Probably the most famous wolf stories originating from the West are Aesop’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” and Sergei Prokoviev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” The former features an unnamed shepherd boy who repeatedly alarmed the villagers by deceitfully claiming a wolf was about to attack his sheep. On the disastrous night when a wolf did actually sneak up on his flock, the people ignored his shrieks for help until the ferocious canine silenced them. The moral behind the story is pretty easy to decipher: if you are a known liar, there is little chance that people will believe you when you tell the truth.
Lies or Unbelief?
I’m not sure if the Ethiopian’s fable is built on a true story, but let’s suppose that it is. It is totally plausible that there was a Greek shepherd boy living around the time of the biblical King Josiah whose history of sounding “false” alarms eventually led to his death. However, before concluding that the juvenile got what he deserved, let’s consider other possible scenarios.
Could it be that the pubescent child was just plain skittish and was not yet ready for such an important task? Or was he mature beyond his stature and had strategized this method as a drill to see how quickly the villagers would respond to a real emergency? The third consideration is much more sobering. Suppose on all the occasions he cried wolf, he was telling the truth and it was only the sound of the stampeding villagers coming to the boy’s rescue that scared the wolf off?
In the latter instance, his death would not have resulted from his own delinquent behavior, but from the lethargy of his compatriots who had trained themselves to tune him out. When viewed through the perspective of the third scenario, the moral of the story is totally transformed. The onus is no longer on the person who cried, “wolf,” but on the people who failed to respond to the cry. It is not about the tragic results of lying, but the drastic consequences of unbelief.
Seventh-day Adventists have long believed that God has entrusted to us the final warning message for the world. Since the Great Disappointment of our Millerite forebears in 1844, most of us have matured to a point where we reject “skittish” and “emergency drill” alarmists who are “certain” that Christ will return in our lifetime. Instead, those who observe the signs of the times are careful to alert others to the indicators that Christ can come in our lifetime.
We must not forget that the prophetic preview to the ultimate inauguration of God’s kingdom commenced 1,944 years ago with the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple. Since then we have witnessed the gradual fulfillment of most of what the Bible predicted. For the past two millennia, the iron phase of the Satanic empire exposed in Daniel 2 has colonized the world through its European agents who have “mingled with the seed of humans.” For more than 1,500 years, pagan infiltrators have usurped the “Christian” brand and have deceptively (and successfully) claimed to be the true earthly representatives of the Son of God. For almost 400 years, a nation that espouses lamblike liberty has captured, enslaved and oppressed in the same manner as the destructive dragon.
An Increasing Pack
The gradual fulfillment of prophecy makes it clear that our warning message is not focused on a lone wolf, but on a multitudinous wolf pack! Be not mistaken, when my prophetic lungs bellow, “wolf,” they’re not calling people’s attention to the only one, but to another one. God alone knows the size with which the hideous pack will trigger his glorious appearance. Notwithstanding, even with my inability to pinpoint the exact time of his return, I am compelled to warn the world of the time in which we live. And what time is it? It’s a time when the forces of evil ramp up their recruiting efforts as they lull multitudes into the hedonistic kingdom of Satan. It is for this very reason that I cry “wolf” whenever I see one.
Most recently, the unfortunate incident surrounding Oakwood University alumnus, Dr. Eric Walsh, has alerted us to the steroidal maturation of another wolf that seems to be vying for the alpha male position. From the testimony of those with whom he works and serves, Dr. Walsh competently executes his duties with fairness, innovation and professionalism. There have been no reports that he has demonstrated disdain or discriminatory behavior against anybody because of their sexual lifestyle or socio-political ideology. Nonetheless, the mere fact that he promotes a biblical model for the family has put his “government” job at risk.
The wolf that salivates at the thought of destroying Dr. Walsh’s career and reputation is not alone. Just last month we were jolted into the reality that civil war can erupt at any time in this nation, as Bundy and his Nevadan Minute Men demonstrated their willingness to kill and be killed for their cause. Further, even as a person with a fifty percent dosage of African genes sits in the White House, Donald Sterling reminds us that a society based on White privilege can never shed its racist presuppositions. Additionally, the gap between the richest and poorest continues to widen, as one percent of the population possesses forty-four percent of the wealth. The wolf pack is getting larger and more menacing, and God’s heralds have no choice but to cry, “wolf!”
Even as I pen these words, I hear some readers dismissing my cry as naïve and outdated. With obstinate denial they are even now recounting the countless wars, calamities and human tragedies that have plagued our world for millennia. They scream internally, “What makes our age any different?” Interestingly, this attitude is just another wolf howl that confirms my very point. These are the last day scoffers that Peter warns about in his epistle (2 Pet 3:3ff). These are those who have given up hope for the kingdom and view the Second Coming as an escapist’s fantasy.
Nonetheless, in spite of their voice of ridicule and their every increasing intent to persecute the saints, the faithful Remnant remains true to God’s task. We continue to cry “wolf,” because even those who deride us must know that the Lord’s apparent delay is due to his merciful desire that “none should perish, but all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). As you contemplate these words—whether from the perspective of a faithful shepherd or an unbelieving villager—never forget that “a tree is known by its fruit.”
Keith Augustus Burton is a Professor of Religion at Oakwood University where he also directs the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations.