E A R T H
The planet we live on is a temporary home. It is the foundation on which we live out our time in this realm, from our physical birth to our physical death. Man was initially created from the earth, of "dust from the ground," and
ultimately, he returns to it. (Genesis 2:7, 3:19) God has formed us from the earth as one forms clay, and there is an
analogy likening man to clay which Paul uses in His letter to the Roman church :
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Romans 9:20-24)
The idea of man being compared to earth or clay, formed by God for His own use, is not unusual to those familiar
with the Old Testament. Isaiah made the following correlation :
But now, O LORD, Thou art our Father, we are the clay and Thou art our potter;
and all of us are the work of Thy hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
Isaiah had an understanding of his place in relationship to his Creator, also evident in 29:16 and 45:9 of the same
book. Paul reiterates this analogy of clay in his Roman letter to show how God can demonstrate His power through
anyone He chooses, whether or not that person humbles himself before Him. Although referring to the Pharaoh in
Exodus 5-12, the reference in the book of Romans to man being like clay, taken from the earth and formed for a
purpose, is a lesson which teaches the absolute power which God has, to do as He pleases with His creation. Pharaoh's "hardness of heart" was a great inconvenience to Israel at that time, but God used the stubbornness of this man to demonstrate His omnipotence through the plagues and other calamities brought upon the Egyptians. Eventually, Pharaoh was forced to relent, only to perish as a result of having changed his mind again.
Job was another Old Testament figure who recognised God's absolute power. Unlike Pharaoh, Job always
acknowledged God as his Lord and Creator. Even when Job was overcome with frustration, he still recognised his position in relation to God, when he humbly stated :
Remember now, that Thou hast made me as clay;
and wouldst Thou turn me into dust again? (Job 10:9)
Like clay taken from the earth, man can be "shaped" into a form useful to God, and transformed from a brittle
state into a strong and lasting vessel. Again, the Scriptures provide an analogy to aid our understanding of
how God uses those who will "conform to His mold" :
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels,
but also vessels of wood and of earthenware,
and some to honor and some to dishonor.
Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things,
he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master,
prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20, 21)
A believer who comprehends God's love and recognises His redemption through the sending of His Son, desires to please Him, and to function in accordance with His will. We are in no place to answer back to God, or to question the details of our existence. The Potter has formed us as clay, and we will make His power known either as "vessels of wrath" or "vessels of mercy."
One might wonder how any person, inherently full of sin, could ever attain access to the presence of a holy and pure God. If one should consider himself not worthy or spoiled beyond repair in God's sight, he should take note of how God will deal with Israel as prophesied in the book of Jeremiah :
The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I shall announce My words to you." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hands of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel." (Jeremiah 18:1-6)
Even though Israel rejected God's initial plan for them, God still has a plan for some of them to be saved.
This is outlined in detail in Romans 9:23-11:32. Just as God will put a "new heart" in Israel as prophesied in Ezekiel 36:25-28, so also has He made a provision for all men to be "remade" as in the analogy of the vessel which spoiled in the hands of the potter.
Man must recognise his "spoiled" condition, and come to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only remedy which God has
provided. At that point, he can be remade into a new creature. (2 Corinthians 5:17) According to Scripture, the
heart of a man undergoes many changes after he humbles himself to consider his redemption :
OLD HEART NEW HEART
Genesis 6:5, 8:21 evil Proverbs 2:10 seat of wisdom
Proverbs 14:10 bitter Proverbs 3:3 kind, true
Ecclesiastes 9:3 evil, insane Proverbs 3:5 trusting
Jeremiah 17:9 deceitful Matthew 5:8 pure
Ezekiel 36:26 of stone Matthew 18:35 forgiving
Matthew 13:15 dull Matthew 22:37 loves God
Matthew 13:19 weak John 14:1 not troubled
Mark 7:6 far from God Ephesians 3:17 Lord's house
Mark 7:21 evil Ephesians 6:6 pleases God
Mark 11:23 doubting Philippians 4:7 guarded
Romans 1:21 foolish Colossians 3:12,13 forbearing
Romans 1:24 full of lust Hebrews 10:22 sincere, clean
It is important to note that, even though a believer acknowledges the Lord's work on the cross, he still retains his old nature. If this were not true, it would be possible for him to become perfect in the flesh. The apostle Paul discusses this issue in Romans 7:15-21. Our Lord is the only One who walked the earth as a perfect man, without sin, though He took on the likeness of sinful flesh. (Romans 8:3, Hebrews 4:15) It was His perfection which qualified Him to serve as our sacrifice, for only a "Lamb without blemish" would be accepted by God. (Exodus 12:5, 1 Peter 1:18,19)
He made Him who knew no sin,
to be sin on our behalf,
that we might become
the righteousness of God in Him."
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
There is a distinction between those who are of the earth, limited by their own choice to their carnal frames,
and those who are "predestined to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself." Those denying the Lord have only one heart and one nature, while believers have a new heart and two natures. (Romans 7:22-25)
So also it is written, `The first man, Adam, became a living soul.' The last Adam became a life giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Corinthians 15:45-49)
As far as God is concerned, those who are His are remade, raised and seated with Him in the heavenly places,
as though they never had a sinful nature to separate themselves from Him. (Ephesians 2:4-7) Until the time of a
believer's physical translation, he is here on the earth, with the problems of sin's limitations and temptations. With
a new heart and an old nature, the believer experiences a daily battle between the flesh and the spirit, and anxiously awaits the day that he will "bear the image of the heavenly" and finally be "made like Him." (1 John 3:2) Until that time, the main function of the true New Testament believer is to reside not as a citizen of this world, (Philippians 3:18-21) but as a useful vessel in the Master's house. (2 Corinthians 5:9)
Left with the task of transmitting the knowledge of God's Son to those on this earth who don't know Him in the
Biblical context, the believer knows to keep His focus "above" and not to love the world on which he lives.
(Colossians 3:1,2, 1 John 2:15-17) James, in his letter, tells the believer to keep himself unstained from the world,
and that whoever is a friend of the world, is an enemy of God. (James 1:27, 4:4) Sadly, as time progresses, the
watching world has fewer people to observe who truly revere and desire to understand the truths found in Scripture.
There is another analogy in Scripture where the earth is likened unto a "footstool" for God. (Isaiah 66:1, Matthew
5:35) This picture attests to God's omnipotence, His power being of such magnitude as to allow Him to view our immense planet as a small piece of furniture on which He figuratively "rests His feet." All that God created when He made this world, this "cosmos" (in Greek) of the earth, its inhabitants, and the surrounding heavens, He saw as "being good" as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis. However, when sin entered God's creation through Eve and Adam, the ground was cursed, and the earth, along with its population, fell. (Genesis 3:17-19) God, in His love, chose not to do away with His "footstool" as He very easily could have.
Like ourselves, our earth is in a state different from what it was initially created to be. Out of its original
equilibrium, the earth longs for harmony of God. This event will coincide with the translation of God's people from what is now a "physical" body into a "resurrection" body :
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."
Thus, the earth is a physical sphere inhabited by men who fell from the will of God through sin, and effected the
curse which has inflicted it since the time of Adam. Though owned by God, (Psalm 24:1) the earth is undisputedly ruled by Satan. (Luke 4:6, John 12:31, 1 John 5:19) As Satan's domain, this world is organised into systems which are designed to eliminate any thought of God and His plan for men. Any serious study of the arts, religions, philosophies, politics, and sciences will confirm this.
Temporarily the world is "flavored" with believers who, found from place to place, are described by the Lord as its "salt." (Matthew 5:13) We are all familiar with the ability of salt to preserve and enhance the flavor of food, and can make the appropriate spiritual correlation. Believers stand out from the rest of God's creation, as they
are the living testimony of the surpassing riches of the grace and kindness of God, who has "delivered us from the
domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." (Colossians 1:13)
We find in Colossians 1:16 that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the creator of the earth, and of the heavens as
well. All things, visible and unseen were fashioned by His hands. He is the "second man" mentioned above in the first Corinthian letter. He is the Word Who was with God, Who is God, Who came from heaven to dwell or "tabernacle" among us, becoming like men to "share in flesh and blood" and to accomplish salvation for a fallen humanity. (John 1:1, Hebrews 2:14-18) He came to this earth to explain God, showing to man God's grace and truth, and to be the Word which would communicate God's love to all men. (John 1:14-18, 14:9)
But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire,
kept for the one day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.
...But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens
and a new earth where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:7,13)
"The Lord has made everything for its own purpose..." (Proverbs 16:4)
The Scripture text of the New American Standard Bible is used by permission of
The Lockman Foundation, a corporation not for profit, LaHabra, California,
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