Saturday, November 11, 2006

Created to Have Dominion: Subduing the Earth

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
God blessed Adam and Eve to subdue the earth. To subdue means to bring into subjection, or under control, and so speaks of a forcefulness. Adam and Eve were to bring the earth into line with plan and purpose of God, in whose image and likeness they were created. They were given the assignment of tending and keeping the Garden, but as they subdued the earth, it would all begin to look like Eden.

How were they to subdue the earth? To answer that, consider that, when God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, He then puffed His own breath into Adam’s nostrils, and Adam became a living being (Genesis 2:7). An ancient Aramaic translation and commentary on this passage says that Adam became a “speaking spirit.” Just as God created the heavens and the earth by the Word of His mouth, for “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Hebrews 11:3), so also the earth would be subdued by the spoken word. That is why Adam’s first assignment was to name the animals. By speaking words, he was actually calling these creatures into their destiny. He was subduing them, bringing them into divine order. God did not name the animals, or even tell Adam what to name the animals; He merely observed.
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every best of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)
Though the fulfillment of the divine mandate to subdue the earth was hindered by the Fall, it was never rescinded. In Jesus Christ, this authority and power is fully restored to mankind. Throughout His earthly ministry, we see Jesus subduing the earth by His words:
  • Though He healed many by the touch of His hands, He also healed many by His words. For example, He healed Peter’s mother-in-law by rebuking it—speaking words to it (Luke 4:39).
  • He calmed the tumult of the wind and waves by speaking to them, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).
  • He also rebuked the fig tree which by its leaves had promised fruit, but was actually barren. He spoke to it, saying, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again,” and the tree withered from the root up (Mark 11:14, 20).
Though He was and is fully divine, Jesus did not subdue these things out of His divinity. Rather, He did them out of His complete humanity, yielded to God and anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. This was the same anointing He promised to all His disciples when he said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

In the incident of the fig tree, Jesus taught His disciples how they, too, would be able to subdue things by the words of their mouths:
Have faith in God [literally, of God]. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:22-23)
All the earth waits for the manifestation of the people of God subduing the earth and bringing it into line with the divine plan:
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope, because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:19-22)
We were created to subdue the earth, by the faith of God at work in our hearts and through the words of our lips.