"If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Romans 8:19-22 (NASB)
Hymn: "Yield Not to Temptation" H. R. Palmer
In the beginning, God created mankind, and then He gave mankind a job to do. Adam was placed in the garden, not just to enjoy it, but "to cultivate it and keep it" (Genesis 2:15c, NASB). The very next thing we have Adam doing is, at God's request, naming the animals, an act which showcases his authority over them--an authority that God had by virtue of creating them, but handed off to Adam. When Adam is punished for his fall in the next chapter, the world itself is cursed. This connection between the people and the land continues all through scripture.
Mankind is given a sabbath rest, and commanded to give the land one as well (Leviticus 25:4). One aspect of the exile of the nations of Israel and Judah was to give the land the sabbath it had not received (2 Chronicles 36:21). The world, subjected to futility, longs for redemption alongside mankind, as described in Romans above. Finally, in Revelation, God remakes creation in a perfect state after condemning "those who destroy the Earth" (Revelation 11:18d, NASB).
Why does the land itself suffer so much hassle? Why does God make such a concern about how we treat the world? There are a few interrelated aspects of this to explore. One is that, as image-bearers and wielders of some measure of God's authority over creation, mankind was designed to serve as a race of priests. As such, we are to be as God to the created order, and as creation before God. Another is that the punishments handed out to Adam, Eve, and the serpent directly relate to the core of who they were all created to be. Adam and Eve have been commanded to work the land and multiply, and their curses reflect their imperfect ability to meet God's commands. But today's reading highlighted another.
In 1 Samuel 12, Samuel is following up on the coronation of Saul. Saul has already been anointed by Samuel, named king by the people, led a successful military campaign to save Israel from the Ammonites, and made peace with the select few people who didn't expect him to be suitable as king. Things are going well. But Samuel takes a moment to ask the people why they have chosen to have a king instead of God, and reminds them that this decision was a sinful one. But he also ties the fate of the people and the king together.
"Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God...Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away."
1 Samuel 12:13-14, 24-25 (NASB)
The books of Kings and Chronicles show that this impact goes both ways. When the people begin to falter, the king fails to bring them back. When the king falters, the people follow. The governor is never removed from the governed, that which holds authority is influenced through the same avenues by which it influences.
God has put creation, to some significant degree, under the authority of mankind. When mankind falls, creation falls; when creation suffers, mankind suffers. We are in a connected system. Are we taking our responsibility over the land seriously? How do we interact with the Earth? Are we honoring God in our practice of authority over creation?
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation