It wasn't their fault. They were just doing what vultures do: perch or fly way up high, look for dead animal carcasses, swoop down and devour what's left on the bones. It may sound gross to us, but it's their lot in life. It's part of the "food chain," "circle of life," or as the Croc Hunter used to say... "Nay-chuh's way".
But not this particular day. This particular day they swooped down and were driven away. Forcefully. What looked to them like animal carcasses conveniently laid out like a buffet was actually a carefully prepared sacrifice, laid before the Lord by Abram. The Lord had just spoken a powerful word over Abram's life (Genesis, chapter 15) and God was showing up later to seal the deal, or confirm His promise to Abram, by a remarkable ceremony. The ancient covenants of that time involved the cutting in half of animals, so that the pledging parties could walk between them, affirming that the same should happen to them if they broke the covenant. God had instructed Abram to set up such a ceremony by cutting a heiffer, a goat, a ram, a dove and a pidgeon in two and arranging the pieces.
Abram had done as the Lord instructed and was faithfully waiting for God to show up. Can you imagine? I can only imagine how Abram's heart was beating. The God of the Universe was going to "cut a covenant"... with him! It must've taken some time to gather the animals, kill them, and cut them (Oh, my. Sawing a cow. Half a heifer. Can you say, "Thank you, new covenant!" That's what I'm thinking right about now!) The animal pieces were carefully arranged for this ceremony that God (did I already mention that the God of the Universe was going to show up for this?? Whoa!) had ordained.
But, who showed up first? The "birds of prey."
And they always do. Whatever it is I have carefully laid aside for God becomes a target for the "birds of prey." First and foremost, my time. My children. My time with my children. Time with my husband. My morning quiet times. Money. Time in God's Word. Meal time with my family. My thoughts. At different times, that which God has ordained that I carefully arrange for Him has gotten "eaten up" by other things. Not necessarily evil things, but other things.
So what do I do? Like I imagine Abram did, I flap. I flail. I yell "Shoo! Shoo!" I say (like my fun husband does when when he's acting redneck and the dog's in the kitchen) "Go own! GIT!"
"I'm sorry, we can't do that today, we're doing school." (:::flap:: flap:::)
"Man, that's a cute top. But if I buy it, I can't be as generous in my giving this month." ("Shoo!")
"Yes, I know that's a fun activity. But if you have that class every week then we'll only have 4 nights at home to eat dinner as a family. Maybe you can do that next semester (or year)." (:::flailing wildly:::)
The Bible birds of prey weren't evil, out to ruin Abram's covenant. They didn't know. Neither are my "birds of prey" bad people or those bent on thwarting my efforts to offer my time, family, and money to God. Organizations run because people give their time. We must spend money, we must participate in activities. I can't go flapping at people just for asking, but it is up to me to discern what in my life is "off limits," when enough is enough, and what is God's and His alone. I'm sure the birds of prey found other food after Abram drove them away. I'm equally sure that those I say "no" to will find their "yes" somewhere else. Whatever I say "no" to in order to ensure my time in God's Word will get done if it's supposed to get done, it always does.
I love how this passage comes so near the beginning of the year in my through-the-year Bible. It causes me to think through what God has asked me to set aside specifically for Him in the new year. And I read it today, a Monday. What is it that God has asked me to set aside for Him this week? I can be sure that as I plan to set it aside for Him and wait expectantly for Him to show up, the birds of prey will get there first.
Time to start flappin'.