Text for the Week: The People’s Purpose

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31

26 Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”

27 God created humanity in God’s own image,
        in the divine image God created them,
            male and female God created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. 30 To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. 31 God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.

There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day.

Theme- God created humanity to take care of the earth and be God’s representatives on earth

Questions

  1. What is the message that the order of creation is trying to convey?
  2. What does it mean for humanity to be made in God’s image and how do we live that out in the world?
  3. What is the purpose of God’s blessing specifically the terms “master” and “take charge” and how does humanity live out this concept?
  4. What about the act of creating humanity makes the world “very good”?

Helpful Information

Related texts: Genesis 11:1-9, Psalm 8:4-7, John 1:1-18

The term behind “create” (bar’a) means “to give something a function or purpose” rather than “to build or make” and is used 3x in this short section on humanity.

Genesis 1 is organized to compare the creation of earth with the building and dedication of a temple, with humanity functioning like the Divine image in the temple.

What sets Genesis 1 apart from other texts is that all humanity is created as God’s image, not simply men, or a royal line. The term used is “adam” which is a generic word for humanity and not simply men.

Humanity is instructed to care for all creation on God’s behalf the language used is of a regent put in charge of a kingdom where the regent governs on behalf of a king. Despite this we don’t see God abandoning creation but working with humanity to govern creation this is meant as a partnership.

The declaration of “very good” is a statement that the basic work of creating is done and that earth, the temple, is ready for Divine habitation, not that it is complete or perfect.

Humanity is created on day 6 with the other land animals but is given a distinct creative activity with distinct language. This is to highlight the in between status of humanity they are both creatures like other animals and yet distinct from other animals.

Reflection

              We are all familiar with the opening words of Genesis “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”, but what does this phrase mean? It is so easy to understand the words on the page that we sometimes brush past them without recognizing their true significance. John Walton and others have done an excellent job developing how the creation account is meant to reflect God’s building a temple in the cosmos. Also, though English translations often focus in on God “creating’ the cosmos the action of the Hebrew word is not bringing things into existence but rather giving them purpose. So while English readers are tempted to see genesis one as the creation of the physical universe thought this trying to explain how God has ordered creation given everything a purpose within the construction of God’s dwelling. We have a tendency to flatten this story to a merely physical account of God brining the world into existence and in viewing the chapter this way miss the beauty of God’s purpose within the story. It is easy to miss subtle changes in language that clue us in to the deeper meaning in the story.

              One of these places is in verses 26-31; God’s has already created terrestrial animals but now wants to create sometime else. The language in this scene shifts in this passage to show how humanity is not like the rest of creation. This new creature is going to be something similar to the rest of the creatures but also something distinct. Further the word that started the creation narrative (to give purpose) is repeated here multiple times. Humanity is given a purpose distinct from the rest of creation, and is meant to take on an unique role within the created order. If we are reading this chapter as the construction of a temple and we know that a temple was not truly complete until the image of the deity was placed front and center. The Bible repeatedly speaks negatively of idols in foreign temples, but this is precisely because humanity was meant to be the true image of God. The idol at the center of the temple was the mouthpiece of the god through which this god ruled. Genesis therefore is trying to teach us manatee are being made in God’s image, it’s the means through which God rules creation. the text in explicitly tells us that humanity is meant to govern creation but understanding the language of “being God’s image” helps us to understand that humanity is not meant to rule on our own but on God’s behalf. Humanity is created as a go between with one foot room creation and another in the realm of the divine. it is when humanity as God’s vice Regent is established that God’s temple it is completed, and everything is seen as very good.

              To bear God’s image and to be God’s image is in part means to live out this command care for God’s world as God’s temple. Humanity’s primary responsibility within creation is to care for, cultivate, and complete God’s temple. Much of the rest of the Bible is a description of how humanity has failed to live up to this calling and how God plans to restore us and creation to this idyllic state. One of the true elements of sin that plagues humanity is to reject the calling to rule on God’s behalf, and instead to govern creation as we see fit. Sin is at least in part acting on the desire to control our position as rulers of creation without any direction from God. When a person recognizes their place among God’s people that individual is accepting this calling of humanity to reign on God’s behalf. Paul highlights this in Romans 8 when he discusses creation groaning as if in labor pains, this is a reference to creation expectantly waiting for God to restore Into the Genesis 1 state so that humanity might reign in truth and justice. There is so much more to being a part of God’s people, but we must begin here because it is the basic understanding of why humanity was created, and God has not rescinded this responsibility. It is incumbent on us to reclaim this role as God’s good governors of creation, ready to listen to God’s instructions and implement them wherever we can to perfect this temple thank God has created.

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