(Genesis 1-3, 6-7 & 9; 2 Thessalonians 3)
Introduction: What does "dominion" mean? The Commonwealth of Virginia, where I live, is called the "Old Dominion." When I looked this up in Encyclopedia Virginia, I discovered that Virginia was the first of the "overseas dominions of the kings and queens of England." I thought "Old Dominion" meant something grand. Instead, it means I live in a place that was dominated by another country! The King James version of the Bible says humans have "dominion" over the creation. Let's dive into our Bibles and learn what that means!
- Creation and Dominion
- Read Genesis 1:26-27. Over what does God give humans dominion? ("Over all the earth." Then the Bible names the animals, both domestic and wild. It sounds like we have dominion over all of the creation.)
- Notice that God then says that He is creating us in His image. Why? (Since God is the ultimate ruler, He made us to look like Him. I guess it is good for the rulers to have a similar look.)
- You may have noticed that the New International Version uses the term "rule" instead of "dominion." Does that make "dominion" easier to understand?
- If you say, "yes," tell me how you rule over the animals?
- Read Genesis 1:28. We see a new word, "subdue." How does "subdue" add to our understanding of how we should "rule" over the creation? (Clearly, humans are in charge.)
- Read Genesis 1:29-30. If you had just been told that you were in charge of the animals, would this add to your authority or limit your authority? (Given our culture today, this is a major limitation on our authority. We are not permitted to eat the animals. Instead, the animals and humans have essentially the same diet - green plants.)
- What does this limitation teach us? (Our authority is limited.)
- Read Genesis 2:15-17. What additional limits do we find on our authority? (Adam and Eve are told not to eat of the fruit of one tree. In addition, they are give an obligation regarding the creation. They are told to "work it" and "take care of it." This is another limit on our authority.)
- Given these limits on our total authority, how would you best describe the nature of our authority? (Benevolent or symbiotic. We take care of the creation and it takes care of us.)
- The Fall and Dominion
- Read Genesis 3:17-19. After Adam and Eve sinned, how has their relationship with the creation changed? (Nothing in the text says that humans are no longer in charge, rather, nature is in rebellion. Nature is not cooperating as it did in the past.)
- Read Genesis 3:16. What logic do you find in the punishment for sin? (Remember that we were created to be rulers like God? We will now experience something like God is experiencing with us. God is our Creator. As we now create more humans, the experience is painful - just as we are creating pain for God. God's creation is now creating difficulties and trouble for Him. The plants are now creating difficulty for Adam. God gives us a parallel experience to what He now suffers.)
- Read John 12:31-33. Jesus calls Satan the "prince of this world." To what extent did dominion pass to Satan when Adam and Eve sinned? (Jesus clearly calls Satan "prince," and ascribes some authority in the world to him. But, Satan's authority is limited because it was God who told Adam and Eve (after they sinned) their new relationship to the creation. It is revealing that Jesus calls Satan "prince" as opposed to "king.")
- Read Genesis 6:5-7. In light of this text, how would you describe the relative authority of Satan and Jesus after the sin of humans? (God retained ultimate authority. God proposes to destroy the creation. If Satan had complete authority over the earth, he could block this, or at least would have a legitimate complaint that God was destroying his property, his kingdom.)
- Read Genesis 7:1-4 and Genesis 7:20-23. Who is in charge here? (God!)
- Read Genesis 9:1-5. Who is in charge here? (God and humans.)
- After the flood, what does God say about the authority of humans over the creation? (God says a couple of things. First, He announces that humans can eat animals. Second, God proclaims that animals "are given into your hands," but God prohibits eating the blood of animals. God is in complete control. Once again, God delegates part of that control to humans.)
- As you contemplate the verses we have read, does it seem to you that we humans are laboring under the control of Satan, or that God has retained control and that we are still operating "in His image" in the sense that the problems we have created for Him now are problems with which we must deal? (Humans never had authority to transfer power from God to Satan. What humans did is complicate their own authority by participating in the rebellion against God's authority.)
- Re-read Genesis 9:2 and notice what it says about a further alteration in the relationship between humans and animals. What is that change? (Animals will now fear humans. They will want to stay away from humans.)
- Why would God do that? (To preserve the lives of the animals because humans are now eating them!)
- Is there a parallel, once again, between God's authority and our authority in "His image?" (Men now understand that God is capable of destroying His creation. Animals understand that humans can destroy them.)
- Toward More Perfect Dominion
- Read 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5. How should we handle the fact that our sin and Satan's work creates real problems for us? (Pray that we will be delivered from wicked and evil humans.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10 and Deuteronomy 15:7-8. Are these two texts in conflict? How would you reconcile them?
- Re-read 2 Thessalonians 3:6. What "teaching" is Paul writing about? (Context tells us the teaching is their example of work. Thus, the poor being helped in Deuteronomy 15 are the working poor. These are not people who disobey the teaching to work.)
- Read Leviticus 19:9-10. What is required of the poor as part of this provision for their food? (That they work. They work to "reap" what has been left over.)
- Read 1 Timothy 5:3-4. What is the rule for widows who are "really in need?" (That the first source of help should be the family.)
- Read 1 Timothy 5:9-10. What is the rule for helping elderly widows? (They can only be put on the "list" (the official church list for help) if they have done good deeds in the past.)
- Re-read Genesis 3:17-19. We previously decided that the hard work required to raise food from the newly rebellious nature, reflected the great difficulty that God now faces because of our sin. What does this suggest about work? (It improves character. Work teaches us about dominion and ruling.)
- Why does God generally require that we give help only to the poor who are working? (If you look again at 2 Thessalonians 3:9, Paul tells us he is a model for teaching the importance of work. We teach the importance of work when we work and when we create methods of helping the poor that require them to work.)
- The discussion of helping widows, and the warning to "keep away" from a "brother" who is idle ( 2 Thessalonians 3:6), refer to those within the group of believers. Do you think these rules also apply to those outside the church?
- CNS news reports that, according to the United States government, only 62.8 percent of the population (age 16 or older and not in an institution) is in the workforce. This number includes those who are unemployed, but actively looking for a job. What does this say about the state of God's plan for work?
- Friend, humans rebelled against God in Eden and He imposed punishments that allow us in some measure to experience His suffering while improving our character. Are humans in rebellion today by separating help for the poor from a requirement to work? If you agree, will you consider how you can help restore the lesson in Eden of God's dominion?
- Next week: Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1.