Christians and Creation Care



Rich, foundational theology links the great Creator, this created world, and the Sabbath.

Jo Ann Davidson

This biblical study will not deal with text-critical issues. The Christian canon will be accepted as a “system of truth.” As Colin Peckham eloquently contends: “The Bible is a unique phenomenon, wholly unrivaled in the world of letters. It is a literary marvel, a moral miracle. It is not the product of one editor who chose his contributors, mapped out his course of study, gave each his assignment and then brought them all together in a neatly bound volume. Its writing is as diverse as can possibly be imagined. The vast differences in every aspect of its production are obvious to even the most casual observer. The authors are so different and remote from one another that they would not have been acquainted nor could they have conspired together for either evil or good purposes. What a dreadful muddle it would all be if there was no central controlling influence; but it all fits together like a hand in a glove. The unity is miraculous and marvelous.”[1

It will be assumed that biblical narratives (“stories”) are not merely simple historical accounts but were intentionally shaped theologically, and thereby follow a modern trend of a close reading of the received text. Thus, there is a fundamental scriptural connection between the glories and value of creation and the Sabbath. First, a sample survey to note how extensively the Old Testament writers endorsed and exalted a divine fiat creation—which founds an undergirding of New Testament materials.

This canonical perspective significantly commences with a comprehensive theology of life. Considering that the Book of Genesis covers some 2,500 years in 50 chapters, it is remarkable that the first two chapters of the 50 slow down the sweep of time and highlight only the first seven days, pausing with each of these days to recount the dramatic creation of reality—all life and matter plus the structuring of time itself.

Genesis chapter one recounts the first six days: light on Day 1; the second day, air and water divided; water and earth separated, plus flora the third day. Once the habitats were set in place the first three days, inhabitants were created and placed in them. The creation of the seventh-day Sabbath immediately follows with the first three verses of chapter 2. The opening two chapters of Genesis are indeed an epic environmental treatise, presenting the:

(1) goodness of nature—divinely so declared over and over;

(2) lavish diversity of life;

(3) structuring of time—all earthlings have since lived within this initial time cycle set in place;

(4) rhythm of work and rest;

(5) interdependence of all life systems.

A perfect and harmonious great web of life is displayed. This initial perspective of origins is then found throughout the entire biblical canon.

The Bible’s first two chapters also make clear that God is not just causing creation, but personally calling everything into existence with great exuberance—joyfully affirming each day of that first week as “good”—and finally “very good.” These exclamations are not the narrator’s validation. They are the Creator’s celebrating seal of approval that is quoted: “One cannot read Genesis 1 without noticing the constant refrain, ‘And God saw that it was good’ (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), culminating in the final assessment on Day 6: ‘And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good’ (1:31). God is not some distant deistic figure uninterested in his work. He regards his creation with the enthusiasm and joy of a skillful artist who is delighted at what he has done as he sees it formed and organized step by step, until the wonderful harmony of his completed work lies before him, thoroughly fit for the glorious purpose for which he intended it.”2

The Hebrew verb bara, connected with Deity’s creative actions in Genesis, is used only of Him throughout Scripture. Divine words were clearly all-powerful and personal, for the Creator uses speech! He marvels over each aspect of the goodness of creation, expressing His delight and approval of every aspect of it even before humans were created. The world itself was “good.” Even now, though damaged in many ways, when photographed from outer space, this planet is still a beautiful sight.

Many of the things worshiped by ancient cultures surrounding Old Testament Israel (such as the Sun, Moon, and various animals) were created effortlessly by God’s “word of mouth.” The Creator didn’t have to conquer anything when providing a life-sustaining realm for His creatures such as is found in other ancient Near East creation accounts. In Genesis all life and matter are magisterially called into being. The regal daily divine announcement and immediate fulfillment yielded a glorious created order needing no wars or battles to construct it.

The Genesis record is in stark contrast to other ancient origin accounts where, for example, in the Enuma Elish, creation involves the violent and brutal carving up of a monster. In Genesis, however, God omnipotently calls all life and matter into existence with His “‘let there be’”—and He then rejoices at the results.

As noted, in Genesis chapter one first light, air, water, and dry land appear. On Day 3, God’s powerful words also summon vegetation, calling forth verdure in abundance.

The word seed appears several times in Genesis 1:11 and 12 in one form or another. Grasses and fruit trees are two primary types of seed-bearers. All grains are grasses providing wheat, rye, rice, corn, oats, barley and millet—the staple foods for most people and animals. These grasses presently cover some one-third of Earth’s land surface and can be found in areas where other types of plants can barely survive. Fruit trees provide sweet and convenient foods that both humans and animals can eat right off the bush or branch—no cooking necessary. These same trees also provide cooling shade for animals and humans—and habitats for birds. The extensive root systems also help hold the soil in place, and their leaves replenish essential oxygen needed for life.

On Day 4, the Sun and Moon are assigned the task of ruling days and nights: “‘let them be for lights’” (Gen. 1:15, NKJV).3 And it is here that one finds the first biblical definition of rule: “Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness” (vss. 16–18).

The Sun’s “rulership” includes its ever-dependable and beneficial service vital for all life: “In nature, light is of the utmost importance. Ultimately almost every creature on the planet lives off processed solar energy. Photosynthesis produces sugar, which fuels plant life and therefore, indirectly, human and animal life too.”4

Day 5, birds fill the air, and the waters teem with new life forms (Gen. 1:20). “Then God said, ‘Let there be . . . . ‘living creatures of every kind’” (vss. 3, 24, NRSV) and “‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures’” (vs. 20, NRSV). The modern term biodiversity might be considered as a “synonym” of swarms. The great Creator obviously desired the world to be filled with life!

Water provided the domain for newly created aquamarine life with another of God’s command performances: “The oceans cover more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface and are home to 15 percent of its species—at least, as far as we know. Humankind may have reached the moon and sent probes into interstellar space, but more than 80 percent of the oceans remain unmapped, unexplored, and unseen. . . . The estimated one million species who live in the ocean must navigate with extraordinary precision.”5

The “great sea creatures” (vs. 21) are not introduced with a warning that they should be feared and dreaded. From the Creator’s perspective, even such formidable aquatic creatures have a valid and legitimate right to exist. All of them are included in His insistent declaration of “goodness”—if one takes the origins account in Genesis seriously.

In the Book of Job, God again exulted over the animals He created. For example, the entire chapter 41 contains His praise for the Leviathan: “‘I will not keep silence concerning its limbs, or its mighty strength, or its splendid frame’” (vs. 12, NRSV). In God’s longest speech in Scripture (Job 38–41) He expressed His joy over creation, reveling in many of the animals He had created—even though some might seem frightening to us.

Later the psalmist depicted the mighty Leviathan that God had made “to have fun” (104:26, NASB) in the sea with ships. In Psalm 148, marine animals are even found in the grand choir praising the Creator. This perspective is also seen in the Book of Revelation: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’” (Rev. 5:11–14).

Many people only think of how animals taste—manifesting a distorted view of animal life. Contrast this attitude to that of King Solomon, who apparently was an avid scholar of the natural world. For example, though humans often think of ants only when trying to keep them out of their picnic food, these miniature lives impressed Solomon: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?” (Prov. 6:6–9).

Solomon’s vast knowledge of the created world apparently motivated emissaries from many nations to travel to his kingdom to learn of his wisdom—though travel would not have been easy then. Solomon intriguingly discussed the wonders of the natural world with them: “God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. . . . And his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish. And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:29–34).

It should also be noted at this juncture, that Solomon, with his obvious knowledge of the created world, was also a Sabbath-keeper. This is hinted at in his request to Hiram, king of Tyre, for supplies to build the temple—which included mention of the temple being a center for Sabbath worship (2 Chron. 2:1–5).

Back to another glance at Creation Week: God pronounced a blessing on all of the many new creatures of air and water, communicating with them directly for there were no humans around yet to listen! He instructed them with the same command as He gave humans the next day—to “‘be fruitful and multiply’” (Gen. 1:22). This implies that the animals were spoken to. And God does this more than once! Recall the prophet Elijah’s experience: “Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook” (1 Kings 17:1–6).

Indeed, today many biologists write about the intelligence and languages of many kinds of animals—even observing inter-species communication!

The Creator established and then demonstrated the close inter-connectedness of all life with His identical command to both humans and animals: “‘be fruitful and multiply.’” These words were first spoken to the newly created animals on Day 5—and to humans and land animals only on the next day, as noted. Nor did the Creator set up a system of domination between humans and animals. Instead, His divine instructions promote life. Terence Freitham is insightful: “The commission to ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ ([Gen.] 1:22, 28) is possible to fulfill because God blesses these creatures. Note that blessing is an act subsequent to their creation. Blessing is a word of empowerment, of divine power-sharing with the creature, which is then capable of fulfilling the named responsibilities. . . . God intended that the world be a settled place. . . . Indeed, procreation is stated as an obligation of the community of human beings for the sake of continuity in creation. To that end, God builds into the very structure of these creatures the capacity to generate new life. God (unlike the gods of Canaan) does not assume responsibility for these generative activities. . . . God remains involved in the process (see Ps 139:13) but not in a micromanaging way so that human decisions and actions do not count or potentially random events cannot wreak havoc. . . . The genealogies, so prominent in Genesis 1–11, witness to the fulfillment of this human responsibility; the genealogies may be said to speak of the spread of the image of God throughout the world.”6

The word bless or blessing is used more in the Book of Genesis than any other book in Scripture. Found later in the patriarchal narratives, initial usages occur over and over in the first chapters of Genesis, where God blesses the animals (1:22), humankind (vs. 28), and on Day 7, the Sabbath (2:1–3).

Think of it! God created astounding varieties of living creatures, large and miniature in remarkable diversity. He obviously intended the world to be filled with life, reveling in it all, including the many different kinds of creatures, and declaring all “very good.” The Genesis record makes it very clear that the Creator does not only rejoice over human beings. In fact, the blessings of the Sabbath are granted to the animals, too (Ex. 20:8–11). Nonhuman animals were even the first to be blessed. The ancient rabbis noted this: “Of everything God created, nothing was created in vain, not even the things you may think unnecessary, such as spiders, frogs, or snakes. . . . Man was not created until the sixth day, so that if his pride should govern him, it could be said to him ‘Even the tiniest flea preceded you in creation.’”7

It can’t be over-emphasized that the Creator joyfully affirmed all He made. All life and matter is treasured by Him: God “saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). The Creator had even gotten His hands into the new soil He had made when creating the land animals and Adam—we’re all made out of the same “stuff”: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. . . . Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name” (2:7, 19).

The Deity also was a hands-on Gardener: “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (vss. 8, 9).

Other ancient Near Eastern origin accounts describe humans feeding the gods. In Genesis, it is the Creator who provides food—including the divine menu: plant-based, violence-free meals: “‘I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth’” (1:29, 30).

All humans and animals were created as plant-eaters. God did not set up a system for raising and slaughtering animals for food. He provided all the newly created lifeforms their menus. And there is no hint that any meals would involve killing and eating dead animals.

Nor was assigning humans work a consequence of sin. They were told to “tend” and to “watch over” the new creation (Gen. 2:15, NLT). These words imply that their tasks would include caring for creation. Notably, these two verbs are not exclusively linked to the work of horticulture and agriculture in the Old Testament. They are also connected with priestly service. In Genesis 1:28, tending the land thereby suggests caring for the land on which all living creatures dwell and depend for life. This concept of land as a gift and obligation is almost a lost perspective today. If the Genesis record is acknowledged, this perspective needs to be revived—for it was never rescinded!

The verb shamar is also linked with keeping (Ex. 13:10; 20:6). Both soil and Torah came as gift and obligation. This suggests that obeying the divine commandments includes thoughtful care of the soil, as both have value: “To keep the commandments has both positive and negative dimensions, namely, to promote the well-being of others and to restrain violence and the misuse of others. And so to ‘keep’ the land is to promote its well-being and keep it from being violated through human misuse.”8 This position is further substantiated with humans being created in God’s image, implying that human stewardship should reflect that of the Creator’s.

Yes, God granted dominion over the earth to the new humans. However, dominion does not mean domination, for this was the second time the Creator had defined and assigned rulership. Earlier, on Day 4, He had designated the Sun to rule the day and the Moon to rule the night (Gen, 1:17), as noted above. This is a crucial point—and was also a significant ancient issue: “Ascribing to the sun the humble role of light bearer rather than god would be a powerful challenge to the mythology of the land of Joseph’s rule and of Moses’ upbringing, where the supreme god was the sun god Ra, whose name was embedded in the title of the ruler Pha-ra-oh.”9

Though granting dominion, the Creator never relinquished His ownership of this world, ever insisting the land was His. For example, later, as He brought the children of Israel to the promised land, He instructed them: “‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me’” (Lev. 25:23). Later psalmists again mention this: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters” (Ps. 24:1, 2).

Absolute human ownership is impossible anyway. Humans, who die, cannot finally own anything. No matter what we may claim or think we control, one thing is certain: eventually we will no longer own it. Furthermore, how we treat the created world will impact the next generations for better or for worse. No wonder the prophets quote God lamenting over the human ruining of His real estate: “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Behold, I will refine them and try them; for how shall I deal with the daughter of My people? Their tongue is an arrow shot out; It speaks deceit; One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart he lies in wait. Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord. ‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’ I will take up a weeping and wailing for the mountains, and for the dwelling places of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that no one can pass through; Nor can men hear the voice of the cattle. Both the birds of the heavens and the beasts have fled; they are gone” (Jer. 9:7–10).

Genesis 2 also reveals Adam’s personal relationship with the animals: “Adam gave names to all [the animals]” (vs. 20, KJV). The use of the Hebrew word shem to describe these namings implies that this was not merely an abstract impersonal classification. Rather, Adam intelligently recognized the animals as individual beings of value—and naming them suggests that he had noted them personally.

Day 7 completes the first week. It is distinctly set apart by being consecrated. Whereas the prior six days are pronounced “good” and then “very good,” the final climactic seventh day is blessed and declared “holy.” Later, the sanctuary will be designated as Deity’s earthly spatial house. However, the seventh day was first set apart as God’s dwelling place in time.

A relationship between holiness and goodness is thereby distinctly linked—holiness marking the completion of creation. The divine Creator rested (in satisfaction of a job well done), blessed, and made holy the first seventh day—after the impressive “very good” creation of the cosmos. This is another contrast with ancient Near Eastern creation accounts in which Baal and Marduk find their rest by conquering chaos.

The Sabbath day, the finale of the first week, is in itself a remarkable statement of creation care. Humans and all animals are invited to rest with their Creator. In the Genesis origin narrative, there is “recognition that humans share their particular space, the land, with animals, [and] shows that all creatures participate in a divinely ordered cosmos of justice and mercy.”10

Sabbath time benefits human beings, the animals, and also the land itself (Ex. 20:8–11). Even the soil, in its vast service of providing food and shelter for all creatures, needs rest. This God provided with the Sabbath of the seventh year (Lev. 25:3–7).

Sabbath was never intended to be a legalistic ritual. Adam and Eve certainly weren’t keeping the Sabbath to be saved, for they hadn’t sinned when they first celebrated the Sabbath. And, if they had never sinned, we would still have the Sabbath—an amazing gift of rest and restoration. Jewish philosopher, Abraham Heschel called it a “palace in time.”11 Its royal hours give all life time for renewal and fellowship with the Creator—joining with the myriad different voices of praise in the created world.

The divinely instituted seven-day week, set in place independent of celestial movement cycles (in contrast to the day, month, and year), demonstrates the Creator’s almighty sovereignty over time itself—something humans can’t even touch, let alone control. God’s blessing of all creation is written in the very laws of nature—including the weekly rhythm of time. With the founding of the weekly Sabbath, God also provided a key to freedom from the modern tyranny of work.

The Creator rested on the seventh day, having completed His creative work. Thereby humans created in God’s image should follow His example! God Himself reiterated this later in Exodus 20:8 to 11 and 31:12 to 17, repeating the same verbs found in the Genesis 2:1 to 3 record of the setting apart of the seventh day. The fact that the fourth commandment of the Decalogue (Ex. 20:8–11) is the longest of the 10, again underscores the important biblical connection between the Creator, His created world, and the Sabbath.

The word shabbat itself encourages us to rest by stopping our work and resting in God’s finished work. The Sabbath sets apart a time when we are freed from our never-ending tasks to come close to the Creator and appreciate His finished work. We are invited to take the time to look at and study nature—and in doing this, it will begin to speak to us about Him. But this won’t happen unless we accept Sabbath time. Ellen G. White eloquently spoke to this issue: “The Sabbath bids us behold in His created works the glory of the Creator. And it was because He desired us to do this that Jesus bound up His precious lessons with the beauty of natural things. On the holy rest day, above all other days, we should study the messages that God has written for us in nature. We should study the Saviour’s parables where He spoke them, in the fields and groves, under the open sky, among the grass and flowers. As we come close to the heart of nature, Christ makes His presence real to us, and speaks to our hearts of His peace and love.”12

In just seven days, the earth was formed with the many different intricate ecosystems put in place—which were then lovingly filled with abundant lifeforms. The Sabbath day marked the newly created world as complete and at rest. Nothing more was needed. Nothing could have been added to make it better. God revealed Himself as the Lord of space and time. Nothing lay outside of His sphere of influence—and nothing had been overlooked. Divine activity had created and put in place an amazingly complex and intricate network of blessed domains that we are only slowly beginning to appreciate. Think of all the laws of chemistry, biology, physiology, physics, gravity, et the “seeing eye,” the “hearing ear,” with all the many systems in the human body alone—put in place that first week—which has since sustained and enhanced all life. This incredibly complex yet precise fine-tuning causes more and more scientific admiration and appreciation. Much earlier, the psalmist already understood, reminding us that we should be awestruck, too: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8).

As noted earlier, the choir of Psalm 148 also describes many praising voices throughout all nature—with human voices only included last! Psalm 145 is another of numerous psalms proclaiming the glories of creation and God’s providence over it all, climaxing by extolling the Creator’s love for everything that He has made. The word translated “all” or “every” (the same word in Hebrew) occurs 16 times in this short psalm underscoring God’s expansive affection for all creation—not just human beings, but everything He made: “The eyes of all look expectantly to You. . . . The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works” (Ps. 145:15–17).

In fact, God’s care for the animals inspired numerous hymns in the Psalter: “Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast” (36:6).

The doxology Christians sometimes sing in worship expresses the same sentiment: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below . . .”

The psalm for the Sabbath, Psalm 92, is also a cheering chant for the glories of creation. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night, on an instrument of ten strings, on the lute, and on the harp, with harmonious sound. For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands” (vss. 1–4).

Israel’s hymnbook, the Psalter, closes with Psalm 150, chanting, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (vs. 6). This means that callous human destructions have muted much praise.

Unfortunately, the tragic results of the Fall in Eden’s garden affected the entire earth—and were spelled out by the Creator. Sin’s horrific corruption impacted the entire world with a deadly vicelike grip.

Scripture’s record of all this should instruct us that we need a more “worldly” attitude! The expansive oceans, majestic mountain ranges, great whales and dolphins, tigers, hummingbirds, spiders, and small earthworms are all part of God’s grand design of life for this planet we call home—and which we share with all living creatures. Its infinite value we have been slow to appreciate. And all our finely devised instruments still haven’t reached to the outer limits of life! Think expansively—this planet along with the billions and billions of galaxies, the supernovas, the black holes, and the seemingly immeasurable reaches of dark matter.

We sometimes discuss how we should care for the environment. However, the Bible writers instruct us that it is the other way around! What we call the environment is God’s bountiful creation into which He put us. And if He did not continuously sustain and renew it, no life could exist—as heavenly beings declare in their worship of the Creator. What is more, the Creator is no distant landlord: Our earthly home is part of the vast universe of His constant providence and care. This is deliberately underscored in the opening of Genesis, climaxing in the creation of the Sabbath’s blest time. And the discerning reader will find this to be the canonic posture throughout both testaments.


New Testament

When the divine Creator assumed human flesh, He created and walked on the soil He had made. Jesus gave ample evidence that He still treasured the created world, often referring to it. His parables drew lessons from trees, grains, flowers, and animals—that the life within them is granted and sustained by the same divine power that brings spiritual growth in the human heart: the parable of the sower and the different soils; the mustard seed, the good shepherd with his sheep, and the vine.

Jesus also compared His affection for His people to a hen gathering her chicks under her wings (Matt. 23:37)—equating His love to that of a mother known to be very protective of her baby chicks. He also apparently noted the way donkeys could be overloaded—and that oxen were laboring with uncomfortable yokes: “‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light’” (Matt. 11:28–30).

Jesus stressed that even the lowliest of creatures is loved by God: “‘Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6), that not a single sparrow falls to the ground without God’s knowledge (Matt. 10:29), echoing the sentiment of Psalm 84, in which birds and their nests were welcome in the sanctuary precincts: “How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young—even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You” (Ps. 84:1–4).

Jesus clearly demonstrated that His Lordship over creation was still operating. His word could still a storm. He could even walk on the water He had created. Perhaps a strong breeze was blowing the night Jesus was describing the work of the Holy Spirit to Nicodemus. He almost seemed to chide the prominent Pharisee, who apparently didn’t grasp the spiritual lessons that could be found in nature: “‘Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” (John 3:7–10).

Jesus also drew attention to the natural world in His Sermon on the Mount, stressing the divine concern for earth’s smaller creatures which are often underappreciated: “‘Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them’” (Matt. 6:26).

And the Architect of two lavish Old Testament sanctuaries marveled at the astonishing beauty of the flowers His own hands had created: “‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these’” (Matt. 6:28, 29).

The Creator displayed fondness not just for the grand things of creation but also its tiny life forms. In the smallest wildflower, often unnoticed, can be found a beauty and perfection that only He can create. The Master Artist bids us notice and learn of Him through these wonders He created: “Christ might have opened to men the deepest truths of science. He might have unlocked mysteries which have required many centuries of toil and study to penetrate. He might have made suggestions in scientific lines that would have afforded food for thought and stimulus for invention to the close of time. But He did not do this. . . . In all His teaching, Christ brought the mind of man in contact with the Infinite Mind. He did not direct the people to study men’s theories about God, His word, or His works. He taught them to behold Him, as manifested in His works, in His word, and by His providences. Christ did not deal in abstract theories, but in that which . . . will enlarge man’s capacity for knowing God.”13

Jesus also spoke of the humane treatment of animals found in the Jewish laws to justify healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath: “‘Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?’” (Luke 13:15). And before healing a man’s withered hand on another Sabbath morning, He again insisted: “‘What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?’” (Matt. 12:11).

As a preview of the perfect world, He promised where sin, sickness, and death will be removed, Jesus restored health to crippled limbs and damaged bodies and raised the dead—proving He has the power to fulfill His promises. Sabbath was a day for miracles!

According to the Gospels, He performed more miracles on the Sabbath than on any other day of the week—and deliberately placed the persons He would heal into public view to draw attention to the promised blessed Sabbath rest of the Old Testament—even though this caused great animosity toward Him by the religious leaders.

He quoted the Old Testament when comparing His salvific mission to that of a good shepherd with his flock of sheep. He also referred to the Book of Isaiah and its various exhortations to have compassion on animals and care for creation: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider.’ Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a hut in a garden of cucumbers, As a besieged city. Unless the Lord of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah” (Isa. 1:1–9, italics supplied).

Isaiah also describes the renewal of this sin-contaminated world: “But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist. ‘The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’ And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:4–10, italics supplied).

With even a brief survey highlighting the value and glory of the created world in both the Old and New Testaments, it should not be surprising that Scripture teaches that redemption will encompass all creation. Indeed, this is promised when the canon closes in the Book of Revelation. Even before that, however, the Apostle Paul draws attention to the groaning and suffering of creation because of sin. Then the Book of Revelation climaxes with the resplendent re-creation of this planet promised in the Old Testament. And there is more to look forward to in the “world made new” than golden streets and harp-playing!

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, 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 heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful’” (Rev. 21:1–5).

A cursory survey of Scripture’s “system of truth”—from the first two landmark chapters of Genesis to the concluding chapters of the final Book of Revelation—yields an impressive unvarying perspective on the value of the created world, which includes a reverence for the animals and the land itself. Everywhere in Scripture, all life, human and nonhuman, is treasured. And when the divinely promised salvation is finally bestowed, the entire created world will be included—and the Creator’s dreams for this place will finally come true.

This biblical record should inspire all human beings created in God’s image with the same affection for this world. This study is not a political treatise discussing modern warnings of “climate change.” A much more lofty motivation is involved—acknowledging and accepting the higher calling of our joyous privileges as God’s image bearers in the world. And with a more “worldly attitude,” we can join the vast choir of all living creatures praising the Creator—each Sabbath a weekly invitation to join them in praise.

Some of the final verses in the last chapter in the Book of Isaiah instruct us that the high note of Sabbath praise for the Creator will continue forever: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. . . . For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the Lord” (66:1, 2, 22, 23).

The glories of the created world are ever-linked to the Sabbath—which the fourth commandment in the Decalogue also insists! A sampling of some of the myriad biblical texts supporting this have been quoted here—whether dipping into the Pentateuch, the historical books, the prophets, the Gospels, Paul’s writings, or the Book of Revelation.

It cannot be denied that there is foundational rich theology linking the great Creator, this created world—including all life forms, and the Sabbath from Genesis through Revelation! We need a more “worldly attitude”!


Jo Ann Davidson, PhD, is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, U.S.A.



1. Colin N. Peckham, The Authority of the Bible (Scotland, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 13–15.

2. John C. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2011), 110, 111.

3. Unless noted otherwise, all Scripture references in this article are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.

4. Peter Wohlleben, The Secret Network of Nature (London: Vintage, 2019), 103.

5. Ingrid Newkirk and Gene Stone, Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020), 24, 25.

6. Terence E. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2005), 50.

7. Albert Vorspan, The Crisis of Ecology: Judaism and the Environment (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1970).

8. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament, 50.

9. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World, 124.

10. David Grumett and Rachel Muers, Theology on the Menu: Asceticism, Meat and Christian Diet (London: Routledge, 2010), 76.

11. Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1983), 10.

12. Christ’s Object Lessons, 25, 26.

13. Ibid., 22, 23.