Kingdom Presence: Old Testament (2)
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. Psalm 45.6 (my translation)
Truly, this only I have found:
That God made man upright,
But they have sought out many schemes. Ecclesiastes 7.29
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1.28
From the beginning
In creating the cosmos—the earth and everything in it, the angels, and all the heavenly bodies that populate the vast domain of space—God’s purpose was to extend His self-rule into a material realm, so that the righteousness, peace, and joy He knew eternally might be extended to a world of creatures, overseen, cared for, and developed by human beings made in God’s own image.
God did not need creation. He does not need people. Rather, the nature of His eternal self-rule—His eternal Kingdom—is to share His grace and goodness, first among the Persons of the Godhead, then into the world of creatures and people. Grace moved God to create, and for the sake of the continuation and expansion of His grace and goodness, God appointed His image-bearers to have dominion—rule—over the creation.
The idea of rule and dominion under God is the first glimmer of God’s eternal Kingdom coming on earth as it exists in God Himself and in heaven where God dwells. Thus the Kingdom of God has been present from the first days of humankind’s sojourn on the earth. On the day God created Adam and Eve, He instilled in them an idea of dominion—a call to exercise authority, by God’s command and according to His purposes, throughout creation.
God made Adam and Eve upright—perfect in righteousness, peace, and joy, though limited by their being creatures—and He intended that their lives and work should reflect His rule of uprightness so that all the earth would be filled with the goodness of the Lord and the knowledge of His glory.
First in the Kingdom
As the first couple considered this calling to exercise dominion, the idea of the Kingdom of God as we think of it would not have entered their minds. This understanding would only precipitate gradually as God unfolded His covenant relationship with His people over the entire course of redemptive history.
Nevertheless, Adam and Eve were given some understanding of what it means to exercise dominion. Thus, it is essential that we try to understand, if only in broad outlines, what God intended for Adam and Eve and what they must have understood to be involved in carrying out this calling to realize the presence of God’s Kingdom on earth. For what God intended for our first parents He must likewise intend for us. We are His image-bearers today, and the task of seeking the Kingdom falls as surely on us as it did on Adam and Eve.
To Adam and Eve God first revealed the idea of His Kingdom. He appointed them to take up the work of subduing and exercising dominion and of bearing fruit to fill the earth with Kingdom-seekers, thus developing and extending the “very good” conditions on earth which obtained at the end of the creation week (Gen. 1.31)
As Adam, and, after her creation, Eve, reflected on God’s calling to exercise dominion, four specific efforts would have taken shape in their minds.
First, they must have considered that they would need to explore the broad parameters of their calling. They had been placed in a garden filled with creatures and invested with the resources for future development and use. Before they could begin to exercise dominion over the earth, they would first have to discover what exercising dominion meant within the area immediately assigned to them.
That process of exploration entailed many new things: naming the animals; tending to the many and various plants and trees; finding out about minerals hidden in the earth; learning the various ways of harnessing and using flowing water; and so forth (Gen. 2.8-15). Undoubtedly every day of their lives would have included some work of exploration, of seeking to understand the scope and nature of their dominion calling with respect to the whole of the creation around them.
Second, Adam and Eve would have to master certain skills of development related to each of the areas of exploration. Naming animals is one thing; helping them to fulfill their appointed purposes requires a variety of skills. Pruning fruit trees and planting a new crop of vegetables are not quite the same. Undoubtedly, as they began to employ these various skills, they would have created certain kinds of culture to aid them.
The third task was one of maintenance or vigilance: Adam and Eve were to defend the creation against any threat to the goodness of God and their dominion over the garden. This is the sense of Genesis 2.15, which we can gather from the fact that the same verb, shamar, normally translated “keep”, is used in Genesis 3.24 to describe the action of the cherubim in preventing Adam and Eve from returning to the garden. It would be Adam’s failure in this duty that led to their fall into sin.
Finally, Adam and Eve were to fill the earth with Kingdom-seekers like themselves. We can imagine that, had the fall into sin not intervened, the work Adam and Eve, and their children with them and after them, would have done in subduing the earth and exercising dominion over the creatures would have been one of continuous fruitfulness, beauty, bounty, satisfaction, and joy spreading beyond the garden to the ends of the earth.
Heaven on earth—just as God planned, as we are called to seek, and as will one day be fully realized.
1. How does our first parents’ work of exploring, developing and using skills, and maintaining vigilance apply to your own work of seeking the Kingdom of God?
2. How has God appointed for us to “be fruitful and multiply” in our labors?
3. How is your Personal Mission Field like the garden of Eden?
Next steps—Preparation: Your Personal Mission Field is to you as the garden was to Adam and Eve. How do the works appointed to them apply to you? Which of these will you be engaged in today?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from theNew King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study.