Saturday, September 26, 2020

Disobedient Dogs

In this dream, my husband Richard and I buy a voucher for dog grooming to give to our son. He wants to use it right away for his pet dog, but we realize that we’ve left it at the beach house 90 miles away. A friend of ours is staying at the beach house, so we call him and ask him to read us the instructions for how to redeem the voucher.

But it’s far more complicated than we thought! The fine print says that the holder of the voucher must first submit a video showing the dog obeying a series of prespecified commands. Before the voucher can be redeemed, the video must be reviewed by the dog groomers and meet their requirements.

We set up a video conference call so that our friend at the beach house can submit the video on our behalf to redeem the voucher. But our son’s dog, as affectionate and cuddly as he is, tries to please but doesn’t follow the commands as he should.

In thinking about the symbolism of the dream, I realized that today’s culture mostly views dogs in a highly positive light, treating them as members of the family and spending exorbitant sums of money on them. Generally they are lovable and faithful, relieving loneliness and stress.

But in Scriptural context, “dog” is generally a negative term, referring to an enemy; one who is regarded as evil, who is spreading false doctrine, and who will be kept out of Heaven. Like other animals that do not chew their cud, dogs were considered unclean and to be avoided by God’s people (Leviticus 11:1-8).

Mosaic law refers to dogs as an abomination to the Lord, not to be brought into His house (Deuteronomy 23:18): Job, referring to his miserable state in the midst of the trials God allowed Satan to bring into his life (Job 1), laments that he is held in contempt even by those whose fathers he would have thought unworthy to keep company with his dogs (Job 30:1).

A Messianic Psalm (Psalm 22:16) uses dogs as a metaphor to describe the wicked people who captured and crucified Christ. Because Christ died for the sins of the whole world (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3), we can all be counted in that number who are responsible for the agonizing death of the Son of God.

The apostle John, who was taken to Heaven in a vision, was told by Jesus Christ that those who keep God’s commandments have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14). Sadly, only one Man could keep the law perfectly, the God-Man Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:15).

The rest of us would be doomed were it not for His substitutionary death on the cross, paying for all our sins (Romans 3:25), so that those who trust in Him would have eternal life (John 3:16). Those who reject Him are kept from entering Heaven, and are described as dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers, idolaters, and liars (Revelation 22:15).

The prophet Isaiah compares God’s watchmen, who are outcasts of Israel, to dumb dogs ignorantly sleeping, and to greedy dogs that can never have enough, putting their own gain over the needs of the people and over their service to God (Isaiah 56:10).

Jesus warned His disciples not to give anything holy (such as His Word) to “dogs,” meaning those who were not His people (Matthew 7:6). Similarly, the apostle Paul cautioned the church at Philippi to beware of dogs, of evil workers, and of the concision, meaning those who had not trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Philippians 3:2-3).

King Solomon compared a fool repeating his mistakes to a dog eating its own vomit (Proverbs 26:11), and the apostle Peter used the same analogy to describe false teachers who lead their followers back to the bondage of the law, rather than to the liberty found in Christ (2 Peter 2:19-22).

Does the Bible have nothing positive to say about man’s best friend – our furry canine companions? There is one positive note, voiced by King Solomon, that a living dog is better than a dead lion, for where there is breath there is hope! (Ecclesiastes 9:4).

We may be dogs – vile sinners unfit for Heaven – but even with our last breath we could be saved if we place our faith in Christ. Jesus reassured the repentant thief on the cross, who called Him Lord, that he would be with Him in Paradise that very day (Luke 23:39-43), without the need to be baptized, join a church, or do any good works.

Yet it is unwise to delay that decision until we are on our death bed, for we don’t know when we will slip out into eternity (James 4:14), and today is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2).

In considering the meaning of the dream in the context of these Bible verses, I realized that the disobedient dog represents each of us before we ask Jesus Christ into our heart. We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are desperately in need of cleansing, like dog grooming, but that is only possible through the “voucher” Christ Himself has purchased for us to redeem us from the slave market of sin (Isaiah 44:22).

He paid the price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), and all we need do is accept His freely given gift of salvation and eternal life (Romans 6:23). But so many try to make this simple transaction so complicated, and end up forfeiting the gift altogether!

In the dream, the circumstances and conditions of the fine print prevented us from redeeming the voucher. First, the voucher was far away, so that we had to make special arrangements to redeem it. This reminds me of the religions that require a pilgrimage to distant lands before salvation can be attained.

Second, there was a third party involved in the videotaping, which reminds me of religions in which salvation is supposed to come through a “middleman,” to whom sins must be confessed, or “indulgences” paid to assure a loved one’s passage to Heaven.

Thankfully, Jesus Christ Himself is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) Who tore down the veil between Himself and His people! (Matthew 27:51). Believers need no longer go through a priest to have their sins forgiven, for we can boldly go before His throne of grace!  (Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 9).

Third, there had to be visible proof of compliance with the fine print, namely a video of the dog’s performance. Yet only God knows the hearts (Psalm 44:21; 139:23), and only He can judge us, not on our outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7) or behavior but on whether our heart is receptive to Christ.

Fourth, the dog actually had to obey all the prescribed commands, and the voucher would not be redeemed unless it met the specifications of an unseen Judge. As noted above, only Jesus was capable of fully keeping the law, and if we have failed to keep any point of the law, we have failed to keep all of it (James 2:10). All of us therefore deserve eternal punishment in hell, yet God in His mercy clothes us in the perfect righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10) at the moment we trust His Son as our Savior.

Salvation depends not on our ability to follow commandments, nor on a third party to take our petitions before the Judge, nor on rigidly deceptive conditions we must meet. Being loveable and “good,” like the pet dog in the dream, or attempting to excuse our behavior or evade punishment, will not save us.

Although we in our flesh are no better than disobedient dogs, our sins can be washed clean in the shed blood of Jesus! (Psalm 51:2; Revelation 1:5). He alone saves us by His grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), not by our works, as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven! 

© 2020 Laurie Collett