Lion at sunset

Not Safe But Good: Ancient Edition

Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Who hasn’t heard this quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in a sermon or chapel talk? It’s a good-to illustration for the scary side of God’s omnipotence. God can do things we don’t understand, but remember, like Aslan, he is good.

Did you know God gave us illustrations for this very thing in the book of Job? The picture gets a bit lost on us, because we don’t recognize how wild the world is or has been, but in Job 38-39 God not only says he can handle the wild things, but he owns them also.

Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
    or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in their thicket?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
    when its young ones cry to God for help,
    and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38:38-40)

Lions watch for the slow, young, or straggling members of a herd to attack. They lie in wait for the opportunity to kill; I’m told they usually watch their prey in the evening and strike after dark. They aren’t trying to face-off with a worthy opponent. They want to eat. Ravens come along after the kill to pick off what they can.

In this passage and also in Ps. 147:9 God describes ravens and young lions as asking for a kill from the herd from their master, their daily bread. This is the raw horror of nature, not a pastoral you want to hang in your nursery.

The Lord offers several illustrations like this, drawing our attention to wild, troublesome animals that are nonetheless under his care. Wild mountain goats are untamable, potentially dangerous, and can cause a good bit of trouble. Triple that for wild donkeys: “to whom I have given the arid plain for his home and the salt land for his dwelling place?” (39:6). You couldn’t stumble upon a wild donkey and have it carry your luggage to the next town. And if you were able to lead a wild ox to your stable, you would not have that stable the next day. He would take what he wanted from you and no one could stop him.

Read Job 39 for more, but you get the point. God doesn’t simply keep an eye on these wildly unsafe things; he shepherds and cares for them. That can make him look as wild as they are. But if we can know anything, we can know God is good. Not safe by our definition. Not anywhere near domesticated as we might wish. He can be rather scary.

But he’s good. He’s the King.

Photo by Keyur Nandaniya on Unsplash

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