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Monday, January 19, 2009

To Tend and Keep

Reading: Genesis 2

Genesis 2:15
Many would say that Genesis 1:28 should not be read without also consulting Genesis 2:15 "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." I tend to agree. There can be no clearer statement of what God meant by "rule" or "have dominion over" than Genesis 2:15.

I believe that as God's servants and children we should be ashamed of what we have done to the earth. The only parts of creation we tend and keep are those that have some value to us. It makes me think of Matthew 24:45-51 'The Faithful Sevant and the Evil servant'.

45 "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.
48But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'
49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,
50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Just a quick note- notice the use of the word 'ruler' in verse 47. This clearly does not mean that the servant owns his master's goods or that he can neglect them, simply that he is made steward over them.

Also, do you think it is plausible to include animals among the 'fellow servants' in verse 49? And to equate eating and drinking with the drunkards with the waste of resources and gluttony embodied in modern consumerism?

It is significant to note how early in the piece we were given this responsibility to care for 'Eden' by God. It was not until much much later that we were given the 10 Commandments, let alone the Great Commission. Why is it then, that Christians see the Great Commission as so much more important than creation care? I'm not saying evangelism is not important, but could it perhaps be a case of "These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23)?

Genesis 2:4-6
I just wanted to quickly point out this verse because it intrigues me. I know I said I would not get into the evolution debate but note here it says that:

"This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground." (emphasis mine).

Note that the plants have already been created in chapter 1 verse 11, yet here is says that after creation there had not been any plants of the fields grown.

Genesis 2:18-20

"'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him. Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name."

Two things to note:
1. God says Adam should not be alone, so he creates the animals.
2. Adam is given the privilege of naming each creature.

The first note points clearly to the fact that the Lord does not want us to wipe out every other species on earth so that we will be alone again. It is good for us to have other species present. Perhaps an illustration of this is the fact that studies have shown people who own pets live longer than those who don't.

The second note is interesting. If you give a child a toy, when does it become really special to them? Usually when they name it. If it is just 'that toy' the child will have little ownership or care for the item; but once it becomes 'teddy' or 'blankie' it suddenly becomes important and the child wants to look after it (as well as they can) and play with it.

Redeeming Creation, one of my favourite Eco-Theology books says of Genesis 1:28 and 2:15 says, "In this context, the term subdue is apparently God's instruction to Adam to continue to bring what God has created into conformity with his ways and purposes... Certainly, Adam's first act of subduing (and perhaps, tragically, his last) was to name the animals. Here we see Adam cooperating with God in continuing to order what God had made. It was God who brought order out of chaos. But now, not out of need but out of love, he involves a human being in the continuing work of the ordering of creation. In the mind of God, this was what it meant to subdue" (page 91)*

This blog post is interesting if anyone would like to look at this further:

Last note: Redeeming Creation also points out that as Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed they did not need to wear furs or skins.

Tomorrow: Genesis 3 and the Fall of Man

* Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship by Fred Van Dyke, Davic C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon and Raymond H. Brand, published by InterVarsity Press in Downers Grove Illinois 1996

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Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+