Reading: Isaiah 65
Isaiah 65 is a wonderful prophecy of what the kingdom of God will be like, but also outlines the rebellious nature of man, who thinks that he knows best, but will only as we are told in this chapter lead to their destruction. The world is certainly in a bad way, and if mankind is allowed to carry on as he is doing then the world is heading towards an inevitable destruction.
However this wouldn’t be the first time it had happened. Let’s turn to the beginning of our Bibles and look at Genesis 1:1.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)
Of course if we read on through the first few chapters of Genesis we see the Biblical account of creation of the Earth by the hand of God and how he develops the void and uninhabited globe into one teeming with life. In the beginning we had the creation of God, and that creation was part of God’s greater plan and purpose with the Earth. Of course his plans covers a multitude of subjects but one verse, Numbers 14:21 summarises the very basis for God creating the Earth.
But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, (Num 14:21)
We certainly saw that glory in the Garden of Eden, and God gave the Garden to man to look after.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.(Gen 2:15)
This of course is a direct idea of being a farmer or an husbandman which are both very familiar to the Bible. So man was placed in the Garden and told to keep it, to care for the land, to nourish the land and to keep it safe. This is what the Hebrew words indicate to us, to serve and protect. This is of course what they did, they looked after the land, they named all the animals. This caring for the land continued in the Garden of Eden until such time that Adam and Eve decided that they thought they knew best, they didn’t need to obey God’s commands and they ate of the tree which had been forbidden to them. From that day forward they were sent out from the Garden and instead of enjoying the abundant riches that came from the Garden of Eden, Adam had to work by the sweat of his brow to provide food. He now had to pull up all the weeds, irrigate the land, plant the seed to produce sustenance for their survival. Man had chosen to disobey God and go his own way, so God made man provide for himself. It only got worse from here on, as man multiplied, the disobedience grew, and wickedness filled the Earth. This wasn’t God’s doing, nowhere in the Bible does it say that God intended for the Earth to be polluted with mankind’s evil, he wanted it filled with His glory. It was all man’s own doing, and in Genesis 6:5
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5)
And so God felt it was necessary to destroy man and we know well the story of Noah and how through his faithfulness he (and his family) survived the great flood.
So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen 6:7)
In a very short period of history man had grown in population, but also become corrupt and polluting the Earth with their evil. And so all mankind, other than the eight souls aboard the ark perished.
We’re not speaking about a physical corruption of the Earth that occurred, but a spiritual corruption. However we only have to look at this beautiful country of ours to see how much we have to enjoy of God’s creation, but also how man is not only spiritually corrupted but has also abused the Earth physically. You only have to look at some countries where it is almost impossible to find fresh water, there are vast areas of land which are now nothing but a polluted wasteland. Urban areas particularly in India and China are hidden under a cloud of toxic air. When it rains all the toxins are washed into underground water systems. Is man destroying the Earth? I don’t think there can be much argument that man is destroying the creation that God gave us in the beginning. We only have to read the newspapers and the articles in journals to see the impact we’ve had on the Earth. The recent oil spill of the coast of America has polluted vast areas of sea and shore. Each year something like 20 to 50 million tons of electronic waste (computers, phones, etc) gets dumped and less than 10% currently gets recycled. Much of this ends up in dumping grounds in Africa and as new technology becomes cheaper and faster, and with our materialistic desire for the latest gadget our old devices soon become obsolete and it’s only going to get worse as we consume more and more in our ever increasingly throw-away society.
We are messing up the planet. It’s people that seems to be the problem and if look at the uninhabited areas of the world they don’t seem to be suffering with these imminent problems. Everything seems to be carrying on as it has been for thousands of years, with nature in perfect harmony. If we could all get in a spaceship and fly off to another planet for 1,000 years, when we came back to the Earth the world would all beautiful again. There wouldn’t be any pollution, global warming probably wouldn’t be an issue and the plants and animals would be living in perfect harmony with the planet.
The pollution of the Earth is simply a symptom of a much deeper problem with mankind. The issue is the sin of man, the moral decline that has led man to use and abuse the Earth and then discard what he doesn’t want. As greed, lust and materialism continues to expand man will continue to take what he needs from the Earth and throw away the rest. This is how we are treating the creation that God has given us.
One of the causes of many of the crises that we are facing is that of over-population. At the time of Jesus, Earth’s population is estimated to be something like 127 million. However in the last couple of hundred years, undoubtedly due to increased technology like transport, refrigeration the world population has exploded and currently stands at about 6.8 billion.
Man has recognised this problem many years ago, and in his own wisdom he has tried to control the growth, recognising that before long the earth wouldn’t be able to sustain the world’s population. Back in the 1960s man developed the birth control pill, not liking that fact that there was something uncontrollable on the Earth, they set about interfering with the natural order of things to come up with a solution. Back in 1950 there were only 2.5 billion people on this planet, and growth stood at 1.9%. In 1960 there were about 3 billion people and growth was 2.2% per year. So you see what is happening, we have a problem. The population is increasing and the growth rate is increasing each year – man sees the problem, there are too many people on the Earth. The New Scientist magazine heralded man’s success in controlling population growth publishing statistics showing how we had tackled this problem successfully.
In 1970 there were only 3.7 billion people on the planet with only 2.0% growth (so immediately it’s turned round and it’s gone backwards). In 1980 there were 4.4 billion people on the planet and there’s 1.8% growth year on year. By 1990 we’ve got up to 5.2 billion however we’ve made some inroads into population and we’re only expanding by 1.5%. In 2000 there were 6 billion people on the planet, and growth rate is down to only 1.2%. So man’s done it, he’s cracked it! He’s taken away from the creator reproduction and give it a little bit longer we’ll have it under full control! Now in 2010 it is estimated that there are 6.8 billion people on the planet and population will only be growing at 1.0% each year – so you could say well done man!
Predictions are that by 2050 there will be 9.1 billion people on the planet and growth rate will be 0.4%. There you have it, a success of man!
But there is a more sinister side to population control, something which isn’t very nice. You might remember back about the same time as the invention of the birth control pill, in 1967 the UK legalised abortion. Nothing of this was mentioned in the article, but I wonder if man is claiming a victory over population growth which isn’t really a victory at all. Last year in England and Wales there were 189,000 abortions, and remember this is all legal, and there were a similar number the year before, and the year before that. Worldwide there are an estimated 50 million abortions every year. 6 million Jews died in the war and there is a memorial to them, but each year millions more unborn babies are destroyed who don’t get a mention. Perhaps this is the reality of how man is solving the problem of over-population, at least in part. I’m not here to discuss if it’s right or wrong, but simply observing that it is a currently legal method of birth control. To give you another statistic of how much of a factor this is, approximately 40% of all women under the age of 45 in North America have had at least one abortion. These are some shocking statistics, but this is man’s way of dealing with things, not God’s. Man thinks he has a solution to everything.
One of the knock-on effects of over-population, is that we are consuming the world’s resources. The problem is those resources are becoming stretched, they are becoming harder to come by and this leads on to a number of other problems. Oil supplies are heading towards peak output, probably around 2030, but could be as early as 2020. After that oil output will fall and in a world with an ever increasing demand for energy, the prices will go through the roof, nations will fight over what little bit is left leading to huge economic wars. It is predicted that by 2040 oil supplies will have virtually run dry, only producing about 20% of what we currently use now. This can only lead to higher prices not only for oil, but for everything we manufacture or grow leading to huge economic pressure on the world.
Many scientists have come to the conclusion that as we consume these resources in larger and larger quantities we are releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, mainly through the combustion of fossil fuels. Again man is starting to realise the problem and trying to find solutions to this greenhouse effect that we are experiencing and we often hear phrases like carbon footprint, carbon neutrality. The gases in the atmosphere are important to keep the heat in, but over the last 50 years the amount of “greenhouse gases” such as CO¬2 have increased and the temperature of the Earth has gone up by about 0.5oC in that time. The light is let through the atmosphere, but the heat is trapped, much like your garden greenhouse. Earth has a natural solution to keeping the CO2 to normal levels through what’s known as photosynthesis. Simply this is the way that plant cells use sunlight to convert CO2 in the atmosphere into carbon building blocks for plant growth. Trees are incredibly efficient at using up C02, and your average mature tree can have a total leaf surface area of about 4 acres (that’s about the area of a square 0.1 miles long), which is able to absorb CO2. Rainforest trees can have leaf surface areas of up to 40 acres, that’s the area of a square 0.25 miles long on each side! So you can imagine what sort of effect the deforestation is having on the world’s CO2 levels. We’re pumping out tons and tons of CO2, the average household in the UK has a carbon footprint of about 9.8 tons each year, and then we’re cutting down huge areas of natural forest that could actually help absorb some of what we’re pumping into the atmosphere. Man has recognised this problem and in his wisdom is starting to encourage greener practices and if you want to clear your conscience you can go online, work out your carbon footprint and then purchase trees or bits of banana plantations to be planted somewhere in the world to offset your carbon footprint, it works out at about one tree per ton and you can pay for trees to be planted on your behalf, helping you to sleep easy at night, safe in the knowledge you’re doing your bit to combat global warming. I calculated my carbon footprint and it came out at 11 tons of CO2, slightly above average, but I could pledge funds for 11 trees to be planted somewhere in the world and then I would be carbon neutral. In fact I could go on many holidays, drive or fly as far as I want, turn up my heating as high as I want and have a huge carbon footprint and all I’d have to do is buy a few trees and I’ve done my bit.
The problem is how many people are going to do that, if something isn’t made law, then hardly anyone is going to make concessions in their life to help with a problem that by becoming carbon neutral is going to have very little impact on. Why should I do it if no-one else has to? It requires everyone to co-operate and become carbon neutral, but as we’ve seen man is selfish and greedy, so it’s not going to work. Even the world governments are reluctant to make those sorts of concessions as it would damage their economies. So man’s way of controlling his own mess is not by exercising constraint, but providing ways to let man enjoy life to the full, while letting him think he’s doing his bit for the environment.
If global warming does take hold, then we are going to see increases in sea level, more areas of land will become uninhabitable. If the world does become hotter, water shortages will increase in parts of the world, and farm land will become even less productive leading to food shortages and once again higher prices. Natural disasters driven by the rise in temperature will increase, like flooding, hurricanes. All the while population levels are increasing and putting more strain on the planet and global economy, increasing the tension of international relationships.
This obviously can’t continue, and the Earth will reach a point where it simply won’t have the resources to sustain the vast numbers of people on the planet and disease, drought and starvation will wipe out large portions of the population, the poor and developing countries suffering first, or there will be a huge war fighting over the little that’s left. The population will decline in line with the resources available until it reaches a sustainable level again. This will happen unless mankind changes its ways. But we know that’s not going to happen because by its very nature it is greedy, selfish, yet mankind still thinks it has the wisdom to pull itself out of this crisis.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2Ti 3:1-5)
This is what God sees in people. Does this mean that mankind is going to destroy the Earth? The Bible tells us no. Undoubtedly if man was left to find his own solutions to the world crisis, then yes, but fortunately the Bible tells us that God is going to intervene, for God has merely leased us His Earth, he hasn’t given it to us for good and He will send Jesus back to the Earth before we can manage destroy the Earth.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. (1Th 4:16)
And then in 2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2Pe 3:10)
Here we have all those works that mankind have done on the Earth being consumed, in the day when Jesus returns, exposing all the works that man has done for what they are.
But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. (Isa 57:20)
The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Rev 11:18)
A clear statement that those who destroy the Earth will themselves be destroyed. After that, the polluted Earth shall be cleansed…
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:22-23)
This speaks to us of how not only the creation groans under mankind, but how the faithful in the Spirit eagerly await the time when Christ returns to cleanse our bodies and be made immortal.
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2Pe 3:13)
The Earth will be made new again, or refreshed, and we were reading of that in Isaiah 65 where we have the Old Testament prophet who was speaking by the inspiration of God about the future kingdom of God on this Earth, that there would all things be made new again. The Earth is looking for redemption, for God’s creation has be groaning and travailing all this time under the care of man. We know that the Bible teaches that we will be made incorruptible and the Earth will be made new and this is what we wait for.
Now if we look at Revelation 21, which continues on from the beautiful message of hope that we have been left in Isaiah 65, Revelation 21 is talking of the New Jerusalem and what it will be made of, but in Rev 21:1:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev 21:1-5)
And likewise those verses in Isaiah 65
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. (Isa 65:18-19)
So God has given us this picture of the future, this refreshed Earth which is cleansed by the judgement of God, the pollution of the world will be cleansed and those who polluted the Earth with their wickedness will be destroyed, and a new heaven and a new Earth will come down to us and we will be glad and rejoice forever in what God has created for us, but only those who God forgives.
The message of the Bible is that the Earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, and God has given us an opportunity to be part of that glory. However, man needs to change his ways:
Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, (Act 3:19-20)
Again, this verse is alluding to the time when the refreshing of the Earth will happen and we are called to repent that we might be brought near to God and forgiven.
Although man is in the process of corrupting and destroying the Earth, ultimately man will not succeed, but only because God will take back the Earth at the appropriate time. Like in Genesis 6, where we saw that the wickedness of man had reached such proportions, when God can bear the wickedness that fills his Earth no longer he will intervene, he will enact his judgements upon this Earth. So, the world is in crisis, but …
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2Pe 3:9)
God keeps every single promise he makes, but why has he let the Earth get in such a bad way? Why hasn’t God intervened? How many more oil spills, how many more famines, how many more wars do we have to suffer? Is God delaying? Well, yes he is. He is waiting for all of us to answer his call, he is not slow to fulfil his promises, but he is being patient with us, not wishing that any should perish but that all should repent, but it’s obvious that there is not much time left for the Earth. God simply can’t delay much longer and will have to intervene. Are we ready for that day?