The Bare Soul - May 26, 2013
Living With Hope

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Live Dogs and Dead Lions" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on May 23, 2013.

Live Dogs and Dead Lions - May 23, 2013

Ecclesiastes 9:4 For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion.

It is very apparent when one visits their local zoo and views the African cats, how they certainly characterize their gene pool. Often, I see no difference between their activity compared to that of our house cat. They are are generally creatures lazing about as all their needs are provided. Why should they behave differently? They are merely doing what cats do best -- rest, relax, and sleep. This can often be a disappointment to youngsters (and oldsters) who would like to see a bit of action. However, cats have a mind of their own and will play or fight when they wish and not at the whim of human gawkers.

Possibly in Solomon's day, he kept some lions in captivity for entertainment purposes. We are told in the scriptures of a menagerie of other animals such as apes and peacocks that Solomon collected (I Kings 10:22). Lions that inhabited Israel during the reign of Solomon were of the Asiatic type. These were slightly smaller than the African variety, but no less dangerous in the wild. Therefore, Solomon understood the significance and power of these while alive, and also the powerlessness of one dead. What could tear a man limb from limb while living and healthy, could not harm one hair of a child after its death. The significance of the king's analogy juxtaposes something that is truly dead, yet something else that may be less desirable but is nonetheless alive.

It is interesting to note that if you go to Jerusalem today, you will see an abundance of stray cats. They are everywhere. However, you will not see many stray dogs. In Israel during Solomon's time, there were dogs everywhere. They generally were on their own and strays by nature. Thus, we read about the ravenous appetites of these when they devoured Queen Jezebel (all except for "the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands.") (II Kings 9:35-37) They were looked down on as sordid, opportunistic creatures that skulked and shadowed the possibility of a meal, no matter what it might be. That is why Solomon makes this comparison between seeming powerfulness and despised weakness. His desire is to challenge a widely accepted belief of his day and to reshape this paradigm. What is important in this scripture, in the mind of the king, is not perception but reality. And, the reality is that hope sustains life rather than what others think. Therefore, one of the most despised creatures of his day is elevated to a place of distinction merely because it possessed something the lion lost. This, of course, is life. Furthermore, there can be no sustainable life without hope.

For many of us, the catalyst that propels us toward the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus is this hope. We have finally come to recognize that our perception of ourselves is flawed and we are really nothing more than a stray dog. However, this is where we finally find hope. Paul tells us in the book of Romans that hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). Take away any trace of hope from a man or a woman and there is insurmountable despair that can only result in suicide, both spiritually and physically. However, give the same a glimmer of understanding that as long as they are alive, then there is hope. As a result, there is a spiritual dynamic which begins to occur.

Are we a dead lion or a live dog today? Have we so much pride in our deadness that we refuse to come to Christ and surrender to Him? While a mangy, unkempt dog may seem undesirable to some, it is beautiful in God's eyes. Have we denied our deadness in our pride and refused to see ourselves as a mere dog? When we really see ourselves for who we are without Christ, then we can begin to see ourselves as God sees us. He will always show us our potential rather than our past failings. Remember, the things that are most despised by this world are those things most prized by God (I Corinthians 1:28). May we come honestly to Him in our present state so He can make us who He sees us to be for all eternity.

Holy One, we come to You as we are and ask that You take us and shape us according to Your will. We confess that we are nothing without You. Grant us eyes to see that we are merely stray dogs without You. However, once we submit to You and Your love, You make us creatures worthy of Your purity and holiness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,



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