Birds of prey – and the Sabbath!

Do we put all our energies into a search for spiritual food, reserving our alertness to seeking the presence of God?

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As I shared in my last posting, I learnt much through my observations of nature and of God’s wonderful creation while on holiday in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

I was particularly impressed by what I discovered from experts about birds of prey – perhaps most importantly, that they do not fly just for the fun of it, as I had always imagined. They fly for food! In fact they spend much of their time conserving their energy so that it is not wasted on needless ‘flights of fancy’, but only on necessary shopping expeditions!

The energy used for flying in search of food is, of course, gained through previous successful ‘fishing’ trips. And this disciplined lifestyle will not allow them to indulge on ‘snacking in-flight’. Even food salvaged while hunting is stored in a special sack until an appropriate time when the bird can eat in safety and afterwards put its feet up.

Eating ‘in-flight’ will result in loss of alertness for the job in hand which, in the case of Falcons, means catching prey in mid-flight and warding off other predators. We make much of drink-driving, but what about the dangers of a heavy meal sending you to sleep at the wheel?

Question: Do we put all our energies into a search for spiritual food, reserving the time when we are most alert to seeking the presence of God and listening out for his voice? The best time to read, pray and digest his Word or other edifying material? Not just an add-on to our busy lives on the Sabbath, but fresh manna from heaven each new day, just as our heavenly Father provides for the birds (Matthew 6.26).

Is seeking bread from heaven the driving force of our lives without which we can never be fully mature, with the strength and muscle to win life’s battles and ward off danger while also enjoying the fullness of life God promises to those who follow him? (John 10.10)

One falconry expert explained the importance of perfect weight and balance. It was amazing to discover, for example, that the ideal weight for this bird – capable of over 200mph – is 1¾lb. Too light, and she will die. Too heavy, and she can’t fly. And if she can’t fly, she will die, because there’s no other way of finding food.

We too should always be seeking for more food while at the same time living off the nutrients we have already and consistently built up through a regular healthy diet.

We are not expected, except in unusual circumstances such as anticipating a famine, to store up food for a rainy day (Matthew 6.26 again). We always need fresh manna.

And we should stay as light as a feather, like these birds, by refusing to become entangled by the woes and cares of this world (Hebrews 12.1).

And lastly, remember how the bird conserves its energy for the most important task – that of finding food. That actually means plenty of rest before going to work! We humans tend to do it the other way round, seeing leisure and holidays as a reward for hard work. But the bird of prey rests in order to work.

One of the reasons Jews have done so well in business is because they all keep the Sabbath, one of God’s key commands. As Yeshua said, the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way round. (Mark 2.27) It’s for our own good – both physically and spiritually. It’s absolutely essential, in order to regain our strength.

God rebukes his people when he says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30.15)

But those who wait upon the Lord – giving their best time to God – “will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40.31)


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