Does God hear the cries of those who do not communicate in human language? Does His heart respond to the
fearful mewing of a motherless kitten or the exhaustion of a donkey staggering
under a load far too heavy for it? Does He care about the animals that are bred
in cramped quarters and exploited for profit?
God was so interested in the welfare of the animal kingdom that He created, that He even commanded Noah, in the time of judgement on the earth, to make the ark big enough to hold two of every kind of animal that existed.
The Bible actually has much to say in regard to animal abuse. In the beginning, God created the earth and all the creatures on it to be under the authority of humanity. He entrusted these beautiful elements of His creation to our care (Genesis 1:26). Our sinful nature causes us to abuse these things, sometimes without even realizing it. Yet, God expects the Christian, above all others, to be sensitive to all of His creation, knowing that exploiting or abusing it shows a disrespect for God Himself. Abuse of anything that God made is not the character of God, but rather of the Evil One.
Domestic Animals: "A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10). Throughout the Bible, God shows how He expects us to care for our animals in practical ways. In the Law of the Israelites, for example, one of the purposes of the Sabbath year of rest for the land, was to let the land lie fallow--and so that the poor as well as livestock and wild animals could eat from it (Exodus 23:11 and Leviticus 25:7). The Sabbath day itself was not only for humans to rest. God also commanded us to give our animals rest on the same day. (Exodus 20:10). He also commanded the Israelites to help both their friends and enemies when their ox or donkey had fallen over, or was carrying a burden too heavy for it to bear (Exodus 23:5 and Deuteronomy 22:4). In addition, livestock were also allowed to eat as they worked (Deuteronomy 25:4). Finally, God says to us in Proverbs 27:23: "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds."
Part of the reason that God anointed young David to be king over Israel, was that he was a good shepherd and could be trusted with the sheep under his care, even risking his life for them when they were attacked by lions or bears (1 Samuel 17:34). God knew that if David had this sort of heart for his sheep, he would be a faithful shepherd over an even greater treasure--the people of Israel.
Wild Animals: His eye is on the sparrow: In addition to domesticated animals, God also watches over wild animals and commands us to do the same. In Deuteronomy 22:6-7, God promises a long life to those who will watch over wild birds. If we rape the land or the creatures in it, what will sustain us in the future? He allows for the taking of eggs, but commands that we release the mother bird to continue living in the wild and reproducing as He intended. In Job 38:41, God says that He hears the cries of newborn ravens crying to Him for food. Jesus went on to say that God supplies food for the wild birds and that not one of them falls to the ground without Him knowing it (Matthew 6:26, 10:29).
These small, but kind and practical commands written throughout the Bible
give us good insight into how God expects us to treat animals. Surely we will
have to answer to Him for any abuse that we have committed against them. God
created animals for us to love and to learn from. In them, we see our own
dependance upon God illustrated in their dependance upon us. We can also see
elements of our foolishness manifested in them (who has not seen a crowing
rooster and laughed at the comic caricature of ourselves crowing to all the
world in our foolish pride?) In addition, God also tells us to learn from their
"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest" (Proverbs 6:6-8).
(Job 12:7-10 KJV) "But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind."
Although worship of animals as deities is strictly forbidden in Scripture, we are to respect them
as a part of God's creation. Some believe that because only humans were created
in God's image, they alone are worthy of respect and care. Yet, the Bible tells
us that even the angels were not created in God's image, yet we are to respect
them! We are to respect all of God's created order, not to worship facets of
it, but to see in it the same call that we ourselves have, which is to glorify
God. All of God's creation was made with the ability and the power to glorify
Him, each in different ways. In this, animals, as well as humans, share a
common element with the rest of creation. Perhaps the words from these Psalms
say it best of all (emphasis added):
Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him from the heights above. Praise him all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon, praise him all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. He set them in place forever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightening and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His splendor is above the earth and the heavens (Psalm 148: 1-13).
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6).