|Series Theme: Meditations on Meaning & Values
Meditations in Meaning & Values 25: Values
Gen 26:2-6 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, "…. I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws."
We have so far in these meditations focused mainly on meaning and purpose with little emphasis on values although they are inherently there embedded in so much of what the world says or the Bible says. Look up ‘values' and you come across such words as principles, standards, morals, ethics and ideals . Values are what underpin our thinking and then subsequently our behaviour, our words and our actions. Values today, tend to be a little like justice which we considered in an earlier meditation, they appear hidden for much of the time and some people even deny they are there until suddenly it becomes personal and we hear the cry, “It's not fair!” and someone is appealing to a supposed set of standards or expectations.
I looked up the word ‘laws' in a concordance and our verses above came up as the very first reference in the Bible. Now I find these words above (and they are God speaking to Isaac) surprising because whenever I have read the earlier chapters of Genesis involving Abram, later renamed Abraham, I have not been aware of loads of laws being laid down by the Lord for Abram. But the Lord doesn't only refer to laws for we also see Him referring to “ my requirements , my commands , my decrees and my laws." Now ‘requirements' are easy, simply meaning things God wants of him. ‘Commands' are stronger – specific instructions of things he is to do, for example, “ Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1). ‘Decrees' tend to add a sense of official governmental requirement to a command. A command is simply an instruction to do something, whereas a decree is a declaration of governmental order. ‘Laws' are established rules for living.
Now values are the things that underpin all these so we may say we value human life and so establish a law, “You shall not murder”. The law follows from the values held. Similarly we might say we hold the value that any personal property that an individual has either personally made or has legitimately bought with their own money, belongs to them and may not be taken from them without their permission, and thus we find the law, “You shall not steal”.
So, we may have started from the thought that laws are the expression of our principles, standards, morals, ethics and ideals , but we have come to see that perhaps there is more value (sorry for the pun) in looking behind the laws to the values that create them. We so often focus on the law, whereas we might do better to ponder what is behind the law. This is why a consideration of values is important.
Now there are, I suggest, two important things about values to be considered now we have seen that they outwork in law, and those are first, what the value is and second, why such a value exists. Now this is going to take us into deeper philosophical thinking! But the moment I write these two things down I realise that the second thing is even more important than the first, because without some originating cause (why the value exists) the first thing (the value itself) cannot exist.
S0 why do we have values? We all do in some shape or form but why do we have the values we have? In this meditation we will now only consider wrong ways of having values and then in subsequent ones consider better ways, Biblical ways, and why they are better, but until we see the wrong ways we work, we won't see the point in turning to the Bible.
Here is a quote from a book called Blue like Jazz by Donald Miller: “We were sitting around in my friend's living room and talking about it and she was in a huff and at one point raised her fist and said, 'Down with Bush!' After that I didn't have a crush on her anymore. It wasn't because she didn't like George W. Bush, it was because she had no idea why she didn't like George W. Bush. She only went to a rally and heard a good band and saw a lot of cool people with cool clothes and hippie haircuts. She decided what to believe based on whether other people who believed it were of a particular fashion that appealed to her."
The first way people so often hold to the values they think they have, is simply because they follow someone else and their values, not questioning whether there is a good base or not for their values. In the example above the girl in question held shallow views based on those held by the ‘stars' in her thinking.
In his book, ‘ How Should We Then Live' , Francis Schaeffer wrote: “ People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world-view, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. …. “Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realise that their presuppositions should be chosen after careful consideration of what world view is true.”
These ‘presuppositions', these starting values that people hold, are responsible for the laws we write and the lives we live. In the previous study we considered the apostle Peter's failure in denying Jesus three times, and I spoke about his fear. Now it wasn't only fear of being branded with Jesus and possibly suffering what Jesus might suffer, but it was also surely the same as that which each of us so often suffers – the fear of being seen to be different. We don't like being branded oddities, we want to be loved, liked, accepted and so we try to avoid controversy. That is why many people hold to the values they hold, to go along with the crowd. That is not a good reason to hold on to values that may be shallow or even bad. This is an area that needs some thinking about. if we can be clear in our own minds, we might be better at convincing other people. Are we ready to look at that we think, what our values are and why we hold them?
Meditations in Meaning & Values 26: More on Values
Ex 34:6,7 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
If we are to think these things through carefully we must take our time. In the previous meditation we said that if you look up ‘values' you come across such words as principles, standards, morals, ethics and ideals and values are what underpin our thinking and then subsequently our behaviour, our words and our actions. We also noted that laws flow out of values; we create laws according to the values we hold. Further we considered that we need to identify values but even more importantly, where they come from, their origin. From there we noted that many people have the values they have, not because they have carefully thought them out, but they simply go along with the crowd or are influenced by some ‘big person'.
Now one ‘big person' (at least in the eyes of some of his followers) is Richard Dawkins who came out with a paragraph of vitriolic condemnation of God that is not worthy of these pages and so will not be quoted. But in producing this vitriolic condemnation Dawkins obviously read snatches of the Old Testament and misinterpreted it. Compare the description I have just spoken about with the verses above where the Lord describes Himself as a “ compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”. Now to deny this description in this quote you have to say either Moses was lying to record this, or God was lying to say it about Himself, and in both cases it would be legitimate to ask the question, why would they bother to do that? What's the point IF the evidence points in the opposite direction?
Now you may possibly be wondering why I am going down this path when it comes to talking about values. Why is God's integrity of importance when we consider values. Well here's my big statement: take God out of the equation and values simply become whatever any individual ends up holding at any particular point in their life. I put it like that because their values will change. I was once a college lecturer and sat in the staff room at lunchtime listening to a conversation in which about a dozen of my colleagues took part. I've forgotten now even what the subject was but I suddenly found myself pondering about a particular ethical viewpoint, “Why are they all thinking the same? This is most unusual”. As their conversation unfolded it appeared that they had all watched a BBC Panorama programme the night before in which a particular viewpoint prevailed – and now they all expressed it. Without God in the equation we take on views, we take on values with so very little thought. We have come to a point in Western society where so many have rejected the idea of God or of God being an arbiter of values because they have listened to the likes of people like Richard Dawkins to form their value system.
Now is this just a Christian rant or is it important to think these issues through carefully? Some of us belong to churches where all we receive is a ten minute homily each Sunday morning and we are left unchallenged and therefore give little thought to what is truth. Others of us go to churches where ‘the Spirit' and ‘experience' is all important and rarely do we hear anything which makes us think deeply. Others of us may go to churches where we simply receive a diet of legalistic rules and never the explanation why we have the rules. We need Spirit and word and within the word we need to consider these issues. You and I may take it for granted that God is the arbiter of all we believe but I would make two comments. First, not everyone else does and we need to consider why they don't and what is an appropriate response to them and, second, we need to be aware of the possibility of us accepting that general truth – that God is the arbiter of all we believe – but never get around to thinking why and, even more importantly, not holding fast to those values when the crunch comes. (We have already considered the apostle Peter's denial failure in this context).
So why do we question the world's value system that says self is all-important and the autonomous individual has the right to do what they like as long as it doesn't harm others? The simple and short answer is that we observe in modern society the fruits of such thinking and they are not good. In our society we may be like the frog in the example that is so often given who, if you threw him into a pot of boiling water would immediately leap out, but put him in a pot of cold water and gradually heat it to boiling point, he would tolerate the changes and eventually die. We may accept the values of our society simply because the changes that have come about have come slowly and steadily and we are dying spiritually as a people with the consequences of that following.
Let's ask a question: what ‘values', what principles, standards, morals, ethics and ideals would you suggest we would like for our society, for our lives? This is not as obvious as it might seem. Let's make a suggestion. If love was the foundation of every principle, every standard, any morals or ethics, would that not be the ideal that surpasses every other ideal? True love does not put self first, but we live in a society that relishes ‘self'. True love is concerned for others and constantly seeks their best, but we live in a society where others are a nuisance and life is too stressful to worry about others' worries all the time. That of course is an overstatement for many do care for others, but so often as an outlet or means to achieve meaning for self. If selfless living is possible then it is worth considering. The Bible says God IS love. (1 Jn 4:8,16). If that is true then we need to think some further about the values He has, why He has them, and can we have them? More thinking required.
Meditations in Meaning & Values 27: Assessing Value
Gal 5:2 I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all
We have started to think about ‘values'. We noted that laws flow out of values. We considered that we need to identify values but even more importantly, where they come from, their origin. We also observed that many people simply adopt other people's values, often those of celebrities or ‘big names'. We concluded the last meditation by starting to ponder about love being a basic foundation for values and God being the ultimate source of love, but what if you remove God? Can you have love, can you have values without God? Well the obvious answer is yes, of course you can, because there are nations that do not know God but still have laws, and those laws suggest they have values.
You may wonder why we have chosen the above verse with the apostle Paul speaking of circumcision. Well essentially what he was saying was that if you were a Jewish Christian and you relied upon circumcision to establish your relationship with God (as Abraham did) then you had no need of Christ. Now we can go a stage further in this consideration of values and say that many people have desires to be ‘good' but work to achieve that appearance of goodness and acceptance by others, and so their ‘efforts' mean they don't turn to God for His help or His way of bringing about goodness or righteousness. We can substitute activity for God, and this is what many people do, and in so doing they reveal that in theory at least they hold to certain values. They value the activity more than they value God, or God's way of doing things.
A basic dictionary definition of ‘value' starts with worth, what we assess the worth of someone or something. We find that usage in the early part of the Bible in Leviticus where it was possible for Israelites wanting to dedicate themselves to the Lord, to give money instead of themselves. Thus you find, “ The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: `If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate persons to the LORD by giving equivalent values, set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel; and if it is a female, set her value at thirty shekels.” (Lev 27:1-4) Now I'm sure many of us leap up at the apparent demoting of women but I would suggest that in those days it was simply because the man was the breadwinner and the protector who even went to war to protect his family. In crudely practical terms, if he died it would be a greater loss and would threaten the very existence of that family (remember, in those days) than if the wife died and whose caring functions could be replaced by a servant.
I would also suggest there is an additional thing, that God knows men need additional esteem. I believe women (and in that society it would be most women of child bearing age) knew their worth the moment they had had a baby. The worth of this life bringer and one who will nurture the life into adulthood cannot be measured. We play down this function and in our misguided-values society we place more value on a ‘career' as if working in a shop or wherever else is a greater career that raising a human life. But that is how we skew values today!
There, already in the consideration we have been considering the value of human life and of human gender, but it is what we all do subconsciously all the time and we show it by the way we respond to people.
I have always been struck by the way the apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders when he said, “Be shepherds of the church of God , which he bought with his own blood .” (Acts 20:28) The more you pay for something the more you will value it or the more value is attributed to it. Now suppose my wife had a ring that I had given to her at our wedding. She will no doubt value it. Now suppose we are robbed at gunpoint and the robbers take my wife's ring and I chase them to get it back – and do retain it – but get shot and die in the process. I would suggest that that ring multiplies in value to her as not only a reminder to her of our wedding day, but also of the day I gave my life for it for her. If Jesus bought the church with his blood (and he did!) then what must he feel about us? The appropriate word, I believe is we are precious to him.
I suspect value – meaning in this context, worth – can be estimated by the amount you input into something. Parents when they look at their child graduating from university, say, look on with pride but so often with nostalgic memories, thinking back to all those things that made up the life of that child now a young person, the times of crisis (and staying awake watching over them all night) and the times of joy (when they won their first swimming certificate). I am sure that part of their ‘valuing' this young person is linked with all that they have put into them.
It is true in so many aspects of life. Here is the man or woman who has just been praised for the wonderful garden they have. They seek to shrug it off but deep down they look at this garden remembering how when they first came there it was a wilderness of grass and brambles and weeds. Hours and hours and hours of hard work have gone into this garden to make it the wonder that it is now. How can you value that? Similarly how can you value this painting that the artist has told me took fifty hours to create? An aged artist was challenged over why his masterpiece paintings cost so much. He simply replied, you are paying for fifty years of experience.
Here's a question for us Christians: how much do you value the work of Christ on the Cross, this work which was planned in detail from before the foundation of the world, hinted at through the period of the Old Testament, brought to earth by Jesus the Son of God, fulfilled at Calvary on Good Friday and ratified on Easter Sunday? Have these truths so impacted us that we see the wonder and we see the cost to God of them and therefore we hold on to them as precious? How much do we value this work of God? Value appears in all aspects of live and no more so than in the Christian context.
Meditations in Meaning & Values 28: Valuing People
Gal 9:5,6 “I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man.”
We won't do much of a recap today, we did that in the previous meditation. Instead we move straight into considering the worth or value of human beings. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes in the first 6 articles , “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person, no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms, no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” (We missed out the lengthy article 2 to save space) What do these articles tell us? We respect, honour and value human life. Human beings are important and we should be careful how we treat one another.
Now I am not questioning in any form these articles, for I hope we all accept and subscribe to them, but I do have a question. Much of our Western world rejects God and many would say our only meaning is found in evolution, and humanists and atheists (who tend to be one and the same) say that evolution is about survival and we have arrived at a point where we are sophisticated human beings who now act on more than just instinct. We have developed reason and rationality and so we see that it is sensible, if nothing else, to think well of one another if we are to survive and not enter another world war which would undoubtedly be even worse than the previous two. To survive we need to think well of one another.
But here's my question: if that is so, what has happened to survival of the fittest which is a key element in the theory of evolution? Observing world politics we may pay lip service to human rights, but where are those when it comes to scrapping over national sovereignty? The Balkan states were in ferment prior to the First World War and nationalism is still rife in that area and may even be behind much of Russia 's posturing in this same area today. Where are the human rights when China or Saudi Arabia or a multitude of other countries actively persecute Christians?
The simple point I would make here is that although we may subscribe to a particular view of people, we so often, as the human race, don't live by that view. It sounds a good view but it is simply not expedient to follow it because of a spectrum of human dogma across the globe, when other things take priority that may go back to instinctive survival of the fittest or the strongest national grouping.
Simply writing a list of human rights does not mean everyone will keep them. They will not make a child obey its parent or the parent not abuse the child. They will not stop an employer abusing an employee or vice-versa. They will not stop politicians, or any other national leaders for that matter, acting corruptly. Laws may be good in general but a strong adherence to the values underpinning those laws (remember, we considered this a couple of meditations back) will be the only thing that guarantees we treat one other well across the globe and, as we suggested in a previous meditation, we will only hold those values when we see and accept the primary cause behind those values – God. Any and every other foundation gives way. It will only be those who hold fast to God, the loving God of the Bible who reveals His design for us, who will genuinely hold these values – and live by them! Let's explore that.
In our verse above from Genesis 9, we find the Lord laying down the mandate for mankind. “I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.” That is a strong start. You WILL be held accountable to God for the wrongful killing of another person. We have to add ‘wrongful killing' because as we investigate this further (and in the next study we will see how God's values are expressed in the Law He gave to Moses), we will see that manslaughter and ‘just war' and self-defence are legitimate exceptions to the general rule. The general rule is quite specific, even if today we think we know better and do away with capital punishment: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” i.e. a life for a life. Only in such a way will you honour or respect or value the victim's life, but even more so, because “in the image of God has God made man.”
That alone is at the heart of valuing a human being. It is because every single one of us has been made in the image of God, we are His design in general terms (and when we get to heaven we'll see how much God contributes to every individual perhaps). Human beings are not an accident of evolution. IF evolution is the method God used in Creation, it was with purpose. He was involved in every bit of it; if it was a minute accidental change that took place and survived and developed over millions of years (because that IS what evolution says), it was the purposeful act of God, it wasn't an accident: “In the beginning… God created…” If you object to the concept of God you have nothing less than accidents of history to fall back on, and where we are today becomes pure accident, so any talk of meaning or values is really meaningless with no foundation. If I am stronger than you, survival says I can do what I like to survive, which includes bombing your nation into extinction. If I see you as precious to God, I may think again.
A little while ago I had a revelation. I was struggling to cope with a particular person in my circumstances, yes a Christian who was obviously struggling with life, and suddenly I saw us both in heaven, both transformed and free from the effects of this sinful world. That was not only my destiny, it was also theirs. This present struggle is just that – a present struggle and it will not last long. Death will usher us into the next world free from the effects of this present sinful world. Wow! Not only does God see us both as made in His image, there is going to come a time when we'll both be transformed. That thought changed how I felt about them. Have you got troubles with another Christian? Think on it. They're not a Christian? Well add the word ‘yet'. Perhaps they will be one day, and perhaps you and I can help bring that about and they will change. In the meantime, they are still made in the image of God and thus valued by Him. Hmmmm….
Meditations in Meaning & Values 29: Laws that Value People
Ex 20:12-15 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. "You shall not murder. "You shall not commit adultery.
"You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
We considered in the previous meditation God's first ‘laying down the law' in respect of the sanctity of human life. When He said, “ “I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man,” He not only warned about being held accountable for taking a human life – and by implication forbade the taking of human life, but He also warned of what the repercussions would be for taking a human life.
When we come to the Ten Commandments, the first half are about relationship with God and the second half about relationships with other human beings. The start of those instructions go to the heart of community and indeed civilisation, relationships within families. Parents are the building block for the next generation and they are to be honoured, not only because they are made in the image of God as we've seen before, but also specifically if they are dishonoured or disrespected, the following generation will be at odds with God's design for a harmonious world.
The following commands are all in the negative form – “you shall not” – and are so sharp and clear that the consequences for ignoring them are not spelled out by God there. They are in respect of a) basic human life, b) marriage relationships, c) personal property, d) human reputation and e) human peace and security.
When we move on to the main covenant laws in chapter 21, we find guidance laws about dealing with servants (slaves) i.e. respect within employment (Ex 21:2-11), the penalty for murder (v.12,14), manslaughter (v.13), a child attacking or cursing its parents (v.15,17), the death penalty for kidnapping (v16), and so on. It is a steady catalogue of instructions about dealing with people and the whole chapter is about dealing with circumstances where life is threatened. The first 15 verses of chapter 22 are about dealing with property problems and although the remaining verses are a mixture, we still find some that are specifically about protecting people, e.g. virgins 22:16,17, aliens (22:21), widows and orphans (22:22-24), i.e. protecting the vulnerable.
Into chapter 23 and we find laws about justice in general, about not helping the wicked (v.1), not perverting justice (v.2), not showing favouritism (v.3), not denying justice (v.6), not making false charges (v.7), not using bribes (v.8), not oppressing foreigners (v.9) and then the rest of the chapter is essentially about their relationship with the Lord when they enter the Promised Land. But note that the first nine verses of that chapter 23 are about making sure that people are dealt with fairly (justly).
In all these ways we see that the underlying value of the importance of each individual human being is being covered by a law to protect them. The reality is that we live in a Fallen World where sin prevails and therefore we need these restraining laws or laws to deal with a situation where sin has prevailed.
Many years ago I used to teach law and in the first class always asked the question, why do you think we need laws, and the answer always came back unanimously in two forms: first because “people are not nice” and, second, to protect the weak from the not nice people. Those students, year after year summed it up well. The fact of having the laws does not stop people breaking them and, as we've seen before, people will only hold to valuing human beings when they have some form of relationship with God.
The major destruction of human life last century by Stalin and Hitler, were abuses under atheistic and godless regimes, but they simply characterise on a massive scale what we are each capable of. William Golding's Lord of the Flies characterised what happens when restraints are lifted off human beings and survival of the fittest prevails. It is a grim picture but it is the honest picture of a fallen human race where Sin prevails.
Now you might think that a holy God would give up on a fallen human race and knowing that some of Israel are going to break the laws anyway, why bother to have the laws? The answer has to be twofold. First, to show God's design and lay down a charter which the majority will adhere to. Second, the laws show how to deal with miscreants, how to deal with situations that go wrong. Now although we might see these as the two primary reasons why God gives these laws, it doesn't stop there, for we also find in Leviticus a whole series of lengthy requirements about offering sacrifices and those laws are all about how a guilty sinner can get right again with God.
Getting right with people came through restitution; getting right with God was about appeasing the conscience and showing by an outward act contrition and repentance. The outward act was coming to the Temple with a sacrifice. Although we may see them as lengthy and inapplicable to today's living, they nevertheless did do the job of enabling people to come back into a right relationship with God. God's respect of the human life He has created thus extends to caring for it, even when it has turned away from Him, even when it purports to follow Him (Ex 19) and yet fails in wrongful human behaviour. There are times when, for the sake of the rest and for the sake of His name, God does bring destructive judgment on human beings but even when you study that you see a remarkably restrained hand. God is constantly looking for the good for humanity, and that He seeks to convey to us so that we might convey it to one another. We are to value human life.
Meditations in Meaning & Values 30: Valuing our World
Gen 1:1,31 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ….. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
We could not end a series about values without thinking about the world on which we live. Over the past fifty years a number of organisations have sprung up concerned with the welfare of the world. For instance Greenpeace whose vision statement declares “The underlying goal of all our work is a green and peaceful world - an earth that is ecologically healthy and able to nurture life in all its diversity.” What has been a shame is that Christians have been so heavenly minded that they missed the boat when it come to caring for God's world.
So let's ask a basic question: why care about this planet, what we do to it, how we treat it? A hundred years ago we would probably have viewed it as a big planet which was immune to our activities upon it. Today we see it as a ‘global village' and holidays to all corners of the earth are common making it feel much smaller. Global warning has made us aware that what we do on the earth does affect it. Back in the past century there was a growing awareness that pollution could devastate local nature. Preservation and conservation are common words in the call to care for wildlife, plant or animal. All of these trends have caused voices to be raised in the name of preserving this world, saving the earth from destruction. Survival has moved on to the agenda. But is survival, as important as some would make that appear, the only cause to think about this world?
As Christians our starting place must surely be that the Bible firmly tells us that God created this world, He made a great job of it, and He made it for us. The Bible tells us that God is spirit (which I sometimes define as ‘energy with personality' recognising that is about as far as we can go in understanding ‘spirit') but He created and formed a ‘material' or ‘physical' world. Various thinkers from the past, Plato being a notable example, distinguished between material and spiritual on a bad and good basis. This was a false dichotomy because God creates both material and spiritual and when He had finished making this material world we read, as in our verses above, “ God saw all that he had made, and it was very good .”. If material had been bad then God would never have had his Son come to the earth in human form. After he was raised from the dead Jesus still had human form, even though it appears to have had some additional abilities. Amazingly when Jesus ascended back to heaven, he did it with a physical, human body.
When you start contemplating the world that God has given us, the mind starts to boggle. I always remember the quote that I once heard that there are well over a thousand sorts of edible bean in the world. Why? Why not just six, say? Our TV screens give us the answer: God clearly likes variety.
Solomon clearly had revelation when he wrote the book of Proverbs and no more so than in chapter 8 as he personifies wisdom in what has to be a description of the Son at the Father's side during Creation: “I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” Prov 8:30,31) What a beautiful picture! “ Rejoicing in his whole world”! And even more, “delighting in mankind”. How amazing, the Son enjoying the wonder of the world his Father was bringing into being and allowing him to help with. This says this world means something to the Father, it is His work of art and therefore the way we think about it will reflect something of how we think about Him. This world reflects Him as the apostle Paul wrote, “since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” (Rom 1:20)
But of course Sin entered this world and it is not quite as it was when God first made it: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Rom 8:19-22) Whatever else these complex verses say, they say that the world was affected by Sin (which God knew would happen) so that death and decay are ‘normal' parts of it now, but the coming of Christians points to a new possibility yet to come. We see that new possibility right at the end of the Bible: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Rev 21:1) However we see this, certain things can be stated: a) this present world has a limited duration, b) God will remake both heaven and earth at some future time but note c) there is no indication that the ‘new earth' is anything less than the original material (physical) earth that God originally created. A new physical earth appears clearly on God's agenda for the future – yes, a physical earth. God clearly likes the physical dimension He has created, as well as the spiritual dimension.
So here we are, a world to care for and to enjoy, God's gift to mankind. It is of limited duration because, it would appear from the revelation of the New Testament, God knows than mankind will abuse the present world, and so He plans a new earth at some future point. Enjoy it, thank Him for it, be careful with it. It is of immense value to Him quite clearly, so may it also be so for us.
And with that, I sense this series should come to an end.