Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
2 Chronicles 7:12–16 , 19–21 (NIV)
12 the Lord appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. 13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. …
… 19 “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 And though this temple is now so imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?'”
Like many of you, I have a daily “quiet time”. I pray, read my Bible, and meditate. As well as the many things that come up from day to day, I have a routine of topics that I cover every week. On Mondays I pray for my family, Tuesday for my church family, Wednesday for the community where I live, Thursday for the nation, Friday for missions, Saturday for the lost and helpless and Sunday for personal guidance. There’s no magic to it. I’m not recommending it particularly … it’s just what works for me. I mention it only to give context to this post.
Today, of course, is Wednesday – so I was praying for my community. As I prayed, I was led to consider the state – Florida – in which I live, and to reflect on how we have treated it. As Genesis tells us, God put man in the garden to work it, and take care of it … it was both a pleasant way to spend time and a kind of trial … how would man do. Of course, Adam and Eve blew it. They took the apple, and were expelled. But the commission to take care of the earth was never rescinded. So how are we doing in Florida? Not so well it seems to me. An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico threatens the fish, wildlife and beaches. Insufficiently constrained development continues to erode habitats and has driven the Florida Panther to the brink of extinction. Phosphate mining is bringing depletion ever closer. Even water is scarce! Here we are, with oceans on either side of us, sitting on what should be a vast lake of water … and having to limit our use of fresh water. We have surely failed the Eden test!
What can we do? How about following the instructions in the Owner’s manual? Christians could take to heart the text from Chronicles, above, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Unfortunately, I think it’s not going to happen … I have a good friend who’s fond of quoting this particular scripture. Unkindly, I have taken to reminding him of the flipside of the promise. If we don’t turn away from false gods, there will be no healing. “What false Gods?” you might say. A false god is anything that we put ahead of God (THE God …). If we put drilling for oil, replacing wildlife habitats with developments, and depleting natural resources – all in pursuit of wealth and easy living, we’re putting material things ahead of the one true God …
I have to confess my guilt. I’ve been a little bit disdainful of environmental concerns. Shame on me. My quiet time this morning was a wakeup call. I’ll try to do better.