Let’s Go to the Zoo

Did you ever wonder about the human fascination with going to the zoo?  Or why we sit mesmerized at the stunts performed by ferocious tigers or lions at the command of their physically inferior animal trainer?  Or why we can watch animal documentaries on Nature or the Discovery Channel with such fascination?

Why do we sit transfixed at the adventures of the hosts of shows on Animal Planet or buy books written by a man who went to live with wolves or a woman who dwells in a chimpanzee or gorilla colony?  Even in the movie theater, why are we attracted to animations where the animals talk to each other, sing, or interact with their human comrades?

Could it be that this attraction to people who apparently communicate with animals (or visa versa) is a spiritual matter?  Might our delight in snorkeling through a school of blue tangs appeal to something in our hearts or our sub-conscious minds?

I believe all of this “animal attraction” is spiritual.  The zoo and the circus, the talking lemur and the human in animal community reflect the past and future relationship of human beings and animals, of “man and beast.”  These animals, peacefully co-existing with man at the zoo or obeying the trainer at the circus reflect the original state of God’s creation – humans and animals living together in harmony (only without the cages and clipped wings and whips and tranquilizers of zoo, circus and Animal Planet).

Close proximity to wild animals at the zoo or on an East African safari reflect the relationship that must have existed between Adam and Eve and the animals in the Garden of Eden.  The obedience of the animals at the circus or at the Sea World dolphin show conjure up romantic visions to us of the dominion over animals in the pre-fallen world – though again without the cages and whips or prods.  Perhaps we long for the restoration of such relationships in spite of our sin-marred natures.

When humans and animals are at peace, or when birds or mammals respond to the apparent dominion of the human voice, we have opportunity to reflect not only on the way life was before the Fall, but also the way it will be.  Some might write of the language of Isaiah as purely figurative, but it should stir our imaginations to think of a future where:

… the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid,

And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

And a little boy will lead them.

Also the cow and the bear will graze; their young will lie down together;

And the lion will eat straw like an ox.

And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,

And the weaned child will put his hand in the viper’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

As the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Next time you go to the zoo or the circus do some thinking about the way it was in Eden and the way it will be in the New Heaven and New Earth.  Perhaps you will find yourself thinking on the promise that Christ will “reconcile all things to Himself” and you will leave praying, “Even so come Lord Jesus!”