Bill, down at the Texaco, filled his gas can. The little guy said he was going to take it home for his lawnmower. Bill didn’t pay it much mind. I guess if he had, he would have thought it kinda strange. Grass didn’t need trimming, not when it had been in the 90’s for over a month. Everyone’s yard was just like mine — brown as paper and dry as popcorn.
Wasn’t till 4:00 when the wind shifted that we all started smelling the smoke. A few of us headed out a couple minutes later to see what it was. The whole ridge was in flame and the spruce were going up like firecrackers. Men and women from five counties came to help, but we couldn’t save much. It finally smoldered out a week later and towards the end, someone found the gas can. But no one ever saw hide nor hair of that crazy little guy ever again.
Our present day environmental crisis is a lot like this story of a madman starting forest fires. Constantly at work on this planet, the madman has left a trail of death and destruction. Nuclear wastes, hazardous chemical wastes, acid rain, the destruction of the rain forest, the tundra, the salt marshes, James Bay, the depletion of the ozone, the greenhouse effect, oil spills and the contamination of the seas, the effects of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, landfills, Styrofoam, fluorocarbons, endangered species — all these are just some of the madman’s forest fires. As soon as he starts one, we run over to where it is and put it out. We spend millions, even billions of dollars in an effort to put an end to some particular facet of his destruction. But it seems like we are always one step behind him. Somewhere else another fire is starting just as soon as we’re getting the first one licked.
So who is the madman causing all the problems? Is it us? Or the greedy rich? Or the giant corporations? Or the politicians? No. Man is certainly a guilty accomplice in all these acts of destruction, but man isn’t the madman himself. It’s really not that simple. The madman in the story is really a spiritual being, the evil angel that most people call the devil or Satan. More than just a force or a mythical creature with horns, a goaty beard, and a long tail, the evil one is a potent ruler, in fact, he is the mastermind behind the spiritual system that controls much of what goes on in the world. This madman has long been bent on the destruction of the earth.
One of his earliest attempts created the conditions we read about in the beginning of the Bible. Most people are familiar with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Verse two, however, may be a bit baffling: “And the earth became formless and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep...”
Something strange had happened in the period between verse one and verse two. What made it “formless and empty” and brought a veil of darkness over the surface of the deep was the work of the evil one. It’s not like God to make something that is a ruin and a mess.
Had the evil one gone unchecked for long, the earth would certainly have become uninhabitable. This is what prompted the earth’s Creator to engage in the work of restoring it — bringing back the light, the sky, the dry land, and the plants and creating new animal life to replace what had been lost. The culmination of that week of work was of course, man, who was placed in a restored portion of the earth called the Garden. His task was to spread out from the Garden with his children and restore all the other parts of the planet, wresting the control of it out of the hands of the evil one and back into the hands of his Creator.
This hasn’t been done yet.
But don’t give up hope. One day the whole earth will be restored to what the Garden was like. One day the madman’s forest fires will come to an end. One day, a people will capture him by their unity and see him chained in the abyss1 and ultimately judged.2
Who do you think will do it? Who do you think will have the unity, the peace, and the love in their lives to finally bring this about? The people I think who will do it are described in the scriptures. They will be people who belong to a new twelve-tribed Israel who are living a tribal life in communities in twelve different tribal areas on the earth.
What kind of life will that be? It will be a life unlike any other. It won’t be found in any of the other nations on the earth. These people will live in a way that will not destroy the earth. Their homes, their farms, and their industries will be environments full of order and care. Men, women, and children will be able to work in small cottage industries where people really matter and greed is not the determining factor. Instead of creating gigantic corporations or building huge factories as so many businesses do in the world, these industries will remain small. Whenever one of them increases and needs to expand, we will be able to divide the work with another household within the community or start another clan in a nearby village that can share the work. Nothing matters more to us than remaining personal and keeping work on a human scale.
The lives of people in this new Israel are integrated and all the parts of their daily life fit into one organic whole. Work isn’t separate from enjoyment, nor is it at odds with what is really important to our souls. One’s relationship with God and his fellow man are a normal part of everyday life. Even man himself is being restored from his fractured, divided state. Everything fits in to the pattern of the life of this new Israel, and our lives become meaningful when we see our gifts develop into something that serves the whole community. Our willingness to sacrifice our own personal dreams, ambitions, and visions for the sake of something greater will bring about the reality of that nation that God has always longed to have as His very own possession on earth.
At great cost the madman can be stopped. There are people who are willing to pay it. Even if it means giving up all things — father, mother, brother, sister, wife, child, possessions, and property — to see it come about, they are willing. If saving the earth means something to you, come and see.