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Lions from Heaven

Several years ago, an unnamed twelve-year-old girl was abducted by a gang of men in Ethiopia. It is believed that these men had kidnapped the vulnerable child with the intention of forcing her to marry one of them (an ancient Ethiopian custom that probably has its roots in Judges 21).

On June 9, after the young girl had endured a week of unspeakable acts of violence as the cruel men attempted to pressure her to submission, she was saved by an unbelievable team of rescuers–three black-maned Ethiopian lions! According to Sergeant Wondimu Wedajo, the police official from Bita Genet who reported the story, when his officers found the kidnapped girl she had already been protected by her feline champions for more than half a day.

Recognize the Miracle

While many have embraced this rescue as a divine miracle, there are those skeptics who have attempted to deny or rationalize the incident. According to Agence France-Presse, Colonel Lemma Legesse, a game hunter, believes that the lions were just about to eat the young lady when they were disturbed by her human rescuers. In another report, the Associated Press quotes Stuart Williams, a wildlife expert with the rural development ministry, who believes that the lions mistook the girl’s crying as the whimpering of a young lion cub and assumed the responsibility of bodyguards.

As far as I am concerned, the skeptics can rationalize all day long. The term “miracle” may not be in their vocabulary, but it’s a regular part of mine, and I recognize one when I see it. Whether the pride was intercepted before they partook of a vulnerable meal or if they really believed that this human was a defenseless lion cub, it is a miracle that the twelve-year old survived.

The Heavens are Not Closed!

Even as we celebrate this miraculous deliverance, I am sure there are some pessimists who question the propriety of celebrating this event when an estimated 70 percent of marriages in some areas of Ethiopia are entered into by abduction. Here is one who survived a lifetime of slavery, but what about the tens of thousands who don’t? Where are their lions? Where are their miracles?

I really don’t have the answers to these questions, and even if I did, they would be little solace to families who have been devastated by missing and abducted children. In spite of the negatives, the words of Brennan Hawkin’s (the cub scout from Utah who survived in the wild for four days) mother firmly resonate in my mind: “The heavens are not closed, prayers are answered, and children do come home.”

It may appear as if God is silent as the devil wreaks havoc throughout the world, but every now and then he gives us a glimpse of hope. Every now and then he reminds us that Satan does not have ultimate control. Every now and then he lets us know that he’s still listening. Every now and then, he assures us that he will eventually put an end to sin and its consequences. Every now and then, he uses powerful predators to comfort scared little girls and boys–women and men. Every now and then, children do come home.

The Lion of Judah

In his first letter to the Christian diaspora, the Apostle Peter chose to depict the devil as a “roaring lion” who is on a mission to devour anyone in his path (1 Pet 5:8). With his terrifying demeanor and unsatiable appetite, the evil one appears to have the global village under siege. He has us living in fear of the next terrorist attack, the next war, the next plane crash, the next tsunami, the next epidemic, the next child abduction, the next…. It seems as if he will not stop until he has inflicted pain on every one of earth’s inhabitants.

However, even as we are stalked by the adversarial marauder, I am thankful that the Bible points us to another lion–the “Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev 5:5). This Lion of Judah has already prevailed over the adversary and is poised to inaugurate a new era of everlasting peace and eternal security. Until then, he solicits the help of his creatures to manifest his light in this world of darkness. At times he may use lions, but he likes it best when those who have been created in his image say “here am I, use me!”

Lets make ourselves available to him as we join search and rescue efforts for missing and exploited children; as we share the liberating gospel with those whose religious beliefs endorse abuse and subjection; as we provide a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves; as we always keep in mind that “a tree is known by its fruit.”

Keith Augustus Burton teaches religion classes at Oakwood University and Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences; he is also the Executive Director of Life emPowerment, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation emphasizing personal responsibility and community cooperation.

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