Lesson 11

God's Power in Nature

(Deuteronomy 20:19-20; Deuteronomy 4:2; Mark 11:20-24)
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Introduction: This week our study is about nature. Ecology is a popular theme these days. Christians are sometimes criticized for having too little concern about the environment because they know ( Revelation 21:1; 2 Peter 3:10) this world is going to burn and God is going to give us an earth made new.

How, then, should we relate to nature? Is the environmental issue a campaign without a Biblical basis? Let's explore the Bible and find out what it has to say!

  1. TREE HUGGING ANYONE?


    1. When our first house was built, I was anxious that the builders preserve as many trees on the lot as possible. Later, as I observed other developments, I saw it was common for developers to cut down every tree in sight, build the new homes and then plant new trees!


      1. What sense does this make? Anyone here know about building? Does this practice make any common sense?


      2. What kind of issue is this? A practical or moral issue?


    2. Our lesson (Tuesday) suggests that the Bible "hints" that we should not "abuse" nature by cutting down trees (or at least not cut too many trees.) It asks us to read Deuteronomy 20:19-20. Let's read that text.


      1. When the text asks "Are the trees of the field people that you should besiege them," what point is God making? (You don't have a gripe with the trees!)


        1. Is this a practical or moral point?


          1. Why? ("Practical" seems to be the correct answer. Not all trees are protected in this text and a practical and not moral rational for the command is given.)


        2. If you said, "practical," and you were wrong, would there be any "downside" to being wrong? (Absolutely, you would be sinning if you engaged in this activity.)


        3. If you said, "moral," and you were wrong, would there be any "downside" to being wrong? (Let's read another text: Deuteronomy 4:2.)


          1. Does God tell us that it is sin to call something a moral issue when it is not?


    3. Do you know if Jesus had a theology of trees? What was it? Let's look at Mark 11:12-14.


      1. Was the lack of fruit the tree's fault? (It says it was not the right season for fruit.)


      2. What was Jesus attitude towards this tree?


      3. Let's read on. Mark 11:20-21.


        1. Does this disqualify Jesus from being called a "tree-hugger?"


      4. Let's read on: Mark 11:22-23. Also read another account of this in Matthew 21:21.


        1. What do you have to say now? Jesus not only is talking about His disciples killing trees, He is talking about them throwing mountains around? Is Jesus a regular environmental terrorist?


        2. What is Jesus' point in these verses? Does it have anything to do with nature? (The "punch line" is Mark 11:24. Read. Jesus "point" is that we should have faith in God. Such faith overcomes any natural matter.)


          1. What, if anything, should we conclude about nature from this story? (Nature is surely secondary to teaching the disciples a lesson about faith. Jesus could not reasonably be called a "tree-hugger." In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, comments on trees show that they are intended to serve the needs of mankind-and not the other way around.)


    4. Our discussion so far seems to deprive nature (at least trees) of any value independent of aiding mankind. Let's read a text our lesson suggests should change our mind. Read Revelation 11:18.


      1. What are the criteria for being saved in this verse?


      2. What are the criteria for being destroyed?


        1. Is the lack of concern for the environment a basis for being lost? (Vines tells us that the Greek word translated "destroyed" means "corrupted." Thus, this could be read "corrupted the earth." This, however, has certain logical problems because this same word is used twice and it would not make sense to say "corrupt those who corrupt the earth." Adam Clarke's Commentary on this text says it refers to "authors, fomenters, and encouragers of bloody wars." The SDA Bible Commentary on this text says it refers to those "who have destroyed the earth - physically, and also spiritually." Barnes' Notes suggests this refers to those who have "spread desolation over the earth and who have persecuted the righteous.")


  2. ENVIRONMENTALISM AND WORSHIP


    1. We have all read or heard someone talking about "Mother Nature" or speak of sinning against "Mother Earth." Do you see any danger in this?


      1. If "no," tell me why?


      2. If "yes," tell me why?


    2. Let's read Romans 1:20. Does this verse suggest an important reason for preserving nature? (Yes. We learn of God's nature from His creation.)


    3. Let's continue. Read Romans 1:21-25. Where did these people go wrong? What is their sin?


      1. Do you see a parallel lesson in this text with the lesson to be drawn from the withered fig tree? (There is a hierarchy and a balance. Nature is the servant of God for advancing His divine purpose. It is not a substitute for God.)


      2. Verse 24 tells us that God gave these people over to sexual impurity because of their attitude towards nature.


        1. How does this make any sense?


        2. What relationship do you see between cause and effect? (If you miss the hierarchy, if you miss that God, not nature, is the standard, then you open yourself up to all sorts of sin and corrupt thinking.)


    1. Let's read Mark 6:31-32, Luke 5:16 and Luke 6:12. What do these verses suggest, if anything, about worship and the environment?


      1. Would your closet do just as well?


      2. Read Psalms 23:1-3. Is this simply an analogy for shepherds or is this a statement about how being out in the environment can advance worship? (These verses suggest what is reinforced by experience, that being in nature can bring us closer to God. On the other hand, you have probably been in nature a time or two where the biting, stinging, sucking things did not help bring you closer to God.)


  1. GOD'S VIEW OF NATURE


    1. Late in life, one of my father's hobbies was wood carving. He carved a large unicorn for us. I would not consider defacing that unicorn in any way.


      1. Why do you think I have that attitude?


      2. Is that the attitude that God expects us to have of His creation?


      3. Let's look at a text. Read Psalms 33:6-9. How does the Bible reveal that God created nature? (He spoke.)


        1. Does this increase or decrease the value of nature?


        1. Is this an "easy come, easy go" situation?


        2. If my dad simply spoke the unicorn into existence, would I value it less?


        3. Does this "speaking" stuff reinforce the idea that God is way above His creation? (We do not see Him struggling to put it together!)


    1. Read Luke 12:5-6. What is the context of these verses?


      1. What does this tell us about the extent of God's concern and awareness of His creation?


      2. Since we have seen Jesus' relative unconcern about trees, do you think God distinguishes between plants and animals?


      3. Do you see a parallel between this text and the story about Jesus destroying the fig tree? (Yes! These texts are identical in one very important way: in both, nature is used as a lesson to increase faith in God.)


    2. Friend, we need to avoid the extremes on both sides of the ecology issue. God created nature both for our benefit and to help lead us to Him. Because God created nature and because it is a gift, we should be careful of it. On the other hand, nature is clearly here to serve mankind and not the other way around. Any attempt to deify nature or to raise its importance about that of mankind is contrary to the teachings of the Bible.


  1. NEXT WEEK: SABBATH AND REDEMPTION IN CREATION

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