Bread – Dominion

February 26, 2016


Psalm 8

“..You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; and You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea…”  Ps. 8:5-8

The word “dominion” is also translated “rule” in the NASB translation of the Bible.

So, Psalm 8 reflects what happens in Genesis, when man was given rule over everything on earth.  When man was cast out of the Garden of Eden for disobedience, this charge, this appointment, was not revoked.  Instead, what was added to man’s life was the necessity to work and what was subtracted from his life was his total integration with God.

Instead of ruling over a perfect world, when man disobeyed God and followed the serpent, he was set over as ruler of an imperfect world.

Perhaps that is why man feels like he, and he alone, is in charge of making the world perfect again.  Part of the desire of man for the environment is to protect as a steward what God has given us, to be a good king over the bounty of God’s creation.  But another part of the desire of man for the environment is to exercise the iron fist of control, to be “in charge,” to “fix” the world, to “repair” what he broke.

The desire to fix what you broke is a common desire, but the effort makes us begin to believe that we are “masters of our lives,” kings over our destiny, ruler of the earth, exercising power and dominion in all phases of our lives. To be the king, we think we must act like the king and wage war against the enemies of the kingdom – poverty, ignorance, bullying, racial profiling, individualism to the extent of harming the community, etc.  [Does this begin to sound familiar?]

In a sense, this is a partial explanation for man’s current fascination with “global warming” or “climate change.”  Rather than face the reality that the earth is broken from our own sin and that God’s creation will operate in the way He has ordained, man’s understanding of his own dominion over the earth and all that is in it extends to the climate.  If it is broken, it must be man who broke it and, as king, then it is up to us to fix it.

Another aspect of dominion, in addition to believing that we as king can solve all problems, is that we get to dress like a king and live in places like kings live.  And so, in our pride as ruler of the universe, we build greater and greater monuments to ourselves, we collect more and more wealth, we surround ourselves with the riches of things, and we wear pretty and expensive clothing and jewelry, with a little perfume (cologne) thrown in for good measure.  We look good, we smell good … so, doggone it, we must be good.  Right?

Well, yes we have been tasked with exercising dominion over the earth (note, not the universe).

But does that put us on first?  No.

“You have made him [us] a little lower than the heavenly beings.”  So, the “heavenly beings” are higher than us.  And who are they?

One problem with translations is that, unless we reach under them, we can be quickly misled.  When I first read this, I assumed that “heavenly beings” meant angels.  This fits nicely into my predisposition to create hierarchies in heaven and on earth and so I am happy with my conclusion.  However, when I read the NASB version, it reads “…Thou hast made him a little lower than God..”  Ps. 8:5 (NASB).  And it turns out that the underlying Hebrew word is “Elohim,” which reflects the Genesis “…let us…”  In other words, there are two possible meanings, one being angels and the other meaning God Himself, likely in the form of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But, whatever, it is clear that we are not boss.  At best, we are regents, we are appointed agents of God, to rule in accordance with God’s principles and according to His instructions.

What are God’s instructions to us as His regents on earth?  How are we to exercise dominion?

Some might say that the way we exercise dominion is through rules and regulations, much like in the Old Testament.  Others would say that we exercise dominion through the exercise of love and servant leadership, much like in the New Testament.  And indeed, Jesus tells His disciples that His followers are not to “lord” it over others.

So should we exercise dominion by the sword (the Law) or by the candy Valentine’s heart (Love)?

I think the answer to this, when we think about it, is “Yes.”  Exercising the law tempered by love and love strengthened by law results in  a balanced kingship, a way to be obedient the command “Love God first and love your neighbor as yourself.”

And it brings honor to God to raise up the entirety of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments.  And it brings success to us, because now we have a plan to follow.

A heavenly plan, designed by God and not by man, over which we are in charge of implementing the earthly part.

We are kings but subjects, rulers but servants, leaders but disciples, helping others while seeking help from God.

Can you imagine what it would be like to exercise dominion without God’s plan, strength, power, and grace?  I can’t … and yet I do it every day.  Do you want to imagine what mess we would really be in if we were really the “top dog?”  Well look around, the evidence surrounds us.

God gave us dominion over the earth and, doggone it, we will exercise that dominion.  The only question is how – with God or without Him.  I think “with God” is the better choice.  What say you?

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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Bread – Enrich

September 4, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, September 4, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 9:24-10:13; James 3:1-12; Mark 15:1-11; Psalms 38,119:25-48

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Who do we enrich? If we were to take an inventory of who we benefit from our actions, I bet it would look something like this, in order: (1) Me (75%), (2) My Family (24%), (3) Others (1%), (4) God (whatever is left over).

Now I am probably being a bit harsh, so please change the order and the percentages if these do not apply to you. Somehow, though, I doubt that the order will change and I think that the percentages are closer than we would like to admit.

Who ought we to enrich? Well, if you consider bringing glory to God an enrichment of Him, both the order and the percentages probably should invert as follows: (1) God (50%), (2) Others (25%), (3) My Family (25%), (4) Me (whatever is left over). But since God returns in great measure, well pressed down, the end result of a God-centered life probably distributes the enrichment evenly across Me, My Family, and Others (33% each).

Why this question today? Well, it is raised in our reading from 1 Kings, where the Queen of Sheba comes to admire Solomon and to question him so that she can test his wisdom. Among the grand pomp and circumstances contained in this event are these words from the Queen: “Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” 1 Kings 10:8

It is obvious to the Queen that Solomon’s great wisdom, wealth, and power are enriching someone, but who? Obviously Solomon but also, to the Queen, Solomon’s servants, in other words the people who work and live close to him. Who is missing from this? The people of Israel. Me (75%), My Family (24%), everyone else (?).

God gives us blessings and gifts, just like He gave Solomon. Today we live in the splendor of stuff, just like Solomon did. Today we live in the midst of great knowledge (maybe not wisdom, but that is for a different Bread), just like Solomon. And who do we bless with our blessings? Who is enriched through us using the gifts that God has given us?

We as gods know how to enrich ourselves and we do it every day. We as servants of the only God need to learn how to enrich others, those close to us and those far away. Servants enrich others; masters enrich themselves.

When we talk about being masters of ourselves, masters of our ship, masters of our destiny, masters of the universe, is it any wonder that we are selfish, that we enrich ourselves and our own? Is it any wonder that we act like Solomon rather than Jesus?

If we are going to begin to enrich others, there is not only a heart change required but a vocabulary change. How do we change our vocabulary from words of mastery to words of servanthood? I think it begins by recognizing the we had nothing to do with our salvation; our salvation is all Christ’s. Because, if we cannot save ourselves by our works or by uttering the right formulas, then we are masters of nothing and servant of the One who saves. And from that beginning, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we begin to shift the percentages of enrichment away from us and toward those who we, now, can love.

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© 2013 GBF

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