Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"...and the rocks for the coneys."

The trees of Yahweh drink their fill,
the cedars of Lebanon which he sowed;
there the birds build their nests,
on the highest branches, the stork makes its home;
for the wild goats there are the mountains,
in the crags the coneys find refuge.

He made the moon to mark the seasons,
the sun knows when to set,
You bring on darkness, and the night falls,
when all the forest beasts roam around;
young lions roar for their prey,
asking God for their food.

The sun rises and away they steal,
back to their lairs to lie down,
and man goes out to work,
to labor till evening falls.

How countless are your works, O Lord,
all of them made so wisely!
The earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 104:  16-25

These nine verses come from the much longer psalm 104, happily musing on God's creation - so alive and wondrous. The verses are full of lovely images: the young lions ask God for their food by roaring, the sun has its own mind and knows what it has to do, storks build stick-nests on the highest branches of the trees.

We're so in danger of losing this mysterious intimacy with God's creatures - trudging off to work in our cars, to hermetically sealed and climate-controlled offices. Remember Joni Mitchell's 1970 hit song Big Yellow Taxi:

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot.

They took all the trees
Put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and half just to see 'em.

Don't it always seem to go...

Hey farmer, farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees,

Don't it always seem to go...

The plants and animals are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, largely due to habitat destruction. The sad thing is we aren't paying it much mind, so long as there's at least one elephant left (if even cloned) to take our kids to see in the zoo. 

Anyway, this psalm translation uses the word coneys for small mammals that live in groups on the mountain. One bible note calls them mountain mice. Perhaps they're what we would know to be rabbits.

The mountains would have been an unexplored frontier in the ancient bible world. Today our frontier is outer space. Who knows what we'll find there someday. But the psalm-sense is that even in the un-explored places, God has made animate and inanimate things for God's own delight. And God provides what the creatures need: dew on the morning grass to drink, the green vegetation and a place to escape from the enemies in the sky - whether it's the scorching sun or the hawk. And we're to share that delight!

But we also might see this refuge among the rocks as an image of Christ the Rock (1 Corinthians: 10:04) - Christ, to whom we can fly in times of danger, sorrow, over-whelming challenge or trouble, where the spiritual enemy to despair lurks. Christ, when life seems too much to bear.

And oh, here's a final thought. The little rabbit in the mountain crag might call to mind the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6: 5,6.

And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites, they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward, But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

I dare say, if this rabbit had a door to her private room here, she'd close it.


  1. You make a very valid point We must rejoice in God's creation. Nature is something to behold and value. Living in a less developed, more rural area than I imagine most do, I find a connection to the outdoors: the trees, the landscape, the animals which are creatures to wonder at. The various wildlife use what God provides to survive. We should not forget that we are here because He has put us on this earth. I feel badly for the people who do not delight in the natural gifts bestowed on us.

  2. Well said, Father, all of it. Space is our current frontier and we are already adding our mark to it by leaving debris in orbit. Will we leave nothing untouched?