Animals often display amazing ingenuity. Industrious ants build their colonies everywhere. They even farm aphids on the tender twigs of our cherry tree—not something I welcome.
Hummingbirds buzz us in the early spring to remind us to put out their feeder. What instinct leads them, and other birds, back to the same territory year after year? And where do they learn to hover like that?
This spring I admired the craftsmanship that went into the wood duck’s nest under the sheltering branches of the little cedar tree in our woods. And the nest building skill of a pair of blue jays had me going back often to the window to catch up on progress.
So-called dumb animals fare well in biblical literature. “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks” (Prov. 30:25-27).
By contrast the prophets often fault humans for their foolishness. “Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord” (Jer. 8:7).
Animals instinctively know how important it is to conform their lives to the laws of nature, while humans tend to think they can break God’s moral laws without consequence. No wonder the prophets lament our tendency toward foolishness and rebellion. “The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Is. 1:3).
What else but foolishness leads a couple—or a nation—to spend more than they earn? Why else do humans inject and snort and drink poisons that ruin their health and shorten their life? Why do men and women think they can find love by cheating on their covenant partner? After reaping the bitter lessons of untold wars, why do nations continue to settle their disputes on the battlefield? Why do we demand a reduction in our taxes and an increase in services? Examples can be multiplied ad infinitum.
Wisdom is in short supply while foolishness multiplies. We should heed the advice of the prophet and learn from dumb animals of conform our lives to the moral laws of the God. Foolish, immoral actions have lasting moral consequences.