The purpose of this article is to pick out some of the ways God creatively impacts our world by the Holy Spirit. We do not live in a closed system. The first book of the Bible is introduced by these words:
"When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:1,2, NRSV margin).
But the Bible does not imagine that the interventions of God ceased with the original creation. The psalm writer gave this observation of plant and animal ecology in his day:
"You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the human heart . . . These all look to you to give them their food in due season ; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground" (Psalm 104:10-30).
Evidently God was continually involved in blessing the fruitfulness of the land and the animals and humans that depended on it. But blessing could also be revoked. The Jewish people remembered the plagues that God sent to persuade the Egyptians to free them from slavery:
"He turned their waters into blood, and caused their fish to die . . . he gave them hail for rain, and lightning that flashed through their land. He struck their vines and fig trees, and shattered the trees of their country. He spoke and the locusts came, and young locusts without number; they devoured all the vegetation in their land" (Psalm 104:29-35).
The Bible describes how the ecological balance is disturbed by certain kinds of behavior. Cain, the first murderer was told:
"Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength" (Genesis 4:10-12).
We should not be surprised at the impact on the environment of Hitler’s gas chambers, Stalin’s Gulag, the killing fields of Cambodia, the atrocities of Romania’s Ceausescu, the genocide in Ruanda, massacres in the Balkans, the murder of Shias and Kurds by Saddam Hussain, the continuing oppression of women.
One of the prophets noted how "There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air. Even the fish of the sea are perishing" (Hosea 4:1-3).
Another prophet recorded the ecological disaster that resulted from the failure to work at the restoration of the temple that the LORD had commissioned and provided for:
"My house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses. Therefore the heavens above have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the soil produces, on human beings and animals, and their labors" (Haggai 1:9-10, see Ezra 1:2-6).
Jesus delighted in the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:26-28). But as he reigns among the nations he will on occasion allow ecological disintegration to bring a people to their senses:
"I struck you with blight and mildew; I laid waste your gardens and your vineyards; the locust devoured your fig trees and your olive trees; yet you did not return to me says the LORD" (Amos 4:9, as in Haggai 2:17).
On the other hand there is a radical change in the ecological situation when people turn to God and he blesses a people. This has been noted in many tribes where churches have been planted, and more recently as a result of revival in Uganda and some Inuit tribes of the Arctic. As the prophet predicted:
"There shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew" (Zechariah 8:12).
"Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. I will rebuke the locust for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil and the vine in the field shall not be barren" (Malachi 3:10-11).
In our day there is a huge amount of concern for our environment. We go to great lengths to eat organic foods and avoid pollution. But if we listen to the prophets, perhaps we should also focus our attention on some deeper causes of environmental disorder. Here are some steps that might connect us with God’s ecology.
First we can take a prophetic stance in our city, or in a visit to another country on business, or on holiday, in a mission project, or in prayer. We should observe any ecological imbalance that seems to be disturbing the well-being of the people. Then we could ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the roots of what might have gone wrong.
Like Daniel we can confess the sin and injustices that remain uncorrected. "We have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances" (Daniel 9:5). And we can claim the fact that our Lord himself "bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that free from sins, we might live for righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24).
Churches and individuals who can see the ecological imbalances of our country, and other countries, as did the Old Testament prophets, can literally change the very face of our world:
"The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom . . . For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water" (Isaiah 35:1, 6-7).