Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creation Care

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Glimpses of Our God
Lesson 8: "Creation Care"
After announcing the first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15, God then tells Adam and Eve the punishment for their sin. As part of that punishment, He tells Adam "…Cursed is the ground because of you …" (Gen. 3:14). Note, the ground was cursed not because of anything it did, but because of what they did. The curse even affected other creatures, though only the serpent is singled out for special treatment.
Originally, God created the earth and air, water, sun, moon and stars to support the earth and the creatures He made to inhabit it. Beautiful as the earth must have been, God decided to do one more thing. "And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed" (Gen 2:8). It was to be a living house for Adam. Adam's job was to "keep" or preserve and protect that house.
God cursed the earth again because of mankind's sinfulness when He sent the flood. Afterwards, "… the Lord said to Himself, 'I will never again curse the ground on account of man … and I will never again destroy every living thing …'" (Gen. 8:21; 9:9-12). It is God's one-sided promise to mankind, the flora and the fauna. He doesn't ask them to promise anything in return. They simply receive the blessings. The rainbow is the sign of His covenant that the earth will never again be destroyed by a flood.
The book of Deuteronomy contains Moses' warnings. The inevitable consequence of refusing to listen to His voice and cherish His commandments is captivity and death. Yet Israel didn't listen. Ultimately, the state of Israel was worse than the pagans around her. To preserve her, God removed her freedom and she was sent into Babylonian captivity. Daniel includes himself in his corporate confession: "Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice; so the curse has been poured out on us …" (Dan. 9:11)
Even after the restoration of Jerusalem, Israel stubbornly refused to submit their hearts to the God Who had dealt patiently and lovingly with them for years. Their deliberate blindness was preparing Israel to miss the coming of the Messiah, and the message of Elijah, which is, "He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse" (Mal. 4:6).
So, if the earth and everything it supports are cursed, why should humans today protect and preserve something God will eventually destroy? Speaking of the curse Balaam attempted, Moses told Israel "… the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you" (Deut. 23:5). It was not because Israel merited this; it was because God loved them. How can God do this? Are His warnings meaningless, to be set aside because He loves us?
God cannot set aside His law, whether it be the law regarding mankind or nature. As always, the solution is found in the work of Christ. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us …" Unless Christ's act of redemption included all the curses pronounced because of sin, the earth will stay as it presently is, full of thorns and thistles, cursed. Peter tells us "the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire …" (2 Peter 3:7). He then discusses what kind of people we should be: "According to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless …" (2 Peter 13, 14).
Notice that he refers to a single promise, which is the coming of the Lord. "Thus it appears that the coming of the Lord has been the one grand event toward which everything has been tending ever since the fall. The 'promise of His coming' is the same as the promise of a new heavens and a new earth. This was the promise to the 'fathers'" (Ellet J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 34, 35; Glad Tidings ed.).
The message sent to our church during the late 1800s, including the 1888 General Conference Session, tells us that any life, human or otherwise, exists because of Christ's redemption at the cross. Our responsibility is to those for whom Christ died, and relieving suffering is part of that. When the earth is devastated by poor environmental practices, the result is human and animal misery. How can we expect people to hear the Gospel of Christ's cross when so much of the world population is challenged with the simple business of subsisting. To the extent it is within our power, are we entitled to deny any responsibility to "keep" the earth so that people are not so distracted with survival they cannot hear the Gospel? We are to relieve the suffering of those who are afflicted. We are to be good managers of the earth which God has entrusted to us. It is the pure truth of the gospel, however, which brings the ultimate "rest" from sin which human souls so desperately need.
The world believes in survival of the fittest so if an animal's habitat is destroyed, too bad for it. It is true that humans remain most important, but Christians must show the world a different standard. The example that Christ gave while on earth is useful. He consistently focused on bringing people to an understanding of the Gospel. He never became involved in human causes but He did live a simple life. In modern times we would say He left a very small "carbon footprint." His focus remained on the people He came to save and He went around relieving suffering. The fact that the earth will be destroyed and remade cannot be an excuse to increase suffering by careless practices.
Caring for God's creation includes everything from lobsters to rare plants and animals about to become extinct, the earth itself and yes, even people. All are part of God's creation that suffers under the curse of sin. We need to tell the world that because of the Cross, "there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it …" (Rev. 22:3).
--Arlene Hill
Note: Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible.
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to