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September 15th, 2008 at 5:40 pm

All Creatures of Our God and King

Today I am going to begin to go into more detail regarding  the The Christian and the Environment – Top Ten Reasons Evangelical Christians Should Care About the Earth, and All Things In It. I was looking at some pictures of an amazing local photographer who posts her photo’s on Flickr under the name “ucumari.” She is a volunteer at the NC Zoo and takes amazing pictures of our animal friends there (and at other zoos). I encourage you to check out her work.

Oh, and I make no assumptions as to she would agree with anything I write henceforth. But that’s part of the point. As human beings we seem to have a natural and collective love for and curiosity about our fellow creatures. That is an interesting fact unto itself.

So with animals on my mind  I thought I’d focus more time today on the sixth of the “Top Ten Reasons Evangelical Christians Should Care About the Earth, and All Things In It.”

In the sixth reason I spoke of God’s own love for all creation points. God lovingly cares for all of His wonderful creatures – and since He does we should too. Jesus said that “not a sparrow falls” without His Father’s knowledge. Can we even start to get our minds around that, how God keeps track of all the comings and goings not just of human beings, but all of His creatures.

I’m thinking here specifically of God’s love and care for our fellow living animal creatures, from greatest to the least. You know, we often think of “the environment” as something other than us. The very word “environment” lends itself to this perspective in that it suggests that which is outside of us, apart from us, something into which we are placed.

However, when we think of “creation” we find that we are on the same side of the great divide as all the other creatures. We all have been created by the same God. Yes, human beings uniquely are created in God’s image, and have a role to play as his representatives (# 3) and image bearers, but that does not change the fact that we are just one part of God’s creation – along with all the other creatures God has made. We stand with the ants and birds and bears and trees on this side of the Creator/Creation divide.

I am not going to undertake an exhaustive study here. I simply want to show from a few biblical passages why I believe that God cares for His creatures, and why, if He cares, we should too.

Genesis One comes to mind immediately. It is hard to read the account of the days of creation without getting a sense of God’s profound delight in His own handiwork. Looking out upon His work he proclaimed it to be good – “And God saw that it was good.” That means that He Himself was pleased, was happy with it, and found joy in it. It means that things were as they should be. It behooves us to remember that He said this about his creation even before human beings came on the scene. The creation, minus us, was declared to be good. The creation, minus us, brought joy to God’s heart.

It is also worth noting that God blessed His creation before mankind appeared with almost similar words as he blessed mankind. Of the sea creatures and birds, as well as the It says of the much of the same language is used to describe non human creation as human creation.  “And God blessed them.” “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

So we are struck at the Creator’s delight in all of his creatures, in their diversity, their noises, their colors, their ways of moving around, their reproduction, their beauty. He looked out over his handiwork and declared with joy, “It is good.”

Genesis Two (don’t worry, we’re not going to cover every chapter in the Bible!) also gives us a sweet picture of God’s care for his creatures. Adam was alone. He needed a suitable opposite. So God made many and various creatures from the ground (as he had made Adam) and presented them to Adam. Though none of them would be Adam’s suitable opposite (Adam needed Eve), one senses both in God’s presentation of the animals to Adam, and in Adam’s naming of them, a tender love and care for these animals.

Genesis Nine gives us a special glimpse into God’s care as well. Not only did God have Noah build an ark so that the many animal species would continue on after the flood (why bother if He cared little for them – it would have been a lot easier to build a smaller ark), but after the flood God made a covenant with every living creature that He would not again destroy the earth. Yes, God made a promise to all the animals that he would never again flood the earth. Wow!

I skip to the book of Job. When it comes time for God to shut Job up, he does so in most unusual fashion. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” And he goes in the next three chapters to describe the majesty and beauty and glory of the great creatures of the sea and land! Look for yourself in Job chapters 39-41. There is only one word to describe God sentiments towards the creatures He has made – and that word is love!

Off to the Psalms. The Psalms are rich in speaking about the animals of the earth. I love the hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King.” It is a rough paraphrase of Psalm 150 where every creature that has breath upon the earth is called upon to praise and give glory to God. The birds in their chirping and cows in their mooing are not JUST making animal noises – they are praising God – they are giving Him glory. And God gives them glory back. Read Psalm 104, an extended peon of praise of God the creator and sustainer of the universe. See the affection, the love, the admiration that the Psalmist has for God’s creation, and see how God cares in such detail for the animals of the earth, providing for their needs, giving life, and taking away life when it’s time. And all this concludes with “O Lord, how manifold are your works, in wisdom you have made them all, the earth is full of your creatures!”

I love the way it is put in Psalm 50:10-11: “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hill, and all that moves in the field is mine.” He not only made them and cares for them, He knows them!

Now to Isaiah. One of the sins against which the prophets spoke was abuse of the land, land that had been over worked, land that had not bene given its own sabbath rest, not allowed to lay fallow as required in the law. But the passage I draw attention to is Isaiah’s great prophecy of the New Heaven and New Earth. Not only will this New earth and Heaven bring peace to mankind, and remove the curse that has afflicted mankind so, it will bring peace to the world of animals, where, it is said, “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” Though we tend to idolize nature “red in tooth and claw,” this present period of time where animals devour one another without mercy does not seem to fit God’s intended will for them. It is not just human beings who will know the peace of the final kingdom, but the beasts as well. I mean, why even mention them if their fate is not significant?

And then there is Jesus. At first glance Jesus didn’t seem to speak all that much about the creatures of the earth. But looking closer he did say some important things. Of course he was a keen observer of creation. He loved to use animals in his illustrations. But perhaps most significantly, in a passage designed to show God’s care for His human children, Jesus also reveals the Father’s heart toward the least of the animals. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny. But not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Here we see that the Father’s care for even this lowliest of birds. He is aware when even one of them falls to the ground. The passage suggests that in so noticing God seems to care. It is not mere omniscience at work, but loving providence that is being referenced here. God’s care extends to the life and death of even the lowly sparrow.

Well, after a short visit to Revelation I’ll stop. But make note of this: when the 24 elders and the mighty creatures of heaven stand before the great throne of God, and give him glory, what do they say: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory, honor, and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created.” By the Father’s express will all things, including the wonderful and varied birds of the air and fishes of the sea and creatures of the earth, were created. Each has a special place in God’s purpose. Each brings glory to God. And God is praised for his great wisdom in creating all things.

Even inanimate earth has significance as being created by God. But how much more even those creatures animated by the spirit of life (Psalm 104:30). Animals have a rightful glory and sanctity by virtue of the One who made them. No, they are not made “in His image.” But they do bring him glory and joy. When a lonely lost animal wanders out onto a road and is killed by a car, and is then run over time and time again, it reflects a callous disregard for that which God holds valuable. When species in which God obviously takes delight disappear due to our greed and carelessness and brutality, do we think that that makes God happy? Do we imagine that He is neutral on the subject? I don’t think so.

One day all creation will be both more wild and more tame at the same time. It will be more wild in that the curse will have lifted, peace will reign, and every creature will naturally be what it is most meant to be. They, the beasts, will live freely and without fear. But, the interaction of all creatures will be different. There will be no war between beasts, or between man and the beasts. There will be peace. All creation will have its rightful place in the abundance of life that gives glory to God the creator.

All life created by God is worthy of a certain reverence. Even if we are allowed to eat of the meat of other creatures, it should not be done callously, and the beasts should not be treated contrary to their nature and good  as if their only purpose is to bring us marbled meat to grill on a fire. How we treat our fellow creatures matters.

I have known few people mean to animals who were not also mean to people.

It does not lessen us to look more highly upon our fellow creatures. They are smarter, more sensitive, and more amazing than we have yet to realize. One day we will feel great sorrow over how we have desecrated and disrespected these wonderful fellow creatures. We can start changing attitudes now. I hope that we do.

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3
  • T. J.
    11:06 pm on September 15th, 2008 1

    So how would…say, hunting/fishing fit into this equation. Are these things helpful? What about doing these simply for sport, like catching a fish or shooting a deer only to be on display?

  • joel
    4:37 pm on September 16th, 2008 2

    T. J.

    I will answer that question in a separate post – probably Wednesday.

    Joel

  • Edwin Sineath
    7:24 am on June 16th, 2009 3

    Joel,

    I agree with everything you say. But an environmentalist (or algore-ophile), if he were to be intellectually hones, would disagree with everything you say. He would disown your conclusions, even though he probably would agree with them, because of the arguments you used to reach them. IMHO, the essence of the Sierra Club type of environmentalism is hatred of God.

 

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