Psalm 24: The Earth is the Lord’s
This talk was given by Paul Wintle on .
Before the talk, Psalm 24 was read from the Voice translation.
During the talk, Paul interviewed Professor Andrew Basden about his journey to creation care.
The total length of the recording is .
At the end of the talk, a 50-second video of the closing challenge from Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series was played.
After the video, Paul read the Joe Miller poem, If the Earth were only a few feet in diameter.
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Genesis chapter 2, Chapter 1 in fact, so God created humanity mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
Then God said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food and to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground, everything that has breath in it. I also give every green pound for food and it was so. God saw all that he had made and it was very good and there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. [NIVUK]"
Apparently, the best place in the UK to live is York, primarily, according to the Evening Standard because of its combination of ancient Beauty and recent modernization. Apparently, the best place to live in the Northwest is Altrincham and I didn’t find out why. Haven’t got the money to live there.
Conversely, I then decided to Google the worst places in the UK to live and Gillingham didn’t make it. It was Huddersfield which scored 50% more votes than Rotherham in being the worst town. About Huddersfield, one contributor observed there’s nothing but pawn shops and a few coffee shops, is polluted, unclean and full of idiots. It’s a horrible place to live which is a great shame actually. It’s a great shame because it was never designed to be that way. Even Rotherham wasn’t designed to be that way I’m sure because we’re designed to live in harmony and with one another with our planet and most importantly our Creator, God.
Humanity’s original task was to look after the planet.
At the same time, there was an instruction to keep creating the world by being fruitful and by multiplying. Right at the start, humanity was to be involved in creating, sustaining, and recreating and renewing all things. This was the way that God had ordained it, that’s what it is to be made in the image of God. Since January, we’ve been involved in looking at what it might be like to become an eco-church to look at our buildings, our worship, our preaching, our outreach links, to ensure that our world is perhaps a bit more sustainable. We continue to share our finances with people and organizations who make a difference in our world by the mission of the month.
We’ve made some minor changes in our church such as recycling our tea and coffee drinks, but by far the most influential I think, thing we have done in our eco-church here was to twin our main toilets by raising enough money to fund a whole toilet block in Uganda. Congratulations and thank you. Of course, there are always more things that we can be doing we can pray be praying for involved in as a church so that we can look after our world.
Our recent miniseries on all things has touched on the importance of how our creator God made, sustained, created all things. Last week we looked at how God might renew all things all through the work of Jesus Christ, his son. Today linked to that mini-series we’re going to be looking at our world, our ongoing responsibility in renewing it and remembering our original God-ordained purpose.
I’d like to briefly interview Andrew Basden. Andrew and his wife Ruth are passionate about the environment. Andrew has done quite a lot of research over the years involved in creation care. We’ve got a few questions which we’ve already preordained. Neil, there should be a one clip, not one clip, one PowerPointy thing named the five R’s. We’ll need that just in a moment. Andrew, how did you come into a concern for creation care?
[Andrew B] I’ve always been interested in nature because of my parents but it was only peripheral to my faith and so on. But then in the mid-80s, I came across a book Thine is the Kingdom which looked at Scripture and showed that it was God’s actual positive will for us to look after the rest of creation. It wasn’t just a nice thing to do because we were Christians, it was actually God’s original will.
I’ll read some notes so if I don’t go too far. But I wanted to really work this out for myself. You can enjoy a game of golf right as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the important things. Was this concern for creation care in the natural world just one of those like a game of golf or was it central to what God’s plan was? I looked at scripture and I examined scripture to see for myself whether it was really central or just peripheral.
[Paul W] What did you find Andrew when you looked at scripture?
[Andrew B] I found four things actually. One was a new and better role for human beings beyond what we had been led to believe. The second was that not only are human beings saved by the death of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit but so is the whole of the creation, that’s in scripture. I remember somebody years ago said, “Would you rather save a soul or save a rain-forest?”
I was a bit hurt by that but I replied, “Well, God loves both.” But that stayed with me as a challenge ever since. What does scripture say, does God love both? What’s the relationship between them and so on? Through that, I’ve been able to work out a new theology and that’s which, that’s the third thing, new theology. The fourth thing is that lots of verses now shine with a new light.
There if you like they were in gray’s before, now they are in color. John 3:16, for God so loved the world, not just human beings, that jumped out at me and so on. There’s four things I’ve discovered.
[Paul W] Tell me about this words dominion that you looked at.
[Andrew B] Well, yes you read that particular part where it says rule over the rest of the world and subdue it and so on. Traditionally, in the King James Version, rule over have dominion over and a lot of people have seen that as if you like, we’ve got a right to just consume the world as resources until we get to heaven then we’ll enjoy life and so on and this world doesn’t matter. But actually when I looked at it, the role of human beings is not as consumers.
Now, a lot of Christians are starting to see that our role is as stewards. We’re looking after the world on behalf of God but I think it goes beyond that because a steward doesn’t love the things they’re looking after on behalf of someone else and angels would be better stewards than we are. But rather because of looking at scripture, one of the first things I discovered was that the root Hebrew word for rule over, rahada. Is also in Ezekiel 34 where God says, “Woe to shepherds of Israel, you don’t tend the laymen, seek the lost, and heal the sick but you consume the sheep so I condemn you.”
I realized that we are supposed to be shepherds. We’re not consumers not even just stewards but we’re shepherds of the rest of creation. Shepherds are there for the sake of the sheep. We are here for the sake of the rest of creation so that we can develop it. I think you brought that out Paul and that’s just thrown a new light on things because image is the love of God, the self-giving love of God rather than human defensiveness.
[Paul W] In practicality Andrew, how does that work out in your life?
[Andrew B] Well, in big decisions and in small decisions. In care, conservation, compassion, if you like, if you want the three Cs. Just example, I decided I’m going to use the car as little as possible because of climate change emissions, because of other pollution things and use my bike. Gradually, over the years, I’ve been able to go longer and longer by bike. Now, if I want to get to [unintelligible 00:10:24] Station I go by bike rather than car and so on. Obedience I find brings hidden benefits that I don’t expect. There’s just one example. There are big decisions in life. What do I give my money towards? What do I devote my life to? This or that?
Comforts and pleasures rather than thinking, “Well I must go to Alton Towers and … ” Well maybe you don’t like, I don’t like Alton Towers, neither do I but the equivalent, something if a distance, because it’s easy and convenient, or fly abroad or something, maybe a holiday in this country. Maybe go to something local and enjoy these places all around. God gives us pleasures through everything.
[Paul W] Thank you. Neal, we’ll need the slide up. I think for this final question. How does your new view that you mentioned Andrew linked to your theology of creation care?
[Andrew B] There’s various theologies but a traditional one is to see everything in terms of creation, fall and redemption and maybe consummation. I found that’s okay but it doesn’t go far enough. It’s also negative with [unintelligible 00:11:50] and as I looked at Scriptures, it seems to me that there’s 5 R’s. I don’t think God made it so that it’s 5 R’s, it’s just that I’ve done that. Instead of just creation. The fact of creation, God created a reality to rejoice says Joy and creation. God the creation. I remember who was that, Larry. He said that in Genesis it meant. It worked well together, rejoicing. That sort of rejoicing even vegetables rejoice says, C.S. Lewis. In a way that vegetables can.
The whole of reality rejoicing together even technology and economics should be able to rejoice and that little bit [unintelligible 00:12:35] Secondly the role of humankind, I’ve mentioned that. Thirdly, relatedness. Everything is interconnected. That is why fall or sin is so important. Because God loves everything he’s made. Therefore if I in my sin affect somebody else or something else, then God should be angry with me. God’s justice is not in spite of his love or against his love, but because of his love. That was a revelation for me. That caused me real joy.
I was in tears earlier in the service with the joy of all this. Sin is a really important thing. It’s because of relatedness. Then redemption is rich. I realize that it’s not just so that we can be acceptable to God and get to heaven in the end but also two other things. Which one of them is which the Pentecostal and Holiness people have discovered, that God is working here and now with us to give us joy and power and work with us and so on. They’ve made, that’s an end in itself. I think there’s a third one which is so that we can be restored to our real role of blessing or being shepherd to the rest of creation including each other.
We find those three in Romans 8:1-14 and 19-23 and that’s something to expound sometime. Okay, that’s this world. What about the next one? All through Scripture, there’s a theme of representing God to the rest, partly because of love. I think that when we get through death to the next life, after Jesus comes again, we will still be. We won’t just be sitting before a throne and worshiping, we’ll be working with God but we’ll be representing God to the rest of creation perfectly then and to each other. That gives me so much joy and motivates me to do creation care even if it’s a little bit less convenient than not being careful.
[Paul W] Andrew thank you. Thank you very much indeed. I know that you’ve got your Sunday club to get to.
[Andrew B] Yes, I’m going to the Sunday club now.
[Paul W] It’s not because you’re running away because you don’t like my preaching, I hope. Andrew, thank you. Creation care is one way of looking at Christian theology. The lens through which we see the Bible. Today we don’t have time to look at all of those five R’s that Andrew introduced us to. But I will try to pick out just one that resonated with me. To help us perhaps understand afresh this wonderful Psalm, Psalm 24 and just that first verse, The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all who live in it. I looked up the earth on Wikipedia which is rubbish. Because all it said about the earth is, the third planet from the sun. Thanks for that Wikipedia, I already knew that. There’s so much more than that.
Scientists tell us that it weighs six times 10 to the power of 24, something like that, kilograms. It’s six with 24 zeros next to it, kilograms. How did they work that out? The earth tilts at 66 degrees roughly. If you could separate the earth into piles of material you’d get 32.1% iron, 30.1% oxygen, 15.1% silicon and 13.9% magnesium. Of course, most of the iron is down in the core. If you could actually get down and sample that core it would be 88% iron. 47% of the earth’s crust contains oxygen, consists of oxygen. I don’t understand all of that stuff. That’s the earth and everything in it. 8.7 million Species of animal, 322 of which humans have wiped out in the last 500 years according to seeker.com.
Rainforests help stabilize the Earth’s climate which are being destroyed by 200,000 acres a day. That’s around the size of a football pitch, one acre-ish a day. According to raintree.com. Psalm 24:1 is a claim, it’s a fact and a celebration of that fact all in one. The earth is the Lord and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. It’s an inclusive statement that puts all things not just Planet Earth under God’s dominion under his realm. I looked into one of Rick’s Matthew Henry commentaries this week because Matthew Henry talks quite a lot in depth about a lot of things. He points out that not only is heaven God’s but the earth is too. The whole cosmos is actually God’s.
For the writer of this psalm, the earth is important part of humanity to worship God from. Because it’s our home and there’s only one of it. Humanity can only live on the earth. We can’t live in the sea because the Earth is founded and established upon the earth. Earth, ground, humous, home, humanity all linked together as Andrew was saying. The God who founded the earth on the seas and established it upon the waters is an interesting start for many in the Old Testament saw large expanses of water like the sea or oceans as a terrible place, eternal, fearful, beyond the realms of humanity.
For a God to be able to tame the sea enough to build something on it, wow, must be a pretty awesome God. Genesis 1:1 at the very creation of the world, says, “The spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. Water, something that gives life, something that perhaps somebody prayed earlier, we’re perhaps getting a little bit short of the moment. Water something that is bigger and more powerful than anyone can tame but has been tamed by God. From the separation of the waters comes the ground and springing from both the water and the ground comes life. That’s the end of the sciency bit. From that life God created specifically people, male and female in his image. To be fruitful and to increase in number, to fill the Earth and to subdue it. The job of people then, to use Andrews rudder is to shepherd the Earth. How interesting it is that shortly before psalm 24, we have Psalm 23. Clever that. Where we read, “The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”
As image of God bearers, we look to God to be our shepherd, whilst he in turn looks to us to shepherd his creation. What an honor. One, we look at creation care theology, this interconnectedness of the Earth carers looking at our great shepherd, our God the creator. One of the great psalmists to whom both Psalm 23 and Psalm 24 are credited, David, the most significant king in Israel’s rule was a shepherd boy to his father Jesse. You can find that in one Samuel chapter 16, verse 11. David who became the king, the shepherd who became a king, had the qualifications for shepherding, for leading by shepherding. He had the qualifications for leading by shepherding.
What we learn about in the Genesis account of creation, what we find in Psalm 24 and what we learn about time and time again, throughout the Bible is that of the importance of being a shepherd, and being king. David fulfilled both those roles, as did Jesus, the lamb of God, the good shepherd, the King of the Jews. Of course, it’s Jesus our great shepherd of the sheep that we look to to help us perform our role of shepherding. Shepherding the planet. If we do it in the way that Jesus invites us to by treating others as we want to be treated ourselves, then we treat the world as we want to be treated, as we want to treat the world.
We would want to keep our gardens neat, and tidy and free from litter. We would want to tend it and grow plants and flowers, and shrubs and trees, enabling nature to make its home there. We would water, we would fertilize, we would weed and we would look after our gardens, but don’t come around to watch [unintelligible 00:23:07]. We would use the Earth to grow plants to eat from, we would farm animals to live off their produce. We wouldn’t want to live with dirty rubbish floating around our home, we would want to keep it pristine just in case it needed to be inspected for any reason.
As you know, I rent my home here in Fordham and the landlord, the owner could contact me at any time and ask to visit how I’ve been treating his property. In a few weeks time, when I’m down South, I might visit the house that I own down there to make sure that the tenants are keeping the house clean and tidy and in good order. As Matthew Henry points out, “When God gave the Earth to the children of men,” he says, “He still reserved to himself the property, and only to let it out to them as tenants.” As tenants of this, Earth, we have a duty and a responsibility to look after it. It’s God’s. It’s God’s. Everything in it is God’s.
Psalm 50 talks about the cattle on a thousand hills. Every bird in the mountains, every insect in the field belongs to Him. In the New Testament, Jesus reminds us that God knows when sparrows fall, he knows every hair on our heads, and for some it’s easier for him to count than for others. This intimate relationship that God has with his creation is how we must look after this planet that we call home. It’s the only one we have. We’re learning how awfully as humans we are not tending to our roles of shepherds of the Earth. We know the terrible mess that overusing, over-harvesting our world can bring.
Like the people of Israel, we’ve not learned the importance of letting the Earth recover. Having this jubilee year, letting the ground have time to breathe and recreate itself. God called a halt to overwork, to slavery, by telling his people every 50 years to observe this jubilee. The people it seems, never got around to doing it because it would cost them. It would cost them their slaves, it would cost them their time, it would cost them their money, it would cost them time and energy, but most of all it might cost them their deep and intimate relationship with their great shepherd, father God.
God’s people, us, were set apart. That’s what “holy” means, to be different, to live differently to those around us. To show the world what it is to work in partnership with the creator God who made all the Earth and everything in it. That’s what we need to be up to. Holiness, being set apart. The Lord almighty, the king of glory, the king strong and mighty that we read in Psalm 24, suggests that God can do whatever he chooses, but right now, he chooses us to get on with shepherding his Earth. We seem to know more and more about our environment and what we can do to start making things perhaps right again. We know more and more about our planet and where it might be headed.
This is our world, I wonder what our response to God is.
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Scripture quotations marked NIVUK are from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.