Gen.1:26-31 Dominion & Blessing, part 2
Redeemer Church Sunday School
Genesis: Finding Answers to Life’s Crucial Questions
Semester One: Genesis 1-2 “Beginnings”
Review: Last week we examined the meaning of the word dominion- rada, and saw that the word definitely was used in reference to royalty exercising the right to rule. The concept of kings and pharaohs reigning in the place of the gods, or in fact being considered a son of the gods, was common in the ancient mideast and Egypt. Therefore, for God to say that the man and the woman are to have dominion over the earth and the animals is to say that man is given the responsibility to rule over creation in God’s stead. This means that we are going to be held accountable to God for how we reign. We looked at the parable of the talents in Matt.25 and we saw the concept of stewardship. Our exercising dominion is very similar to that concept of stewardship. The earth belongs to God and we are entrusted with our portion, but the Father expects a return on his investment in us.
Then we got off on a nice little rabbit trail discussing Dominion theology and saw that there has been some confusion over the role of the OT law in the life of Christians today. In Christian Reconstructionism, the OT Law is still applicable to our lives today. The problem with this is that it can lead to legalism. Certainly the moral law such as what we find in the 10 commandments is applicable today- it is always wrong to murder, commit adultery and steal, etc. But some other aspects of the moral law we should not seek to enforce, such as stoning adulterers.
Finally, we closed last week with some good questions, but the prize went to Ann Marie’s question about the OT law of holy war, where God commanded Israel to invade the Promised Land and to kill everyone, men, women and children. That is one of the tougher questions in the Bible and it is one that a lot of people ask or wonder about. My answer was that (1) We should not be afraid of that question because it does show the holiness of God and that he is a God of justice and wrath as well as being a God of love and grace and mercy. (2) God allowed Israel, his people, to suffer 400 years of enslavement in Egypt until the iniquity of the people in Canaan was full. God then used Israel to judge those peoples, just as he later used the Assyrians and Babylonians to judge Israel and Judah. (3) The purpose of exterminating the Canaanites was so that Israel could be kept safe from their sinful influence. It was to protect Israel from false worship and immorality. When people complain about the severity of war in the OT we need to explain that God hates sin and we should too. (4) We interpret this through the NT today and do not take it literal in application. In other words, we should not try to impose our faith, our religion on others by the sword. There are some obvious similarities with the concept of jihad in Islam.
Introduction: It is at this point that we can now move forward and finish our discussion of dominion, and then hopefully finish ch.1 of Genesis with a discussion of the blessing, God’s evaluation of his creation, and then maybe even move into ch. 2 and look at the day of rest. Primarily I want us to see that we exercise dominion when we live for the glory of God, doing whatever we do in faith, by enjoying this material, physical world God has blessed us with, and finally, by spreading the gospel to every nation.
I. Live for the Glory of God
Let me tell you what I think we can do with this idea of dominion in Gen.1:26. First of all I would say that 1Cor.10:31 applies “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” To live for the glory of God means that we are living a God centered life where what we do is what gives God pleasure. Sounds like living out the image of God. We are reflecting back his image, his attributes, and one of those attributes is sovereignty. When we exercise dominion, when we are good stewards of what he has entrusted to us, we are giving him glory. This turns all of life into a worship service and the division between the sacred and the secular is done away with.
Folks, when you do the laundry you are exercising dominion. When you mow the lawn you are exercising dominion. When you take into your home a small puppy from the pound or SPCA, you are exercising dominion. When you cook a meal, and you are worshiping the Lord while you do it for his glory, you are exercising dominion. What you do at work, done for the glory of God, is fulfilling Gen. 1:26.
Here is a sad but true story from my days pastoring. Probably the biggest ongoing fight we had at the church, and it was a fight way before I ever started pastoring there, was the issue of how to dress, what clothes to wear at church. One of the last big flare ups of this particular breed of fighting was in Feb. of 2006. I was in the Adult III SS class doing battle with the older ladies once again when the woman who was the real pastor of the church stood up to address me. She said, “What you wear to church on Sunday is more important to God than anything you do at work during the week.” Now I will agree that we as Christians ought to dress in a manner that pleases God for whatever occasion we are facing, but I believe that how we live out our faith in the work place, how we do our jobs for the glory of God, is probably more important than what we wear to church on Sunday morning.
II. Walk By Faith
Romans 14:23 “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” When we stop living by faith we start sinning and we stop exercising dominion and try to live for our own glory. That is digging the hole and burying the talent.
Romans 1:17; 2Cor.5:7; Gal3:11; Phil 4:13
For us to live by faith, to walk by faith means that we are relying on His grace to cover a multitude of sins, that we are indwelled by His Holy Spirit and that He is working for our sanctification, and that what we do actually matters to God as we seek to apply his Word in our everyday existence. This goes right along with what Brother Tim has been preaching from Ecclesiastes. The current dominant philosophy in the West is existentialism that promotes a lifestyle of hedonism. It’s all about me! Go for the gusto! You only go around once in life. Be all you can be. When you are living under the sun instead of under heaven, you are walking by sight, not by faith. One of the absolute toughest battles you will face in the Christian life is the battle with despair. Does God really care? Does God really take pleasure in you as you walk by faith? Are your efforts at sanctification worth it? Does my life really matter? Walking by faith is rooted in the sinless life, atoning death and bodily resurrection of our Lord. But you can also pull this text from Genesis into your walk and say that you were created to exercise dominion over this wonderful, physical world and because you are created in the image of God your life matters to God and you can and should live for his glory by walking in faith.
Now don’t take this the wrong way and say that this sounds like the self help gospel of that smiling preacher from Houston, Joel Osteen, or that guy from Grapevine, Benny Hinn. Exercising dominion includes your awareness of the fact that God gives different talents to different folks. When Jesus told the parable of the talents, one man received 5, another two and the third only one. Just because God is calling you to exercise dominion does not mean you are going to get rich and have perfect health. It means you are to exercise dominion over what the Lord entrusts to you. Be faithful over a little and He will increase your responsibility, if not in this life, then when he comes again.
III. Enjoy this Physical Material World
Gen.1:28,31 The command to be fruitful and multiply was in place before the fall and, though affected by the fall, is still a mandate. Quote Mathews, pp.173-174. We know from Gen.2:24-25 that there was no shame in being naked prior to the fall and so we can form a Christian view of sex both before and after the fall that the pleasures of the physical relationship between the man and woman, husband and wife, are intended by God and that he describes them, along with everything else in his creation, as being very good. In Gen. 2 we see the beauty and pleasures of the Garden with all of its fruit trees and that man could partake of all but the one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Think about all the variety in all the foods of the world that God created! Think of the pleasures Adam had in studying all the animals and paying attention to their habits and nature and then formulating a name for each one that fit its nature. The pleasures of exercising dominion are too numerous to list!
As brother Tim is preaching through Ecclesiastes we see that Solomon immersed himself in the pleasures of eating and drinking, work and construction, sex and wisdom. It is not the pleasurable activities themselves that are wrong, it is the absence of putting God at the center of all his pleasure that is wrong. He was failing to place his ultimate delight in the Lord so he was all out of balance in his wanton pursuit of pleasure for pleasure’s sake.
To have a thorough grasp of dominion we need a theology of pleasure that is God-centered and Bible based. The world has a mistaken idea that Christians are all killjoys who do not enjoy anything because it is too sinful. Sadly that is how many Christians do operate. We need to bring joy, laughter and pleasure back into view as we subdue the earth.
Now here is a tough question about this text that is very practical: Should the Christian interpret this as a command to have lots of children? What about those who cannot have children or who choose to not have children? Sailhamer (Zondervan EBC, vol.2, p.38) “The imperatives ‘Be fruitful’, ‘increase’, and ‘fill’ are not to be understood as commands in this verse since the introductory statement identifies them as a blessing. The imperative, along with the jussive, is the common mood of the blessing.”
The ancient world would absolutely not understand the modern western thought of deliberately not having children because of the pursuit of pleasure and financial success that is common today. While there are certainly many couples who cannot have children, and Scripture shows many examples of that, and some few choose not to due to an inherited gene for particular diseases, most who choose to not have children do so out of convenience and financial desires. Consequently, in the West, particularly in Western Europe, Southern Europe, and Japan, the birth rate is dropping below the replacement rate. The population of Russia and japan is going to experience a huge demographics change within 25 years and in 50 years, if the trends continue, Europe will be dominated by muslims, and America will be speaking Spanish and Japan will be no more.
The Bible looks at children as a sign of the blessing of God, the hedonistic culture in which we live looks upon them as an unnecessary, costly problem. But does this mean we Christians are commanded to have 3,4,5,6 kids? I don’t think you can really say it is a command, but I do think that we are blessed when we choose to exercise dominion in this way, and then raise our children for the glory of God. Read Sailhamer, Unbound, p.147.
Calvin, Geneva Commentary, p.97, writes, “God could himself indeed have covered the earth with a multitude of men; but it was his will that we should proceed from one fountain, in order that our desire of mutual concord might be the greater, and that each might the more freely embrace the other as his own flesh.”
IV. Exercise Dominion By Proclaiming the Gospel
Matt.28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Like the muslims, we Christians are out to conquer the world. Unlike the muslims, we believe that instead of God telling us to sacrifice our sons for him, God has sacrificed His Son for us. Our message is not a message of death, slavery, hatred and intolerance. Our message is of hope, grace, love, freedom and the ability to say no but still be respected. We refuse to conquer the world by the sword of man, our strength is in the sword of the Lord, the Word of God, lived out and preached in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are to bring the light of the full Gospel into every corner of the world. Here is where Christ and Culture meet. Though we should not go so far as the Reconstructionists in imposing OT Law on others and imposing our faith on others, we can and should promote godly laws and morals from within the system our Republic has established. Long ago I had a singles SS teacher tell me that you cannot legislate morals. Folks, I hate to tell you this, but every law that was ever passed reflected somebody’s morals. If Christians do not bring their faith into the world of business, politics, the arts and entertainment world, education, etc. then we are not exercising dominion and the gospel is being left out.
V. Eschatalogical Implications of Dominion
Back to Matt.25 and we see that the Lord promises the two faithful servants, upon his return, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.” I believe that when Christ returns, and Resurrection Day occurs, we who are in Christ will be returned to a situation much like Adam and Eve were in originally. We will dwell in the new earth and we will experience what it means to subdue the earth and rule in God’s stead as his stewards over his Creation.
VI. What God Creates, He Preserves. Gen.1:29-30
God provides food for the humans and for the animals and birds. Again here we see Moses poking a finger in the eye of the Mesopotamian culture because in their cosmology, man was created to provide food for the gods, here, it is God providing food for the man! At every point possible Moses defends the truth by exposing the lie of his age!
Victor Hamilton, NICOT, p.140-141 points out that the text indicates man and all the animals were vegetarian. We had previously discussed this verse when we were looking at the bigger picture of how to interpret Gen.1. Hamilton links this concept with the eschatological age portrayed in Isaiah 11:7 and 65:25. Hamilton writes, “What is strange, and probably unexplainable from a scientific position, is the fact that the animals too are not carnivores but also vegetarians. The text of Gen. 1 does not state whether human beings and animals had the wherewithal to take the life of another living being, or whether they possessed such strength but held it in check.” While Sailhamer does not present this question, Mathews simply points to Gen. 9:3 as being the place where God specifically includes meat in the diet of humans. This presents a problem in that (1) God clothes the fallen couple in the skins of animals in 3:21, implying the death of animals; (2) Were the rates of reproduction among all living things severely restricted else the insect world overpopulate the earth within a year? (3) what about Able in ch.4 who offered a firstborn of his flock as a sacrifice, but only the fat portions in 4:4? This indicates a typical offering in which the man ate the remainder of the sheep. Neither Hamilton, Mathews, nor Sailhamer address this issue.
Gordon Wenham, WBC vol. 1a, p.34, however, writes, “Gen.1 however, does not forbid the consumption of meat, and it may be that meat eating is envisaged from the time of the fall. Man is expected to rule over the animals. The Lord provided Adam with garments of skin. Abel kept and sacrificed sheep, and Noah distinguished between clean and unclean animals (7:2).”
Augustine (On Genesis, p.236) raises an excellent question about food: If man was created immortal, why did he need to eat anyway? If he did not eat would he fade away and die?