In an age when people are being taught to be subservient to nature, when many ecologists warn us of the dire consequences of climate change, of the necessity of reducing our carbon footprint, and of our obligation to conserve natural resources, believers would do well to consider the sixteenth verse of Psalm 115: “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.” Take a moment to reflect on several truths suggested by the second clause in our text.
1. God is bountifully generous. What a gift to give to men. There’s not much left in terms of natural things that God has withheld from man. Clearly, the heavens belong exclusively to God, but for all intents and purposes, they lie beyond mankind’s grasp. But all that man might practically utilize and otherwise enjoy has been given to him. Unlike the Garden of Eden, there is no longer even one tree that is forbidden his use. All the rich resources of this globe have been put at man’s disposal, freely given for him to use and to enjoy. Nothing has been put tantalizingly in sight but beyond his grasp. His use of all is limited only by his imagination so that the wonders he has discovered have made life wonderfully comfortable and pleasant. This gift should be a constant reminder of the goodness of God.
2. Man is responsible to the Maker and Giver of the gift for how he uses it. That the Giver of this gift is God, “Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 15b), should elicit from the recipients of the gift a keen sense of responsibility regarding how the earth is used and enjoyed. No sensitive person abuses a gift he receives—even if he doesn’t care for the gift—out of respect for the person who gave it to him. And he is particularly careful when he is under the eye of that person. So it should be especially with a believer. Wanton killing of animals engendered by bloodlust or the senseless squandering of food and other natural resources should have no place in the life of a believer. Though given for us to use, the earth and its resources have been given in trust to man; he should recognize the sacredness of that stewardship.
3. Man is not subservient to nature. Yet we must assert that man was not given to the earth to be in subjection to it, but the earth was given to man. It is both his privilege and duty to control it for his blessed use. God’s words to Adam and Eve, both blessing and command, were that they should “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28b). He continued: “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (v. 29b). Subdue the earth; rule over the animals. The dominion mandate is clear and unequivocal. Man need not apologize for taking full advantage of the resources God has provided. And doing so in a responsible manner will not exhaust them. God not only knows how to provide for man, He is not only capable of doing so, He actually has done so. So we should not abuse creation but use it freely and fully.
4. The Millennial Kingdom will experience the full realization of this truth. Of course, the full vesting of this gift will not occur until Christ returns to set up the Millennial Kingdom, at which time “the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isa. 35:1b, KJV), meaning that the entire earth will be arable and richly fecund. And so thorough will be the subduing of the earth that “the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them” (Isa. 11:6). Predator and prey will cease to exist. So thoroughly will nature be subdued that a little child will be able to lead “wild” former carnivores and “play by the hole of the cobra” (v. 8a).
True ecology involves a recognition that man has been given a stewardship from God to control and also to benefit from the wise use of the resources God created for man’s blessing.
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