Characteristics of the Monarch Butterfly in Scripture

Monarch Butterfly: LadyD Books

                                                  photo credit: Butterfly via photopin (license)

The Characteristics Of The Monarch Butterfly In Scripture

The unique ability of the monarch butterfly to tolerate the toxins of the milkweed plant provides a picture of the need of Christians to endure the bitterness of discipline, trial, and persecution.

The monarch butterfly absorbs bitter toxins during its early development, which protects its life when it matures. Similarly, God allows harsh experiences of our youth. "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth... He giveth his cheek to him that smitten him... For the Lord will not cast off for ever." Lamentations 3:27, 30-31

"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you." 1Peter 5:10

More importantly, bitter experiences help us to conform us to the image of Christ. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..." Romans 8:28 - 29

Perhaps the most spectacular characteristics of the butterfly that illustrates conformity to Christ is its transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. In going through its metamorphosis, it not only illustrates the truth of Christ's resurrection, but also the principle of the birth, death, and fulfillment of a vision.

"It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory..." 1 Corinthians 15:43

Beautiful colored monarch butterfly
                                                        photo credit: Monarch on echinacea via photopin (license)

How is the benefit of bitter experiences illustrated in the world of nature?

A beautifully colored monarch butterfly felt itself being jerked from the sky by a hungry predator which seemed to come from nowhere.

It's blue-crested captor flew up to its nest. The stunned monarch was then released a few inches from three hungry mouths that were open wide, demanding to be fed. Just then the mate of the blue jay arrived and dropped a large juicy grasshopper at the feet of its young.

Immediately, the blue jay tore apart the grasshopper and poked the bits and pieces into each eager mouth. Then it looked around for additional food.

The jay that had brought in the monarch watched in total surprise as its more mature mate stepped over to the monarch, picked him up, and dropped him out of the nest. The uninjured monarch flew away to the fragrant flowers of the field below.

This unexpected freedom was the result of what the monarch experienced when he was young. During his caterpillar stage, the bitter leaves of a poisonous plant was the only food available to him. Amazingly, he was not damaged by the toxins in the plant. However, they would remain in his system for the rest of his life.

It was this very diet that had now saved him from the hungry mouths of the blue jays. When the blue jay saw the monarch, the jay was immediately reminded of the first and last monarch that it had ever caught.

Hoping to satisfy its hunger, the blue jay had swallowed a monarch in midair. Within a few minutes the blue jay became sick; its stomach seemed to be twisting and turning inside out.

The pain and discomfort became worse and worse until the jay was finally gripped with convulsions. It vomited out the remains of the butterfly along with the rest of the day's catch.

Once the butterfly was out of its stomach, the blue jay had instant relief. It had never experienced anything like this before and would never choose to do so again.

Thereafter, in its search for food, the blue jay avoided anything that looked like a monarch. Not only could monarchs fly by this blue jay without harm, but viceroy butterflies could also carry on their work in safety.

The viceroy butterflies had never eaten the poisonous leaves of the milkweed plant. However, they had orange and black markings similar to a monarch butterfly.

Thus, the bitter diet of the monarch's early days not only saved its own life but kindly benefited the lives of other butterflies.

Above excerpt from Basic Youth Conflicts

Book Review: Butterfly House by Eve Bunting

Book Review: Monarch and Milkweed

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