Ostrich, Hen, and Raven
Dr. Joe Temple


We are going to talk about three birds in this lesson. I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to the book of Job, chapter 39. Notice the paragraph beginning with verse 13 because we are going to talk first about the ostrich. Job is being rebuked by the Lord for his feeling that he is self-sufficient, and in the whole chapter God is asking him questions about nature and asking him if he could do anything like that. In verse 13, He said:

Job 39

13Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?

The words peacock and ostrich are sometimes used interchangeably. They are two different Hebrew words which speak of the same bird. Notice verse 14:

Job 39

14Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust,
15And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.
16She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear;
17Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.
18What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.

We will stop our reading right there because those verses describe the ostrich. The ostrich with which Bible writers were familiar was readily recognizable in that it stood six to eight feet high and weighed about three hundred pounds. Its wings were not meant for flying. She could fly, but her wings were for beauty and plumage. The plumes of the ostrich—that is the reason it is called peacock as well—were often taken and used in homes for decoration. Her feet were designed for running so that she could outrun a horse. She could run fifty miles an hour for thirty miles at a time. This is the ostrich that is spoken of in the Word of God.

Characteristics of the Ostrich

I would like for us to go back over this paragraph and get some things fixed in our minds about her characteristics before we attempt to learn some of the lessons that we can learn from her.

You will notice a reference to the beauty of her wings and her feathers in verse 13 and then to her cruel unconcern for her young in verses 14-16. She leaves her eggs in the earth and warmeth them in the dust. She doesn't make any nest. She just lays her eggs in the dust. She doesn't sit on them; she just goes off and leaves them to be warmed by the sun. Then in verse 16, by so doing, she forgets that the foot may crush them or the wild beast may break them. One could step on the eggs and break them or a wild creature (not a wild beast, in the sense of an animal necessarily, but a wild creature) may break them. Vulturs in the land of Palestine have been known to pick up rocks and throw them at the eggs left by the ostrich and then sweep down and get the meat of the eggs for themselves because the shell was hard enough that it took some force to break it.

Notice the unconcern in verse 16:

Job 39

16She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers…

She has a cruel unconcern for her offspring. She doesn't love them or provide for them. She doesn't care.

Then you will notice the second thing about her:

Job 39

16…her labour is in vain without fear;
17Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

You have heard the old story that the ostrich, when any danger arises, buries her head in the sand and assumes that everything is all right because she can't see the danger. That is what Job is talking about here in this passage of Scripture, when he says: “…her labour is in vain without fear…” That is, she has no fear in all of her activities, and the reason she doesn't is in verse 17. Notice:

Job 39

17Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

The Cruelty of Unconcern

That is the biblical description of the ostrich. Quite naturally, we would want to know what lessons might be drawn from it. I am going to suggest that you turn in your Bibles to Lamentations and notice how Jeremiah, who had observed the ostrich as Job had observed the ostrich any number of times, made the lesson and the application in relation to his people, Israel. The book of Lamentations is the lamentations of Jeremiah, which is exactly what the title implies—the lament of Jeremiah because of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the unconcern of the people because the city was destroyed. The whole book is dealing with that, but we will take up our reading with chapter 4. Notice Jeremiah's words:

Lamentations 4

1How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street.
2The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!
3Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people [notice now] is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.

“The daughter of my people,” is a reference to the nation of Israel. Jeremiah said that the nation of Israel is expressing the same kind of cruelty as does the ostrich. There are different kinds of cruelty, as you well know. Young people and children can be terribly cruel to other young people and children with smart, critical remarks that they make. We can be cruel, as adults, in criticisms that we make of other people, but the cruelty that is illustrated by the life of the ostrich is the cruelty of unconcern. It is cruel to be unconcerned about those for whom you have a responsibility.

Think for a moment about your own children. How concerned are you about their welfare? How concerned are you about God's plan and purpose in their lives? I might suggest to you something that you may not accept as fact now, but you will later. Your concern for your children will be commensurate with the regard that you have for the privilege of having children.

I don't believe, and I never have, that children are a necessary evil. I do not believe that they are a biological mistake. I think they are a privilege. “Children are an heritage of the Lord. Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3a, 5a). Some of you have heard me say that every man has to decide how big his own quiver is. Our quiver is big enough for seven. Yours may be full with one. I don't know, but children are a heritage of the Lord. It is a great privilege that God grants, and blessed is the man who has his quiver full.

If you recognize that children are a privilege entrusted to you, then your concern will be such that you could never be compared with the ostrich who lays her eggs in the dust and then with total unconcern let happen what happens. Yet many children are born into our world today in situations just like that—unwanted, uncared for after they come.

We should have concern not only for our children to avoid the cruelty of which Israel was accused and with which we certainly can be accused, but as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we should have a concern for our spiritual children. One of the things that bothers me tremendously is that we are very energetic in our witness, but lax in our concern. We lay our eggs like the ostrich, then go off and forget all about them, and anything can happen to that newborn babe in Christ, just like anything can happen to the ostrich egg. We want you to know that. It is cruel to bring a baby into this world, physically speaking, and provide no care for it. It is cruel to bring a baby into spiritual birth and provide no sustenance and no care for it at all.

I wonder if God could be accusing some of us of this same cruel unconcern. What I would like for you to do is to ask yourself the question: “How concerned am I about a babe I have won to Christ?” To find out how concerned you are, think back over the last person you won to Christ. Take a minute to do it, then ask yourself this question: “How are they doing spiritually?” It could very well be, if we had the opportunity and the time for this, you could respond and say, “Well, let me tell you…,” and give a story of how they are progressing in the Lord because you nurtured them; but I wonder if we had the time, some of us would have to say, “Frankly, I don't know. I haven't had any contact with them since I won them to the Lord. I just don't know.” Or would you have to say, in the terms of our study, “Somebody tramped on the egg. The shell is broken. I didn't take care of it. I didn't leave the egg where I should have left it.”

If God could speak to the nation of Israel concerning her cruelty in relation to unconcern, certainly He could speak to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in the same way. Are we ostriches because of our cruelty in being unconcerned about those to whom we have a responsibility?

You noticed the second thing that I brought to your attention when we read this passage in Job, and that was that the ostrich was foolishly without fear. Will you turn with me, please, to Proverbs, chapter 1, and notice verse 7. Keep in mind that the ostrich is not afraid because she doesn't see anything to be afraid of. As we mentioned, she had hidden her head in the sand, and because she did not have wisdom and understanding, she thought everything was all right when it wasn't. The Lord, we are told in Job, chapter 39, verse 17, had deprived her of wisdom and had not given her understanding. Look at Proverbs, chapter 1, verse 7:

Proverbs 1

7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning…” This fear is not the kind of fear that causes you to run and hide in the corner because you are afraid God is going to strike you dead if you smile out of the wrong side of your face. This is that reverential, standing in awe of God because you have understanding of God and you know what God is.

Wicked Men Listen With Their Hearts

Turn with me to Psalm 36, and notice by way of contrast the man who does not know the Lord, the man who does not listen to the voice of God, but the man who listens to what his own heart says. Notice verse 1:

Psalm 36

1The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.

A better translation of this verse would be to change the pronoun my to his : “The transgression of the wicked saith within his heart that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” The word saith is a translation of the Hebrew word which also is used as God speaking or an oracle speaking.

The thrust of the verse is that the wicked man listens to the voice of his heart and the voice of his heart said that he didn't need to fear God. The voice of his heart said, “There is nothing to be afraid of,” and so the wicked puts his head in the sand like the ostrich and thinks all is well because his heart said, “You do not need to fear God. You don't need to fear judgment. You don't need to fear anything that God can do to you.”

This is a false kind of security. Many Christians have their heads in the sand like the ostrich because they listen to the voice of their heart instead of to the voice of the Word of God. They assume that those certain things that happen to other people are certainly not going to happen to them. For example, will you turn to I Corinthians, chapter 11, and notice a concrete illustration of how Christians are prone to put their heads in the sand, failing to look at reality. I Corinthians, chapter 11, among other things, is speaking about disorderliness at the Lord's Table—individuals who are eating and drinking in an unworthy manner, participating at the observance of the Lord's Supper. In verse 29, you will notice:

Principles of Self Examination and Self Judgment

I Corinthians 11

29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily [a better translation would be in an unworthy manner , for none of us are worthy] , eateth and drinketh damnation [condemnation] to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [die] .
31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

Here, in connection with the Lord's Supper, God is establishing a principle that I think many Christians ignore. That is the principle of self examination and self judgment to follow. When we, as in verse 31, judge ourselves, we escape the judgment of God.

Someone may say, “I thought that the book of Romans declares, ‘There is therefore now no judgment for them who are in Christ Jesus'.” That is absolutely true. Thank God, we do not have to stand in judgment when we have received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior; but the judgment that is spoken of here in this portion of the Word might better be termed the chastening of the Lord . There are things that are disorderly in our lives as Christians, and God says to us, “You straighten that out,” and that is our responsibility to do it.

Oftentimes when our children had things that were not the way they ought to be in their lives, I would say something like this to them: “You had better straighten that out because if you don't straighten it out, I am going to have to.” In most instances, they straightened it out because it was easier for them to do it than it was for me to do it.

Lift that illustration a little higher and you have what God is talking about here. God says, “Straighten things out in your life, because if you don't, then you are going to be chastened of the Lord.” There is no way to escape the chastening of the Lord, because He cannot condemn you with the world. You can't stand in the judgment that is slated for the world, so you have to deal with things in your own life that are not right.

When God begins to chasten, you will notice in verse 30, He mentions three things: For this cause, many are weak—that is one thing; then, many are sickly—that is another thing; and many die—that is the third thing. Bible scholars are not in agreement about the word weak . Some of them feel it is a reference to physical weakness; others feel that it is a reference to spiritual weakness. I lean toward the latter in view of the fact that sickly is the second judgment and death is the third. The whole thrust of the passage is, if you don't straighten your life out, then God is going to have to straighten it out. Yet, there are any number of Christians who are living in open rebellion against God's revealed will and are like the ostrich putting their head in the sand and saying, “Nothing can happen to me,” because they don't see the descending hand of God upon them. Don't be cruelly unconcerned about the outcome of your life. That is the lesson of the ostrich.

Illustration of God's Protection

We now want to talk about the hen. There is no relation between the two but we need to mention these things to you, so will you turn to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 13. Let me remind you that by this time the Lord Jesus Christ had been rejected by His people. The Lord Jesus Christ knew that no longer were they going to be interested in what He had to say to them and what He had planned for them. They made their decision. In verse 34, the Lord Jesus said:

Luke 13

34O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
35Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Get the picture: The Lord Jesus Christ had often seen a hen in the barnyard, when the thunderclouds began to gather and the lightening began to flash, clucking for the little chicks to come. She would spread her wings over them and protect them from the judgment that was about to fall. He had often seen the mother hen clucking for the little chicks to come when the chicken hawk would be circling about. The chicks would come, she would spread her wings and protect them from the hawk that would destroy them. The Lord Jesus Christ, perhaps having seen that as a child growing up in the home of Mary and Joseph, said to Jerusalem, “How often have I wanted to do that for you. How often I have wanted to provide that protection for you, but you would not take advantage of it.”

This that the Lord Jesus Christ said about the hen is a principle that is taught throughout the Word of God. For another illustration, turn back to the book of Ruth and notice this very interesting story that oftentimes we are prone to pass over without realizing the beauty of it.

I suppose you have heard the story of Ruth as it was read by Benjamin Franklin before a society of atheists, without the atheists being told it was taken from the Bible. When he had concluded the story, they gathered around him and wanted to know where he had found such a moving love story as that, and he said, “In the book that you men reject—the Bible.”

Refuge Under God's Wings

In Ruth, chapter 2, you will notice that Boaz addresses Ruth in the touching words of verse 12:

Ruth 2

12The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

There is a Gentile with no certain dwelling place, no security and no protection, taking refuge under the wings of the mother hen—under God's wings, if you please. What Ruth did, we are all invited to do.

Turn to Psalm 36, and notice the open invitation to all men, regardless of where they may be. Notice verse 7:

Psalms 36

7How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

Do you get the picture? Just as the Lord Jesus Christ pled with the nation of Israel to take her refuge in Him, as the little chicks take their refuge under the wings of the mother hen, God is asking you to take refuge in Him until all these calamities be over. Isn't it good to know that there is a place of security in Christ? Isn't it good to know that if you are under His wings, nothing can get to you unless it goes through Him? As someone said, “If perchance it does reach you after going through Him, which is very doubtful, the barbs will be so dull, so blunted, that it can't do anything to hurt you.” Take refuge under the shadow of His wings.

There are three birds that we want to think about in this lesson. I made reference to this bird when we were talking about the dove and the raven. It was the first bird sent out of the ark and the first bird that is mentioned by name in the Bible. There was the reference, of course, in the reference to fowls in the creation, but this is the first bird mentioned by name.

The Raven is an Illustration of Grace

The first thing that I would like to suggest to you is that as the ostrich is an illustration of unconcern and cruelty on the part of God's people, and the hen is an illustration of God's protection, the raven is an illustration of God's grace. There is nothing I love to talk about more than I love to talk about the grace of God, and the raven is an illustration of that grace.

In the list of birds in the Bible that are designated unclean birds, right in the middle of the list is the raven, and there is a reason for it. She was unclean because she fed upon dead flesh. That is the reason when she was sent out of the ark, she didn't come back. She found plenty of things upon which to rest. That is why when the dove was sent out of the ark, she had to come back because the waters had not gone down enough for her to find any green thing upon which she might rest or feed.

There is a verse of Scripture that describes the manner in which the raven feeds upon the dead. They begin first by plucking out the eyes. That doesn't sound very good, does it? Open your Bibles, please, to Proverbs, chapter 30. Solomon had often seen the raven do this very thing, and so in verse 17:

Proverbs 30

17The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.

That is not very edifying to think about a raven going about plucking the eyes out of people, but Solomon had seen it happen. He was so emphasizing the importance of children honoring their parents that he said:

Proverbs 30

17The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.

It might be wise for us, as parents and prospective parents, to keep in mind that obedience does not come naturally on the part of children. They should be taught to obey, and the importance of obedience should be emphasized by such verses of Scripture as this—not that you want to instill fear in the heart of your children and obtain obedience solely through fear, but to emphasize how important God thought obedience was. We are abdicating our responsibility before God if we permit our children to be disobedient. It is a serious thing in the sight of God whether we think it is serious or not.

God's Grace

This raven that was right in the middle of the list of unclean birds, this raven that is described as unattractively as I described him was the recipient of God's special care, and therein lies God's grace. If there is any bird that would be unattractive to God, if there is any bird that does not deserve His care, it would be the raven. But twice in the Scripture we are reminded that God takes care of the raven even in the midst of all of its unloveliness.

Turn back to the book of Job, please, and notice chapter 38. God is still dealing with Job's pride. In this chapter He has been asking Job what he can do about a lot of things that God has already done. Because our time is limited, we will zero in on verse 41:

Job 38

41Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

Who takes care of the raven, this unclean bird that is right in the heart of the list of unclean birds? God does. Now go to the New Testament, and notice what the Lord Jesus Christ had to say in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. It is interesting to me that the Lord Jesus Christ would choose this particular bird to talk about when He talks about God's loving care. I think the reason He did is that it illustrates God's grace. In verse 22:

Luke 12

22And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
24Consider the ravens [He could have chosen any other bird, but He selected the one that was right in the midst of the uncleanness] : for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them [that is grace] : how much more are ye better than the fowls?

The Apostle Paul is the greatest exponent of grace, in my opinion, in the Word of God. He preached it, and he not only preached it, he was overwhelmed by it. You know, I love for folk to sing the song Amazing Grace . We sometimes sing it as a communion hymn. We have the Lord's Supper each Sunday, and as not to take needless time, we usually sing one verse of the communion hymn, and then as we sing the second verse, the men who are going to serve walk down the aisles to the communion table so that they will be ready to serve; but when we sing Amazing Grace , I always insist that we sing all five verses. I don't think the story is complete without them, for God's grace is tremendous to me. It is something that I have never been able to fathom, and it is something that I have never been able to understand, and I would not even think to put my thoughts in a class with the Apostle Paul, but I feel like he does about God's grace.

I want to share with you two illustrations of that. Turn in your Bibles, please, to Ephesians, chapter 3, and notice how the Apostle felt concerning the grace of God in his life. In chapter 3, he is talking about the mystery of the Church, which in other ages was not made known, but was made known in this age through him. In verse 7, He said:

Ephesians 3

7Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

This is where his understanding of God's grace shines through. Notice what he said:

Ephesians 3

8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

He is saying, “I can't believe it. I am the least of all the saints, yet unto me is this grace given.” The Apostle Paul spoke of forgetting those things that are behind and pressing on toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and he did that very largely, but there was one thing he seemed to never be able to forget and that was God's grace as it was manifested in choosing him, who was the least of all the saints.

Turn to I Corinthians, chapter 15, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 9. He is mentioning the Resurrection appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he said in verse 8:

I Corinthians 15

8And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Notice what he said: “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” I am humbled when I read these passages of Scripture, and I wonder how men can stand in the pulpit and draw attention to themselves as the final, ultimate authority on all things, when the Apostle Paul was overwhelmed with God's grace that He would even choose him to tell the story of the Gospel of Christ.

The next time you see a raven flying through the air, remember God's grace. If God could take care of and provide for this creature who eats on dead flesh, which God says is the uncleanest of the unclean, what can He do for you? Is the grace of God operating in your life today as it should?

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