A couple of weeks ago, I started packing the books in my seminary office. I am moving to a different office. It is a better office - larger, surrounded by other professors’ offices and closer to the main lecture hall where I usually lecture on Church History. However, packing hundreds of books, papers and files is not one of the most enjoyable jobs that one does!
As I was working by myself late at night, I decided to open the window. I forgot that that particular window had no screen. Within a couple of minutes I had all sorts of uninvited guests – small flying insects and some that were closer to two inches. I was watching one of the largest insects fly across the room. Suddenly it started to swing like a pendulum. I stopped packing books to observe this unusual motion. It kept going back and forth, back and forth. As I moved closer I observed that this insect has entangled itself in a spider’s web. The spider has been in my office for a while but I had not observed it. The window has never been opened and the spider had never seen such big prey before. At one point it seemed that the swinging accelerated. I saw that in addition to the insect, the spider has come down on the web and now they were swinging together in the air. I kept watch. After a while the swinging stopped and the spider pulled its prey to the top of the window. The struggle was over and the spider had its late dinner.
When I came home I told my kids about my observation, and they together asked me if I saved the insect. But I was caught up in my observation. I observed carefully the battle for life between two insects!
The book of Proverbs often encourages people to observe life in the animal and insect kingdom. My mother especially knew how to quote effectively from the Bible using insects, especially when I wanted to sleep a little bit more:
Go to the ant you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer, or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in the summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. (Prov. 6:6-11)
The ancients and my parents taught values and the strengths and follies of human characteristics by observing the world around them – sometimes other humans and sometimes animals and insects.
At other times the observation was reversed and the animal kingdom is used to illustrate bad traits.
At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house, at twilight as the day was dawning, as the dark of night set in. Then out came a woman to meet him dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. . .Come let’s drink of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves in love. My husband is not home; he has gone on a long journey…With persuasive words she let him astray, she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping on a noose, till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. (Prov. 7:6-23.)
Like the observer in Proverbs I have seen old and young go on dangerous roads, falling in the spider’s webs, destroying their lives in sinful friendships and relationships, seeking to outsmart God and his commandments. How often did I say to couples who came to see me for their marriage counseling that God does not approve of marriage between Christian and non-Christians? They told me that I do not understand their love, or that their relationship is so unique, and some even brought me articles to show how some couples succeeded. They had expensive weddings, they bought big houses, they had children and they have also found out that the word of God is true. When they try to worship God, they find out that their marriage partner does not want to have anything to do with that part of their lives and in most cases the children walk away from the faith.
If we would take time to observe the truth that happens around us in the nature, if we would take God at his word, we will avoid the snares that we encounter in our lives and we will live lives that God will bless because we have obeyed Him.