Dogs don’t get very good press in the Bible. Goliath sneered at David “Am I a dog, that you come out to me armed with sticks?” (1 Samuel 17:43). Dogs are grouped together with harlots in Deuteronomy 23:18 and used as a term of abuse in 2 Samuel 16:9. Dogs were clearly not held in great esteem.
It’s the sheep who are the good guys in the Bible: boring, vulnerable, somewhat dim sheep. The most popular psalm was written by a shepherd who realised that his relationship with God mirrored his relationship with his sheep. Which is fine, but most of us these days know so little about keeping sheep that we have to read books by Philip Keller to fully unpack the imagery.
So dog lovers everywhere will agree that it’s time to rehabilitate humanity’s faithful friend. After all, it’s estimated that 24% of UK households have a dog, and that’s a much higher percentage than those of us who own sheep. If we don’t have a dog ourselves, we’re likely to have come across other people’s dogs, equipping us to understand our relationship with God in such terms.
A dog sees its owner as its pack leader. It is loyal and faithful, often defending its owner, and doing its best to please the owner. It looks to its owner for affection and affirmation, and of course food. It likes to be close to its owner, often wanting to sleep on the bed.
If a dog has been well-trained, these instincts are finely-tuned. The dog will come immediately when called, walk obediently at its owner’s heel, and will not eat its food until given permission. Dogs can perform valuable tasks for emergency services, disabled people and farmers and they provide companionship for old and young alike. Not everybody likes dogs, but there is no disputing the value of their role in human society.
So, if dogs have such a positive role in our culture, isn’t it about time we started thinking of the Christians as the faithful hounds of the Master? Are we quick to obey the slightest command of the Master, looking eagerly into his face to interpret the slightest frown, smile or wink? Do we crave to be close to Him, going where He goes, following closely at His heels, or do we need a leash to stop us running too far away? Do we look to him to provide our sustenance, or give us commands?
Perhaps it’s time to start reimagining scripture:
The Lord is my Master…