‘I wish I had a goat like that’

By Hank Slikker
Special to The PREVIEW
On June 2, 1974, Candelaria Villanueva boarded a Philippines’ inter-island ship, the Aloha, bound for Manila. About 15 kilometers into her trip, the ship caught fire and sank. After floating for 12 hours in her life jacket, a giant sea turtle suddenly came up underneath her and lifted her to the surface to keep her alive. She hung on to the turtle for two days until a Navy search and rescue team on board the RPS Kalantia spotted her and threw her a lifeline. As if to reassure itself of Villanueva’s safety, when she grabbed the life ring, the turtle circled several times and disappeared. Besides the giant turtle, Villanueva said a small turtle crawled onto her back and bit her gently whenever she began to doze off (News of the World, 28, July 1974; Knoxville [Tennessee] News-Sentinel 24 June 1974).
On June 21, 2005, the Associated Press ran a story from Ethiopia about three lions that rescued a 12-year-old girl from kidnappers. Seven men abducted the girl in order to force her into marriage. The men held her for a week and beat her repeatedly until the lions showed up and chased them away. The lions protected her for a half day until the police and family found her. Police Sgt. Wondimu Wenaju said, “They stood guard until police and family found her and then they just left her like a gift” (Associated Press in Addis Ababa, 21 Jun 2005).
On March 29, 2012, the New York Daily News reported a story of a momma bear that rescued a wildlife enthusiast from serious or perhaps fatal injuries. As Robert Biggs sat observing a bear playing with her two cubs, a mountain lion suddenly attacked him from behind. As he struggled to escape, the momma bear rushed to his aid and attacked the lion. After a brief but savage struggle, the lion ran off, and the bear returned to its cubs as though Biggs wasn’t even there.
Had these stories not been reported in respected media, they would probably fit better in Grimm’s fairy tales.
To be sure, wild and sometimes savage animals do not normally behave like caring humans, and these reports suggest a relationship between humans and wild animals that are more like my relationship with my cat. But could it be that the turtle, the lion and the bear displayed the out-workings of a long-dormant divine DNA? After all, doesn’t Genesis say that God created all air, sea and land creatures? If we believe that, then it’s not much of a stretch to say that these animals behaved like the God who made them.
You might be wondering, “what’s your point?” I bring up stories because they remind me of Easter. They have precedent in the Old Testament when God used an animal to save his people from certain death. As the book of Leviticus reports, on the most sacred of religious days, God commanded the priest of the people to take an innocent goat and lay upon it all the sins of the people. Then, it says, the priest had someone lead the goat into the wilderness carrying away the sins of the people, perhaps to lead him out of God’s sight. The priest named the innocent animal “the goat of sending away,” or the scapegoat, as an innocent being bore the sins of the guilty (see Leviticus 16).
Viewing Easter Sunday from a distance, 600 years before Christ Isaiah the prophet spoke of the coming Savior Jesus as archetypal of the goat; as one who “bore the sins of many,” since “the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6, 12). Even later, Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptizer, would call Him “the lamb of God who takes [carries] away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
An innocent animal and Easter, the day of crucifixion and a scape goat — only God can think up a relationship like that. To be honest, I’ve never thought an animal could be so valuable and so special. Apparently, God did.
Not long ago, I met an old friend at a local restaurant tavern to reminisce old times. After a while, our conversation led to theological things and, specifically, regarding God’s involvement with the human race. When “rescue” came to forefront I told him about the sin-bearing goat. It wasn’t long after that my friend butted in and said, “Man, I wish I had a goat like that!”

This story was posted on March 31, 2018.