(excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)
Martins abound in this place we are visiting, which presumably must be due in part to the martin houses nearby. I’m not an Audubon, but that would seem to make some sense. I am also not at home, and boy how I wish I had one of these special bird attractions in my yard, (or in my neighbor’s yard.) Martins are really neat birds, not the least of which is due to their diet of mosquitoes, one of my arch-enemies. My skin seems to have a natural affinity for mosquito tastebuds. My husband says that he doesn’t need insect repellant when he is outside with me since I seem to hog all of these little stinging dive-bombers to myself. So, naturally I love to see the martins swooping about, feasting themselves on my tormentors. (I like bats for the same reason, although I am less confident that my neighbors would appreciate a bat-house.)
I have recently learned, however, (and to my disappointment), that mosquitoes actually do not make up a significant portion of the martins’ diet. Interesting, these urban legends.
Nevertheless, there is accurate information that purple martins are legitimately drawn to a housing/living environment with certain criteria to meet their specific needs:
- The martins’ bird house must be high and away from trees and other structures.
- They eat only flying insects, and they hunt for them at night.
- Allowing uninvited guests to set up housekeeping will significantly discourage martins from taking up abode.
- Painting housing white seems to attract martins the best.
- Due to predators such as squirrels and raccoons, installing a pole guard helps to protect the martins’ nests and the on-going work of, well, being a martin.
- The martin bride and groom are monogamous, faithful throughout the family process.
So here’s a thought—these beautiful creatures help me to imagine the ongoing relationship between God’s angels and Satan’s demonic forces. The angels are described as those beings which God sends to assist His people. Demons, we are informed, are angelic unfortunates that lost their foothold in heaven by choosing a leader other than the One Who created them. Most probably, this is an over-simplification of a deep theological event, but since I am not a trained theologian, it suits me just fine. I’m not terribly concerned with the particulars, just the consequence and my response to it.
There has been a plethora of creative thinking about angels in the past decade or so, as well as what appears to be an upsurge of interest, secular and otherwise, in the spiritual dimension of our earthbound existence. However, even our Anglo-ancestors had ideas that did not exactly jive with what the Bible describes as God’s messengers. C.S. Lewis makes an astute observation in his book, Mere Christianity, that angels have been historically portrayed as nude, fat-bellied rosy-cheeked cherubs that one would want to pat on the head and say “there, there”, rather than the warriors that generally need to start their conversation with humans by saying “fear not!”
And yet angels are just as much an important part of our daily lives as is breathing air; that is, we are not generally aware of their presence, but would most certainly be the worse off without it. So here’s my take on these wonderful creatures:
- Angels have their true home on high, away from worldly (and underworldly) structures. They don’t reside here, no more than I live at my jobsite. They “present” themselves before their Creator, and are “presented” to us as a heavenly host, praising God when Jesus made His first appearance. (1)
- Since Satan is described as the “prince of the power of the air” (2), which, to a lesser degree, would also indicate the faculties of his evil emissaries, angels must have no gravitational limitations. What we consider flight in our world is merely movement in theirs. And in another and more comforting sense, God’s angels are on the hunt and can see just fine, even in our darkest moments when we cannot see anything clearly at all. They are described as “encamping around those who revere God”, and as “ministering spirits sent out in the service of those who are to inherit salvation.”(3)
- Despite their heavenly power, they are not omnipotent like their Creator, and their work can be thwarted and/or delayed when we allow “unsanctified visitors” to take up residence in our lives. (4) The demonic is drawn to our affirmative embraces of jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness and offense. In his book, Victory Over Darkness, author Neil Anderson refers to decisions like these as “sin handles” that give Satan an opportunity to hang on. And Satan does not give up his territory without a struggle.
- On the positive side, we can make the angels’ job a bit easier with the washing, cleaning process of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and the accompanying behavioral decisions. Like the unwelcomed birds that make it harder for the martins to nest, so the unwelcomed attitudes and habits can be scrubbed out and my “house” swept clean. My sanctification is a joint project between myself and God, and I need all the help I can get! So why make the angels’ job to help me any harder than it already is? A large part of this washing is available in the form of God Word being continually poured into my life, which means I need to physically pick up the book (or whatever media device is available), and start reading. (5)
- To follow this idea, I can set up “pole protectors” in my daily life. These come in the form of personal boundaries, such as Dr. Henry Cloud suggests in his book, Changes that Heal. These boundaries help define the use of my time, my relationships, and all of the other resources that Satan would love to define for me. When I allow my arch enemy to do this, he will undoubtedly try to cheat, steal and destroy the work that God’s holy angels are trying to accomplish for me. (6) Therefore, I am wise to erect the proper “protectors”.
- By whatever process and historical events, God’s glorious and “chosen” angels are no longer tempted to be unfaithful to Him. (7) Augustine, living and thinking and praying in the 4th and 5th centuries, tried to tackle this issue in one of his many tomes. The practical, bring-it-home-to-me point is that the angels watching and warring over me are faithful to God, without exception, without coercion, and interact with no one’s plan but that of their Creator. I need their faithfulness.
So, as I said, since our out of town visit and my encounter with the purple martins, I have learned that mosquitoes are not necessarily a main staple of their buggie-diet. No matter. To me, bugs are bugs, and with the considerable exception of butterflies, I am happy to share my entomological population with ANY avian neighbors lodging nearby.
And as it is with this wonderful species of bird, so it is with God’s beautiful angels, in that there exists a certain unfounded mythology concerning who they are and what they do. The evidence about angels that is noteworthy does not have its foundation on anecdotes, Hollywood, novels, or even personal experience. Our only reliable source of information concerning them and their mission is found in the source document of the Christian faith, the Bible, and where it is silent, we must content ourselves to be likewise. We are prudent, therefore, to beware of “urban legends” that would try to excite us, causing us to pursue erroneous ends, like buying a martin house, then sitting on my patio without mosquito repellant. I fancy I would be most uncomfortable the next day.
Maybe I could somehow interest the martin family in a new taste treat…?
- Job 1:6 (Amplified); Luke 2:13-15
- Ephesians 2:2
- Psalm 34:7; Hebrews 1:14 (Amplified)
- Daniel 10:11-13
- 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Timothy 3:16
- 1 Peter 5:8
- 1 Timothy 5:21