And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle? (Jonah 4)
The book of Jonah, that great text about racism and evangelism, ends in a curious way. After it’s all done and dusted, chapter four ends with the words “and also much cattle”.
God’s concern for the animals in Ninevah is well above our own concern. And it’s the end stress, highlighted best of all in the Kings James Version, that points it out.
And also much cattle?
Yesterday the race that stops a nation, the Melbourne Cup, stopped a horse. Stone cold dead. The Cliffsomoher, an Irish horse over here for the cup, fractured a shoulder during the running of the race and was “humanely” put down.
A lot of money is spent, and lost and won on the Melbourne Cup.
And a lot of horses are put down as a result of it. Four in the past six years.
Horse racing is big business. Aussies love horse racing. And Aussies love betting. Put the two together and it’s a sure fire winner. Except for horses such as The Cliffsomoher.
The book of Jonah, ostensibly about people, never lets the rest of the created order fall off the radar. There is a storm. There is a fish.
When the king of Ninevah hears the judgement from Jonah for the sins of the city he declares:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth.
We’re all in this together, so to speak.
And then there’s that plant, that hot wind, and, of course, that pesky worm.
God combines his whole creation in creating this astonishing story.
A sign that we have come adrift from our Creator is tied to how we treat the rest of his creation. I am no vegan, but I was sickened by the state of the sheep on the huge ships heading overseas for our lucrative live sheep trade.
And as a kid in Northern Ireland I worked on a farm with battery hens. It wasn’t pleasant.
And there’s always something chilling about those videos of people kicking dogs, or the famous quokkas here on our local Rottnest island.
And ask any psychologist: A worrying, dark sign in a child, a portent of future violence, is the cold, detached manner in which he or she can kill an animal. A case of simply working their way through the food chain.
The classic kids’ question about the afterlife is this: Will my dog be in heaven?”
Well, kid, I’m not sure if you’re dog will be, but if the new creation is as good as it sounds, perhaps there will be dogs there. Dogs that never chase posties, never pee on the carpet, and that sit you when you say “Sit”.
And also much cattle?
Animals may or may not be in heaven, but how about we not make their plight here on earth a living hell in the meantime?
Someone asked today on Facebook about the Melbourne Cup:
“It’s the race that stops a nation. Could we become the nation that stops the race?”
Not any time soon I’m thinking.