Like flowers, rainbows, and butterflies, vultures are creations of God. Yet, our reactions to these birds aren’t the same as they are for puppies or kittens, are they? They are seen as disgusting creatures, and for good reason. For vultures don’t have the cleanest of occupations; they eat decaying flesh. Enjoying bloated opossum as if it’s prime steak. Being birds branded as unclean to Israel by Yahweh Himself (Leviticus 11:13). They are animals associated with death and hang around dead things. Death being a byproduct of sin, being something unnatural that creates pain and fear.
Yet, though they carry out these dirty deeds, buzzards are most needed. Though we do not favor them as much as we do parrots or peacocks, seeing them as ugly fowls, we need them. For vultures are natural garbage cans, cleaning up nature, keeping it from becoming nasty. Also, by eating death, they help to control the spread of diseases and germs which would grow and fester within the Petri dish of a carcass. Vultures preserve life by consuming death.
No, vultures are not the prettiest of birds. No, we don’t like them because they remind us of our own mortality. And yet, they serve a noble purpose. They live a life which most of us would not want, but one that is most needed. They live out the purpose which their Creator has molded for them. The buzzard may not praise Yahweh with beautiful songs like the morning dove, but by fulfilling the life which He has given to it. The vulture praises God by being a vulture. (And perhaps they are used to remind us of His power, showing that He is greater than death, as they erase its presence from our highways and fields? “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:55.)
And like the vulture, we need to live out the purposes which the Lord has carved out for us.
Additionally, despite these birds’ dirty tasks, they are honored by some. As Louis Charbonneau-Lassay points out in his book, The Bestiary of Christ, some Christians have associated the buzzard with Christological symbolism. For there is an ancient fable, that a mother vulture in hardship will spill her own blood to give to her chicks nourishment, just as Jesus spilled his own blood as the sacrificial Lamb, so that his blood may cleanse our hearts. So that we may be righteous. So that we may accept the gifts of grace, mercy, and salvation. So that we may live with him eternally–forever and ever, Amen.
Like vultures, we are supposed to feast on the death of one man–to celebrate the death of Christ with bread and wine. To eat of his flesh and to drink of his blood.
Though vultures are gross, nasty birds, I would like to challenge us to be thankful for them. Yes, they serve a dirty purpose, but a needed one in this broken world. And who knows what noble purpose they served before the Fall? I challenge us, to thank God for these birds. No, we don’t have to like ’em, but imagine a world without ’em.