When I first moved to Virginia, one of the first things I noticed was the variety of different species of birds! When we moved into our current house, we were astonished at the variety of wildlife just in our backyard alone. We have 22 trees out back and they are home to all kinds of critters. We have our own little National Geographic episode right before our eyes. Amongst the Morning Doves, Blue Jays, woodpeckers, squirrels and turtles, we were excited to see that the Cardinals made their home in our trees. Their colorful feathers make it so easy to spot them. Even when they are hidden, we can listen to their beautiful songs ringing out.
I do believe one of my fondest memories is that of the Cardinal perched in one of our trees in the winter time. The plumage of the male is a bright scarlet red and he wears the crest proudly on his head like a crown! This species does not migrate South for the winter but sticks around for the cold. So we are privileged to see it in all four of our seasons. I do believe, however, that its greatest beauty is seen in the winter! Its colors pop out over the blanket of white snow.
As you can see in this picture, the female is much lighter, but beautiful in her own way. Again this morning, God’s Goodness was seen in this creature’s colors and habits. When I behold the awesome scarlet red feathers of the male, I think of Christ shedding His blood on the cross. Throughout the Word of God, we see that Scarlet Thread of Redemption and God’s creation drawing us toward Him and His redemptive work. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Rom 1:20) I’m sure if we truly set our minds to it, we could see God’s Hand in each piece of His creation. Why not take advantage of the lessons He has for us in nature?
Another wonderful characteristic of the Cardinal (and most perching birds), is the way they sleep. Brother Aaron Adams of Fundamental Baptist Forum, shared some thoughts on perching birds. “Have you ever watched a bird sleeping on it’s perch and never falling off? How is it possible? The secret is the tendons of the bird’s legs. They are so constructed that when the leg is bent at the knee, the claws contract and grip like a steel trap! The claws refuse to let go until the knees are unbent again. The bended knee gives the bird the ability to hold on to his perch so tightly.
Isn’t this also the secret of the power of the Christian? Daniel found this to be true. Surrounded by a pagan government tempted to compromise with evil, urged to weaken his grip on God, he refused to let go and bent his knee at least three times a day. He held firm when others faltered, because he was a man of prayer. He knew the power of the bended knee. From sleeping birds we can learn the secret of how to get a hold of God’s power! That secret is the knee bent in prayer.” Thank you, Brother Aaron, for this beautiful comparison.
I also noted in my research that the more soundly the Cardinal sleeps, the tighter his claws grip to the perch. The more we rest in God’s care the stronger we become as Christians. We grip to the Creator of all because He provides us with the help we need. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. (Psa 121:2)The power in a Christian’s life can be directly linked to the amount of time this Christian spends in prayer. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. (1 Jo 3:22) God answers the prayers of those who walk in His will.
Furthermore, I noted that the Cardinal cannot move until he has raised himself up and straightened his legs, thus setting his claws free. After the Christian has met with the Master in prayer, he is ready to meet the day and all it has in store for him. The believer walks away from prayer time with God’s arm of protection over him. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph 6:13) He is equipped for the day knowing that each moment rests in the hands of the Creator.
Another beautiful characteristic of Cardinals is the way they keep themselves warm in the winter as they sleep. I did not know that the air around the Cardinal (and all birds) is what keeps them warm. That totally amazed me! The Cardinal hides his head under his wing and fluffs up his feathers, like in the picture above. As the air comes in and settles among the soft down, it warms up and warms the Cardinal. Isn’t that a beautiful picture? As we are yielded vessels resting in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit “heats” us up – He energizes us – and He fuels us with what we need for the day. The Creator of all took time to create a beautiful creature and provide it with a way to warm its tiny body in the cold of winter. So much the more, will our Heavenly Father care for His children who trust Him! How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. (Psa 36:7)
As the bright crimson male Cardinal can be seen at a distance, even with trees and bushes full of foliage, so should the Christian be different. The world should be able to see something different about us because we have put on Jesus! We are the only “Jesus with skin” they will ever see. Do we appear to the lost as the beautiful Cardinal or do we appear like the vulture? We are children of the King and we should represent the King in how we look, how we speak, and how we walk. And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. (Zep 1:8 God has given us salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. Those who deny Jesus Christ wear the “strange apparel” but we do not. We have been washed in the precious scarlet Blood of Jesus Christ. He went through much so that we could have salvation through Him and the opportunity to wear royal robes.
Each time I gaze upon this beautiful creature, the Cardinal, I cannot help but meditate on Christ’s complete work on the cross. Won’t you join me this morning in God’s Goodness and glorify His name through His creation of this beautiful creature? Hopefully, the next time you see a Cardinal, you will be reminded of what Christ went through for you.
Another blessed time with You
Has been given me this day
Drawing me to Your Precious Blood
For my soul You dearly paid