Saturday, June 04, 2005

Genesis 1:26

Genesis 1:26: 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.”

This is a verse packed with incredible information. Every phrase adds so much to the body of knowledge for Bible students.

First, we note that God said “Let Us”. In the initial acts of creation (verses 1-25) God often uttered the word “Let” as He indicated what He was about to do – create light (vs. 3), water (vs. 6), land (vs. 9), plant life (vs. 11), the sun, stars, and moon (vs. 14), fish and birds (vs. 20), and animals (vs. 24). Only when it came to the creation of man did God say “Let Us”. God does not strike me as one who would use the “royal plural” when speaking. When He says “Let Us” I believe He was ‘conversing’ with one or more other spiritual entities, one of which later Scripture clarifies as being Jesus Christ.

However, here in verse 24 of the first chapter of Genesis, we are struck by the idea the creation of man was worthy of discussion between at least God the Father and God the Son. Man was indeed to be something unique, something special, something above all other creatures created to date. Here was a project that although He could have accomplished by the simple utterance of His will; He chose to incorporate a more personal involvement of Himself and those with Him. There was good reason for that.

Up to now, everything that God made reflected His “goodness” and “perfection” – incredible assets in themselves. However, in His creation of man, the very essence of Who God Is was built into the creation called ‘man’. He and those with Him created us in Their Image. I can only assume from what I know of the English language, believing this account to be the inspired Word of God, and the words it contains that, in fact, the end product of God’s creation of ‘man’ are viewed by God and His Son as having similar “likeness” to Them. Because Scripture uses the words “image” and “likeness”, accompanied by the modern usage of those words, there is a strong tendency for us to want to introduce the word “appearance” here. Since we hold the principle of ‘scripture answers scripture’ we must refrain from so doing unless we limit our concept of appearance to that of ‘spiritual appearance’ for clearly we are told that “God is Spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.”[1]

If we accept the fact that God created us in His Image, then we can safely assume that we retained certain aspects of that Image. These include, but are not limited to, creativity; self-determination; self-awareness; acceptance of ‘natural’ theology; and reasoning. Even to this very early point in the text, God had already exercised or demonstrated these characteristics of His Image. That is how He made us – creative, with free will, knowing ourselves, believing in something beyond us, and with the ability to think. All the ingredients for carrying out His purpose for mankind.

God also had a special intent for humankind. He purposed that we have authority over almost all of His creation to that point. Included were the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, all the earth, and all creeping things on the earth. Absent from the list were light, water, sun, stars, and moon. Since we accept God’s perfection, we must accept that this list of what we could have dominion over is precise and that God was perfectly aware of what He omitted. When man attempts to gain ‘rule’ over the heavens and space, the sun, stars, and moon, and even the oceans themselves, there is no guarantee that God would sit back and say “go ahead, increase your realm of authority over that which I have given you.” While we may have access to these aspects of His creation, we cannot expect to conquer them for ourselves. To this point in Scripture we must accept the fact that they are His and His alone.

Secondly, this ‘ruling’ that He entrusted us with, we must view as a delegation of authority from Him to us. It is not rightfully ours. The creations He entrusts us with are His.[2] This implies that we are responsible for ruling over them with care as He Himself rules over us. While they are all there for our good, we are not to use any of them unwisely and without regard for their on-going existence as a particular species. At the same time, when it comes to choices of survival (food, safety, shelter, etc.) between them and human beings, this authority over animals, fish, and fowl, points to the need for decisions in favor of the latter. Furthermore, I believe it is logical to take the position that the Christian who sometimes ignores worship, relationships, and serving others because of his/her responsibilities or affection for an animal over which he/she has dominion, may in fact be missing the intention of this delegated responsibility.

[1] John 4:24
[2] Psalms 8:6-8: Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

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