The Need for Restoration (7)
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Romans 8.19-22
The bondage of corruption
The environmental movement, which has gained prominence over the past generation, should not be dismissed as merely a leftist, tree-hugging pining for a world without people. The impetus for caring for the creation comes from the image of God, written on the palimpsest of the human soul. It was there from day one of human existence (Gen. 2.15), and while it has been hijacked from its original divine purpose, yet the love of creation manifests itself, by the common grace of God, even in those who have no faith in Him.
Not all conservationists will acknowledge that, but this does not negate two facts: God loves the world He created, and Jesus has reconciled the world and all things in it to God. Further, God has given His people the ministry of reconciliation, and that restoring work includes the natural world around us.
Christians such as John Muir, Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Nate Simons, and others have played important roles in calling for the kind of attention and care the creation deserves. It falls within the mission purview of every believer to consider what he or she can do to relieve the world of the bondage of corruption that tends toward its defilement, defacement, and destruction, and to work to bring out the goodness of God in the flora, fauna, ecosystems, and topographies of the earth.
To some of us, this won’t seem like Kingdom work. But that’s only because our view of the Kingdom is too small. Christ is King over all the vast cosmos, and He commands the creatures of earth to praise and honor Him (Ps. 148). But creation groans under the weight of environmental abuse, human ignorance and indifference, and the Christian community’s too-small vision of the rule of King Jesus; and it labors, longing to give birth to greater bounties of life, beauty, and goodness. And it falls to believers to consider what we may do to help restore the fallen and failing creation for the honor and praise of God. Ours is the duty to liberate the manifold voices of creation from whatever gags sin has imposed on them, so that they might join us in praising and thanking the Lord for His abundant goodness.
The Law of God and creation
Awareness of the creation and the importance of treating it properly shows up even in the Law of God. Adam was given the responsibility of imposing order on the creation, by naming the animals and pruning the various fruit-bearing plants. This was a work of attention, thoughtfulness, and careful physical labor, so that the many gifts of creation could serve the purposes of God (Ps. 119.89-91).
An appreciation of the beauty of creation appears in the constructing of items used for the worship of God. Various of the liturgical furnishings included carvings of almond blossoms and flowers (Ex. 37.17-24). The garments of the priest enfolded gems and beautiful stones, symbolizing the way God looks at His people, and what His people should aspire to be (Ex. 39.8-21). Other priestly garments featured sewn images of pomegranates (Ex. 39.22-26). All this recalls the fact that God made beautiful trees and plants to adorn the garden which He pronounced “very good” in the beginning (Gen. 2.8, 9). God’s creation is beautiful, and it falls to His people to appreciate that beauty and to preserve and celebrate it in various ways.
The Law evidences a conservation mindset in two statutes. The first, Deuteronomy 22.6, 7, counsels us to be wise in harvesting eggs from a bird’s nest. We may take the eggs and young, but not the mother. That way we conserve the life-giving creature for having more offspring. Deuteronomy 20.19, 20 forbids cutting down the fruit trees of one’s enemy. They are there to provide food, and should not be plundered for merely practical purposes.
Other statutes in the Law of God counsel wise use of the land, so that fields are not exhausted, nor their fruit-bearing plants prematurely harvested. The practices of farmers in our day of rotating crops, spreading lime and manure, planting nitrogen-rich plants, and allowing fields to lie fallow for a season derive from an innate knowledge of the very sensible instructions in God’s Law concerning this aspect of His creation.
Creation is filled with beauty, rich with potential for supplying human needs, abounding in wisdom and wonder; yet it can be delicate when abused or misused. We don’t need to look very far to see the travailing and hear the groaning of the reconciled-but-not-yet-restored creation. Each of us must consider what we can do within our own spheres of influence.
Here is not the place to detail the many opportunities available to us to restore the reconciled world of creation so that the goodness of God can abound in the land of the living. But let me suggest some ways you can engage in this aspect of the work of restoration that can bring more beauty, delight, and order to your part of the creation.
First, make an inventory of the opportunities for creation-care available to you. What about your dwelling place? What could you plant or do to bring more beauty to your own patch of earth? How about in your neighborhood or community? Are there any local organizations devoted to creation-care that you might join, or in whose work you might participate?
Second, make an effort to learn the names of things – birds, bugs, trees and shrubs, clouds, stars, topographical features. All the things of creation have names, and the names teach us about them and their place in the created order. Try to learn something about one aspect of creation each month. Take pictures for a notebook or album. Read articles on the Internet. Write down your own observations, and what you think about as you ponder these creatures.
Finally, follow the example of Jesus, and talk with others about the lessons of creation for life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus often used aspects of the creation to enrich our understanding the Kingdom of God. Surely we can learn to do the same. By so doing, we cultivate respect and awareness of the creation, and we create opportunities for talking about the Creator, Who loves His world so much that He gave His only-begotten Son to redeem and reconcile it for His glory.
Our work of restoring the world includes the world of creation. If we all take a small part in that effort, we can make a big difference toward restoring the goodness of God to the land of the living.
1. What would you include in your creation inventory?
2. Why is using creation for beauty a way of pointing to the Lord?
3. What can you do to become more consistently involved in restoring the creation?
Next Steps – Preparation: Prepare your own creation inventory, and beginning praying for ways to work restoratively on each item.
T. M. Moore
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This is part 2 in the series, Restoring the Reconciled World. All installments in this series may be downloaded for further study by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- T.M. Moore
- June 8, 2020
The groaning creation is waiting.
The Need for Restoration (7)