FEED MY SHEEP Chapter 4, Feed My Sheep
Written by: Unknown Posted on: 05/07/2003
Category: Bible Studies
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
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
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
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
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.
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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