiah is told by God that his life is coming to an end. Because he was out of fellowship with the Lord, we notice down in verse 14:

Isaiah 38

14Like a crane or a swallow [two birds noted for their chattering] , so did I chatter: [now notice] I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.

Naturalists tell us that when doves are separated, the one who is left behind sits and mourns with a moaning in her voice because her mate is missing, and there is no satisfying her until she is reunited with her mate. Hezekiah suddenly realized that all of his life was coming to an end, and the worst thing about it was that he lacked a sense of the presence of God. He moaned about it as the dove moans when she is separated from the one she loves.

Turn, please, to Ezekiel, chapter 7, and notice verse 16:

Ezekiel 7

16But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity.

Ezekiel, like Isaiah, had often heard the doves mourning in mournful discontent because their fellowship with their mates had been broken, and when they reviewed that scene in their own minds, they were reminded of what it is when fellowship is broken for the people of God.

This is what I would like to emphasize in a very forceful way. I am not convinced there is the concern that there ought to be in our lives for broken fellowship. I am not convinced that broken fellowship means to us what it ought to mean. I am afraid that we sometimes drift into the mechanical habit of recognizing that sin breaks fellowship and all that is needed for restoration of fellowship is the confession of sin. Theoretically, that is true, but I think because the church has emphasized that the remedy for broken fellowship is confession of sin, we drift into the habit of glibly confessing our sins without taking into consideration what a serious thing it is to be separated from God, without any real mourning for the thing that has occurred.

Notice what I said—not mourning in order to prove to God that we are truly sorry and not mourning in order to get God to forgive. You don't have to do that. He is faithful and just to forgive, but I do think there ought to be a real concern about our fellowship that is broken so lightly. All of the evidence in the Word of God indicates that that should be true.

The Innocent Dove

One last thing that I would like for you to notice about doves. Turn to the book of Hosea, chapter 7, verse 11:

Hosea 7

11Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.

Here Ephraim is compared to a silly dove. A better word for silly would be innocent . Ephraim was innocent enough to think that Egypt and Assyria could come to her rescue when the chastening hand of God was resting upon her. Oftentimes Hosea had seen a dove ensnared because of its innocence, because it was not wary of that that would ensnare it. He recognized that characteristic of the dove and he said, “Ephraim is just like that.”

Go with me to the New Testament and notice the Lord Jesus Christ not only told us to be bird watchers, but He was a bird watcher Himself, for He noticed the characteristics of the dove and brought one of those characteristics to the attention of the people to whom He was speaking. This needs to be emphasized for us today. Notice, Matthew, chapter 10, verse 16. He said to His disciples:

Matthew 10

16Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Notice: “…harmless as doves.” A better word for harmless is innocent . The reason that He said that is that He wanted us to be wise concerning the things of God and simple and innocent concerning the things that are evil. I think that one of the biggest lies that the Devil is telling Christian people today, particularly Christian parents, is that their children must not be too protected, for if they are, they will not know how to handle themselves in a world that is full of sin. The Devil is suggesting to people today that Christian people need to be familiar with all of the sinful things that are going on in the world so that they will know how to react when they face them.

I don't believe that. I believe your children can be grounded in the Word of God so that they live by princiiples that are applicable to any situation in any generation, and I believe you can be likewise. I always respond to the suggestion that we need to know about sin so that we know how to react to it with a statement that a man from another generation made when he said, “You don't have to go through the sewer to know how dirty it is. All you need to do is go down to the sewage plant and you will know. Go where the sewer comes out.” The devil would have us believe we have to be involved in order to know what is going on. We don't. Remember the dove. Christ said, “I am sending you out into the world which is full of wolves, ready to pounce on you, but I want you to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

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