Have you ever wished you could’ve stood beside Adam and Eve as they gazed upon the perfect world God created for them? Imagine viewing the amazing variety and color of flowers, tasting the succulent fruits growing on heavily laden vines and trees? Imagine observing all the different birds and animals, living in harmony with each other and their human caretakers! What a perfectly balanced, pristine environment. What a delight to all the senses.
Imagine yourself standing there with Adam and Eve as they survey the scene before them. And as you stand in awe of God’s creative ability, He speaks both a blessing and a command. “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
In our study today we turn to these verses in Genesis chapter one to address a very important subject; “Man in Dominion.” Since God created man in His image and likeness, He appointed man as caretaker and steward over the earth and all living things – plants and animals. The created world was made especially for the enjoyment of God’s highest creation, mankind.
In the past few weeks, we’ve spent considerable time looking at the themes and principles contained in these verses from Genesis chapter one. We have by no means exhausted them, so I make no apology for returning to them again. They give us much insight into God’s original intention for His relationship to man and man’s relationship to the rest of the creation. So then, to begin our study of “Man in Dominion,” I will read
In this text we observe several Divine COMMANDSthat anticipate “Man in Dominion.”
The First COMMAND is,
Populate the Earth
In the beginning God created just two people: a man and a woman. And while the Scriptures don’t specifically say so, it seems that God created vast numbers of animals. In reading about the creation of the beasts and living creatures we encounter words like “swarms” and “abundantly.” Even if there was only one pair of each animal created, they most likely still outnumbered the first two humans by the thousands!
This wasn’t an issue of personal safety; none of the animals were fearful of mankind, nor were they dangerous. They only became that way after sin entered the world and accelerated after the worldwide flood. What did God have in mind when He gave this command to “fill the earth”? To further answer this question, we need to consider the whole scope of divine revelation.
Isaiah chapter 11 gives us some insight. In the first four and a half verses Isaiah describes the first advent of Messiah, the “rod out of Jesse.” But then, in the middle of verse four there’s a transition and the final phrases of verse 4 are descriptiveof Christ’s millennial kingdom. Later verses inform us that during that time creation will be restored to its original state. The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the cow and the bear will feed together, and so on.
Now, let me read verse 9 of Isaiah chapter 11 because here, I believe, is the answer to our question of why God commanded Adam and Eve to populate the earth. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” This wonderful promise is stated 5 times in the Old Testament! To be full of the knowledge of God, experientially, as the word is used here, is to worship Him! Worship is the response of all those who truly know God.
I believe God commanded Adam and Eve to populate the earth so that the knowledge of His name and His love would fill the earth. He would have vast numbers of people, made in His likeness, on which to bestow His limitless love! In turn they would genuinely worship Him and bring glory to His name.
God has never rescinded this command to populate the earth; especially for those who follow Him! Oh, I know, alarmists like Thomas Malthus have been “crying wolf” about overpopulation for the past 100+ years.In my lifetime, men like Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, author of “The Population Bomb,” claimed in 1968 that the lack of food would destroy 1/5th of world population by the end of the 1970s. Though his predictions never came true, and his work was thoroughly discredited, his theory continues to be repackaged and foisted on our gullible, media-manipulated culture.
It’s interesting that both the World Food Program and the UN Food and Agriculture Association are very clear: there is more than enough food for everyone on the planet. The FAO neatly summarizes the problem of starvation by saying, quote “the world currently produces enough food for everybody, but many people do not have access to it.” Food is a lot like money: just because some people have none doesn’t mean that there isn’t enough of it – it’s just not spread evenly everywhere. And I believe as followers of Christ we should be and are doing something to change that imbalance.
In addition, the “Population Research Institute” reported this interesting statistic; “Every family on this planet could have a house with a yard, and all live together on a land mass the size of (the state of) Texas.” Current population trends show that world population will peak in 20 years and then start to go back down. Incidentally, most countries already have below replacement birth levels and are headed for staggering economic problems in the next couple decades due to depopulation. (PRI has some very entertaining but sobering videos on YouTube.)
Those who claim to follow Christ yet buy into exaggerated claims of humanity’s imminent demise by overpopulation, demonstrate their lack of faith in God’s promises. God controls what He creates, and He promised Noah “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Let’s not allow our personal fears, societal pressures, and our tendency to believe ideologically driven experts, to rob God of the people He loves to give Him the glory He desires! As God’s people, let’s do our part in populating the earth with godly offspring who will bring God the glory He so much deserves.
The Second COMMAND is,
Subjugate the Earth
Modern day earth-worshipers and climate alarmists would be horrified with that phrase. But this command was given in a perfect world. The words “subdue” and “have dominion” are military terms meaning “to conquer and rule.” Yet when this command was given, there was no conflict because everything God had made was “very good.” But the command became more important after sin entered the picture! That’s why God repeated these commands to Noah immediately following his exit from the ark.
In his book, “The Genesis Record,” Dr. Henry Morris states that this “cultural mandate” as originally given is a very expressive figure of speech. He writes, “Here is the primeval commission to man authorizing both science and technology as man’s basic enterprises relative to the earth. Science is man’s disciplined study and understanding of the phenomena of this world. Technology is the implementation of this knowledge in the effective ordering and development of the earth and its resources, for the greater good of all earth’s inhabitants. This twofold commission to subdue and have dominion, to conquer and rule, embraces all productive human activities.” End of quote.
God established humans as stewards over the created world and everything in it. The Psalmist states this in Psalm 8, verses 6 to 8. And mankind could have fulfilled this command perfectly, except for the entrance of sin into the human experience. Sin didn’t change the command, but it did change man’s ability and desire to carry it out according to God’s design. Sinful man set himself up as the authority, rather than looking to God for His direction. As a result, man has often failed in his stewardship.
With the advent of sin this command of subjugation would be carried out with sweat and toil. The earth would no longer readily yield its resources of food, minerals, etc. The animal kingdom would become aggressive toward man and fearful of him. The entrance of sin made the twin pursuits of science and technology hard work. However, the twin commands of conquer and rule still apply to us and our world today.
Today, mankind has used these vehicles of science and technology to push back the frontiers of the unknown and the undoable. The 2010 British Petroleum oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is an illustration. Regardless of your feelings toward BP and their handling or mishandling of the whole affair, you must admit that it’s amazing stuff to be able to drill for oil thousands of feet below the water and then thousands more feet into the sea floor! We’ll not discuss the fact that one of the reasons they’re way out there because of the unreasonable demands of environmental extremists prevent them from drilling for oil on land.
I readily admit that mankind has, in some cases, used the resources God has given us carelessly and wastefully. The area where we live was at one time almost completely deforested. Indiscriminate clear-cutting of the hardwood trees for valuable lumber led to soil erosion, water pollution, and other problems. But today, forestry has become a science and is managed as a renewable resource for the benefit of all. As stewards, we are responsible to make sound environmental choices even while we defend the biblical command to subdue the earth. Our goal should be to help others benefit from the resources God has placed here for our use. We should never take delight in the wanton destruction of anything God has made! As stewards, we will one day give an account of our stewardship.
The Final COMMAND is,
Dominate other Creatures
Verse 28 says, “…and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” I admit, I don’t know what this command involved before the entrance of sin into the world. But I do know what it meant after sin entered the picture. God’s instruction to Noah in Genesis chapter 9 spells out some of it. The poet Tennyson captured it well with the phrase, “…nature, red in tooth and claw…”
The animal kingdom would no longer voluntarily serve a human master. It would need to be dominated by force. Let me quickly add that this can and must be done in a way that is humane. The tendency of sinful mankind is to perform this task of domination with a fierce and destructive delight. But that’s contrary to God’s plan.
The same God who sees each sparrow that falls, and who owns all the beasts of the forest, inspired Solomon to write; “A righteous man regards the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Jesus Himself spoke of the legitimate need to care for one’s animals, even on the Sabbath Day! Cruelty is not to be a part of man’s domination of the animal kingdom.
However, the apostle Paul, in Romans chapter one, warned us about a time when people would elevate animals to a level equal to or above, mankind. Some years ago, World magazine reported on a lady who spent 20,000 dollars to build a house for her 3 dogs! The house had hardwood floors, heating and air conditioning, and expensive furnishings. When she was asked why she went to so much expense, she said, “Why not? These dogs are my life.” It’s a mind-set that is becoming increasingly ingrained in our culture.
Peter Singer, professor of bio-ethics at Princeton University, has written and argued publicly that since man is only an animal, he should have no rights or privileges that are not granted to other animals. Yet his philosophy, in varying degrees, is prominently taught and supported in our colleges and universities. This is the logical conclusion of an evolutionary worldview. It has brought us to the point in our culture where you can abort a child in the womb at any age of development for any reason or for no reason at all. But woe to you if you harm a dog or cat even in self-defense!
You and I are influenced by the environment we live in. The popular philosophies of the day influence us more than we may realize and more than we care to admit. As the people of God, it is important for us to be alert to the ideas that shape the trends in our culture. Ignoring them is not a viable option. If we want to maintain a biblical worldview and teach our children to embrace the same worldview, we must learn to use the Word of God as a filtering medium through which we put all the world’s philosophy and reasoning.
We must, by all means, reject what is contrary to the Scripture. At the same time, we must reexamine our current practices regarding our care for the world and its creatures in the light of revealed truth. No one should be able to legitimately accuse us of cruelty or of careless disregard for the earth we inhabit. As those who are created in the image and likeness of God, we are called to model His standard of care for His creation.
As God’s people we must accept and obey the divine mandate to populate, subjugate, and dominate the earth and its creatures. But we must do it in harmony with the whole scope of Scripture and with the daily awareness that we will give an account of our stewardship. In that way, the earth can be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and He will receive the worship He deserves.