Going to the zoo can be a fun experience. The bigger the zoo the more animals there are to look at. You can go to the zoo to study animal habits and see animals you have never seen in person before. Visiting the zoo is one of the simple pleasures in life. When you go to the zoo you tend to look for the pandas, bears, lions, giraffes, etc. They seem like more interesting or exotic animals to watch and learn about. Throughout history man has used animal characteristics they have learned about to describe characteristics in man. This can be a very good visual effect. You find it in artwork, stories, mythology and even the Bible. Jesus many times tried to explain things to his disciples and the people with things from their everyday lives. In Matthew 10:16 -20 Jesus uses 4 different animals (some of which you wouldn’t necessarily go to the zoo to learn from) to make some very important points to the disciples:
16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. 17 Because people will hand you over to sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues, beware of them. 18 You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations. 19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.
Jesus uses these animals to give us some very important instructions. In this passage he tells us to “be shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves”. You can find many places throughout history where serpents have been used to symbolize wisdom or evil. Serpents are known for being sneaky. You sometimes don’t even know they are there. They are known for their slow and deliberate preparation for attack. They are known for the speed of their attack. They are known for the deadliness of their attack. You can’t see their fangs until they attack. We need to understand that those who are of the world and not a part of the Christian family will not go out of their way to make life easy for us. They will most likely seek ways to attack. We need to understand that they can be dangerous and can quickly and successfully attack us. We need to know they will find ways to sneak up on us and strike when they are ready. We need to use our knowledge about how serpents work to protect ourselves and our testimony. Be aware that you might have a serpent sneaking up on you and waiting to attack. Don’t let yourself walk in to traps. Be wise. Don’t let your testimony slip for one moment or it might be used against you. We are also instructed to be gentle or righteous as a dove. When you think of the two animals, you tend to think that most people would kill a serpent first and would leave the dove unharmed. After all they are just a gentle bird and a serpent can kill you. So if we are righteous in our actions or gentle in our actions people will be more likely to listen to us or leave us unharmed. They will have less ammunition to attack us with. The soft cooing of a dove will get us further than the hiss of the snake when it comes to our words.
Take time to study the four animals Jesus used in this passage to see what Jesus was trying to teach you about your walk with Him through this world. Take His instructions serious.