by Maurice Hamel
"the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." Psalm 33:11
We live in a day when people are concerned about how we are failing to conserve our natural resources. They look to technology to find ways to lessen our impact on nature and help "save the planet." People are scared by what they read and see concerning the condition of the world. There is a hole in the ozone layer. Global warming may melt the ice caps and flood our cities. Species are disappearing as forests shrink and deserts expand. Pollution is spreading to all points on the globe through the seas and the air. Even polar bears and penguins have man-made pesticides in their bodies. There is no place that is not being impacted.
People fear that the "balance" of nature is gone. As judged from their view of reality, they are right to be afraid. They see the birth pains that Jesus spoke about; the wars, earthquakes and famines (Mark 13:7-8); and they worry that the world's health is failing. But is there any reason to be worried?
Most people assume what they can see and touch is all that exists. From the viewpoint of the Israelites being pursued in the desert by Pharaoh, there was no hope when they reached the Red Sea. The strongest army in the world was approaching and they had no means of escape. Their choices appeared to be either stand and be slaughtered by the chariots or swim and drown in the sea. Neither option offered a chance of survival and so they despaired. These things were occurring in order to teach this newly formed nation that they were in God's care. God was not limited to the choices that they could imagine. As the Bible records, the Red Sea then parted to let the Israelites through as though it were dry land. (Exodus 14)
Today, the testing of our faith occurs in more mundane ways, but still it has the ability to stretch us beyond our own limits to come up with solutions on our own. It is at such times that we turn to the one who we have heard has delivered others in the past.
God takes pride in showing himself powerful. Lazarus was raised from the dead, rather than being healed of his illness before it turned fatal. (John 11:1-11 & 32-44) The loaves and fish were multiplied (Mat. 14:15-19), rather than someone having more conventionally come to the rescue with a net filled to over-flowing with fish (John 21:1-6). These are not isolated examples of God intervening to bring healing or deliverance. The Bible documents similar things which were done for Gideon, Elijah, David, Daniel, Peter and Paul, to name just a few. When human understanding or ability is inadequate, God shows that He is in control. His ways are not our ways.
Over and over in the Bible, as Israel grew comfortable in their prosperity, they became less aware of God's direct involvement in their affairs. Like all of us, they had the tendency to make decisions based on their own experiences. While this may have seemed right in their eyes, it was in fact rebelling against the clear instruction that God had given them. God had promised that when Israel remained loyal He would be their protector and provider. But when they sought other religious experiences, or tried to find their own way of doing things, God would allow them to wander from out from under his protection and live with the consequences of their choices. As the suffering of the people increased, they would eventually cry out to the Lord for deliverance. He then responded to their pleas and provided relief from their oppression, as they repented of their behavior.
Man's track record has already shown that our own brain-power will not deliver us out of our difficulties, but each generation has had to learn this for themselves. In Psalm 33, King David reminds us:
"No king is saved by the size of his army ... a horse is vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save." (Ps. 33:16-17)
The Bible tells us that in spite of all our knowledge and strength, this "horse" that we are depending on is not sufficient to rescue us. All our science, technology and economic strength will not rescue God's creation from the curse. At best we can reduce our contribution to its decay. We do not have the ability to unilaterally undo the effects of the Fall. But still we try to find solutions to the environmental problems of the world on our own, with no consensus on a path to take.
We need to remember that God's pronouncements of our weakness is not without a reassuring promise:
"the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine." (Ps. 33:18-19)
We are trying to solve the environmental crisis through our own efforts, while we leave God to deal with the more "spiritual" things. We claim to have faith in God, but we place only our future hope in him. We hesitate to put our present circumstances in his hands. We doubt that God could be of any help with these types of problems.
Instead we look to technology to solve our problems and for nature to maintain some sort of self-correcting balance. We have no reason to be confident man or nature will rescue us, but every reason to be confident that God is able to. This is a key point in the incarnation of Jesus, the Son of God who lived for a time among us. He became like us to be tangible and not just a nebulous patron like our image of Mother Nature. Our benefactor took that extra step.
Immediately there will be some who will point out all the reasons they feel that the God of the Bible could not possibly exist. They see the pain and suffering in the world and cannot accept there is a "good" God who has any power. Therefore many find a kindly, but somewhat powerless, Mother Nature with a well-intentioned course for evolution to be a more acceptable perspective. But that leaves us with little hope as we worry about how we will protect our elderly mother.
Just as He has proven so many times in the past, God is our hope. If you want to gain the knowledge necessary to help the environment, it is not going to be found in biology, chemistry or climatology, unless you first set out to have a knowledge of God. In order to begin to gain wisdom, you first need to understand what it means to have your hope in his "unfailing love".
According to the Bible we have been asking all the wrong questions. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the solutions that we are trying are only increasing our sense of futility. The first step in recognizing our predicament is to admit that we are part of the problem. We are in rebellion against God and unable to fully comprehend the impact of our behavior. Through our rebellion, the land has been cursed. We have chosen to follow our own ideas of what is the best thing to do or the right thing to do.
The curse on the creation and the failure of our best efforts have a definite purpose. After Paul had struggled with his own powerlessness to overcome his destructive habits, he cried out, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:24) This is exactly why the land is cursed and our efforts to repair it are failing. God desires for us to be dependent upon him, not on our own ability.
God has not lost his control of the creation. He is not in heaven distraught over the fact that species are becoming extinct, there is a hole in the ozone layer and the land is being polluted by chemical and radioactive wastes. The Lord's plans from before the creation of the world are still in place. Though these things may not be pleasant to him, none of this surprises him. He has not been caught off guard by our present condition. What we grow anxious about as ecological degradation beyond our control is not beyond his control.
God has not hidden his purposes from us. Jesus said, "a servant does not know his master's business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15) The Bible is the information about our Father's business which he has provided and preserved for us.
"the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." (Psalm 33:11)
© Maurice Hamel
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