“’I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 3:11
Japan has an ongoing battle with crows who seem doggedly intent upon opening and spilling out the contents of trash bags across the country. As a result, local residents have taken up arms to thwart these annoying and unsanitary activities. Although this conflict continues to rage back and forth, it has reached a stalemate in many areas as various measures known as “karasu yo-ke” (カラス除・stop crows) have been implemented to frustrate the objectionable deeds of the crow population. Such innovative efforts typically involve placing bags of garbage securely under nets or in sturdy cages and in addition, limiting the hours when residents are allowed to put their trash out for pickup. But the crows, who are quite clever, continue to offer resistance and repeatedly find ways to circumvent such advanced tactics.
Crows are not the only unwelcome pests in Japan. A wide variety of repellents known as “yoke” have been developed to ward off the possible activities or presence of other unwanted creatures. Topping this list of offenders would probably be mosquitos, as evidenced by the vast array of products for sale that advertise themselves as “mushi yoke,” or insect repellents. Mice repellents (nezumi yoke), snake repellents (hebi yoke), deer repellents (shika yoke) and wild boar repellents (inoshishi yoke) are available in various forms promising positive results if properly applied.
We encountered our most interesting form of yoke while we were camping in a remote area of northern Japan. Our sleep was interrupted several times that particular night by a loud “BOOM!” that continued like clockwork every fifteen minutes. When we groggily talked to fellow campers the following morning about this strange occurrence, we were informed that the noise was a “kuma yoke,” or bear repellent, that was designed to scare intruding bears away. However, a more bizarre form of yoke is the strategic placement of clear water bottles in many people’s gardens that theoretically serve as neko yoke, or cat repellent. According to popular belief, sunlight reflecting off of these bottles will discourage cats from using the garden as their personal restroom facility. Whether this is truly an effective deterrent, or just an urban legend, is not clear, but the intended objective is obvious: to keep cats out.
Unwanted pests are certainly not a modern phenomenon, but clearly date back to ancient times as mankind struggles to tame and rule over the physical world that God entrusted to his care. (Genesis 2:15) Elements of that struggle were undoubtedly intensified following mankind’s initial fall into sin and the consequential curse upon the created world (Genesis 3:17-9; Romans 8:20-22) Some might even argue that mosquitos were part of the original curse, and if true, I would be tempted to include crows among the chief offenders in the aftermath of the Fall!
But other scriptural passages point to the absence of such destructive pests as evidence of God’s blessing upon a certain individual or people group. Just the opposite occurred when God utilized various pests (frogs, gnats, flies, locusts) among the infamous ten plagues to punish Egypt for its disobedience. In contrast to this, the prophet Malachi exhorted the Israelites to offer up their full obedience, and in return, God promised to bless them by thwarting the destructive activities of pests upon their crops (Malachi 3:11). While mankind strives to develop various forms of yoke to control unwanted creatures, none can compare with the power of God who provides the protection we really need. This is no urban legend.