Saturday, June 18, 2005

Genesis 1:28

Genesis 1:28: And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

Humans are the second creation that God blessed and talked to (fish and fowl being the first as recorded in vs. 22). In fact, God gave us parallel, but more extensive, instructions to those He gave the fish and the fowl. He told us to reproduce, to fill the earth in so doing, to subdue it as the New American Standard puts it, and to rule over all the animals on it, as well as the fish in the waters and the fowl in the sky.

This is God’s first instruction to humankind -- be fruitful, subdue the earth, and rule the creatures I have created prior to you. What a life God intended for us originally! Who would not want that? For whom would that not be enough? If you are like me, you are probably saying right now, “I’d take that.” Maybe, in hindsight, seeing what a mess we have made of things through the generations, we would take it.

Be fruitful. God knew that for us to be fruitful would require physical sexual activity between man and woman. He also knew that based on His design, such activity would need not always result in reproduction. Finally, He designed our bodies in such a way that sexual activity was to be pleasurable for the man and the woman engaged in it. The pleasure component that He built into the process was not only physical, but also mental, and spiritual. It was an activity intended to please the “whole” person. And it does, when performed in the monogamous relationship of husband and wife as God intended.
So when God said, “be fruitful,” He was giving us both pleasure and purpose. His plan was that this earth (not the waters, not the sky, not other planets) but this earth be filled with the offspring of His prized creation, all created in His own image.

Subdue the earth. A look at two meanings of the word ‘subdue’ in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary[1] provides us with key insights into this part of the instruction. First, to subdue something means to bring it under control especially by exertion of the will. God did not create us as robots, but as entities with a will. He intended that we use that will, that we make an effort, and that we apply our full faculties, to “subduing the earth”. Our actions with respect to subduing the earth would result in something that would satisfy our will. But that will was originally intended to be in sync with the Creator. Another meaning of the word ‘subdue’ further supports this idea. To subdue something means to bring it under cultivation. We were to work on and with the earth to help it achieve its original purpose of meeting our needs.

Rule. He gave us responsibility, an assignment to occupy us. Something that would challenge us and at the same time something that we would find rewarding. The task had meaning. We could see the need, the value, and the result.

While we may learn from later scripture that humankind was created primarily to glorify God, the Creator did not instruct us so at the time of Creation. He did not need to. Our very intricate design and our very specific tasks, if done in accordance with the instructions of the Almighty, these in themselves would be glorifying to God. When His creation carries out the purpose for which it was created, God is glorified. What does it take to carry out the purpose for which one is created? Only one thing – obedience. If we want to glorify God, we only need to obey. Simply carry out the instructions that God gave us. As capable as we are to handle the most complex thoughts and issues in life, it only requires the simple act of obedience to fulfill the reason for which we were made.

At a meeting of leaders, Kirbyjon Caldwell[2], once said that there are “two great moments in one’s life. The first is when you were born. The second is when you know why you were born.” God made us collectively to glorify Him and we do that first by just obeying. In our act of obedience to His general instructions to all mankind – be fruitful, subdue the earth, and rule on My behalf -- God reveals His specific and unique calling to each of us and in that moment, we know exactly why we were created. At that point, the second greatest moment in our life will have occurred.
[1] Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 2002, Merriam-Webster.
[2] Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, near Houston, Texas at the 2002 Willow Creek Association Leadership Conference.

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