Monday, November 2, 2009

The great speckled bird of Jeremiah

Writing, several days ago about living in the country and country music, I was reminded of a song my father liked, “The Great Speckled Bird.” That is a Christian song and I found a great recording by Kitty Wells. But my curiosity was sparked by the words which included a reference to a Great Speckled Bird in the Bible. The reference is in Jeremiah 12:9.

“Is my inheritance like a speckled bird of prey to me? Are the birds of prey against her on every side? Go gather all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour!”

The author of the song sees the verse as the people of God in faithfulness and is dispensational in its outlook. The Church will fly away into the arms of Jesus until the tribulation is over. "In the presence of all her despisers/With a song never uttered before/She will rise and be gone in a moment/Till the great tribulation is o'er."

But in all of this, the text is taken out of context and misused.

It is true this verse is about the people of God, Israel, and can be applied to the Church that is birthed out of Israel. But one must understand Israel in the context of the whole chapter in order to understand the verse and how it might be applied to the Church. It is a tragic story, but it ends beautifully. Its promise is unique.

But before looking at the context I want to say something about the difference between the song’s dispensational views of safety and the Reformed view.

In the song the Church is being attacked by her neighbors but is lifted, in their presence, to safety and kept from the “great” tribulation. But not so the Reformed teaching. The Church was born in tribulation, and still endures the tribulation, not in all places but in some places all the time. From Nero to Hitler, from Domitian to Idi Amin, from North Korea to radical Islam the anti-Christs keep appearing and being destroyed by the will of God. And yes, there will undoubtedly be a final anti-Christ destroyed by Christ’s glorious return.

But not out of the tribulation is there safety, rather in the midst of common life and tribulation, normal workdays and dark eras the Christian finds peace, safety and comfort in the arms Jesus Christ. His people are united to him, nourished by him, kept faithful by him.

And here, speaking of faithfulness, is the better understanding of the great speckled bird. As Calvin notes, The bird is a bird of prey, a wild bird that is not unlike the lion in an earlier verse.

“My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has roared against me; therefore I have come to hate her.” (8) God calls for the enemies of his people and Israel goes into exile.

But why? Because she has copied the sins of her neighbors, she worships the Baals and enters into their sexual rites and she kills her children before false gods. But there is a promise here and interestingly it is focused on the neighbors.

The Lord is uprooting all of them because of sin. But he will restore them and if the neighboring peoples who have taught Judah to sin, to worship the Baals, will now, instead, learn the ways of the people of God they will be “built up in the midst of” his people.

This is the great reversal. The culture captured the people of God and taught them to sin. But God promises restoration not only to the children but also to a corrupt culture. Calvin points out that it isn’t Judah that changes the surrounding nations but it is God and his law. In the same way it is the work of Jesus Christ in the midst of his people that changes the surrounding culture.


Debbie said...

Yes! Thank you for pointing this out, Viola. It is God who changes us, and not we ourselves, and for those who turn to him, it can be anyone. God does not reject any kind of person who is willing to repent and accept him.

Viola Larson said...

Calvin is so good when clarifing that point Debbie.

I still like the song and was tempted to post it!

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with using Old Testament with the Church. I personally feel that it’s all Jewish and Israel. I do feel that it’s a source of information for the Church. Paul was he Apostle for the Church and I feel it started in Antioch. I like the idea presented, and appreciate that idea.
The biggest problem today is apostasy peaching. The modern day preacher, forget that the Gospel is the way of Salvation, we must Believe the Gospel( Jesus led a perfect sinless life, He was tried in a false court, sent to die on a Cruel Cross, was buried, but Glory to God, He arose the THIRD DAY. We must relate people to the writings of Paul. He is the Apostle to the Christian Church.

Viola Larson said...

Dear Conroe Bible Study,
First of all to comment here again you must leave your real name, city, state or country.

The Old Testament is full of the promises of God. It is the word of God just as the New Testament is. We as Christians are left with nothing if we leave aside the Old Testament because the New is a fulfillment of the Old. God promises Jesus beginning with his promise to Eve. Genesis 3:15-

Paul himself constantly refers to the Old Testament to make his case for Christ being the fulfillment of God's promises.

Paul in Romans 3:21 speaks of the witness of the Law and Prophets to Jesus Christ. Jesus himself after his resurrection used the whole Old Testament to speak of himself. See Luke 24:25-27 & 44.

Nancy Witt said...

Yes, Viola,
Scripture plainly states, "ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness 2 Timothy 3:16
God is definitely in control of everything, especially through His Word.

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Nancy, a good verse as they all are. Thank God, he is in control.

Airan Skye said...

It is type and shadow...the Old Testament Abraham and the willingness to sacrifice his son...type and shadow of Christ...Israel was a type and shadow of the Church...the law of Moses a type and shadow of the law of Grace and Truth which came by Christ to set us free

judywire said...

Most Christians have no idea that the Old Testament is the word of Jesus Christ. How can we throw his words away and follow Apostle Paul? Did not the Bible say In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established 2 Corinthians 13:1, Deuteronomy 17:6.

God also made it clear that fact cannot be established by one witness alone - Deuteronomy 19:15 and that we cannot use one persons word to convict anyone. The word of our God is confirmed by the New Testament and are in agreement.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for providing this reference! This morning on the way to work I was listening to a bluegrass CD set I had bought (at a garage sale) and heard this song. I didn't know where the biblical reference was found and a quick search brought me to your blog and comments. Know I know to look it up... Jeremiah 12:9 Cool!

Viola Larson said...

Thanks anonymous, for your comment. If you comment again you must leave your name and city/state.

Bobby Beeman said...

Commitment is Your name whoever is in charge of this site. It started when? Before 2009, Mercy The Lord bless and keep you in the midst of His Ever Loving Arms. I was led to this sight after reading the verse of the Speckled Bird in Jeremiah. I was thinking of perhaps writing a book on the subject. The good Lord willing I still may. Thank you for Loving Jesus.

Viola Larson said...

Bobby, thank you so much, your comment is a gift. And thank you for loving Jesus too. I started the blog in 2007.

Robin Denney said...

Thank you for the info! I heard the song lyrics years ago, & yesterday the song popped in my head out of the blue. I studied it, but you have provided further insight, God bless you

Viola Larson said...

God bless you.

H M Romaine said...

The song, and its theme of being harrassed, hated, baited, burned, even destroyed by its sinful blind 'neighbors' was the inspiration for the alt, or 'underground' paper of Atlanta
Ga, created while Dr ML King was still alive,persisting into 70's, now digitized by Ga State U, special collections

Viola Larson said...

Thank you H.M., I was aware of that and perhaps should have mentioned it.