Since March, a total of nine gray whales have washed ashore in the San Fransico Bay, a cause for great concern. With warming ocean waters, a decrease in food supply and uncharacteristic migration patterns, gray whales on their annual migration to Alaska are tragically dying in alarming numbers, but why?
ABC News reported that “Blunt-force trauma from ship strikes, malnutrition and entanglements are the most common causes of death in whales that The Marine Mammal Center’s research team has investigated. The previous necropsies this year confirmed that four died from malnutrition and three died from ship strikes. The cause of death of the eighth [and ninth] whale has yet to be determined, according to the center.”
We’re being told it’s time to carry, steward and release the very change nature is groaning out for.
With increasing heartbreak, I have followed this story as the number of gray whale casualties has mounted. However, it wasn’t until early Tuesday morning, as news broke of the 9th whale being discovered, that I was reminded of two very key verses that rarely get discussed in our standard Sunday sermons. Two key biblical scriptures that I feel add a very clear spiritual component to this tragic pattern.
1. Romans 8:21-22—Nature Groans for Restoration
In Romans 8 Paul affirms what we know to be true, that since the fall all of creation, man and nature alike, have been under the curse of bondage and decay. Paul writes in verses 21-22, “that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” He’s affirming here that all of nature groans to be released from the wearing out of our planet, from the curse, from the fall (Matthew 5:17-18). Nature is groaning for heaven to come, for home, just like we are.
2. Luke 12:54-56—Jesus Warns Us to Read the Signs
Luke shares the teaching of Jesus where He charged His listeners with an important rebuke: “Then he turned to the crowd—“When you see clouds coming in from the west, you say, ‘Storm’s coming’—and you’re right. And when the wind comes out of the south, you say, ‘This’ll be a hot one’—and you’re right. Frauds! You know how to tell a change in the weather, so don’t tell me you can’t tell a change in the season, the God-season we’re in right now.” Jesus is telling us plan as day that we need to be a people that know how to spiritually interrupt what is happening.
And what is happening is jolting.
Nine beautiful, powerful creatures have washed ashore dead in only a few short months. Some have starved to death, others hit by boats. What does this mean? Apart from the ramifications of climate change and what is happening to our environment—points, I take extremely seriously—this is too large of a sign for us as Christians to carry on without asking, why? Without asking, “Lord, what is the season? What change can we bring? How can we partner with your hand in this season?”
As I began to ask God these very questions and press into research I was astounded to discover what these stunning creatures are capable of, their rare giftings and abilities. For example, did you know that whales are associated with compassion, solitude and knowledge of both life and death, as well as unbridled creativity?
Did you know that in Jeremiah 51:34 king Nebuchadnezzar is described as one that troubled Jeremiah so intensely that “He has swallowed [him] like a whale?”
“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured me and crushed me, He has set me down like an empty vessel; He has swallowed me like a whale [monstor or dragon], He has filled his stomach with my delicacies; He has washed me away.”
It’s important to note that “delicacies” here is often perceived to mean that Nebuchadnezzar swallowed the knowledges of faith, as the whale did Jonah. Thus, a whale here is an analogy for those who possess the general principles of faith, as mere swallowed knowledge but don’t possess the power-filled living faith that flows like a rushing river from the heart and spirit of a believer, as it should.
So what does all of this mean?
As I meditate on this with God, I can’t help but discern that creation is pleading with the body of Christ to rise up, in increasing fervor—to take ahold of the God-given authority Jesus purchased. This sign is telling us to become a people acquainted with the way of the cross (death) so that we might also know abundant life. That we would move in God not just from and within the constraints of our minds but in His power, fullness and presence.
That it would move from mind to heart to all-consuming.
I can’t help but feel like the church is being told something big here. And if we read the signs of the times, we’re being told far more than the importance of being eco-conscious and environmentally friendly. We’re being told it’s time to carry, steward and release the very change nature is groaning out for.