“Like the gathering of the caterpillar…he shall run upon them.” Isaiah 33:4 (NKJV)
I remember my first sighting of a Cape May Warbler. It was a warm spring day at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in western Wisconsin, and the still leafless trees were full of warblers. I was in a hurry to leave, but glanced up into the trees one more time. There on the tip of a branch just twenty feet away was a beautiful little yellow and brown bird with a bright orange ear patch. For several minutes it sat there in the late afternoon sun, allowing me plenty of time to observe the soft shades of color. The bird had made the trip from its wintering grounds in the Caribbean, and was resting up for the remainder of the journey that would take it to northern Minnesota or southern Canada. Cape May Warblers are primarily insectivorious, although they do eat some berries. They breed in coniferous forests in extreme northern United States and southern Canada. This warbler is particularly fond of spruce budworms, a serious pest in eastern spruce and fir forests. The spruce budworm is highly cyclical, and its numbers vary significantly over time. In fact there is a direct correlation between the populations of the two species. During periods of high spruce budworm infestation, Cape May Warblers will lay larger clutches of eggs and raise more young birds than at times when there are few spruce budworms available.
Today’s Bible verse from Isaiah speaks of an infestation of caterpillars. Isaiah uses this image of a gathering of caterpillars to illustrate God’s judgment. However, Isaiah also speaks of God’s mercy and kindness: “O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress” (Isaiah 33:2). Those who depend upon the lumber industry in the north woods welcome the Cape May Warbler and its affinity for spruce budworms. The warblers can be a type of salvation during outbreaks of that scourge of the forests. In the same way, God is our salvation during times of distress.
Dear God, I need your salvation during times of distress. I thank you for being my strength every morning. Amen.