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Bible study: climate change

Study Two: God Creates and Commissions His Image Bearers

Share any items you have brought with you that illustrate aspects of Psalm 104, and then discuss:

  • In what ways does Psalm 104 help me better to appreciate God’s relationship with the items before us?

In this study we will be looking at the role that God has assigned to human beings in his creation.

Read Genesis 1.26-2.3: Adam and Eve

This passage makes clear that human beings have a unique, privileged and responsible position within creation. Adam and Eve are created by God to be part of his creation but also to have a specific role within it.

The term translated ‘rule’ in the NIV means to have dominion over. The language is that of kingship. The picture this passage paints is of an unruly earth that requires firm but wise leadership. Made in God’s image, men and women are to rule the earth on God’s behalf as his sub-regents.

Of course we see that nature and humanity exist in a sometimes uneasy relationship today. The devastating effects of natural disasters show us that we are not in control. But we also have a power over the earth and in the develped world, an implicit power over the millions of poor people whose homes, lives and livelihoods depend on creation around them.

He grants them the fruit of the earth for their sustenance but also holds them responsible for maintaining his decrees in their social life and for stewarding the earth and its many other creatures.

Questions for reflection and discussion

  • What does this passage tell us about the roles that human beings are to play in the world?

  • How might human beings fail in this role or otherwise abuse their position?

  • What would happen to the rest of creation if this happened?

  • How do you think being made in God's image affects our responsibilities to creation and to one another?

We know that very soon Adam and Eve failed to live up to their calling by disobeying God (Genesis 3). As a result new hardships entered their lives and they were banished from the garden (3.16-24). The further consequences of this disobedience are spelled out in the following chapters of Genesis and include warfare, violence and exploitation.

Although the relationship between human beings and their environment is not explored in these later chapters, this is probably because human numbers were too small to make a significant impact. Nevertheless, when God expresses his ‘grief’ for creating human beings because of their wickedness (Genesis 6.5,6), we can imagine that their failure to rule creation wisely was part of God’s case against them.

Read Genesis 8:18-9.17: God’s Covenant with Noah

The events described in these verses follow the great flood. God repeats to Noah his instruction to Adam and Eve to ‘fill the earth’ with their offspring (see Genesis 1.28). God’s original plan to rule the earth lovingly through human beings has not been abandoned. It was a fresh start after the judgement of the flood and this sets the stage for the rest of the biblical story.

In twos or threes, discuss the following:

  • When have you been involved in a binding agreement with someone else? What were the terms of that agreement? What were the benefits? What would have been the consequences of breaking the agreement?

In the Bible, God makes a particular kind of binding agreement with people, known as covenants. Best known are the covenant he makes with Abraham and his descendents (see Genesis 15.18, 19) and the new covenant that Jesus makes with his disciples (see Luke 22.20). But both of these are predated by the covenant that God makes with Noah, which embraces all living creatures.

Reread verses 8.20-22 and 9.8-11.

Questions for reflection and discussion

  • What is included in this covenant? And what is excluded?

  • What does God promise? If as we believe this covenant is still in force, what does this tell us about God’s relationship with his creation?

  • What do you think are the consequences of this covenant for the world in which we live today?

Spend a short time responding to what you have discovered, either in silent meditation or in words of praise and prayer.

For next time bring along pictures or objects that illustrate how humankind’s relationship with the rest of creation has been spoiled.

Move on to study three 

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