Updated: Sep 13
A common sight in Africa, vultures can regularly be seen circling the skies in search of their next meal. They are opportunistic carnivores meaning they don’t like to work for their food. When they are circling above and see the carcass of an animal that lions have brought down, you can be sure they will signal to their vulture friends that lunch is served.
While fully capable of fending for themselves like other birds of prey, vultures prefer to take what isn’t theirs. They are large birds, intimidating in appearance, and will protest loudly when challenged. But in the end, when stood up to, will fly away only to return and try again another time.
Vultures are thieves. They steal what doesn’t belong to them. You might, upon initially observing them, be intimidated by their unique (almost frightening) appearance. Yet, the more you watch them it’s obvious that there’s little to be afraid of. They’re just resourceful, cunning, and too lazy to work for their food. They know that the mighty lion can easily bring them down with one swipe of their paw. They are also well aware that they put their lives at risk to steal from the big cat yet. Because they are lazy, they gamble on the lion’s becoming weary of chasing them away. The possibility of a free meal is too enticing for the opportunistic vulture.
Lions will eat until they can’t move. They do this because they often go long periods without bringing down an animal for a meal. For every time they are successful at bringing down a kill, there are 4 or 5 other attempts where they have failed. The effort and danger they put themselves in when hunting (for animals with sharp hooves and horns won’t go down easily) takes much of their energy. Once they have hunted and eaten, they don’t want to bother themselves with chasing away the vultures. The problem is if they don’t chase away the vultures, there will be no leftovers to eat when they get hungry again.
Vultures don’t announce their arrival. While they are often seen in groups, they search alone for carcasses. Once a carcass has been sighted, one lone vulture will begin to circle to signal others to join him. Then, the familiar circling pattern of vultures overhead can be seen. At first, just a few birds will land, tentatively approaching their target. Once the first bites have been taken, those circling overhead land swiftly to have their dinner. Their work must be swift, as other scavengers, like hyenas and jackals, or the ones who originally took down the kill, are sure to be nearby. There’s not much time so they eat quickly before others arrive to chase them away.
Genesis 15:11 NLT “Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.”
God had called Abram out from among his relatives to go to an unknown land. Abram, in obedience, left everything he knew and traveled without knowing where his final destination would be. He only knew that God was faithful and had promised that a nation would descend from his yet-to-be-born son. It was at this time that God made a covenant with Abram. Sacrifices were laid on an altar and in no time at all, vultures began to circle and swoop down to eat what Abram had offered to God. Abram spent an entire night chasing away the vultures. After saving the sacrifice, his journey of seeing God’s promise fulfilled began.
There have been many times that I’ve had to chase vultures away from my altar. One could easily think it’s stubbornness that has pushed me to the lengths that I’ve gone to keep that sacrifice where it ought to be. In my lifetime of walking with Jesus, I might have, at first, chased the vultures away out of stubbornness. Stubbornness served me to keep those scavengers away until I understood how important it was to keep that offering on the altar. I learned that it’s on the altar of sacrifice where God’s blessing begins. Serving God sacrificially is counterintuitive to the natural mind. Our natural logic tells us to plan for the unknown whereas God’s logic holds the unknown, so we have nothing to fear.
The vultures of discouragement, weariness, financial strain, and loneliness are some of the vultures often seen circling above my head. Staying encouraged and strong when everything around you screams “give up” takes a lot of effort. Yes, there’s a price to be paid for chasing the vultures away.
I’m not one who eagerly gives voice to my internal struggles. I think everyone is struggling, why would I add to someone else’s struggle by sharing mine with them? I’m an enneagram 2 to the core (for those of you who have studied the enneagram) and in my stubbornness, I kept my struggles close to my chest. Needless to say, I paid a hefty price for my pride. In striving to manage things by myself, I failed to realize that unless I chased my vulture of pride away, that lone vulture would always signal the rest of them to return. When I laid down my pride and connected with God the vultures flew away.
Vultures are stubborn creatures. While they might fly away once, they are always on the lookout for another free meal. They will return. Abram (later Abraham) went on to see God do amazing things in his life, but the vultures were never far. He had to keep chasing them away.
In the same way, the vultures will come back to see if we’ve taken our eyes off the sacrifice, they will always be circling on the lookout for a snack. They’re searching for a way to quickly steal what doesn’t belong to them. The question is are we ready to do what it takes to chase the vultures away?