The moon is a subject of many conversations during hunting season. The moon can be blamed for just about any mishap which resulted in a missed shot, getting detected by the prey, or sitting on stand all day and not seeing anything. The first moon after the autumnal equinox, which is usually in mid to late September, is called the “Hunter’s Moon.” For many, this full moon in October is the signal to start hunting. Now I realize that deer season, duck season, dove season, elk season, bear season, and probably some others that escape my memory have already started. But the “Hunter’s Moon” of October is when the memories of summer have fully faded, the leaves begin to fall, and the wind shifts to the north. The fever of the hunt begins to rise and our focus on everyday life becomes very difficult. It symbolizes that the hunt…is on.
In the days of the great flood, Noah used a dove to see if the flood waters had receded. We pick up the story in Genesis 8:8-12, “Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land; but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth. Then he put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the ark to himself. So he waited yet another seven days; and again he sent out the dove from the ark. The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth. Then he waited yet another seven days, and sent out the dove; but she did not return to him again.” The image of the dove with an olive branch in her mouth, to this day, still symbolizes peace. The olive branch represents land, which represents receding flood waters, which represents God’s judgement on the world has passed and there is now peace between God and man. The dove, itself, is filled with the symbolism of the divine. All the way back to Mosaic Law, we can see how the dove was used in sacrificial rites with Messianic undertones. A dove was used:
- for purifying a woman after childbirth (Lev. 12:6)
- for a man or woman who had protracted issues of blood (Lev. 15:14,29)
- for a Nazarite who had been defiled by contact with a dead body (Num. 6:10).
- used as a substitute for a lamb in the case of poverty (Lev. 5:7).
We can see the infinite wisdom of God, and His use of physical things which speak to spiritual truths, when we examine the sacrificial rites of the dove and compare them to Jesus Christ. Any comparison of this nature needs to start at the Jordan. The public ministry of Jesus started at the Jordan River where He was baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist. In Matthew 3:16-17 it says, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
The Spirit of God, which descended to rest upon Him, was like a dove.
In Luke 2:22-24, we read about Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem, “And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Mary cleansed herself, of the birth of Jesus, through the sacrifice of two doves. Jesus was called ‘holy to the Lord’ because He was the firstborn.
Paul writes in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—” We understand that all men have a sin problem. We are born into sin. Sin is in our blood. Paul also writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We also understand that Jesus was pure, sin free, and was made sin on our behalf. In other words, a dove was used under Mosaic Law to purify ones self from blood impurities. Jesus, took on our blood impurities, as a result of Adam’s sin. Jesus also took on death, literally, while He hung there on the cross. Doves were also used as sacrifices for Nazarites who touched dead bodies. A Nazarite, was somebody who set themselves apart, at birth, for a special task from God. Although Jesus didn’t observe the Nazarite vows specifically, He was the totality of that vow.
Doves were also used as a substitute for a lamb if the one making a sin offering was poor. This is really where the symbolism gets interesting. John makes this statement in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”. In this proclamation, Jesus is described as the unblemished sacrificial lamb, which is the standard animal, or symbol, for making atonement for sin. However, when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at the Jordan River, it wasn’t in the form of a lamb…but a dove. The descending dove certainly represents peace, but it also represents poverty. Philippians 2:6-7 says, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Since Jesus emptied Himself of His glory, to become the Christ, He came in poverty. He came vulnerable, He came in need of care, He came dependent on the very same thing we must depend on…God the Father.
Jesus not only went to the Cross as the unblemished lamb, He went as the dove of divine peace. The sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is a peace offering from the Lord…just like the dove of Noah bearing the olive branch…to us. God the Father poured out His judgement on His Son…and once again…there can be peace in the land. In fact, Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
The dove…an enduring symbol of God’s peace, God’s Spirit, and God’s love.