Now I’ve never hunted Africa…but if ever did…and got a chance to see a bunch of lions taking down a wildebeest like in the picture posted here…I’d hope I was in a 4×4 jeep with a good escape route planned! The sound and the fury of that many claws, hoofs, horns, and fangs kicking up dust and roaring and growling would be ingrained in my brain forever. Lions are ferocious enough by themselves, but in a pack…lights out for the wildebeest. I am glad that African Lions are in Africa and not in our forests and fields here. Although, we do have lions running around here, of the Puma variety (regardless of what Kansas Fish and Game may say). In the mountains of the northwest, back in the hinterlands, there are definitely mountain lions running around. I’ve seen their tracks but have never seen them. They are the masters of staying just out of sight, ever elusive.
It’s interesting to note that hunters, even while hunting alone, are rarely attacked by lions while joggers and mountain bike riders are more frequently attacked. I’ve never read anything as to ‘why’ this is…but I have a theory. Hunters move differently. Hunters move in an awareness of their surroundings. Joggers and bike riders are focused on moving through an area and not on the area itself. I think hunters recognize hunters. The lions in North America may recognize the movements of the hunter as a fellow hunter and realize this may be more of a fight than they want. I get that…I don’t want to fight my cheeseburger, I just want to eat it. I’ve wondered how many lions I’ve encountered without ever knowing they were there. I admit, there are times when the hair rises on the back of my neck and the cold chill falls down the spine like a lonely raindrop. I knew…I was being watched, but try as I might, I couldn’t see the danger no matter where I looked.
Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
I think it is interesting that Peter picks a lion to describe the activities of our adversary. Think about it, he didn’t pick a wolf, or a bear, or a crocodile, or even a snake…but a lion. Yeah, I know…I can hear you Bible historians out there trying to tell me that Peter wouldn’t have been aware of grizzly bears, or timber wolves, but lions were already steeped in Jewish legend and lore. After all, King David killed a lion as a boy guarding sheep (a bear too, I might add) and Samson tore a lion to pieces with his bare hands before that. I get all of that, but the choice of a lion is pretty interesting. I think back to the days of my youth watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on TV. I can still hear Marlin Perkins or Jim Fowlers voice, “The lions lie in wait as the wildebeest herd moves from the water hole back to the plains. As long as the wildebeests stay together in a herd, they prove a formidable foe for the lion. But the sick, the old, or even the young and proud wildebeest who is off on their own…prove to be an easy target for the lions.”
It’s this image that I see when I read the words of Peter. I think of many friends of mine who have left the herd…left the community of the church…and have attempted to live life on their own. (the lions rise and watch and wait) I know many guys who embraced Christ for a time and then when persecution arose…they disappeared. (the lions circle) I know many guys who received the word with joy and then when testing came there way…they fell off the face of the earth. (the circle tightens) I know many who have focused on the treasures of this world and became to busy for community, to busy for church. (the lions crouch) I know many, far to many, who have fallen back into a lifestyle of sin and guilt. (the lions have pounced)
Peter chose the description of our adversary wisely. Anytime we break community, anytime we step away, anytime we try to do it on our own…the lions circle. Peter implores us to be wary, to be on the alert, to walk like a hunter, aware of our surroundings at all times. The devil is crafty, sneaky, the father of lies and downright evil, but…he is very good at what he does…and that is separating us from God. He will disguise himself as the most innocuous mundane thing, like a lion hiding in the tall grass, and before we know it…separation. After the separation, after he has lulled us into a state of listlessness, we will feel the fangs sink into the back of our neck (look at the picture again).
If you are reading this today, I assume the lions are watching, but not circling. You are in community, you are digging in and working out your faith with fear and trembling. We are always safe in community. My question for you is this, “Who do you know that has broken community? Who do you know that is surrounded by lions right now that desperately needs a phone call or a visit?” The Bible is pretty clear, our adversary is watching and waiting, looking for an opportunity. When we break community, when our buddy breaks community, when our family member breaks community…the lions circle.