A second answer that David gave to his question ‘What is man?’ is ‘You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all the flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.’ [Psalm 8:6-8]

This answer is grounded in Genesis 1: 26 and 28, where we read:

‘and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground ‘

‘… fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’

It is impossible for us to even imagine what this meant in the original, perfect world – a world that was quite different from what it is today.

Then, when God first created the world, there was no fear in either human or animal. Then, when God first created the world, there was no death. Man and beast lived together without any feeling of being threatened by the other. [Think on Genesis 1:29-30].

The peace of this original man/beast relationship is seen in God’s promise of what life will be like in the new heavens and the new earth:

‘The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain … ‘ [Isaiah 11:6-9].

For this end-time restoration the created world is currently waiting:

‘The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration … the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time’ [Read Romans 8:18-22].

The God-given human responsibility of ruling the earth changed with Genesis 3 in two fundamental ways:

Firstly, we, as sinners, do not and cannot exercise our responsibility of ruling the earth, in the way God intended. Disconnected from God we are disconnected from God’s values and God’s standards. Disconnected from God we are also disconnected from the real source of our identity and significance, which is God himself. We struggle to gain significance elsewhere. We strive for recognition and power, and in that quest trample over every thing in our path, using, misusing and abusing it to magnify our own importance. Simply put, we humans no longer know how to rule the earth.

Secondly, the earth itself became a threat to our survival. As indicated in the Romans 8 verses above, and in the record of God’s judgement in Genesis 3:17-19, it is very obvious that the world we now experience from Genesis 3 onwards is not the same as the world of Genesis 1 and 2. Death, struggle and suffering entered.

What was once a point of blessing from God - ‘God blessed them, and said to them “… Rule over …” ‘ [Genesis 1:28], has now become a point of curse – ‘Cursed be the ground because of you …’ [Genesis 3:17].

A joyful day is coming when ‘the mountains and hills will burst into song’ and ‘all the trees of the field will clap their hands’ [Isaiah 55:12]. Until that day the whole of creation groans in agony, as we, God’s saved and unsaved ‘rulers’ of the earth, still labour with this now tortured responsibility of taking care of God’s world. May those of us who know the Lord seek to fulfil this responsibility with integrity.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013, 2016