Kingdom Presence: Old Testament (3)
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
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Genesis 2.15
The three tasks of dominion
From the beginning, God instructed His people in the work of rule, of exercising dominion over the creation. Through Adam, Eve, and their offspring, God intended to bring the eternal righteousness, peace, and joy that He knew within Himself to the earth, that the creatures He had made could share in His blessedness.
His heavenly Kingdom would become an earthly paradise as Adam and Eve continued faithful in their calling to His Kingdom and glory.
God created Adam and Eve in a very good place (Gen. 1.31). The world, at the end of the creation week, was neither perfect nor complete; it was, however, very good, precisely what God intended and ready for the further development and flourishing that would come under the stewardship of His people. God’s appointment to Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue and exercise dominion over the creation was aimed at increasing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
To fulfill their appointed calling, Adam and Eve understood they would have to commit to learning, working in and on their environment, and defending their assigned mission field against whatever might seek to obstruct or undermine their dominion efforts and compromise the good purposes of God. Their failure in this part of their mandate would upset, complicate, and impose limitations on the rest of their calling. But it would not alter God’s plan for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
Prior to their fall into sin, Adam and Eve must have talked frequently and excitedly about the possibilities contained in their mandate. What vision captured their minds, hearts, and consciences as they set about their work in those first days, prior to the fall?
A vision of dominion
What could Adam and Eve “see”, in their minds? What did they desire to realize, and what priorities guided their daily lives? As they pursued the disciplines of exploration (learning), development, and defense, what objectives did they seek from their daily work? What did they “see” as the fruit of their seeking the presence of God’s rule through their labors?
We can, of course, only speculate on such questions. Everyone has some vision that guides them through the day—what they plan to do, hope for, would like to see happen, and so forth. Our first parents were no different, except that the vision that guided them was revealed and reinforced by God. What they saw with the eye of faith would have reflected God’s vision for the coming of His Kingdom on earth.
What did that vision entail?
Many offspring—children, grandchildren, and more—would help Adam and Eve improve and extend the garden and its goodness, until enough children had been born, raised, and engaged in the work of having dominion that the entire earth would become a garden before the Lord. They could have had no complete sense of the size of the earth, but they could doubtless imagine their bounteous and beautiful garden expanding with each successive generation of offspring.
They must also have envisioned a peaceable, orderly, joyful, and fruitful existence in cooperation with all the creatures of the garden, both plants and animals, for the mutual benefit and enrichment of rulers and ruled alike.
In their minds they must have considered there would be opportunities for additional exploration and development of the many unseen wonders and powers beyond the garden (minerals, flowing rivers, precious metals). They may have dreamed and talked about things they could make from, or ways to use, these resources to adorn the garden and bless its inhabitants. That is, they must have had some idea of culture, of the making of things useful and beautiful to assist them in their calling.
And daily they would have looked forward to continuous and deepening fellowship in divine blessings, in the Presence and with the guidance of God, to help them in their work and to nurture and develop them in their relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
Had Adam and Eve been able to keep this vision in mind, and to be guided by it, the calamity of the fall might never have occurred.
A continuing call and idea
Yet, even after the fall, and despite their having failed in their mandate to guard the garden, we see the idea of dominion still at work in the first couple. The entry of sin into their lives, and through them, to the creation itself, did not cancel or nullify the idea of dominion. Adam and Eve continued to work the ground, bear and raise children, teach the story of their creation and fall, and guide their offspring in making culture and seeking the Lord through worship. (Gen. 4).
The sense of their dominion calling remained in them by virtue of their being the image-bearers of God and His having redeemed them graciously from their transgression. They bore the stain and effects of sin in their bodies, as did the creation around them; however, renewed in their souls and restored to the blessing of God, they immediately took up the work of dominion, pursuing God’s original intention for them, according to His ongoing command and promise, and despite the obstacles created by their fallen condition.
From these first Kingdom servants, therefore we may learn (1) the tasks of dominion: exploration (learning), development, and defense of the creation to which we are assigned; (2) the importance of staying within the blessing and Word of God as the only secure place for realizing the blessings of dominion; (3) and seeing to it that no obstacle, hindrance, or threat from the fallen world or our own sin shall keep us from seeking the Kingdom of God on earth, or from passing that vision and calling on to the generations that follow us.
We are faithful to God and to our first covenant parents when we embrace the desire for Kingdom presence as they did and make it the defining priority of our daily experience in the Lord.
1. How would you describe the state of your “exploration” or “learning” at this time?
2. In what ways are you working to develop the goodness of God throughout your “garden”?
3. How can you expand and clarify your vision of the Kingdom presence coming in and through you?
Next steps—Preparation: Reflect on your calling to learn, work, and guard against sin in seeking the Kingdom of God. How can you begin each day refreshing this vision in your mind?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New 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.