April 6, 2021
Genesis 1:20-2:4 (NIV)
Laity, Burks UMC
Scenic South District
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
Oh my goodness, what a loaded section of Scripture! This passage contains so many important concepts to unpack. Shall I focus this devotion on God declaring His creation good? What about verse 27 where He created both female and male in His image? Be fruitful and multiply might be a fruitful topic. The institution of the Sabbath is also deeply meaningful; practicing it should be a prominent part of our week. Each of these (and more) are worthy of our devotion time.
Yet I will focus on verses 28-30, “ruling” the earth. I have a friend who sincerely believes that “subdue the earth” means that people have permission to do with the earth and its resources whatever we want. In my friend’s view, God put it all there solely to benefit us. I guess if one only looks at the dictionary’s primary definition for “subdue” (to conquer and bring into subjection), one might conclude that. However, I and others don’t share that understanding.
Logic tells me that if the Lord declared what He made on each day of creation “good,” it is not likely God would permit those He made later to use the earlier creations selfishly or haphazardly. Rather, we humans are being offered the opportunity to be stewards, loving caretakers, of that which we are given. By caring for the earth properly, we enable it to be fruitful as God directs.
Just a few verses after the above passage, we are already given another clue: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). He’s given us work to do.
Psalm 24 extols: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). We teach our children to sing “This is My Father’s World.” If we believe that the earth is the Lord’s, then we must be diligent in caring for it. When using nature for human benefit, we would do well to remember that all of creation ultimately belongs to God and is valuable to God, separate from our human use.
And for those of us who respond better to the stick than the carrot, Revelation 11:18 points out:
“The nations raged, but your wrath has come,
and the time for judging the dead,
for rewarding your servants, the prophets
and saints and all who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
Lord, You have declared that all of your creation is good. Help me to treat it with thoughtful respect and to tend it with care and love. Amen