by Maurice Hamel
"He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yield only bad fruit" Isaiah 5:2
An example of the Bible's teaching concerning environmental stewardship is presented in Leviticus chapter 26. This is a description of a portion of the covenant between God and his people Israel. This covenant was a formal contract stating what was expected from each party. Consider it the lease for Israel to use the Promised Land. Although this passage is referring to the covenant God made with Israel, the basic principles of man's relationship to God and to the land still remain true today.
God does not only promise rewards for obedience, but also punishment is promised for disobedience. Speaking through Moses, God instructs the children of Israel concerning ways He would discipline and correct them to make them change their ways when they rebel against him.
"If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands ... I will remove savage beasts from the land ... and make you fruitful and increase your numbers ... But if you will not listen to me ... I will punish you for your sins ... Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crop ... If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction ... I will ... turn your cities into ruins ... [and] lay waste the land". (Lev. 26:3-34)
God warned these things would happen "Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity". (Deut. 28:47) The implication of this statement is that our opinion of what is best for the creation seems seriously flawed. We have sought the blessing from the land while being ungrateful in our affluence. We are now being disciplined for turning our hearts away from Him as we follow our evil desires. Still we continue to put our faith in other "gods," to deliver us from the physical trials He has allowed to oppress us. Instead of asking what God requires of us, today we have chosen to do battle against His corrections.
Our environmental problems have not happened because God was not paying attention. These things are part of God's plan. The Bible shows us that God used nature as a tool to rebuke Pharaoh, causing the waters of Egypt to smell and fish to die. Hail stripped every tree and locusts devoured what little was left. Later, in response to Israel's unfaithfulness, God sent the army of Assyria to carry the people away. Why would we doubt that God could still be using the acts of both nature and men today as a tool to rebuke our behavior?
What we are calling ecological deterioration can also be called God's progressive withholding of more and more of the provisions He gives to sustain us. God is not disciplining us in anger, rather He is like a parent training a child. "He will again delight in you and make you prosperous ... if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands". (Deut. 30:9-10) He has promised that when we have been humbled He will remember the covenant that He has made with us and heal our land. (2 Chron. 7:13-14)
© Maurice Hamel
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