Psalm 8: The Reign of Tyranny. Environmental Theology

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” 

-the psalmist King David

I think there are few passages of scripture so applicable to environmental theology as this, David’s Psalm of the night. 

As one who writes songs, I understand that the inspiration for a song can come years before it is presented to the public; the key lines birthed in some passionate moment in the past. Later developed into the polished and expanded form that the public comes to know.
When ever I read this psalm, I cannot help but picture King David as a youth, keeping watch over his father, Jesse’s flocks during the night in the hill country about Bethlehem. I envision him sitting about the camp fire, first looking up at the stars and the moon, and then to the landscape about him- the sheep, oxen and the wild beasts of the field. Then the psalmist allows his mind to wonder beyond what he can see of the handiwork of the Heavenly father, to far distant scenes of the ocean and the awesome creatures that travel the sea’s migratory corridors.
Or perhaps it was when he was living as the “King of the Wilderness” during his exile from the time he was anointed King until the reigning King Saul died. During this time the anointed king of Israel was living as a beast of the forest, with his fellow warriors- no doubt spending countless night under the stars thinking of delegated kingships from the ultimate power of the creator.
He may not have penned these words in such a scene, but I am certain that the inspiration for it was birthed in such moments. It is amazing how such potent moments spent in creation can fertilize a life pregnant with inspiration. 

Let us too, therefore, consider what the psalmist considers here; the kingship of man over the created world.

The question is well asked, “What is man that thou art mindful of him.” It was only recently that my daughter asked me about other planets and other worlds. In her 10 year old mind she couldn’t imagine that this entire universe was made just so we could look at it through a telescope. I was proud to see her exploring issues that some live their entire lives without contemplating.
“Perhaps it isn’t all about us.” I replied. “Perhaps His plan for the universe is far greater than we can even imagine!”
These were the thoughts of the psalmist as He considered the starry heavens.
What is a cruel and sinful race of beings- the cruelest and most sinful- that God is mindful of us? But He is not only mindful of us but has crowned us as the rulers of creation? What was he thinking? What cruel tyrants he has placed over his handiwork.
But it was not always so, and His ways are not our ways, and in His time and in His way He will address the abuse of power by His delegates.

For when he established our reign on the earth we lived in a symbiotic relationship with the whole of creation. We tended and cared for the garden, and in return, the earth willingly gave itself up to us, as in any good relationship. The dominion of humanity over creation was that of a servant leader, in the type of a good king, that knows that a healthy kingdom is a happy kingdom and so a happy king.
This was God’s purpose. This was the order he established. But humanity’s unwillingness to restrain itself from things in creation that God did not intend for us, brought creation into disharmony. Rather than mending our ways, the kings of this earth have given themselves over ever more to their selfish abuse of the planet, taking the fruits that God forbids.
Many of my friends that are environmentalists and conservationist bristle at the Bible’s claim that humanity is in a position of lordship over creation. I understand their desire to see us as part of a mosaic rather than as monarchs over it. Truly we are a part of the web of life on the planet. But a king in a kingdom is no greater in his humanity than any other of his subjects. The difference is not in humanity but in position. The same is true of our relation with the rest of all that contain God’s breath of life on this globe. 

It would be willful ignorance not to acknowledge that humanity has the power to do greater good or greater evil on this planet that any other species. Indeed, the future good or demise of everything on this planet is within our delegated power. What other species on the planet can boast the ability to destroy the planet at will, or to improve the plight of failing species other than our own?
Like it or not, humanity has dominion over this planet. And as with any power delegated from God, it can be used for good or evil. A good King will make his kingdom healthier. A wicked King will squander his kingdoms wealth on his selfish pleasures. 

What a sad abuse of power this kingdom has endured from its monarchs. The reign of tyranny must end. And it will.

Jesus taught a parable about three stewards left to manage their master’s affairs while he was away. In the story Jesus says that the master returns home and demands that his managers give an account of their stewardship. Two of them had done well with what they had been given and had increased it for their master. The third had done nothing with what he had been given charge over. For this he was severely punished.
God has left His creation under the management of humanity. One day He will require an account from each of us of our stewardship of the resources under our power that are ultimately His.
Let me leave you with this question; If the one steward that did not manage his charge at all, but neglected it, is to be punished, what of such a steward that has blatantly abused the governance entrusted him by his Master?

One Response so far.

  1. Asep says:
    , “It’s not the Bible’s authority that I qutsieon, but man’s ability to interpret it.” And think the same will be true for future generations.But if we accept that, maybe we’ll approach the Word less dogmatically and more fervently in the search.