Biblical Views on the Environment
The 12 patriarchs of Judaism and the 12 original apostles also known as the 24 elders seated around the throne of God agree that, “God should destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:18)
God created humanity in his own image. Male and female, He created them. (Genesis 1:27) God blessed them and they were instructed to fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28 KJV) It is most interesting that this dominion was given to God like beings before the fall. The footnote on the New Living Translation makes it clear “God exercises His authority with loving care.” Likewise, we must be careful and guided by love. Another thing which we must pay attention to is the King James originally came from the Latin and the Latin word in verse 28 KJV for subdue is “subducere” which means “to lead.” “We all pray that Christian leaders who have been given dominion over creation like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, be loving and protective leaders.” This may require that we hedge about or fence in selected environments and keep others wide open spaces. If you can’t hug a tree don’t go hugging me!
It interests me as a Christian leader that Jesus, when He was seen by Mary after being raised from the dead, was identified (some say mistakenly) as the gardener or the warden of the garden. The words subdue and dominion does not mean we are some big ogre with poison, a gun or a big ugly club. It means we conduct ourselves like God. The Apostle says in 1Corinthians 11:1, “Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” There are many ways we can be following God including “planting a garden.” It is correct to say that God the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent planted the first garden. In Genesis 2:8 we believe, as we are told that, “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” A word study on “eastward” reveals that it could mean either “in an open place” or “aforetime.” In my estimation he could have done both but let’s take a look at the garden.
The garden was what we in the United States would call a huge bio-diverse forest. Genesis 2:9 says, “Out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Perhaps this is why God says in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handywork.” The word “firmament” here means “expanse” so Psalms 19:1 would read, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse showeth His handywork.”
Like many third world nations, the Garden of Eden harbored not only breadfruit trees and coconut palms, avocados and oranges but also herbatous which were edible. In Genesis 1:29 God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food.” Some theologians believe that Eden might have been a few hundred miles in each direction. It would be necessary in order to have all the tree species on earth growing in this garden and humidity and altitude would be the provision necessary for such diversity. Dysfunctional people may say they love their dog or cat more than their mate. Some people think that trees and plants have no feelings but the scriptures agree with some scientists who say they do. Isaiah 55:12 says, “All the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 14:8 says, “Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee….”
King David discovered that God, who is Spirit, (“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24) has His mishkan which means dwelling place or living room in the old growth timber. Anyone who has slept in the Sequoias or the coast redwoods or even in a grove of aspens can imagine what this is like. The word mishkan come from “habitation” in Psalms 132:5 and means a residence. I often give the example of a doctor who travels all around the world immunizing hoards against deadly diseases, instructing other physicians, and building hospitals, but he still has a place where he hangs his hat, plays with his dog and has his son sit on his easy chair with him. So it is with God. He even had the Ark of the Covenant hidden with him in the honey trees or big hollow giants for a season, but let’s look at what our relationship is to the forest.
God gave the first man, Adam, his assignment: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) This is where the words Abad and Shamar come from in the original text. Abad is the original word for dress and means to work the garden, to serve it, to till it, to keep it where you want it, dress it, be security for it, to listen to it and learn all about it that you can, to be a husbandman to it, to protect, to bring to pass (certain results) and worshipper. You might say to be a scientific farmer, a nurseryman, a landscaper and an environmentalist! This worshipper is not my idea nor do we worship the garden but we come close by honoring and respecting it. The bible tells us not to worship the creation more than the Creator. Romans 1:25 says, “…and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” Notice that his verse does not say not to worship the creation; it says not to worship it more than the Creator. We always keep God as number one in our lives. Anything less would be ridiculous.
The word “keep” in Genesis 2:15 is “Shamar,” which means to hedge about or fence in. And these two definitions are also the meaning of the word Garden. When I worked in the nursery business, many people wanted to know how to keep the animals out of their garden. Hair didn’t work, soap didn’t work, all kinds of chemicals designed to keep pests out didn’t seem to work. I explained to many people that they needed to fence in their garden. Often they did not want to take my advice and as a result had their gardens eaten and not by other people. God fences us in and we are God’s garden also. “You are God’s husbandry…” The word husbandry means garden. You and I are God’s garden.
Shamar likewise means to guard and protect every species of plant and tree and we will find when we get to our conviction from the bible on animals we are also created to guard and protect them.
The word subdue comes from the Latin originally which is subducere which means to lead. The bible says that Christians are not supposed to lord over God’s heritage but be examples of the believers. A seed bed must be a safe and secure location, a stand of slippery elm, pinion pines or paw-paws, or walnuts need to know they are not being grown for a gun stock or a sawmill. If you think this is way out there, George Washington Carver spoke to plants and got his answers from them about what they could be used for. A book called, “The Man who Talks with the Flowers: The Intimate Life Story of Dr. George Washington Carver” by Glenn Clark is available at www.amazon.com As Christians until you’ve heard more from God’s word, Jesus Christ is the singular mediator between God and man. (1Timothy 2:5)
According to one great Christian leader we should be “bringing the earth into its full intention.” You will run into a definition that is commonly used in the Bible. One instance is Mark 16:15 where Jesus says, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” The word “creature” in this verse means “original formation” or “original intended being.” You will find it also used in some cases to refer to the creation. God’s original intention, says one spokesperson for the gospel, is God’s final decision.
Paul tells Timothy to, “Feed the flock of God (church members) which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (1Peter 5:2-3) Even the trees and the plants need to be treated with some respect. 1Corinthians 13:4a in the Jerusalem Bible says, “Love is always patient and kind.” And no living thing should be cut up for firewood. Trees that are twisted and gnarled and filled with cavities are not necessarily trees that should be cut because many of these provide nesting holes for many disappearing species.
Remember when Satan went after Job, he asked God in Job 3:23 in God’s Word Translation, “Why give light to those whose paths have been hidden, to those whom God has fenced in?” If any garden is unprotected it can suffer loss. Both seedling trees and baby Christians are vulnerable. I once asked a forest ranger how many of the seedlings a specific crew was planting would survive. He said between the gophers, and the elk, and the drought, not one. That was a lot of dollars to be spending for nothing! God wants to fence around or hedge about anything that is considered a seed bed or the beginning of viable and valuable life.
Do you see all the damage done to the forest and the garden of life? God wishes to see some restitution not mono-crops of soft Maple, Douglas Firs or Oil Palms. He is awaiting the restitution of all things. (Acts 3:21) The Jerusalem Bible says, “Then He (God) will send you the Christ He has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through His holy prophets.” The word restitution is actually “restoration.” The Amplified New Testament makes this correction to restoration as the Strong’s Concordance. Guess who gets to restore all the earth before Christ returns? If you said the sons of God you would be 100 percent correct! Besides defeating Satan in his quest to destroy the handiwork of God, the called out ones (the church) are to inherit the earth. Psalms 25:12-13 informs us of, “What man is he that fears the Lord? Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.” This is the real transfer of wealth. Psalms 37:11 spells it out, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” The Message Bible says, “Before you know it the wicked will have had it; you’ll stare at his once famous place and – nothing! Down-to-earth people will move in and take over, relishing a huge bonanza.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” It is not right to let Monsanto create Roundup resistant plants that spread their pollen, which are genetically modified, to cross-pollinate with non-hybrid species. This is destroying both our God created species and allowing farmers to have their property “stolen” by Monsanto. It is our God given responsibility just as it is our responsibility to rescue the perishing and to cry out for those that have no voice, to keep God’s garden free of hybridization and filled with bio-diversity.
One of my stories reveals that I offered certain bulbs of a specific plant to people who wished to buy my book, “What Shall Be.” I did not follow through with that because government agents are hunting down that plant to destroy it. Some people who enjoy a holistic, vegetarian diet love it both as a substantial food source and as a medicine. It is both delicious and can help many lives but whether the government says not to plant it or not “it is better to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) It is our duty under Abad and Shamar (Genesis 2:15) to keep the garden fruitful and multiplying. Fruitful means to be flourishing and I assume we all know what multiplying means.
We should not seek to grow anything where it dominates the landscape but a fair share of the earth is the right of every plant and not those who have spliced in genes which causes them to threaten all other species. Dorothy Frances Gurney wrote in a prior generation, “The Lord God planted a garden in the first bright days of the world, and he saw there an angel warden in a garment of light enfurled. The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the bird for mirth, one is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” Jeremiah 31:12b says, “And their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.”
Trees not only provide food and shelter but also they maintain the water table through their water shed creation. Theodore Roosevelt said, “A grove of giant redwoods or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great or beautiful cathedral.” The earth can only withstand a small portion of its forest to be removed without creating desertification.
At Church in the Green we believe that planting trees and plants is part of our responsibility in maintaining the habitat and diversity of the garden of God. In the days of Genesis no one could have imagined that the earth would be plundered of its pines and oaks and parched where cedar of Lebanon and olive trees grew. We can only say, “Who knew.” We have produced ten-foot walnut trees and eight-foot oaks in two years time. These will be set out to restore species just as Johnny Appleseed, also known as missionary, nurseryman and vegetarian John Chapman, spread his fruit across eastern America. One time Chapman camped out burning a hollow log to stay warm when he found a mama bear and cubs at one end of the log, he put out the fire and slept in the snow. He said, “God forbid that I should build a fire for my comfort that should be the means of destroying any of God’s creatures.”
It is not only unnecessary to cut trees to build a home because stones can be used and following these bible rules will result in a house that may last a thousand years or longer instead of being devoured after a hundred years by mycelium. Once upon a time it was possible for a squirrel to travel from the east coast to the Mississippi River without even getting its feet wet because of the great forest. Today a reckless squirrel could travel that span without ever being in one. Approximately one and one-half acres are lost every second in the rainforests. Temperate aren’t fairing much better because the trees that are left may not form seed bearing groves or harvestable timber. Bio-diversity and abundance are the keys. “Trees absorb carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. What could be more desirable? And they look good in the bargain. Stop chopping down the rain forests and plant more saplings and we’re on our way.” Isaac Asimov quoted in Time, December 19, 1988.
“Miracles from your hands might be but only God can make a tree.” From Minister David Prather. Welcome to The Church in the Green.