Styling the Shepherd

Consider the first few chapters in Genesis. Think about it from a Hebrew mystical point of view. On the one hand, it’s plain that Creation is just a typical expression of God’s divine personality and character. We learn to think: That’s just like Him to do that. On the other hand, it remains a complete mystery why He did it. There is not enough revealed about that, and no language to explain much of what we might apprehend about it.

In a certain functional sense, we do recognize that humans were the pinnacle of Creation. For one thing, it’s obvious that everything is explained in terms of what it should mean to us. And right there it says: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion…” (Genesis 1:26). A few verses later He says he has given us all the vegetation for food. In the next chapter it repeats this language of feudal grant: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Those last two verbs are translations of Hebrew words meaning simply to work in the sense of using and employing it for productive purpose on behalf of one’s lord.

This helps us to gain some vision for our purpose in existing. This isn’t some backyard garden plot; it’s everything we as humans can reach. We are stewards of however much of Creation that we can put our hands on, but it has to turn out as He likes it. And an awful lot of the rest of the Bible explains how He likes things, and to some degree, how He does not. Still, it’s clear that we are intended to manage things on His behalf.

Just so you’ll know, the Hebrew word translated as “garden” refers to a rather substantial private estate, more like a park. The idea is that it remain accessible and amenable for the owner’s recreation. This is closer to a managed and protected wildlands than a tightly controlled ornamental hobby. A critical part of this image is feeding ourselves from the work we do; we are unmuzzled oxen treading His grain.

A critical element the story of the Fall is how we lost the knowledge of His will and the blessings inherent in the job. We lost access and were driven out. That Garden of God still needs care, but suffers a lack of management. No one has been brought in to replace us. In this sense, Creation suffers from the Fall; it continues doing what it does without guidance and management. It’s mostly okay, but it’s not what God had in mind.

In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus engaged in a little of that management. There’s nothing evil about storms; that’s how Creation is designed. They serve a valid purpose. Indeed, Jesus was apparently untroubled from His nap by the whole thing. What woke Him up was the whining of men who knew only that such storms could kill when you are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. These were seasoned professional fishermen, by the way, not whiny dilettantes. Still, Jesus Himself was comfortable with the situation, but intervened for their sakes. Granted, there’s more to this than meets the eye; there was a specific divine purpose in showing His Father’s glory here. Still, that doesn’t change the wider context that this was a normal and natural process. Jesus stepped in using that ancient authority of stewardship from the Garden to manage the situation.

Those men were a part of Creation, too. While in their fallen state, they had lost their connection and communion with nature, but they were still part of nature. And as intended managers, they should have been able to moderate the storms for themselves, but their fallen natures prevented that. It’s not that Creation should have been left to do what it pleased, but that there was no one else there who knew how to handle things and keep it all focused on God’s purposes.

We do not reverence Creation, but the Creator (Romans 1:25). Nature is unfallen, but we are supposed to be in charge. Granted, Creation is a person and a collection of persons, and our greatest treasure is always the people we lead. That leadership is symbolized by shepherding, the eldership that is love and devotion to the welfare of the flock, yet with an eye to the purpose of providing bounty back to the Lord who owns it all. We are not part of the Green cult worshiping nature.

As part of redemption from the Fall, we pass through that Flaming Sword at the gate of Eden. We desperately need to unlearn all the bad habits and get back on track to treat Creation as family. We may be struggling with a badly broken situation, but each of us bears a divine grant of feudal dominion over some portion of His Creation. As the good shepherd elder cultivates tenderness and communion with those in his household, we act in Creation as gentle masters on God’s behalf. If God places it in your hands, you are the manager. Your human needs are in the same basket as everyone involved. The purpose is God’s glory, but we are in charge of things.

The only question, then, is your personal style under God’s leadership.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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