And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the Lord spoke to him.” And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And they saddled it. And he went and found his body thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion standing beside the body. The lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey. And the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey and brought it back to the city to mourn and to bury him. And he laid the body in his own grave. And they mourned over him, saying, “Alas, my brother!” And after he had buried him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the saying that he called out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass.” I Kings 13:26-32 ESV
“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord. Isaiah 65:25 ESV
There’s a story about a saint who lived long ago named Francis. There was a wolf who was causing a lot of fear in a village called Gubbio. The wolf was attacking and killing not only animals but also people. The people of the village were very afraid of the wolf, and when Francis came to visit they told him about it. Francis went out to meet the wolf, and when he did he talked to him and told him he must stop killing people. If he did that, the people of Gubbio would forgive him and not hurt him. The wolf agreed to this, and Francis brought the wolf into the village. From that day on the villagers fed him and didn’t try to hurt him, and he was gentle and safe for all the people. The wolf lived in peace in the village for the rest of his life.
This is only a story, but it’s a picture of what the world can look like when God is at work. Ever since people fell into sin the whole world has been hurt by it, and that means animals prey on and kill other animals and people as well. When the man of God met a lion, it attacked him and killed him. The natural thing for the lion to have done next would have been to eat him or the donkey or at least tear the donkey apart with its huge claws, and it would have been most natural for the donkey to run away if it could. But instead both animals stood peacefully by the man’s body. This showed that God was at work in an amazing way. Even though he had punished the prophet for disobeying, the words he spoke through that prophet were still true. God protected the prophet’s body so that he could be buried honorably and so that his words would be remembered.
When the Bible pictures the new heaven and earth that God will bring about at the end of time, one of the pictures is of animals at peace. God will someday make animals safe and friendly so that they won’t hurt us or each other. God sent Jesus to undo the work of sin, and Jesus died on the cross to take away all the sins of the world. Through Jesus God will someday make all things new, and we will live in a new world filled with the peace that Jesus came to bring.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the peace you won for us and the new world that you’ve promised us. Amen.