"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16, ESV)
Read the verse above slowly. What do you think it means?
Matthew 10:16 has a lot going on: lots of different animal-y things, lots of illustrations, and lots of life lessons. So let's break it down and see what God is saying.
1. Sheep in the midst of wolves ~ We're probably coming to this verse with some pre-conceived notions about wolves eating sheep and wolves in sheep's clothing. And that's ok. Mr. Aesop told us about those for a reason. Wolves are predators. Sheep are lunch.
In this verse, it means that God is sending us into the world where there are very real dangers and evils. That's kind of scary, right? Especially since we're the sheep! But He doesn't leave us like in our fears. Instead, he is equipping us. It goes on...
2. Wise as serpents ~ Honestly, I don't like getting compared to a snake. I mean, think Jungle Book for a second with me. Or think Garden of Eden if you're not a Disney fan. The snakes are a little creepy.
But that's not what the verse is saying. It says "wise as serpents." This is focusing on the wisdom of the serpents. They know when to strike and when to take the defensive. I researched a few fun facts about snakes because I don't know much about them:
- Snakes have internal ears but not external ones. (This makes me think about how we should listen to when our souls need rest instead of listening to the clamor of the world.)
- Snakes used in snake charming performances respond to movement, not sound. (We should respond when people take action, not when they talk too much.)
- There are around 3000 different species of snake. (There are so many different ways to live. You can be making a wise decision, and it could look different from my wise decision.)
3. Innocent as doves ~ I like how doves and serpents are opposites in our minds, but God ties them together. What comes to your mind when you think of doves? Hope? Freedom? Purity? Nesting?
Focusing on the doves' innocence, think back to Leviticus. Two doves would often be offered as a sacrifice. If you know anything about the Levitical law, you know that sacrifices had to be blameless, flawless. Our minds and hearts should be pure before God.
This works so closely with the wisdom. We can be aware of the evil in the world but stay innocent.
What does this verse mean to you or look like for you in your situation?