A Female Figure
Among men what is rare is often precious - precious, simply because of rarity. What is common does not always carry such value. In the Word of God, there are many types and figures of the Lord Jesus Christ. All are precious to those who love the Lord. Many such types are neuter or inanimate, the best known of these being the Ark of the tabernacle. Others are masculine in gender such as men like David or Solomon. A feminine type, although not absent from the pages of the Bible, is nonetheless very rare and because of its rarity has a peculiar preciousness. Such has a delightful fragrance, and distinctive features all of its own.
A feminine figure of the Lord occurs in Matt. 23: 37-39 where it is He himself who uses it. I refer to the hen. It is of interest that in the ways of God, when He chooses to use one of His creatures in a figurative way that he selects a creature who is outstanding in the particular feature or features that are to give the type. Among the birds the eagle is one bird that holds such a place. It is renowned for the heights to which it can fly, (see Prov. 23: 5, 30: 19), and at which it builds its nest, (Jer. 49: 16). It is also well-known for its speed of flight, (2 Sam. 1: 23; Lam. 4: 19) and for the power of its wings, (Ex. 19: 4; Is. 40: 31).
Now the hen is also outstanding but for quite a different reason. The hen is unrivalled among creatures for her care of her young. And it is the hen, the female bird, not the cock, that the Lord uses in His similitude in Matt. 23.
A barn burnt to the ground. A man walked amidst the smouldering embers of the debris and came upon the burnt carcass of a hen. Idly, with his foot, he turned the bird over. From underneath the dead bird several chickens emerged unscathed. The mother bird, with no thought for her own safety, had called the chicks to herself when the fire had started, had covered them with her own body, and had just sat there and burnt to death so that her young might be preserved alive.
That preserving instinct of the hen for her young was programmed into that creature when God created it. Do you know why? I will tell you. It was so that when the time came the Lord Jesus could use the hen as a figure of His own care for His people. No other figure would do!
Jerusalem, representing His earthly people, had killed the prophets, had stoned His messengers, and soon they would fill up their iniquity in crucifying their Messiah. All this He knew. Yet how He longed after them! Far more than that great servant Moses of a past day had done, (Ex. 32: 32), and far more than that great servant Paul of a future day would do, (see Rom. 9: 1-3). What depth of feelings were His! How acutely sensitive were His desires of blessing for them! No other figure could adequately express His care but the hen. They failed to see what was about to come, had no realisation of the judgement that was about to fall, were dead to His calling pleas of love: “how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings”. Yet with what sorrow and grief He had to add “and ye would not”.
But what of His feelings now, when Israel for the present is set on one side? What of His feelings for His heavenly people in the Assembly? Are they any less than they were for Israel? Do His people of the present day submit to His gathering call in the presence of grave dangers? Oh, what feelings are His still! How tenderly He cares! The place of safety is still under His wings. Does He with great grief of heart have yet to say “and ye would not”?