(c) The land is to be given a rest- The concept of not overusing resources and sustainable growth.
(1). Sabbath- what grows of its own accord during the Sabbath shall be food for all including the animals on the land, not be harvested for it is food. (Lev. 25: 4-7). The Sabbath provides a sense of restraint on humanity and a limit on our power or right of stewardship.
(2) Jubilee- Every 49 years the land was to be returned to its original owners. Humans are not to sow or reap on the land and eat from it only what it produces
(3) Can we push productivity advances too far? What are the consequences? Wearing out soils by not rotating crops or letting land stand fallow. Over-fertilization of land contaminating water. We are creation and we are feeling stressed out by working too hard.
(d) Significant restrictions on placed ownership- The land is to be managed for the benefit of all its inhabitants:
(1) “ Do not take advantage of each other…the land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens who have become my tenants”. Lev. 25-14.
(2) Inheritance laws prohibited permanent transfers of land- Land was not to be permanently sold but could be transferred to heirs.
(a) A family’s property was a permanent, sacred trust from God.
(b) However, those who disobeyed the Lord would lose their land (Deut. 4:25-26).
(3) The land is to be sold on the basis of the number of years of harvesting. When the years are many, the price may increase. When the years are few the price is to decrease. (Lev. 25:15-16).
(a) Prevents accumulation of wealth to the detriment of the poor.
(b) Also prevents concentration of large blocks of land in a few like what we see now in the country's agricultural system.
(c). Thus, sales of land were really like leases.
(d). The people are told that if they follow the commandments, they will live securely on the land. (Lev. 26:3-4).
(1) Obey the commands and I will allow you to possess the land (Deut. 8:1)
(2) God will bless the fruit of the land, grain, increase in livestock, new wine, and oil to those who obey his commandments. (Deut. 7:12-13; 6-10).
(3) The land was not simply private property but also symbolized life with God. (Numbers 27:1-11).
(f). How is it possible for us to use land in way that does not maximize profits? Does faith transcend market economics that God will provide? What does this say about complaints that environmental laws limit economic use of land?
(g) Nothing here prohibits land ownership. What about absolute ownership rights? Message here is proper treatment of land
(h) Love thy nearest neighbor
C. Sinai Covenant (Exodus. 19:5)- God tells Moses that the land is God’s and that Israel will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
1. God reaffirms that he is the owner of the world
2. Israel is to act in a righteous manner over God’s possession.
3. We are to be concerned about the well being of others in the community, which should include impact of pollution on others as well as for future generations.
4. Can we be judged individually because the community fails to assure the well being of others and the environment?
C. Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1 to 20:17)
1. The Second Commandment means that we should not protect the environment for itself because that would be idolatry. Creation is good (holy) because God said so but it is not divine.
2. The concept of Do Not Steal means that God approved the concept of ownership of property. Indeed, property owners are given absolute control over the Property within the limits of God’s law (Matthew 20:15; Acts 5:4)
1. Dominion means exercising control over Creation is a righteous manner. The Earth was created for the use by humanity. God gave humans considerable liberty in determining how to exercise its dominion. However Resources are not simply here for human exploitation. The needs of humanity must be weighed against the mandate that God gave Creation.
2. The Sixth and Eight Commandments suggest that property owners are free to use property so long as they do not violate the rights of others and may be limited to protect the lives of others.
3. Biblical principles of private property mean that no government entity may restrict the use of property except that required to comply with God’s moral law.
4. Use of private property should not violate principles of justice revealed in Scripture. What God’s moral law prohibits, civil authorities should not allow but what moral law allows shall not be prohibited by regulatory agencies.
5. Biblical principles of liberty mean we should be able to use land so long as we do not violate God’s moral law. Thus, civil law may prohibit and punish property uses that injure others or the property of our neighbors. (See Romans 6)
5. Land should be managed in accordance with Biblical concepts of loving others. Justice may set the floor for our minimum behavior but we are called to love others. (Romans 13:8-10). Jesus said the second greatest command was to love thy neighbor. (Matthew 22:39)
III. Nature and the Reflection of the Glory of God
A. God reveals himself through Scripture and His Creation.
1. Psalm 19: 1-4 “ The Heavens declare the Glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
2. Psalm 104:24- Creation reflects God’s greatness and wisdom.
3. Psalm 139-7 God’s presence is everywhere throughout his creation. We cannot escape it.
4. Job 40 and 41-. Why is God’s point in asking Job these questions?
(a) Through his interrogation of Job, God is trying to get him to understand that someone who is powerful enough and wise to create the world is great enough to know what he is doing by allowing Job to suffer.
(b) Wild nature of creation is beyond our control or understanding in the same way that human suffering is.
(c) For man to carry out his task of exercising dominion command, he must gain wisdom that may be achieved through special revelation, fear of the Lord and understanding creation.
5. We do not have to appropriate nature to benefit from it but can learn from it
(a) God revealed the laws that were applicable to man. Even Nature understands its responsibilities and obeys the laws that God has created for it. Trees know when to bloom, birds know when to fly south, animals know when to stock up food and hibernate. (Jeremiah 8.7) We can learn from how nature obeys God’s commands.
(b) Nature understands its responsibilities (The ox knows its master but Israel does not know its Creator)(Isa. 1:3).
(c) Proverbs 6:6-8—“Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise. Without having any chief or officer or ruler, it prepares its food in the summer, and gathers its sustenance in harvest”.
(d) Job 12-7-10: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being”.