The Increase of the Earth

“Earth will have given her increase, God, our own God, will bless us.” —Psalm 67:6, Rotherham

PSALM 67 is a prophecy foretelling the future joy of mankind when they behold the blessings of the millennial kingdom of Christ. It also expresses the sentiments of all the faithful people of God, past and present, who having a knowledge of that kingdom long for its establishment in the earth. The Rotherham Version of this psalm reads as follows: “God be favorable to us and bless us, cause his face to shine upon us, that thy way may be known throughout the earth, throughout all nations thy saving help! Peoples will praise thee, O God, Peoples will (all of them) praise thee. Races of men will be glad and shout for joy, because thou wilt judge peoples with equity, and races of men throughout the earth thou wilt lead. Peoples will praise thee, O God, peoples will (all of them) praise thee. Earth will have given her increase, God, our own God, will bless us. God will bless us, that all the ends of the earth may revere him.”

The Rotherham Translation, which is here quoted, differs slightly from the King James Version in that it declares that the events described will be accomplished, which inspires the people to praise God. And what joy it will be, when the full potential of the earth for providing man’s needs is successfully utilized! The word “increase” in our text comes from the Hebrew word “yebul,” which means “produce,” and has also been translated “fruit.”

The curse of death that came upon man also included the curse of the earth, which is plainly stated in Genesis 3:17-19: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Because of this sentence imposed by God, the history of man has been one of continual struggle against the adverse vicissitudes of life in this present evil world. Man has had to work hard (by the sweat of his face) to coax from the ground the necessary sustenance for life. At times, because of drought, freezing cold, floods and pests, famines occurred which often led to wholesale starvation of large populations.

These difficulties in tilling the soil, and the laborious toil associated with agriculture, might cause us to overlook the miraculous natural processes that have been set in motion by our wonderful Heavenly Father. God told Adam: “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.” (Gen. 1:29,30) Little did Adam realize how complex was the process by which this was to be accomplished. Today scientists, in their probing and study of the process called photosynthesis (upon which all agriculture depends), have uncovered some very interesting facts. These scientists like to look upon all agriculture as a means of collecting and storing solar energy (an energy that man finds difficult to capture) in the form of food or other useful products—for example: wood, rubber, cotton, hemp, flax, etc. Hence, since Adam, all the farmers of the world have been engaged in promoting this miraculous transformation of energy. Through experience farmers learned that all they needed was good soil (capable of holding water and containing nutrients), and sunlight. Then they depended upon the chemical laws upon which God ordained to do the rest, that is, to set in motion the remarkable process of photosynthesis, thus converting solar energy into food and other useable products.

Scientists have progressed in their study of this remarkable process so that today they understand in considerable detail the systems and stages involved (as many as nine) in what is a very complicated chemistry. This chemistry consists of the conversion of a waste product called carbon dioxide gas, which is exhaled by all animal life, into useful carbohydrates. The process first converts the energy of sunlight into the chemical energy that is used by green leaves to assimilate the carbon dioxide and transform it into carbohydrates, plant constituents, and food. All of this is carried out in the chloroplasts of the green leaves, which contain chlorophyll; this substance gives the leaves their green color and is the key to the photosynthesis process. We note how simply the Lord pointed out this entire process to Adam by saying in Genesis 1:30, “every green herb” is given to animals as food.

About ninety to ninety-five percent of the dry weight of a food crop is derived from the carbon dioxide gas absorbed by green leaves from the air during photosynthesis. Only about five to ten percent comes from minerals and nitrogen taken up from the soil. Yet these minor elements are also very important. Here, again, we see the remarkable way God has provided for man’s needs by placing nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil.

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria include both those that live free in the soil and those that live enclosed in nodules or tubercles on the roots of plants called legumes (alfalfa, peas, beans, clover, soybeans and lupine). These bacteria enter the roots chiefly through root hairs and then work their way to the inner tissues, causing a nodule or tubercle to form, through which they live in a mutually beneficial relationship with the green plant. The bacteria obtain their carbohydrates (as food) from the green plant, and the green plant obtains its nitrogen from the bacteria. This nitrogen becomes protein in the plant. If nitrogen is added to the soil in the form of a nitrate or ammonia, as found in chemical fertilizers, the bacteria’s task is made easier, and the nitrogen from these fertilizers is transformed to protein. Otherwise the bacteria fix the nitrogen directly from the atmosphere.

Nitrogen is a very inert material, composing seventy-nine percent of our atmosphere. To combine it with another element of compound takes much energy. For example, it was not until the twentieth century that man was able to make ammonia from nitrogen. In order to do so, he had to use high pressure (15,000 pounds per square inch) and high temperature (400 to 600 degree centigrade) with a catalyst. But for eons of time God’s natural law has performed a similar task with tiny organisms that combine nitrogen into useful material seemingly without effort.

Since it is easier for these organisms to make protein from compounds of nitrogen, God’s arrangement of nature assists these tiny organisms by causing fertilizer to be made whenever a bolt of lightning flashes through the atmosphere and converts the inert nitrogen gas to a nitric compound which falls to the soil and is used by plants. It has been estimated that the amount of fertilizer made in this manner (via thunderstorms) is greater than the output of all the fertilizer plants in the world.

As we review these wonderful mechanisms in nature, designed and set in motion by our Father in heaven, it makes us wonder why man has not been more successful in providing sufficient food for all. But in reality, man has done better in this respect than we may think, though he has fallen far short of what could be achieved. Considering the multitude of people who have lived upon the earth since Adam’s day, and the vast amounts of food required to feed them, man, imperfect as he is, has succeeded more than he has failed in meeting his needs. Primitive agriculture did not have the challenge that it has today. Yields were low, not only because inorganic plant nutrients or water were inadequate, but also because the quality of the plants being grown was poor. Moreover, the losses by reason of diseases and pests were large. All of this we recognize as a part of the curse. Hence, famine and starvation have almost always been present in some part of the world. This was prophesied by Jesus as an experience to be endured many times by the world of mankind in the period spanning his first and second advents. (Matt. 24:7) His prophecy has indeed been fulfilled.

It was not until the beginning of the nineteenth century that worldwide population growth began to be recognized as a threat to man’s existence. An English economist, Thomas R. Malthus, in his essay published in 1798 predicted man’s inability to keep food production in pace with population growth. The outcome, he believed, would be worldwide starvation. Malthus was unaware that the time was near for knowledge to be increased, as a result of which improved methods of agriculture would be devised. (Dan. 12:4) But Malthus would be appalled to see the level of population in the world today!

The first significant change in agriculture was already under way in Europe when Malthus was making his analysis of population growth. European farmers were learning how to till the ground to prevent erosion of the topsoil, and were experimenting with crop rotation as early as 1650. It required time to teach these new farming methods to the farmers of Europe, but by 1850 Europe achieved higher yields in all crops than they ever had before. The principle of crop rotation was widely adopted as good agricultural practice, especially of leguminous crops which returned nitrogen to the soil. However, with the passage of time, these good practices went into decline and, as usual, man in his greed reverted to monoculture (one crop, year after year), with the attendant penalties of loss of efficiency, soil erosion and soil degradation.

As new agricultural practices at the turn of the nineteenth century were improving crop yields, another development came along in the 1830’s to 1850’s—the invention and introduction of mechanical reaping equipment. This development occurred in the United States at a time when this young, growing nation was starting to become a leading food producer of the world, lending its support to solving the food shortage problem. These events made it possible to set aside again, for the time being, the fear of worldwide hunger.

Population growth fears diminished as people occupied themselves with other problems, until the period following World War II. Then came the postwar population explosion, which reawakened great worldwide concern. There was no doubt, it was believed, that the world was facing potential widespread starvation. But again another event occurred which was to forestall the impending crisis. It was called the “green revolution.” The significance of this revolution, its accomplishments and problems, were summarized in an article recently published:

“In the 1960’s, the conviction dawned on many people that if continued population growth was not matched by dramatic increases in the world’s food supply, large parts of the globe would face widespread hunger and famine. One response to this potential crisis was the green revolution, a term first used to herald the development, by American plant geneticists working in Mexico and the Philippines, of dwarf varieties of wheat and rice capable of doubling or tripling yields per acre in those regions. The new plants had shorter, stiffer stems and, if heavily fertilized and irrigated, could produce much larger heads of grain that did not fall over from their own weight.

“In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the new grains spread rapidly over wide areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Previously unplanted lands were opened for cultivation while plant geneticists in many developing countries refined the dwarf varieties for better adaptation to local conditions.

“But the achievements of the green revolution, dazzling as they have been, may have reached their limit as a solution to the problem of hunger. The rate of growth in world food supplies is now slowing while the world’s population continues to increase. At the same time, large-scale farming of dwarf grains has created new economic and social problems for the developing countries.

“The high-yield grains are particularly vulnerable to insects and disease. To prosper, they require large quantities of fertilizer and pesticides, more irrigation water, and ever more expensive fuel to pump the water and to run machinery. As developing countries struggle with the transition from simple, labor intensive farming to high technology agriculture, antiquated transportation systems need to be modernized to move larger crops to expanding urban centers and to nonproductive back country areas. All this takes hard currency. It now costs more than $5 billion annually to provide fertilizer, pesticides and equipment for India’s farms. The country’s irrigation systems are nearing capacity, and new sources of water will have to be found within the next twenty years if the grain output is to keep pace with population growth.

“Lester Brown, director of Worldwatch, an international food and resource study group, says the green revolution has not been the final solution to world food supply problems. ‘It has been a way of buying time until the brakes can be put on population increases,’ he explained. ‘There may be other important breakthroughs down the road if the scientists do find the key to increasing photosynthesis. But the gains from those discoveries would also be only time buying if population increases aren’t checked.’”

In the midst of this struggle to provide enough food for everyone is the need for energy. As scientists convene in international congresses concerning plant genetics, plant protection, and the supply of food, the problem of providing energy is more evident. In making comparisons, these scientists relate productivity to energy usage. For example, one American food grower supplies food for 60 people, compared to the Western European food grower supporting 9.2. The Japanese food grower supports 13.7 and the United Socialist Soviet Republic grower supports 10 persons. The world average is 5.1. However, the American food grower uses forty barrels of oil per year for his achievement, which is approximately two to three times more than the European food grower uses. This energy usage includes all of the aspects of high technology agriculture, that is, mechanization, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, storage, packaging and transportation. This enormous energy appetite in developed countries as it relates to food production has created another difficult problem for the world. It has been estimated by one scientist, D. Pimental of Cornell University, that high technology agricultural practice could deplete our known oil reserves in thirteen years.

Meanwhile, although scientists are working on increasing crop yields, the effort is not enough. Dr. Israel Zelitch of the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station in New Haven recently said, “Although about 100 laboratories currently are doing research on some aspects of photosynthesis, only about a dozen academic laboratories in the United States are engaged in research on photorespiration. Despite the threatening world food crisis, research budgets in the plant sciences have been reduced (in constant dollars) during the past decade. Increased research funding in crop-oriented areas is needed, but greater funding alone will not be sufficient. Chemists, biochemists, plant physiologists, crop physiologists, geneticists, and plant breeders will have to work together.”

But it is precisely this lack of wise and loving cooperation between men and nations that is at the very root of all the world’s problems today! Today, as a result of the fall, man has an imperfect mind, and a selfish heart, and he lives in a world that is largely motivated by self-defeating self-interest. Thus, in spite of his best efforts and his present day scientific knowledge, he cannot effectively or for long solve the problem of world hunger, any more than he can solve the many other problems confronting him in this present evil world.

But when Christ’s kingdom is set up in the earth, man will gradually be led back to the glorious perfection of mind, body and heart that was enjoyed by father Adam before he disobeyed the righteous commandments of Jehovah God. He will learn to love his neighbor as himself. And then will come a wonderful fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 67. In that kingdom the curse over the earth will be removed; Satan will be bound; greed and selfishness will be supplanted by love and unselfishness. There will be cooperation among all fellowmen in the maintenance of the perfect society upon earth. And all the necessary natural conditions will be present—sunlight, rainfall, freedom from disease or pests—for the earth to “yield her increase.” Thus, the great potential possessed by mother earth to feed her billions will have been realized. It is our wonderful Heavenly Father who will do this because, as the Apostle Paul reminds us when using agriculture as an example of Christian growth, it is God who will give the increase. (I Cor. 3:6) In the kingdom all will be adequately fed. To him be the honor and glory forever!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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