The theme of Genesis 3-6 is the burden of the curse and hope for release, particularly in connection with the ground itself. That may be a new concept to you, but understanding it holds great power for those of us who take our responsibility as stewards of this world seriously and know the joy of praying for our world's redemption and healing. Let me walk you through a few of the highlights (yes, it will be a little longer than usual, but it's good stuff):
In Gen. 3:17, the ground is cursed because of their disobedience. This brings with it the beginning of death, which they have brought on themselves. God told them their disobedience would cost them their lives. The curse is written as if our kindred dust resents our disobedience and opposes us with thorns and toil.
In Gen. 4:10-11, the ground cries out to God for having swallowed up Abel's blood. Cain is then personally cursed for the death of his brother and the offended ground will no longer bear with him. He who was the first farmer becomes a wanderer.
In Gen. 5:29, we see the birth of Noah, whose parents prophetically hope that he will bring relief and comfort from the cursed ground. In Gen. 6:8-9 we see that Noah walks blamelessly with and before God while verses 11-13 tell us that the violence of the rest of mankind had filled the land with decay. The tone of verse 13 is that of a courtroom judge executing sentence:
13 And God said to Noah, `An end of all flesh hath come before Me, for the earth hath been full of violence from their presence; and lo, I am destroying them with the earth.
One cannot fathom the horror of that statement, for both the judge and the unwitting accused. Noah does go on to release them from the curse on the land, but his parents don't get to see it.
If you think I'm making up this connection between these sins and the land, look at Jeremiah 23:10:
For the land is full of adultery, and it lies under a curse. The land itself is
in mourning--its wilderness pastures are dried up. For they all do evil and
abuse what power they have.
So why am I telling you all this? Two reasons:
First, those who decry the destruction of the planet are missing God's point of view. It is our sin that makes creation groan (Romans 8:19-23). One of the best examples of this in modern times is shown in aerial photographs of the boundary between Haiti and the DR (Haiti on the left). There were and are specific policies that have aided the deforestation and subsequent desert creation within Haiti, but many of those policies are the result of the corruption and poverty that has been so rampant within a country that had literally covenanted with the devil. Those covenants were publicly renounced by the country's leadership after the earthquake. There are even missionary groups are now actively working to address the social patterns that cause this deforestation, wrecking both the land and its people.
Second, as we pray for missionaries and other countries, it is important to understand how the sins of the people have impacted the place they live both ecologically and spiritually. While he was in captivity in Babylon, Daniel recognized that the exile of his own people reflected their failure to obey God's command for a Sabbath rest in the land every 7 years. God ultimately told the people that the land will have its rest, even if I have to take you out of it for that to happen. As he saw the time for that rest coming to an end, he began to repent on behalf of his people, associating himself with their sins, even though Daniel had not committed those sins himself. In the same timeframe that Daniel prayed, Cyrus released the Jews to return to their homeland with resources to begin rebuilding the temple.
In the same way, we can pray for repentence to come to lands that have experienced sins that carry with the land. From our study of Genesis 3-6, the first two sins that lay a curse on the land are violence and idolotry, which was the root of Adam's disobedience (You shall be as gods...) As you pray for other countries, keep an eye out for these issues and ask God what He desires to do for those places so that you can pray more effectively for them. This theme of the land as an active spiritual indicator comes up again in scripture, so keep an eye out for it. There is more to this than we have covered so far...