Day 2: Theology of Land

Read: Genesis 1:9-13

One of the ways I know I am truly back home in rural Michigan is when I go to my country church, and we pray to God for rain. Even now, humans can make the connection between God’s control of land and His care for humans. “Lord, send rain.” Conceptually in the Bible, especially lost from those who live in no way relating to a farming community, is the intense correlation between the relationship of man and God as portrayed, described, and mediated in land. It is God’s will for humanity to have land, and be in many ways people of the land, so that in God’s management of the relationship of man and land His goodness and grace might be known. 

Land in scripture is a primary way God provides for His people. We see this first in our passage where at the dawn of creation God makes land in which humans are to dwell. God forms man from the earth and names him Adam, which is a play on the Hebrew word for earth, “’adamah.” Adam is then given a land, the garden of Eden. As a result of the Fall Adam is removed from the garden and the land is cursed, so that it yields its fruit through painful toil. Cain is punished by roaming banishment from the land. Abraham is promised a land that represents the covenant God makes with him. The Israelites are led into a promised land, inheriting the covenant God made with Abraham. God establishes that, “If My people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land,” (2 Chron. 7:14 ESV). In 600 BC in an act of divine judgment, God sends the Babylonians to remove them from their land. The list goes on and on as God uses land to mediate grace, care, and judgment upon humans.

Every time there is divine judgment in Scripture, it is always related in some way to an understanding of land. Banishment, curses, the Flood; it all has an expression through land. Even death, the punishment for sin, is the separation of our soul from our body such that dust to dust, our bodies return to the land, but our soul is to never again be part of it. God’s will is that humanity would have a land in which to dwell. We look back at this moment, where God first made land for humanity, and recognize that His promises of human redemption are inseparable from His healing redemption of the land (Rev 21).  

How is it that you recognize the care, control, grace, and judgment of God upon your life? What has been the primary medium that you have used to interpret or measure your relationship to God? Our relationship to the Land might not be the gauge most of us think of when we try to discern our spiritual health, but what are other ways, like charitable giving, service to the downtrodden, or love for our fellow humans, that can illuminate areas of spiritual weakness or strength?  

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