Reflections: God demonstrates care

True or false: After the flood, the first bird Noah sent out of the ark was a dove.

False. After the flood, the first bird Noah sent out of the ark was a raven (Genesis 8:7). 

This fact may come as a surprise, even to those who are familiar with the history of Noah. Even though it’s written right in Scripture, perhaps we are taken aback at this because we prefer the illustration of the presence and promise of God associated with the dove more than we do the darkness and death often associated with the raven. 

Several commentaries observe that Noah’s reasoning for sending out the raven first was likely because as a scavenger bird, the raven would be first to smell the decaying flesh of dead carcasses on the dry earth. And yet, when we think of Noah’s ark, we are more likely to recall the dove returning to the ark with an olive leaf. We are so quick to remember the dove over the raven. We should not discount the importance of ravens in Scripture, however. 

Ravens are fascinating creatures; mentioned several times throughout Scripture as examples of darkness, ravens also paint a beautiful picture of God’s provision. It is interesting to note that God would choose to use such a bird as an example, because in Biblical times ravens were abominated by the Jews and considered to be unclean (Lev. 11:15). This is what makes the picture so beautiful: If God cares and provides for even the raven—a bottom-feeding bird that is despised and unclean—how much more must He care for us! 

The same God who cares about people whose homes and lives are being destroyed because of ravaging war also cares about birds in backyards who are building their nests. While we may not understand how He can care simultaneously for both, Jesus Himself told the disciples to “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12:24). 

God demonstrates care for all His creatures; both great and small. Creatures that don’t matter at all to us matter a great deal to Him. God Himself asked Job, “Who provideth for the raven his food? When his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.” (Job 38:41). Who provides for the ravens? Certainly not man, but God. And if God provides for even the lowliest of creatures, will He not also provide for us? 

When Elijah could not provide food for himself, he remained obedient to God and trusted Him. It was no coincidence that God used ravens to provide Elijah with what he needed (1 Kings 17:6). Here again we see a beautiful picture of God’s providence and provision for us, painted from one of the most unlikely sources. As Spurgeon said, “Although the Lord may not appear for us in the way we expect, or desire, or suppose, yet He will in some way or other provide for us.” God, who provides for even ravens—those big, often-bullying, birds—will most certainly provide for us. 

“He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psalm 147:9). God provides all things to all creatures, even the ravens.

Hope Reidt