3Even the jackals feed their young,
but not my people Israel.
They ignore their children’s cries,
like ostriches in the desert.
4The parched tongues of their little ones
stick to the roofs of their mouths in thirst.
The children cry for bread,
but no one has any to give them.
Jeremiah is lamenting out loud about how calloused God’s people have become toward God and even towards those under their care. They simply don’t care about anyone but themselves. He contrasts the wild jackal with the ostrich. It’s very clear from scripture we do not want to be the ostrich in this scenario because, bottom line, they are stupid. This isn’t the first time an ostrich is used in scripture to correct the hearts of God’s people. Job 39:13-18 describes the careless parenting of this prehistoric looking bird in this manner: "The ostriches' wings flap joyously With the pinion and plumage of love, For she abandons her eggs to the earth And warms them in the dust, And she forgets that a foot may crush them, Or that a wild beast may trample them.” Yep, they are happy and celebrating life while their young are trampled to death by other animals. The bottom line is that God holds the older generation responsible to care for, raise and disciple the younger generation. When we don’t we are just like these ostriches that birth and then abandon.
Every time I come across the mention of an ostrich it triggers a slight nervous twitch. You see, I lived with on an ostrich ranch (yes, that’s a thing, at least it was) and my whole job was to keep these stupid birds from killing themselves or each other. Their brains are smaller than their eyeballs and this lack of intelligence is evidenced by how they live… or how often they die. The slightest noise will set them running in a pack until they trample each other running to the other end of the pen. Very often they would get their heads stuck in the fence hole trying to peck at something on the other side and then break their necks while trying to get free because they couldn’t figure out how to turn their head sideways. Many times they would fill their bellies with gravel and die simply because they were too stupid to be able to tell the difference between gravel and real food. The Scripture is very accurate in describing their poor parenting skills. If we, as ranch hands, didn’t gather the eggs up after they were birthed they would very often trample on their eggs before hatching and kill their offspring. One year on the ostrich ranch was all I could handle. I couldn’t figure out why God would create an animal so stupid or how they weren’t extinct already. Yet, when I read in scripture how God’s now people are compared to the ostrich I have to wonder, how often do act the same way towards the next generation? We may not be abandoning our kids to wild animals but, we are letting the jackals have their way with them. For example, “children are spending way too much time in front of screens, says the American Heart Association, and it's urging parents to drastically cut the hours their kids are allowed to use their phones, computers, tablets, and video games. Kids and teens age 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. The new warning from the AHA recommends parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours per day. For younger children, age 2 to 5, the recommended limit is one hour per day.” We often hear about the helicopter parent that hovers over their child’s every move, but that would be much preferable to the passive parent that takes the ostrich approach of “kids will be kids”. They make little to no attempt to control or discipline their kids and according to some recent research this can have detrimental results including Display low achievement in many areas, poor decision-making skills, display more aggression and less emotional understanding, may be more prone to delinquency and substance use, and are unable to manage their time or habits. When asked what the number one thing Gen Y would want from their parents the majority responded that they wanted them to spend less time on the phone/computer and more time with them. God isn’t demanding we be perfect parents, but simply that we would take an honest assessment of how we use our time when it comes to raising our children. 34 minutes is the amount of time the average family gets to spend together each day and it’s usually around a screen. We can do better than this. We can be better than the ostrich when it comes to caring for and disciplining the next generation. We can start today by putting down our phones and taking time to have a real conversation with the young people in our lives.
Thank you, Lord, that I don’t have to live on an Ostrich Ranch any longer. Thank You for the lesson of the ostrich in today’s reading to get my attention about my boys and how I’m spending intentional time with them. It’s too easy to just use the excuse that life is busy. I prioritize that which is important to me and I want my boys and the young people in my life to know they are a priority and not a problem in my schedule. Help me to get creative in ways to love and care for them. I want to give my very best to reach the next generation for You!