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Land, man & glory

One of the things we should notice in Genesis (and the whole of Scripture), is the importance of land. Man has a unique relationship with the earth. He alone is said to come from it (2:7). That being true, we shouldn’t be surprised that land symbolizes man’s relationship with his Creator.  When man is right with his Father, he is right with the earth. When man is not right, it is reflected in the land. 


God creates man and places him on a choice parcel of land (a garden paradise). Conversely, when Adam and Eve rebel against Him, they are taken out of the garden and the earth is cursed (2:17ff, 23). Cain kills his brother and his punishment is that he becomes a wanderer
he will have no land at all. The people at Babel are scattered while faithful Abraham is promised a land for his descendants. This promised land is a sign of God’s blessing, but when Israel continues in disobedience to God, they are taken from the land into captivity. Later they are blessed by God to return to the land. 


The judgment in Noah’s time is essentially an uncreation. During creation, water was separated from water to form the earth (1:6-10), but due to man’s wickedness water once again covers the land.  Later judgments, whether they were against Judah (Zephaniah 1:2ff), or another nation like Babylon (Isaiah 13:1,9ff), employ similar imagery not to suggest literal destruction, but to stress that the world of the wicked is being destroyed. Even in metaphor, man’s rebellion is reflected by the land.


Paul says I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God,” (Romans 8:18-21). 


If we come to this text with something of this background, then what Paul says makes perfect sense. Man and earth share in a fallen state due to man’s sin. We know from this passage and others (like 1 Corinthians 15), that man (in Christ), is headed toward restoration through the resurrection. This passage tells us that earth has a similar hope.


What would be the purpose of a restored earth? Would man live on it? I have to admit, the idea of a living on a restored earth is intriguing when you think that no one other than Adam and Eve ever lived on an uncursed planet. And, it seems there is something about the natural, physical world that we connect with (think of how refreshing it is to be outdoors on a beautiful day or a starry night). But maybe that’s not it, perhaps earth will it be restored for memorial purposes (like the Lord’s Supper), as a reminder to us of God’s powerful redemptive actions over the course of human history. Or, maybe God has some other purpose for it. I don't know.


What we do know is this. The land, which gave man his beginning, shares the same trajectory of curse, redemption, hope, and restoration. It’s hard to read about the sabbatical years leading up to the Jubilee (Leviticus 25), and not think in terms of the land experiencing redemption pointing toward ultimate restoration. Man shall experience the resurrection and earth will keep her Jubileeall to the glory of God!


We should keep this in mind as we work our way through the Scripture so it might work its way through us.
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