Thorns and Briers, or Peaceful Habitation?


A common theme of environmentalist thought—the Green vision of the ideal world—is of a small human population whose effect on earth’s ecosystems doesn’t differ significantly from that of other species.

The stark contrast between that vision, with its particular understanding of what it means to be human, and the Biblical vision is apparent from the beginning of the Bible, where, having made Adam and Eve (unlike all other living things, earthly or heavenly) in His image, “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28).

But the contrast doesn’t end there. It appears over and over again throughout the Scriptures. I noted one such passage in my reading this morning, Isaiah 32:11–18:

Tremble, you women who are at ease, shudder, you complacent ones; strip, and make yourselves bare, and tie sackcloth around your waist. Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine, for the soil of my people growing up in thorns and briers, yes, for all the joyous houses in the exultant city. For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

Wilderness follows divine judgment, but human settlement results from divine blessing.