This footage of Emperor Penguins in the Arctic, or something very similar, was first aired in Australia many years ago. I will never forget how amazed I was at the obvious intelligent design displayed by these birds. The facts of this natural/divine marvel are astounding. God has placed within these creatures, which he has caused to live in temperatures forty degrees below freezing, the ability to keep themselves warm through connecting with each other. They keep both their chicks and themselves alive by huddling together and surviving off the body warmth of the other penguins. Not only that, but this is a highly organised and democratic survival strategy. The penguins on the outer circle, the part that takes the brunt of the icy wind, do not stay there. They take turns to go to the outside of the circle of birds and they keep on waddling so they also stay warm through activity. God is truly great! This is not just an example of His infinite capacity to care for his own creation, but a further illustration to us of His Fatherly desire to meet our own needs.
We are not penguins. We are made in the image of God. Yet, even God pointed towards His creation to prove to His people that He is Jehovah Jireh, our provider. While these penguins gain warmth and comfort from each other, they know not God. God has provided for them as an illustration for human beings, moreover, for His own people.
Jesus said in Matthew chapter 6:
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (NKJV)
So, like the penguins, we human beings tend to look to ourselves or to each other for the days needs. I think many of us, myself included, have tended to think of God as some kind of distant benefactor who helps us out sometimes but other times expects us to think for ourselves and find the resources to deal with our own problems.
Think about it. If God has given these penguins, creatures of pure instinct and habit, creatures whose sole motivation is to ‘multiply and be fruitful’, the capacity to deal with their harsh environment in such an ingenious way, how much greater is His capacity to creatively fix our problems. We get ourselves into much worse situations than mere temperature issues. Our problems are complex and involve emotional, mental, physical, relationship, financial and health issues, sometimes all at once. Human beings can be remarkably unhelpful in times of our greatest need. We have found for ourselves that just when you need other Christians or even your family around you to support and help you, that support can suddenly become non-existent. So even though we can huddle together like these penguins, if we put our trust in other people to fix what ails us, we will often find ourselves becoming frustrated and disappointed. God has other plans for us.
I am not saying, by the way, that God can’t help us through our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Not a. tall. What I am saying is that if we put our trust in our own strength or the strength of others and forget that it is Jesus who is our lifeline, we will fall into the sin of pride and/or idolising men.
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord.
(Jeremiah 17:5 NKJV)
Jesus is our Messiah and our Saviour. Yet I know that for myself, I have seen Him as a one-time saviour. He saved me when I was 13 and made a commitment to Him, but the rest of my life belongs to me to do with as I see fit. I must somehow live an acceptable religious life so God will be pleased with me, and Jesus will say “well done” when I go to heaven.
Jesus is our Saviour in all and through all. He does not simply wait on the sidelines to give us a push or a cheer when we need it. He wants us not just to come to Him but to cling to Him in all situations whether they appear to be good or bad. Remember, He works all things together for good for those who love Him.
It is important to consider this fact. All life on earth is cursed and lies under the sway of the evil one. (1 John 5:19) The fall of man caused the fall of this universe. One way to understand the difference between that which is eternal and that which is temporal (or of this world) is to remember that life on earth depends upon activity and movement. Everything moves. Time itself is constantly moving forward. As everything moves, so does it deteriorate (the law of entropy in physics). The air moves, the tides move, the earth itself moves. Our bodies are constantly moving. Our hearts pump, our brain crackles with electrical impulses, our blood moves through our body. Our minds are constantly thinking even when we are asleep. Both at the macro level and micro level, life is constantly filled with activity. The planets move, the universe is constantly expanding, our cells are born, divide, die and are reborn. Atoms and molecules are moving. Even in death, the only time something is actually perpetually still, there are microbes and germs moving to decay the body.
Compare this to God in eternity. There are so many instances in Scripture of God and stillness being linked. Jesus told the waves and the wind to be still. (Mark 4:39) The Holy Spirit is a still small voice.(1 Kings 19:12) We are told to ‘be still and know that I am God’. (Psalm 46:10). Another verse is when God told Job to ‘stand still and consider the wondrous works of God’ (Job 37:14). And of course the well-known Isaiah 40:31 verse about waiting on the Lord and regaining our strength and mounting up with wings as eagles. Who hasn’t seen an eagle literally ‘standing still’ in the heavens, wings outstretched, riding the thermals and waiting for God to show his amazing eagle eyes the food He has provided for him.
God’s stillness, His unchangeability, His constancy, His utter lack of turning from His purity of holiness and righteousness is in stark contrast to the utter chaos and degradation of this universe. At the same time that God provides for His creation and the creatures within it, He recognises that this creation is no place for His people. He has made us into a new creation. Likewise, He intends to destroy this physical universe, and sin and death and wickedness and evil for ever. Then we will abide with Him in eternity in a new heaven and new earth which will not be tainted or corrupted with sin.
Compare those gorgeous Emperor Penguins to ourselves. We live in a terrible, harsh, dark, cold and destructive environment. If we were to stay still we would die. So we keep on moving. We are constantly thinking of ways to change and improve our environment and ourselves.
Consider what happens when trauma or difficulty strikes. Say you are working in a company which is being taken over by another company. Immediately, the staff of your company become restless and nervous. They huddle together in tight knit groups to exchange information, to gossip and to try and figure out what is happening. They are scared, they are stressed, they are looking for reassurance and help so they go to each other to see if anyone else has something they can use, information, contacts, etc. Nobody wants to be without a job, nobody wants to be left behind, out in the cold so to speak. Yet, the possibility of this happening is fairly imminent. Somebody is going to be fired, and you are hoping its not you. The huddle and move phenomenon is not limited to Emperor Penguins. We humans are pretty good at it too. It is how we have survived for millennia. We are not so democratic, so purely dependant upon God as these penguins however. Our nature is to take for ourselves, not to share generously with all. We would kick the outer penguins into the darkness so only our chicks were catered for. The only problem with that is, soon there will be no penguins. As God has ensured the survival of the species through sharing both the good and the bad, He has also provided for our survival through good and bad. We must depend upon Him and trust on His genius to keep our lives. Jesus told us that if we try and save our own lives we will lose them, and if we lose them for His sake, we will find them. (Matthew 16:25)
His nature, His character and His plan for us is that we cling to Him as our Saviour in every situation, for every new day, and hour by hour in some cases. In fact, sometimes I think that our very worse times are when everything is going well. We rejoice in our good fortune and we forget God. We forget to thank Him not just for the good times but for the bad times, because it is in the bad times that we learn to trust Him and we learn about His great sufficiency as our God and Father, and as our Saviour.
God saved those penguins from extinction by providing them with a strategy to cope. He didn’t move them out of the Antarctic; He didn’t provide them with a steaming Jacuzzi and a padded cave in which to ride out the winter. He gave them very thick feathers, and I suspect not a small amount of body fat, and He told them how to keep their babies safe and their species continuing. He ensured their survival. If we, as humans, are much more valuable to Him that a bunch of cute birdies, then how much more does He provide for our every need, despite the complications of our lives. God is greater than anything we face, He can help us today in our difficulties, and in fact, those difficulties have been custom designed for us. God knows us inside and out, He has counted the hairs upon our heads. When we wake He is still with us, and His thoughts are continually towards us. (Psalm 139 – read it all it is very comforting) He will never leave nor forsake us. Yet, we still tend towards the old huddle and move survival strategy.
Things are going to heat up, we are going to have to face greater and greater insecurity and difficulty over the coming years. Now is the day of salvation. It occurs to me that this verse does not just refer to initial salvation, but to constant salvation. He not only saves our souls, He saves our lives, every single day. He saves our marriages, our children, our jobs, our health, our finances, He is our Saviour, that is His nature and everything about God is eternal, which means it doesn’t change.
Remember…our universe is in a constant state of flux, of change, of decay and of movement. Huddle and move….or die. God is eternal and He never changes, never moves from His throne, never decays and never dies. He has overcome this world, and He has overcome death, and it is His power, through the Holy Spirit, which gives us life, and life more abundantly.
Thankyou Lord for your constant life-giving power and love towards us and thankyou for those stalwart and patient birds that endure through the cold and darkness knowing that the sun will return to warm them once more.