by Maurice Hamel
"Cursed is the ground because of you" - Gen. 3:17
The next time you have a chance to get out and appreciate the beauty of God's "good" creation, take a few minutes to remind yourself how easy it is for people to get confused about what God is like when looking at nature.
People tend to think of this world as a nurturing place which has brought us into being. We hear so much about living in harmony with the land and the earth being our mother. Our world is a place of beauty, fruitful harvests and great multitudes of creatures, but this is beauty in the midst of vast areas of barren rock, desert sand and perpetual ice. Nature, as we know it, is bountiful, but it sustains itself at great cost to its members. To a spectator the food chain is a self-sustaining balance. To a participant the food chain is cause for continual anxiety about their own safety. Much of the wondrous abundance of creatures spend each day in a life and death struggle fleeing from one another, while trying to get enough food to survive.
We live in a fallen world. Each person and animal will one day physically perish. Even though this is the way the world is today, we need not assume that this was the way that it was meant to be. Yet, when someone dies of old age we say they "died of natural causes". The Bible does not teach that death was present as a part of the "good" creation in Eden. Nature has been drastically changed. An accurate view of nature, as it existed prior to the Fall and its curse, would not require us to think that way.
On a recent nature program on PBS, it was stated: "The hawk is not cruel. It is simply getting nourishment the only way that nature has provided for it." This claim ignores the fact that Genesis 1:30 tells us in the beginning God gave the beasts of the earth every green plant as their food. Before believing this modern view point, consider that Romans 6 tells us that Jesus came to conquer sin and death. If these things had been part of the original good creation, he would not have needed to conquer them. The presence of predators in the land is a manifestation of the fallen world. It is not the hawk that is cruel, it is Satan. The deformed and defaced creation, what we call "nature," provides a distorted picture of what "good" is. It casts a shadow upon the image of God in creation, so that we see his character less clearly. The creation, as God's handiwork, is one of his expressions of himself to us. The curse's distortions to the creation have wrongly implied that the blame for suffering should actually rest upon God.
If the good creation, which God made and placed in Eden, caused him to be praised, then the destruction of these things have the potential to prevent him from being praised. This would appear to have been one of Satan's motives in defacing the creation. When man yielded to temptation in Eden, one result of his Fall was the curse upon the creation. In this way, Satan defaced the good creation with thorns, decay and deterioration as well as sickness, suffering and death.
An example of Satan's motives might be found in a friend's story of buying a house. They purchased a house in a foreclosure auction, but at the time of the closing the former owner had not yet left. The former owner was enraged at having his dream house taken away from him, so he did what harm he "legally" could before being forced to leave. He kept the new owners out as long as he could before the authorities would have removed him. In that period he stole fixtures, hauled away an outbuilding and left a multitude of filth behind. If he had been able to get away with it, he probably would have leveled the house and contaminated the property. Why? Because he felt he had been wronged by the system and was venting his anger.
Can you see Satan in this image? Satan questioned whether God was in fact greater than he was, presuming to be an equal. His boast was, "I will make myself like the Most High." (Isaiah 14:14) His punishment for this rebellion appears to be occurring in stages. Satan, like the evicted homeowner, had the opportunity to express his anger at the system's "unfairness" from his point of view. Since that time, he has been doing as much damage as he could.
By causing the creation to become deformed in the Fall, Satan has impaired the creation's capacity to display God's character. Remember that Jesus warned that Satan was a liar, a deceiver. Because of this we need to be reminded that our understanding of God's character must be based on what He has told us in the Bible, not just what we see in nature.
© Maurice Hamel
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