God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.” This scripture for the First Sunday of Lent jumped off the page and into my heart when I read it. I knew God fashioned a new rainbow covenant with Noah; I never grasped the fact that God established a covenant with every living creature.
Rising oil prices impact our bloated-do-what-we-want-when-we-want life styles. Care for the environment is a major political sticking point epitomized by the battle cry, “Drill, baby, drill.” Drill now. Drill everywhere. What lies hidden beneath the earth is ours and we have a right to get it whatever the peril to the planet and to every living creature. If wolves have to be killed and if natural gas and water have to be deleted to get at the Tar Sands dirty oil, so be it. If we want more red-meat beef which is not really that good for us, we can clear cut rain forests and create more pastures for grazing. The litany could go on.
The Bible itself says that God gave humans dominion over the earth and all creatures. Patriarchal Society misunderstood this granting of dominion as the right to dominate and exploit. And we have done a good job of destroying our nest in rain forests, and seas, and wildlife. Fortunately, dominion does not mean domination. The New Living Translation, Life Application Study Bible, has this annotation for Genesis 1:28, “Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all animals that scurry along the ground:”
To “reign over” something is to have absolute authority and control over it. God has the ultimate rule over the earth, and he exercises his authority with loving care. When God delegated some of his authority to the human race, he expected us to take responsibility for the environment and the other creatures that share our planet. We must not be careless and wasteful as we fulfill this charge. God was careful how he made the earth. We must not be careless about how we take care of it.”
Commenting on Genesis 2:15, Richard Rittenbaugh says:
Certainly, God did not give man the authority to degrade and destroy His earth. Environmentalists are correct in saying that mankind should consider and address environmental concerns. They are quite wrong, however, to blame God for the earth’s ecological problems; He is not responsible for man’s destruction of the natural world.
To think that God gave man carte blanche to plunder and destroy the earth is simply ludicrous. He is its Creator! Why would He immediately command Adam to ruin it? Would any woodworker, upon just finishing a beautifully stained piece of furniture, tell his son to break it up for firewood? No! Just as God desires for His creation, the woodworker would put his handiwork to use and also care for it by keeping it waxed and dusted to prolong its life.
This is exactly what God told Adam. Genesis 2 contains a parallel account of creation, adding detail to certain parts of the narrative of the first chapter. Notice God’s expanded instruction: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it” (verse 15). This greatly modifies the force of “have dominion” and “subdue it” from Genesis 1:26, 28!
Tend (Hebrew ‘abad) means “to work or serve,” and thus referring to the ground or a garden, it can be defined as “to till or cultivate.” It possesses the nuance seen in the KJV’s choice in its translation: “dress,” implying adornment, embellishment, and improvement.
Keep (Hebrew shamar) means “to exercise great care over.” In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God’s wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, “take care of,” “guard,” or “watch over” the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it. (http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/2164/Subdue-Earth.htm)
The covenant with Noah should make us realize that we are one with all flesh and, indeed, with all of creation. Creation as it unfolds is gift—gift from the Creator who continues to flare forth. Noah’s covenant requires that we repent and turn things around. Our planet and its creatures and ecosystems are fragile. We are called to care for creation, not to dominate and destroy.
GreenFaith is an organization committed to “inspiring, educating and mobilizing people of diverse religious backgrounds for environmental leadership.”
Green Faith believes that:
- religious communities are called to protect the web of creation.
- all people deserve a healthy environment, regardless of their race or income.
- the world’s great religions see the sacred in nature and teach respect for the earth.
- our Souls are Strengthened in Relationship with Creation, and
- Religious Communities Must Work to Protect the Web of Creation.
For a detailed description of these core beliefs, see http://greenfaith.org/site-help/greenfaith-believes.
Lent is a time to repent, turn our lifestyles around and believe the good news about the gift of creation.