This west-African nation was apparently one of the few remaining Edens left on the continent with regard to her wildlife. That is, until the poachers showed up in mass about 25 years ago. They would swoop down from the northern border and shoot all manner of wildlife for their meat, hides, horns, or tusks. Then, all too quickly, because Botswana borders Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all together at one particular point, the poachers would slip across the border into any one of the three nations for immunity.
When the last known Black Rhino in the nation was killed, only to have its horn hacked off and its carcass left to rot, the Botswanan government decided it had to act. Their precious wildlife was fast disappearing, and along with it, due to eco-tourism, a valuable resource for their economy. Thus, they trained and equipped hundreds of military personnel and sent them into the bush. A full scale wildlife war soon erupted.
At first, the poachers had the upper hand. They were obviously well experienced at what they were doing. It took a while for the soldiers to begin to make a dent. But soon, some 2000 metals snares had been reduced to less than 400. Several poachers were caught and jailed, putting them out of business. The animal populations finally began to stabilize. But one particular group in the north of the country seemed particularly hard to catch. They were especially stealthy.
After numerous tries, the authorities were finally able to surprise them at their makeshift camp by swooping in and landing suddenly from a helicopter. The poachers were hopelessly outgunned, and should have given up. Unfortunately, one of them fired at the soldiers, who then opened up with their own semi-automatic weapons in return. It was all over fairly quickly.
The good news is that the authorities were able to shut down this prolific gang of poachers. Horns, tusks, leopard and lion skins, game meat, and the like were all confiscated before they could be spirited away and sold on the black market. It was even discovered how the poachers were able to slip in and out undetected.
They had removed the soles of elephant’s feet and dried them, creating the equivalent of snowshoes which were then fitted over their own shoes. As a result, wherever the gang had been walking, it had always looked like elephant tracks instead.
The bad news is that the poachers had to die as a result. Of course, the soldiers had never intended to kill them, but had little choice once they themselves had been fired upon. It was soon discovered that, in the confusion of the fire fight, one particular poacher had been wounded and had managed to slip away.
The soldiers knew this because he had left not only his shoes but also a blood trail. They first processed the camp, including all the contraband, as well as the bodies. This took some time. Only then did they turn their attention to the poacher who had earlier gotten away.
Their apparent motive in this was that if he did manage to get away and slip back into a neighboring country, he would invariably serve as a major warning and probable deterrent to other poachers. If not, then they knew they could track him down easily enough. Being severely wounded, he stayed out of the brush and on trails, obviously in an attempt to move faster. Because of this, his footprints were quickly detected, overlain by his own blood trail. The soldiers had expected to find this all along.
What they had not necessarily expected to find was what else was on the trail overlaying both his footprints and his blood trail: huge lion prints! As the National Geographic narrator so aptly put it, the hunter had now become the hunted!
And now, for my point… Whenever we do wrong, there will always be a price to pay! The poachers knew all along that they were doing wrong. They knew they were in violation of the law, and that when one willfully violates the law, there will be consequences. It works the same way with God. He tells us in His word (Galatians 6:7-8): “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Whenever we commit sin, we can expect to pay the price for it. God warns all of us in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. Ever since Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve first sinned against a Holy and Righteous God, we have all lived under the curse of sin. We have all been condemned to spiritual death.
But praise God, there is more to the story. The second half of Romans 6:23 is just as important as the first half, for the whole verse says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 2 Corinthians tells us that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…”
And because of this, Romans 10:13 says that, anyone “who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Specifically, this means that (Romans 10:9-10): “If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
God is merciful. The gift of His beloved Son proves this. As John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Hence, John also declares (I John 5:12): “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” But John chapter three also states (v.36): “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them.”
God’s offer of grace has been extended. Those who accept it will be pardoned. But those who reject it will most certainly pay a heavy price. It strikes me that if those poachers had simply raised their hands in surrender to human authority, they would still be alive today. They would most certainly have been punished, but not slain.
By resisting, however, they paid a terrible price. Likewise, anyone who surrenders to the authority of Almighty God and the gracious mercy made possible by the sacrificial death of His Son will be given life. But those who do not, who instead raise a fist of defiance to Almighty God and His authority, will pay a terrible price for all eternity.