We should understand that God cares for, cares about, has purpose for and created the Earth according to a willful act.
In Genesis, we have Moses giving the Hebrews an account of their history, their origins, but more importantly, their relationship with God. A daunting task for any writer, but with the inspiration of God, the creation account in Genesis does all these things and more. When we carefully examine the scripture’s account of creation, we find relevant information for farmers, ranchers, homesteaders or anyone living on the planet today.
I believe God willfully created the universe with intent and purpose, and that God cares about and cares for His creation. This has implications for those of us who are stewards of some portion of God’s creation.
First examine the context. Moses was helping to prepare Israel to enter the Promised Land that was designed for them by God. If Moses began that account at any point following creation – say, when Abram left Ur – any reasoning member of that society would ask the logical questions of what was before that. More specifically, a thinking Hebrew would ask where they came from, how they came into being and who is their Creator.
When examining just the first three verses of Genesis 1, we have a very rich text that informs every person who stewards a landscape of any size. It is not our intention to discuss the primary approaches to interpreting the creation account, but rather to highlight some learnings useful for farmers.
Moses uses the Hebrew word Elohiym as the name for God in this text. This makes perfect sense because it emphasizes preeminence and supremacy. This is in contrast to the belief system of the Egyptians from which they escaped and in contrast to the peoples then inhabiting the Promised Land.
A common interpretation of Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” is that it is a summary or topical statement and the following verses explain some of the details of God’s creation activity.
There are key things to take away when studying the creation account in Genesis that will give any land steward a foundation of understanding:
- Moses’ text clearly defines a distinction between the Devine and the creation; that God is the Creator above and apart from His creation.
- The Devine is not restrained nor bounded by His creation but in control of it. This is in opposition to other creation accounts of ancient far-, mid- or near-east people groups.
Now, let us see if we can determine God’s attitude toward creation. When we look at verse two, we have the description, “and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” The Hebrew word for “moving over” is rachaph, which is to brood as a mother eagle over the nest, just as it is used in Deuteronomy 32:11. This is a good sign of God’s special and concerned care over creation.
Yet, it is when the following verses are examined in depth we see God has intent. When looking deeper into verse three – “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light” – we start to gain more clues.
The verb amar (to say) used in these verses on the surface is simple, but be sure not to understand it in a metaphorical sense. As we examine the text in light of other passages, we learn that this was an actual verbal command.
So that we do not take the word “said” too lightly, examine other scriptures to help us understand. In Psalm 33:9 it is written, “For He spoke, and it was done: He commanded, and it stood fast.” The psalmist here is giving praise to God for His creation. Then in Hebrews 11:3 this is reinforced. “By Faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that was is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”
These passages point to the same interpretation of Genesis 1 that God spoke actual words. So the question one might ask is if God is spirit without personal physical form, how could He speak with no vocal chords, lungs, teeth, lips or tongue? The answer is found in John 1 and other key scriptures.
John 1:1-3 helps us see this is the incarnate Jesus Christ at creation giving the commands. The verses read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
What we see in the text is that there is no external force acting upon the Creator except His own will to initiate and care for creation (amar and rachaph). Do not read over that sentence too quickly. Think about it. The Creator had a will to create the universe. If the Creator had intention of His own volition to create the universe, it certainly begs the question of why.
The intention is so that God can demonstrate His character, in part, through a loving relationship with man. He set man on a world that was designed specifically to host humans in peace. This isn’t just some antediluvian utopia. Even post flood, God’s design of the Earth is such that it easily sustains human life.
The ramifications of this understanding are critical, but many farmers ignore them. Our response should be this: knowing that God intentionally designed the Earth and is passionate toward His creation, we then should steward the land in a way that is like a mother eagle over its brood (rachaph).
Continuing in the text we read the fact that God “saw” His creation was “good.” This is also insightful for us as humans. Elohiym could have created a place that was fraught with difficulty for survival of man. The Earth could be a place where human existence would be challenging. Instead, the goodness that God saw in His creation can, in part, be understood as favorable for human life in order for us to be completely focused on God.
The biblical model of stewardship is that we care for something as if we were the actual owner with full expectation that the owner will return and ask for an accounting of what we have done with the owner’s property. As farmers, ranchers, homesteaders, or keepers of house plants, how will we answer God’s inquiry to give an account of how we have managed His creation?
I suggest that we who call ourselves stewards of the land certainly cannot allow it to degenerate due to our practices. In fact, our practices should go beyond being just sustainable, but should actually give us a total return. However. yield is not the same as return. Return is the net of all our practices. Yes, we may yield 125 bushels of corn on an acre, but if we sterilize the soil, kill all the fungi, poison all the microbial life in the soil, we have a negative net from our farming practices … and I suggest we will be considered a poor steward as a result.]]>