Subduing the Earth

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the skill of the surgeon’s knife, and the potency of antibiotics for dealing with a nasty infection.  As we live in a fallen world, where man’s sin has made such a mess of God’s wonderful creation, sickness, injury, and death are always around us, and sometimes with us directly.

All these things came in because of sin, and all of us have taken part in sin and are subject to them.  The Lord, of course, is the Master Physician, and is able to spare us from these things either by sovereign prevention and protection or by means beyond human understanding — but usually, He doesn’t do that.  Usually, He uses human means.

He told Adam and Eve to exercise dominion over His creation:

Genesis 1:28

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

They were supposed to replenish the earth “and subdue it.”  God gave human beings the ability to think, to work, to take pieces of His creation and develop them.  He gave the ability to study, to use trial and error to learn what works, and to combine different parts of His creation for specific purposes.

It is God that gave the surgeon the ability to study human anatomy, and the skill to use his equipment.  In exercising that ability, the surgeon is fulfilling the command to “subdue the earth.”  The surgeon may not recognise that, he may be motivated by money or power or pride, but his work is fulfilling God’s purpose.

God gave the scientist the ability to study diseases and do research into which elements in God’s creation can be used to fight them.  He may find the necessary elements already occurring in creation (what we might call “natural remedies”), or he may discover ways to combine various God-given materials to fight the disease.  In either case, and whatever his motivation or his understanding of his role in God’s plan, he is carrying out God’s plan for mankind to “subdue the earth,” using materials God has created to overcome disease and make the earth a better place for us to live.

I thanked the doctor who performed my operation, and I thanked the doctors and nurses who have treated the infection when it turned up more than a week later.  It is good that we express gratitude to those who have assisted us, in whatever way.

But ultimately, our gratitude must go to the Lord.  It is He that established the principle that mankind was to exercise dominion over the earth, and subdue it.  God was the One who not only established that principle but placed within the heart of people the desire to carry out that plan.  God alone gave the ability to do so.

We experience this every time we drive a car, or use other inventions of man.  In fact, you are reading this because man’s constant endeavour to subdue the earth has resulted in typing, the harnessing of electricity, the Internet, and probably a bunch of other things I’m not thinking of right now.

Many of the blessings that we now take for granted were part of God’s plan and His provision.  I can’t say that my recent experiences were the most pleasant ones I’ve had, but we all have many reasons to be thankful that God didn’t just drop people on this earth, He told them to subdue it, and put within them the desire to carry out His plan.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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