The third symbol in this series is a dove with an olive branch in its beak, moving us on in Jesus’ heritage from Adam and Eve to Noah.
I’ve sometimes wondered why Noah chose to send a dove out to look for signs of dry land after the deluge. What qualities does a dove have that would be useful in that situation? And then it occurred to me, doves are related to pigeons and share the same homing instinct. Noah needed a bird that would be able to find its way back to its home on the ark.
Interestingly, there is a process to ‘home’ doves, that is to teach them to make somewhere their permanent home. They have to be confined to a very limited space around their nest for six to eight weeks, most commonly these days with a net over and secured to the ground around it.
So 40 days plus on the ark would have been an ideal homing method; the ark effectively became their giant dovecote. No wonder they were a good choice for returning to Noah with the good news of the flood receding. Maybe after it settled on Mount Ararat and the life began afresh on the freshly laundered land, the doves stayed on the ark establishing a colony there, just like doves do today in a dovecote.
But the dove is also a symbol of God’s Holy Spirit. I wonder if He too has a homing instinct? I wonder if we can make ourselves His permanent home so that He constantly returns to us and establishes His kingdom in us? Or I wonder if He can tune the homing instinct in us towards Heaven as ‘our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee’ so that, as St Augustine goes on to say, we ‘run towards this voice and seize hold of You’.