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FEED MY SHEEP Chapter 4, Feed My Sheep

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 05/07/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

                            CHAPTER 4

                          FEED MY SHEEP

    In  this volume  we have  explored many  avenues of truth.  We have begun  with creation and have  concluded with the Christian's task  today.  We  discovered that  the believer,  God's man, has a glorious mandate and  opportunity of bringing  the Gospel to  this sin cursed world.  Christ, the last Adam,  has provided redemption for  this  cosmos.  The  good  news of this tremendous historical event is to  be shared with all  men.  Thus, each is  provided the opportunity to forsake his sin and to enter the kingdom of God.

    One  might  wonder  if  there  is  other  information in these opening  chapters of Genesis that might  lead us to the believer's mandate or task today.  Surprisingly, there is, as we shall see.

    Let  us  turn  back  to  Genesis  3:23.  There we read of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden following their terrible defeat by the hand of Satan.  We read:

    ...therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from  the garden of     Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.

    In this passage we want to focus our  attention upon the word "till" which in Hebrew is abad.  As we reflect on the Bible's use of this word we shall discover very significant truth for man today.

    The word "till" was first  used in the garden before  the fall of man into sin.  In Gensis 2:15 we read:

    The Lord God took the man  and put him in the garden  of Eden     to till it and keep it.

    Adam and Eve,  in their perfect pristine  relationship to God and the  cosmos, were  told to  "till" or  "dress" the garden.  It would appear as "till" is  used in this context that they  were to cultivate it.  They  were to care  for it and  maintain that which was already good.  In this  way the ground would supply  the needs of man.

    In Genesis 3:23 we are told man was driven from the garden and told to "till" (abad) the ground from which he was taken.  At this point in history the implication of this command should have  been identical  to that of  Genesis 2:15, except  that the "tilling" of the ground  was to be far more difficult and unrewarding.  Whereas in  the  garden  there  was  perfect  harmony  between man and the ground,  so  that  the  ground  as  a subordinate to man responded willingly and loyally to man's  care, sin brought rebellion in the ground.  Man  must now work by  the sweat of his  face (Gen. 3:19) and  thorns  and  thistles  would  come  forth as a reward for his efforts (Gen. 3:18).  Whereas  in the garden "tilling"  the garden was a joyful, God- glorifying activity, after the fall it became  a painful difficult pursuit in which he must engage if he was to eat and have shelter.

    In  its Biblical  use in  the first  three chapters of Genesis there  is  no  suggestion  or  intimation  that "tilling the soil" should  in any  sense make  a man  a servant  of the soil.  In the garden  he  clearly  was  lord  over  the ground and all creation.  After the fall man was  no longer lord of creation, and the ground had become an  adversary.  But he had not  become a subordinate of the ground.  Even  as man was cursed,  so was the ground.  If man alone were cursed and not  the ground, a very difficult  situation would  have  developed.  In  a  real  sense the ground would have become superior  to man, for it would  have continued in a perfect relationship to  God the Creator,  while man had  become estranged from God, as a slave of  Satan.  Thus by cursing the ground  (Gen. 3:17)  God assured that the  creation order was continued.  Before the  fall  this  creation  order  was  a  glorious  thing with man reigning  as  king  (dominion),  as  God's vice gerund.  There was perfect  obedience  and  loyalty  of  subordinates to those above.  After  the fall the creation order continued, but man had lost his kingship and  Satan had become his master and prince of the world.  Because  the  creatures  of  the  world continued in a subordinate relationship to  man, he  was to  use them  for food and clothing.  But his kingship over them had ceased.  They had become rebellious toward  man and would  destroy man if  possible.  To safeguard man and to  maintain the proper  creation order, God  put the fear and dread  of man within the animals  and actually had to deliver them into  his hand  (Gen. 9:2).  This phrase,  "deliver them into his hand," is an  evidence of the total loss  of dominion sustained by man by the  fall.  The situation required  special intervention by God to maintain any semblance of order in the sin-cursed world.

    Similarly, the ground  which was to  supply the needs  of man, also,  continued as a  subordinate of man.  But man was no longer king  over  it.  This  loss  of  kingship  was  manifested by the rebellion and resistance of the ground to man's efforts.

    We have introduced  into this discussion the  phrase "creation order."  Let us look a bit at this term.  By this we mean that the Creator  in His wisdom created  various levels of existance, which we will call "creation orders."  The rocks and inanimate parts  of creation  would probably  be classed  as the  very lowest order in that there is no life of any  kind in them.  They are used by  all higher levels of  creation to accomplish the desires of the higher levels of creation.

    Broadly speaking  the next  higher level  would be  plants and vegetaion.  They are a living part of  creation.  They are used by the higher "creation orders" for food.  They utilize the inanimate creation which is a lower order to provide environment in which to exist.

    The next major creation order on an ascending level is that of animals.  They are  higher than the  plants because they  have the Holy Spirit's "breath of  life" within them.  They use  the lowest order, the inanimate, as a habitat in which to live.  They use the plant order for food.  They  have no claim on the highest "order", man.

    Man,  the  highest  "creation  order",  is  such because he is created  in  the  image  of God.  He uses all the lower "creation orders"  to accomplish  the purpose  for which  he was  created as God's image bearer.

    It is important to  note however, that a higher creation order does not necessarily  exercise dominion or  kingship over a  lower one.  A plant does not rule  over a rock or over water.  An animal does not rule over plants.  And neither  does man necessarily rule over animals, plants, or rocks.  He uses them for his needs simply because he is of a higher "creation  order."  (It is true that God did  originally  give  man  dominion  or kingship over these lower orders, the cosmos itself. But as we have seen,  this dominion was taken away  because of his surrendering to  Satan.)  Thus, to till the ground in  its original intent could never  imply that man was to  regard  the  ground  or  the  animals  as  a higher order than himself.  He  would  never  "serve"  the  ground or "worship" the ground.  Rather he would care for it so that it would produce as a lower "creation order" those things necessary for animals and man.  He would also care for animals in order that they would produce on behalf of the  higher "creation order," which is  man.  But let us return to the word abad.

    A strange phenomena  becomes apparent in  the Bible.  When  we study this word "abad" we discover that it is used in a distinctly different  manner  in  most  instances  in  the Bible from that of Genesis  1 to 3.  We  have seen that the  creation order of things was that  of the ground being  subordinate to man or  of man being superior to  the ground.  Thus  man tilled (abad)  the ground with the  ground subordinate to him in every sense.  But lo and behold, "abad" normally means to "serve" when used in the Bible.  Some 214 times  it is translated "serve" in the K. J. V. of the Bible.  And this use of  abad to indicate "service" is  not that of serving an equal  or someone of  a lower order  in a helpful considerate way.  Instead it is used to  indicate the serving of a superior.  It is used to indicate service to God, for example:

    Exodus 3:12:  you shall serve (abad) God upon this mountain. 

    Exodus 10:7:  that they man serve (abad) the Lord their God. 

    Deut. 6:13:  you shall  fear the  Lord your  God; you  shall     serve (abad) him.

    Judges 2:7:  And  the people served  (abad) the Lord  all the     days of Joshua.

    It is used to indicate service  to false gods.  In fact it is even translated as worshipper.

    I  Sam. 12:10:  we have  forsaken the  Lord, and have served     (abad) the Baals.

    I Kings 16:31:  and served (abad) Baal, and worshipped him.

    II Kings 10:21:  and all the worshippers (abad) of Baal came.

    Now  this is a  startling development.  "Till"  (abad) in the first  three  chapters  of  Genesis  could  not  in any sense have related to an inferior serving or  worshipping a superior.  Rather the creation order was that of a superior caring for  an inferior.  Something had  happened in  man's reaction  to mandate  of Genesis 3:23 to till the ground.

    Romans  1:18-25 states  very clearly  what happened.  There we read "men...became vain in their reasonings...changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image  of corruptible man,  and  of  birds,  and  four-footed  beasts  and  creeping things,...and worshipped and  served the creature rather  than the Creator."  Tilling  the  ground  became  an  act  of  serving  or worshipping.  That  which  was  to  be  an  act  of  caring for a subordinate became an act  of worshipping a superior.  Man  of his own volition had reversed the creation order.

    When  did this  drastic reversal  take place?  The account of Genesis 4 gives us a clue.  We read that Cain was a "tiller of the ground" (Gen. 4:2).  This word "tiller" is the identical word abad which we are presently considering.  The  simple phrase "tiller of the ground" does not tell us whether to understand "tiller" in the sense of  Gensis 2 and 3 where man's  total desire was to care for the earth in  accordance with God's  command, or whether  there is any implication of serving  or worshipping.  But when we  read on, we begin  to sense that  there is the  implication of "serving" or "worshipping" in "tiller of the ground."  We read in Genesis 4:3-5 "that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord," but  the Lord had no respect or regard for Cain's offering.  In fact, Cain  was so decisively rebuffed that the Bible says Cain was  very  angry  (Gen.  4:5).  This  anger was so severe that he murdered  his  brother  Abel,  who  had  also sacrificed and whose sacrifice was acceptable to God.

    Why  had  God  rejected  Cain's  offering?  We don't know for certain, but we know that if Cain had been  faithfully obeying the mandate  to  care  for  the  ground;  had  maintained  a  proper relationship  to  the  ground  with  the  ground  in  a completely subordinate relationship to himself; and, if he now brought of the fruit  of the ground an offering to  the Lord as an effort to show his praise and adoration of  God, there is no Biblical  reason why his offering should  not have been  acceptable to God.  But if we recall the  ten commandments, we remember that  the first is, "You shall  have no  other gods  before me."(1)  If  Cain  had  already begun to look at the ground,  and the products to be derived  from it, as something of great value, as something  to be respected and honored, as something superior to man  himself, as something to be served, as something which he had  already subconsciously begun to worship,then he was already guilty of breaking this first command, as  well as the mandate  of Genesis 3:23 to  till, "care for," the ground.  That Cain  had lost his  respect for the  creation order, for the superiority of mankind, is shown by the fact that he could murder his  brother Abel in the premediatated  fashion in which he did.

    It  is easy  to see  how Cain  had fallen  into this  sin.  He quickly recognized  the hidden  treasures in  this wonderful earth that God  had created with all of  its potential to bring creature comforts  and  pleasures.  Soon  he  discovered  the  building possibilities  of products  of the  earth, so  he built  the first city.  It was his descendants  who discovered in the earth  copper and iron.  It was his  descendants who found  that products taken from the earth  could be fashioned  into musical instruments  that were pleasant to the  ear.  This earth was indeed marvelous in its possibliities and  Cain gave  it a  high rating.  He had begun to serve it as a superior.

    That  the  ground  and  its  products  were the root of Cain's problem is also suggested by the curse pronounced by God following Cain's  sin.  Genesis  4:12 states,  "When you till the ground, it shall no  longer yield to you  its strength."  It was  his love of the  ground  that  had  tempted  Cain  to  fall into grievous sin.  Hopefully, the ground would no longer be as tempting to him. 

    We see, thus, that  already with Cain man had begun to reverse the  creation  order.  The  ground,  the  lowest  echelon  in the creation  order,  had  been  raised  to  a position even above man himself.  In the products of the ground he hoped to find his  joy, security, and hope.  He must indeed explore the ground with utmost diligence  and dispatch.  This gave  him tremendous motivation to explore  the  earth  to  discover  its  secrets-- its  wonderful potential.

Abel Keeps Sheep

    When we turn to Abel  we see quite a different  situation.  We read that he was a "keeper" of sheep.  The word "keeper" or (raah) is  translated "to feed"  or "shepherd" or  "pastor" in the Bible.  He was  a feeder of  sheep, a shepherd  who cared for  them.  As a shepherd  he  was  following  in  careful obedience the command of Genesis 3:23 to "till the ground."  There is no indication that in his  shepherding of  sheep he  was serving  the sheep  as a higher order than  man, or that he was  worshipping animals in any sense.  Rather  he cared for  them, viewing them  as a subordinate part of creation.  As a shepherd, he must of necessity have also cared for the ground, for  in this way he would provide  feed for the sheep.  He was truly obeying  the command to "till the ground."  But in no sense  had he  begun to  look at  the ground  and the animals as a superior to  man himself.  He realized  that God  only was  to be worshipped.  His sacrifice of a lamb, the finest of the lambs- -the firstling, their fat portions--indicated  his high regard for God.  He brought of  the very highest order of that  which was under his care, an animal; and he brought the very best of  these animals to God  as  a  sacrifice.  That  his  relationship  to  God, and His mandates, was wholesome is  clearly demonstrated by the  fact that God had  regard for Abel and his offering (Gen. 4:4).  In bringing this sacrifice he probably unwittingly had begun to anticipate the sacrifice of the one who would atone for his sins.

Cain--A Type Of Modern Man

    In  Cain  and  Abel  we  can  see  modern man.  We can see his problem and we can see what ought to be.  Modern man, the slave of Satan, has  reversed the  creation order.  He has  discovered the virtually infinite  number of products  that can be  produced from this  creation.  He  has  found  that  through  technology he can produce  goods and  services undreamed  of by  former generations.  Science,  technology,  business  education  are  all  focussed  to produce a better world based on mans' ingenuity, as he wrests from the earth,  from the  atom, from  the universe,  its secrets.  He believes that  from this earth  he can reconstruct  the history of the  earth  and  man.  He  believes  that  somehow by making more leisure  time  available,  or  more  education,  or  more creature comforts, he can solve the  moral problems of the world.  He even speaks  of the :Bible" of nature,  putting the natural record on a level with the Word of God.(2)

Ecology:  A Desperate Question

    He is deeply interested in the question of  ecology.  Ecoloyg, the biological relationship  of organisms to their environment, is increasingly in the  forefront of his thinking.  Is  this merely a fad that will eventually go  the way of the hula hoops?  Or is it simply  a  diversion  created  to  take  our  minds away from more traumatic subjects, such as, the threat of nuclear war?

    A  bit  of  reflection  will  show  that  this is a subject of gravest concern to man.  As we have seen from time immemorial, man has  derived  his  happiness,  his  security  and his hope for the future from the  earth and its products.  From it he receives such vital  necessities  as  food,  shelter,  recreation,  musical instruments, and medicines. 

    Hopefully, since man had lived on this  earth for a million or more years (so he believes), this earth should sustain man for the next million years.  But to his utmost dismay and consternation he is discovering that  maybe mother earth isn't as  dependable as he thought.  Species of wild  life are facing extinction,  rivers are getting polluted, the air is getting loaded with impurities  which won't  go  away.  Even  the  oceans,  which to former generations seemed  so  limitless,  are  no  longer  trustworthy  as they  for example, produce tuna and swordfish tainted with mercury.  Mother earth, which man has worshipped  since the days of Cain, isn't the boundless bountiful god man has subconsciously thought it was.

    In man's judgment, one of the most grievous sins would well be this  desecration, this  polluting of  the earth's  atmosphere and biosphere.  Thus, we can  well expect that the subject  of ecology which deals with  conservation and pollution is  not an incidental subject.  It  could well  become a  most important  object of  new laws,  research  grants,  and  general  conversation in the coming years.  And with each new discovery of pollution, the agitation of man  will  increase  until  it  could  easily  reach  hysterical proportions.  Such is the concern of natural man to the subject of ecology.

    How does the believer relate to this grave subject?  The Bible gives us a forthsight answer.  Did you know, God  predicted in His Word  that the  earth would  reach a  condition  when  it would no longer be the limitless source of  blessing and comfort it appears to  have been for thousands of years?  In Hebrews 1:10,11 we read, "Thou,  Lord,  didst  found  the  earth  in  the beginning and the heavens  are the  work of  thy hands;  they will  perish, but thou remainst; they will grow old like a garment."

    The phenomenon we are experiencing in our generation as we see the  earth becoming increasingly polluted surely appears to be the fulfillment  of  this  prophecy.  This  is especially true in the light of all  of the other signs which suggest the early return of our Lord.  In other  words, God is telling man that  this earth is to grow old.  It will increasingly deteriorate.  It will gradually serve  man  with  less  efficiency  and  brightness than it did in earlier years.  Like a garment it will wear out (Ps. 102:26).

    This earth, after  all, is not a god to  be served, to provide security and hope for  man.  It is under the curse  of sin and has been subjected to  futility by God himself (Rom.  8:20).  It, too, will experience the victory of the atonement when it becomes a new earth.  This, of course,  is to be  realized after this earth has been destroyed by fire at Christ's coming (II Pet. 3).

    The Christian, then, is not to view the  rapidly advancing old age of the earth with alarm.  While he doesn't waste its resources or unnecessarily pollute it, he realizes this sin-cursed earth  is not the earth he is promised as an inheritance.  That promise will be fulfilled  when God has brought into  being the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells.

    He  knows that  the sin  of man  is not  the pollution  of the earth, but the rejection of God.  This is so clearly set forth  in Romans  1:18-32.  Romans  1:25  records "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the  creature rather than the Creator."

    The believer is aware that natural man will recruit the finest scientists and spare no expense to arrest pollution.  For the life of the god he serves is at stake.  If his god perishes so will he.  How right he is!  He will indeed be  destroyed from this earth and spend eternity in Hell.

    The believer, therefore,  saves his energies, his  effort, and his concern not to save this earth which is twice doomed (it  will wear  out, it  will be  destroyed) but  to save mankind from God's wrath.  This  is  the  problem  that  is  of critical and eternal importance to man.

    Natural man (almost  3 1/2 billion strong) can  and will offer abundant answers  to questions related to ecology.  The believer's contribution  at  very  best  can  only  be quite incidental.  His numbers,  as  compared  with  the  billions of unbelievers, are so small.  His motivation toward this question can never approach the dedication and intensity  of that of the unbeliever,  who looks to this earth for his security and hope.

    But  the  wrath  of  God  is  another  question.  This certain catastrophe of  God's judgment  is infinitely  more important than any aspect  of ecology.  And only the believers, that tiny band of citizens  of  Christ's  kingdom,  have  an  answer  for this dread problem.  It is the wonderful answer of salvation in Christ Jesus.  This is why he is called  an ambassador of Christ (II Cor.  5:20), the  fragrance of  Christ (II  Cor. 2:15).  This is why the Bible says, "you are  a chosen race, a royal  priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the  wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous  light" (I Peter 2:9).  He doesn't dare get sidetracked into any lesser issues when he has such a tremendously important mandate and privilege.

Population Control

    One  aspect  of  the  ecological  question that natural man is troubled  about  is  that  of  population  control.  Because he is frightened  concerning  the  future  of  this  earth he feels that mankind  must  be  limited  in  his  growth.  Therefore, today the subject of population control is  openly discussed and welcomed to a greater or lesser degree by people in every  walk of life.  Even many Christian  theologians have  put their  stamp of  approval on birth  control.  Thus  far  such  extreme  measures of population control, as abortion,  have escaped general  theological approval.  Unfortunately,  once  a  pill  is  perfected which will permit the aborting of early pregnancies, we can even expect some theological approval for this act.

    It  is  rather  easy  to  see  unsaved  man's  acceptance  and promotion of  these concepts.  He is  deeply concerned  with this earth  and its ability to provide everything that is desirable for man.  Because he has no regard for God or His providential care of the universe, he  is convinced that he alone is  the master of his fate, the  captain of his soul.  He is, therefore, even willing to commit  mass  murder  (abortion)  to  realize what he believes are legitimate goals.

    He argues  that the earth is  rapidly becoming over-populated.  While one can see the reason for the fright that is producing this idea, the error of this concept can be shown very easily by a very simple computation.

    The state of Texas contains 263,513 square miles of land area.  This is equal to 7,300 billion square feet.  The population of the world  is  approximately  3.5  billion.  If  this  population was divided  into  families  averaging  four  people (parents plus two children),  there would  be about  875 million  families.  If each family was given a plot of ground 6,000 square feet in area, which is the size of many of our suburban lots, a total of 5,250 million square feet would be required.  Since the state  of Texas contains 2,050  billion  square  feet  more  that  this,  there  would  be sufficient area  in this  one state  for all  the families  of the earth today, with land the size of the state of Iowa left over for streets and  parks.  The rest of North  America, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia would be available for factories, food  production and  recreation.  Truly  man has  only begun  to fill the  earth.  Those who  advocate population control really do make completely unrealistic claims.

    The Christian, on the other hand, realizes that  the Bible has something  to say about this&

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