WHY AM I HERE?

 

Week of January 7, 2007

 

Bible Passages:Genesis 1:1-4,26-31; 2:1-3.

 

Biblical Truth: God created human beings in His image and made us managers of His good creation.

 

Our Good Beginning: Genesis 1:1-4.

 

[1]In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [2]The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. [3]Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. [4]God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.[NASU]

 

[1] The Bibleís first words announce how Israelís God can be known. He reveals Himself in terms of the ďwhenísĒ and ďwhereísĒ of human life and history. People orient themselves to their world in terms of time and space: beginnings, endings and location. Here we see the Infinite God condescending to us by announcing His presence in the same terms Ė time and space. Creation extols Godís transcendence and the power of His spoken word. Created is used in the Old Testament consistently in reference to a new activity. The striking feature of the word is that its subject is always God which indicates special significance for God as autonomous Creator. It therefore conveys the idea of a special activity accomplished only by deity that results in newness or a renewing. Since God is Creator of all that exists, He is antecedent to it, distinct from it, while yet intimately involved with it. The expression the heavens and the earth indicates the totality of the universe.

 

[2] The earth is first described in its pristine state at the inception of creation before it is transformed into a suitable habitation for human life. Six creation days are described from the terrestrial perspective of a person observing the transformation. Three parallel clauses in verse 2 describe the conditions of the earth at its beginning. Formless and void refers to an unproductive, uninhabited land and has the sense of futility and nonexistence. Darkness prevailed over the landscape. Darkness is often used in the Old Testament as a metaphor for evil. But in this verse darkness is treated as an actual entity, not as a symbol for evil, and its existence is recognized by its naming [1:5]. Darkness is not necessarily negative since it is a part of Godís good creation. Over the surface of the deep parallels over the surface of the waters. On the second and third days these waters are eventually separated from the expanse and land masses when the waters are named seas [1:10]. The deep and waters often are portrayed as a threat to life and to the people of God. But here, Genesis identifies the waters only for what they are, creations subject to the superintendence of God. The Spirit of God was moving over the earth preparing it for the creative word to follow. The Spirit alone is moving, animated, while the elements of the lifeless earth remain passive awaiting their command.

 

[3]The first step in remedying the dark earth was Godís command to bring forth light. This first of three separations effectively diminishes the enveloping darkness but leaves a remnant each evening of earthís primal darkness. The Hebrew community understood that Godís creative word was the same authoritative word by which He brought about the affairs of human history and the nations. Just as the word created the universe, the word created the community of Israel. The source of creationís first light is not specifically stated. Since it is not tied to a luminating body such as the sun, the text implies that the light has its source in God Himself. This light on the first day then is indicative of the presence of God both at creation and among His people Israel, a light that both reveals and conceals the presence of God.

 

[4] The divine evaluation that the light was good indicates that God is Judge, as well as Landlord, who evaluates the consequences of His creative word. Here light is declared good because it accomplishes its purpose of dispelling the darkness that had characterized the earth. The division of light and darkness here is the first of three separations [1:6,9] that prepare the earth for lifeís possibilities.

 

Our Godly Nature and Purpose: Genesis 1:26-28.

 

[26]Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." [27]God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. [28]God blessed them; and God said to them, " Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."[NASU]

 

In these verses the uniqueness of man and his superiority to the rest of creation are expressed in three ways. First, he is said to have been made in Godís image. This is not said of either objects or animals. Second, he is given dominion over the fish, birds, animals, and even the earth itself. Third, there is a repetition of the word created. This word is used at only three points in the creation narrative: first, when God created matter from nothing [1]; second, when God created conscious life [21]; and third, when God created man [27]. Lest we should miss this, the word create is repeated three times over in reference to the man and woman. It is as though God put exclamation points here to indicate that there is something special about the creation of man. The repetition of being created in the image of God emphasizes the uniqueness of man. What does it mean to be made in Godís image? One thing it means is that men and women possess the attributes of personality, as God Himself does, but as the animals, plants, and matter do not. To have personality one must possess knowledge, feelings, and a will. This God has, and so do we. We can say that animals possess a certain kind of personality. But an animal does not reason, love and worship as man does. Personality, in the sense we are speaking of it here, is something that links man to God but does not link either man or God to the rest of creation. A second element that is involved in manís being created in the image of God is morality. This includes the two further elements of freedom and responsibility. To be sure, the freedom men and women possess is not absolute. Even Adam and Eve before the fall were not autonomous. They were creatures and were responsible for acknowledging this by their obedience in the matter of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is relevant to the matter of morality that, when the sanctification of the believer is spoken of as being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him [Col. 3:10] or conformed to the image of His Son [Rom. 8:29], it is the moral righteousness of the individual that is most in view. The third element involved in manís being made in Godís image is spirituality, meaning that man is made for communion with God, who is Spirit [John 4:24], and that this communion is intended to be eternal as God is eternal. It is on the level of the spirit that man is aware of God and communes with Him. Here lies our true worth. We are made in Godís image and are therefore valuable to God and others. God loves men and women, as He does not and cannot love the animals, plants, or inanimate matter. He feels for them, identifies with them in Christ, grieves for them, and even intervenes in history to make individual men and women into all that He has determined they should be.

 

Although man was made in the image of God, this image has been greatly marred by sin. There are vestiges of the image remaining, but man today is not what God intended. He is a fallen being, and the effects of the fall are seen on each level of his being: in his body, soul, and spirit. At the fall, manís spirit, that part of him that had communion with God, died instantly. His soul, the seat of his intellect, feelings, and identity, was radically corrupted. Mankind can still think and feel but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man [Rom. 1:21-23]. Thus manís soul is seriously damaged especially as it pertains to spiritual matters. Eventually even the body died. However, the glory of the gospel is seen at precisely this point, for when God saves a person He saves the whole person, beginning with the spirit, continuing with the soul, and finishing with the body. The salvation of the spirit comes first; for God first establishes contact with the one who has rebelled against Him. This is regeneration, the new birth. Second, God works with the soul, renewing it after the image of the perfect man, the Lord Jesus Christ. This work is sanctification. Finally, there is the resurrection in which even the body is redeemed from destruction. Moreover, God makes a new creation, for He does not merely patch up the old spirit, soul, and body. God creates a new spirit that is His own Spirit within the individual. He creates a new soul, known as the new man. At last, He creates a new body which is like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ through whom alone we have this salvation.

 

Our Generous Provision: Genesis 1:29-31.

 

[29]Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; [30]and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so. [31]God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.[NASU]

 

In looking at the account of the creation of man by God in Genesis 1, we have already seen two points that are emphasized. First, man is created. This is repeated three times in verse 27, obviously for emphasis. Second, man is created in Godís image. This is repeated four times in verses 26 and 27. Following this clue to what are the most important ideas, we come next to the teaching that man was to rule over creation as Godís regent. This is mentioned twice, in verses 26 and 28. Who is this who is to rule Godís creation? What is he like? What are his gifts? To whom is he responsible? We have already seen that manís being created in the image of God involves his having a personality, a sense of morality and spirituality. But in relation to his rule over the animals manís creation involves responsibility as well.If man were his own creator, he would be responsible to no one. But he is not his own creator. He is created by God, and this means that he is responsible to God for what he does in every area of his life and particularly for how he carries out the mandate to rule over creation. God created the man and woman and gave them dominion over the created order. Consequently, they were responsible to him for what they did. When man sins, it is God who requires a reckoning. In his sin man either tends to dominate and thus violate the creation, subjecting it to his own selfish ends, or else he tends to fall down and worship the creation, not realizing that his debasement is brought about in the process. The unfortunate thing is that when man severs the tie that binds him to God and tries to cast off Godís rule, he does not rise up to take Godís place, as he desires to do, but rather sinks to a more bestial level.

Our Grounds for Worshiping God: Genesis 2:1-3.

 

[1]Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. [2]By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. [3]Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.[NASU]

 

The climactic seventh day is remarkably different from the foregoing six days of creation. First, there is no introductory formula (then God said) because His creative word is not required. Second, this day does not have the usual closing refrain evening and morning to indicate its termination. Theologically the absence of the refrain implies that creation was intended to enjoy a perpetual rest provided by God, although that rest was disrupted by human sin. Third, the seventh day is the only day of the week blessed and consecrated by God. Fourth, unlike the creation days, the number of the seventh day is repeated three times (twice more by the pronoun it). Fifth, the seventh day stands outside the paired days of creation, having no corresponding day in the foregoing creation week. The literary pattern of six plus one is designed to highlight the seventh and culminating member in the seven-item arrangement.

 

Verses 2-3 contain four lines, the first three of which are parallel, each possessing seven words (in the Hebrew), with the midpoint of each line having the same phrase, the seventh day. As with seventh day, the same phrase His work occurs three times in verses 2-3 to emphasize that creation was Godís work alone. The end of His work was related to the completion of creation, not due to fatigue. There was simply nothing left to do; the created order was whole, requiring only the sustaining grace of Godís superintendence. The verb rested means the cessation of creative activity. It does not mean that God stops all of His activity. Of the creation weekís days, this seventh day is uniquely blessed and sanctified by the Creator. The specific explanation in the text for the seventh dayís special hallowedness is that God ceased from His work. God has already blessed the created order, enabling it to propagate [1:22,28]; but here the dimension of time, the seventh day, is said to be blessed of God. This blessing is explained by the subsequent act of consecration that is the first in the Bible. When God sanctified the day, He declared that the day was specially devoted to Him. Consecration in the Old Testament meant designating or setting aside persons, places and things that were regarded sacred by virtue of their relationship to or possession by the Lord, who is holy.

 

The Decalogue first directly ties Sabbath observance with the creation rest [Ex. 20:8-11], furnishing the theological rationale for the Hebrew practice. Much of the Decalogue terminology echoes Gen. 2:1-3. Sabbath in the Fourth Commandment occurs as a synonym for seventh; in the direct allusion to Gen. 2:3, Sabbath is substituted for seventh: therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy [Ex. 20:11b]. The seventh day of creation as a consequence is viewed as Godís Sabbath. Embracing Godís Sabbath rest meant experiencing the sense of completeness and well being God had accomplished at creation in behalf of all human life. Observance of a seventh day among Israel, however, antedates the Sinai injunction. In the wilderness sojourn there is a Sabbath to the Lord in which the gathering of manna is suspended for a seventh day [Ex. 16:21-30]. The passage obviously anticipates the Sinai legislation, but the basis, as in the Fourth Commandment, must be the creation. Sabbath existed before man observed it and continues whether or not Godís creatures acknowledge it. Israelís Sabbath, like Godís Sabbath rest, was sanctified and set apart as a special day of worship and celebration. The seventh day then pointed the Hebrew reader to a day of rejoicing over the created work of God. Also the Sabbath day was tied by Moses to the redemptive purposes of God for Israel. Deuteronomyís Decalogue presents this second reading of Sabbath and relates its observance to the historic deliverance of Israel from Egyptian servitude [Deut. 5:15]. Together the two versions of the Fourth Commandment capture the twofold meaning of the seventh day for Israel; a celebration of God as Creator and Redeemer. Likewise, as the New Testament Church gathers on the Lordís Day for worship and proclamation, it too celebrates the work of our Creator/Redeemer God by proclaiming the Gospel message of the ďnew creation.Ē

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.††††† Genesis is the ďBook of Beginnings.Ē There is probably nothing that separates those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and those who do not more than the first three chapters of Genesis. As you study the creation story in these verses take time to think upon the importance of this truth and the impact it has on the way every believer should live their lives in contrast to those who do not believe in the historical truth of these verses.

 

2.††††† What does it mean that God created mankind in His image? Why is this truth so important for the way we view ourselves and how we treat others?

 

3.††††† What does it mean that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it? Why is this act by God so important for how we live out our Christian lives?

 

References:

Genesis, James Boice, Baker Books.

Genesis 1-11:26, Kenneth Mathews, NAC, Broadman Publishers.