Friday, 03 April 2015 18:39

Woodpeckers and Snakes

Written by  Sam Whatley
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Many mornings I am awakened by a burst of rapping as our local woodpecker, attacks a nearby tree. He’s a red-cockaded, not a red-headed, woodpecker. Instead of having a solid cap of red, he has a sliver of red that runs from the base of the eye to the back of the cap. Another difference is that the red-cockaded type pecks out a nest in live pines, rather than the soft wood of dead trees. But the dramatic difference is how they can decorate the base of a pine. Let me explain.

Years ago, walking through a forest, I would occasionally see a strange sight, rivulets of golden turpentine pouring out of the base of a large pine. It seemed eerie. I wondered what could cause this sticky goo to ooze from all sides of the tree. Now I know; it’s that little woodpecker.


The red-cockaded woodpecker likes to nest inside mature pines. He may take from 1 to 3 years to excavate a place large enough for his extended family to live for 10 to 15 years. Pines offer soft wood with a plus; they contain loads of turpentine.


The turpentine is not for the woodpecker. It’s for his enemy, the rat snake. Rat snakes love bird eggs, but they hate turpentine. It gets under their scales and irritates them. They will fall out of a tree to get away from it. So when this particular woodpecker starts to peck out his condo, he drills little sap wells all around the tree below his nest. Soon the sap, the turpentine, starts flowing down the pine bark to the ground. Each year the woodpecker must re-open his wells, pecking out the clogged up holes to revive the flow of the sticky stuff. The serpents see the turpentine and go away.


Which reminds me of our enemy, yours and mine, that other Serpent, Satan. In the book of Revelation (12:9) we read:


The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him.


How does this relate to the woodpecker? Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 10:13:


No temptation has seized you, except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.


Like the red-cockaded woodpecker, we work hard to provide food and shelter for our families. However, we can get so busy doing all of this that we forget we have an enemy. When temptations come to cut corners in our jobs, manipulate other people for our benefit, or to just misrepresent the truth, we usually don’t see a snake slithering up the pine bark. But we know that God has provided for our protection. Just as the Lord has made turpentine available to the woodpecker, He has poured out His Holy Spirit for us. It comes to us in answer to our prayers and in the quiet times when we read His Word, the Bible. It is the Spirit of God that covers us and our home with life-giving protection.


The red-cockaded woodpecker works hard to create channels for his source of protection. He drills many holes around the pine to keep the sap dripping. He comes back to this work year after year to re-open the wells. It takes time, patience, and hard labor.


In a similar way, we must establish barriers to the old sinful life. And our barriers, too, tend to be temporary. They need to be re-enforced. We must periodically re-examine ourselves and our relationship to God. Are there places, or people, or habits that we have not turned over to God? Are there areas of our lives we have left unprotected from that which once controlled us?


Resisting temptation may complicate your life. A friend of the Lord is an enemy of the world. But God will provide a way. Whatever He leads you to do is worth the trouble, even if it creates a sticky situation.



Last modified on Thursday, 23 April 2015 18:41
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