Virtue is the moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate from my life as I obey God’s Word.
Virtue Illustrated in the World of Nature
A family of ostriches slowly worked its way across a grassy plain. The tops of the blades of grass rolled back and forth like gentle ripples on a calm sea. One pair of adults and several younger females wandered in and out of the tall grass. They stopped often to nip off tender shoots near the ground. When they lowered their heads, it looked as though they were burying their heads in the sand, but they were only eating.
Hidden in the grass were a dozen month-old chicks. Their brown-spotted feathers blended so well with the dry grass that they were almost indistinguishable. Only their movements and soft “cheeps” disclosed the chicks’ presence.
If the chicks wandered too far away from their parents, the male would call “boo!” Immediately, the chicks would run back. If he called “boo-boo” in a slightly different tone, each chick would freeze, not moving a muscle and not batting an eye.
Sometimes the big male called “boo-booooo” in a sharp, shrill warning. This call was different from the others. It meant danger was nearby. Each chick quickly dropped down and stretched out its long neck flat against the ground. Not until one of the hens finally peeped several times would the chicks get up and run back to their family.
As the flock grazed, the adults were careful to not put their heads down at the same time. At least one adult always remained alert to anything that might threaten their chicks.
“Boo-booooo!” A call rang out. Obediently, each chick flattened itself against the ground. Zebras, wildebeests, and antelope all stopped grazing and looked in the direction of the sound. They knew the meaning of that sound as well as the chicks did. Tails stiffened, ears perked up, and without hesitation hundreds of the ostriches’ neighbors turned to flee, disappearing in a cloud of dust.
In the commotion, the round bodies and long necks of the female ostriches seemed to float through the air, with only the tips of their toes touching the ground. Tiny puffs of dust exploded with each stride. Though flightless, they could flee as quickly as almost any bird.
After the dust settled, only the adult male and the chicks remained. The chicks lay hidden in the grass, but the male stood tall, his head held high. Suddenly he started running back and forth, calling out loudly. The noise drew the attention of the pack of jackals of whose presence he had warned everyone. The jackals stopped and stared at the lone ostrich. He turned to run, but the jackals would not follow him. They continued toward the tall grass where the young chicks lay hidden.
The male dropped to the ground dragging his wings in the dirt and appearing to flutter helplessly. This time the jackals could not resist his “crippled bird” act. They turned and trotted slowly toward him. The male continued to flop along the ground, beating his wings and stirring up the dust. The jackals’ trot quickened as they spread out to surround the “injured” ostrich.
As the jackals closed in, the male stood and began twirling around in circles like a ballerina. He looked confused, and the situation seemed hopeless for him. There were jackals all around him. Then, with a soft “beep,” he signaled for the chicks to run to their mothers. He had the jackals’ full attention and the chicks’ escape would be easy.
When the chicks were safe, he ran at the jackals—his long neck stretched out, mouth open, and hissing. Surprised by the sudden charge, the jackals did not know what to do. They hesitated for just a second, but in that brief instant it took only two long strides for the ostrich to break free of the ring of jackals and to reach full speed. He did not need to fight the pack of jackals when he could easily outrun them. His willingness to lay down his life and his ability to flee from danger had saved yet another generation of chicks.
From Character Sketches, Volume IV, pages 194–195
From the Pages of Scripture
The woman was going about her normal routine when two strangers came to her door. It was clear from their speech and clothing that they were foreigners, and she soon realized that they had come from the enemy army that had recently set up a huge encampment on the opposite side of the river.
They had come seeking information about her city and its defenses!
She had every reason to be loyal to her own city, and it would have been simple to report the spies to the authorities. However, she had heard amazing stories about the Israelites. These people worshipped the one true God, Who created Heaven and earth. Their God had performed remarkable miracles for His people. At one point, He had opened up a pathway of dry ground through a sea!
Reports were flying through the city about the way the former Egyptian slaves had recently conquered two of the strongest kings on the east side of the river. The city garrison was on the alert, knowing that they would likely be the next target of the invaders.
When soldiers showed up at her home, looking for the two intruders, she made her choice. She hid the men and sent the soldiers in another direction.
Then she brought the two men out of hiding and spoke to them: “All of the people in our city know how strong your God is, and we realize that He will give you the victory. I will help you, but I have a request. When you take the city, promise that you will spare my family and me.”
The men recognized that this woman had chosen to turn away from the ways of her wicked city to join herself to the people of the true God. So they agreed to guarantee her safety.
Her house was upon the city wall, with a window facing the outside. She fastened a red rope to the window so the spies could climb down the wall and escape. As they left, they told her: “Bind this rope in the window, and when we attack the city we will instruct the troops to spare everyone in the house with the red rope.”
A few days later, the armies of Israel were marching around the walls of Jericho. On the seventh day, they circled the city seven times. Then they shouted. The city walls collapsed, and the soldiers charged into the defenseless city. Only one portion of the wall remained standing—the section with a red rope hanging from a window.
The two spies hurried to the home with the rope and took the woman to a place of safety, along with her family.
Rahab began a new life that day. She escaped from the burning ruins of a wicked city and joined the nation of Israel. She left a life of idolatry and immorality to place herself under the Law of a holy God.
In the days ahead, she went through the process required to join God’s people and eventually married Salmon, a man from the tribe of Judah. She became an ancestor of King David and took her place in the lineage of Jesus, the promised Savior.
From Character Sketches, Volume IV, page 201, based on Joshua 2, 6 and Matthew 1
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The very nature and character of God is seen all throughout His created universe. Job remarked, “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee” (Job 12:7-8).
Each section of Character Sketches, Volume IV begins with a captivating “read-aloud” nature story that introduces the character quality being taught, including the one featured in this article. The printed volume continues with interesting facts on the featured animal’s characteristics and physical features. This is followed by a story from Scripture that illustrates the character quality, along with background information on the individual or situation in the story, which is then summed up in a “character sketch.” Generously illustrated with stunning lifelike watercolor and pencil drawings, the oversized book (9 1/2″ by 12 3/4″) is available to order and will be treasured and enjoyed for generations.
The Character Sketches series is designed to be a tool that fathers can use to teach their children basic concepts of Scripture that are illustrated in the world of nature. Among our best-loved publications, hundreds of thousands have enjoyed the gripping stories and beautiful illustrations that the volumes contain.