Genesis 1:24 - 2:4
The Creation Of Humanity
1. In continuation from last week, we have read the story of the creation of human beings on earth. This text here gives a record concerning the sixth and the seventh days of creation. In particular, I would like for us to think together about the creation of humankind depicted on the sixth day and about the very marvelous detail which is on the seventh day that God was at leisure and rested.
God Created Human Beings
2. Humankind was the last creature in the account of the creation of the universe. Verses twenty-six and following give a record concerning humanity's creation. As we understand from a first glance, an expression is used that is quite different from [the one used] of the works in creation so far to this point. So far [the expression] has been in the simple form of "God commanded it, and what was commanded came into being." But, in the case of humankind, it is written that "God said, 'Let's construct man fashioning [him] after us, making [him] look like us,'" (verse twenty-six). As God is just only one, the expression, "Let us construct" seems very odd. I am setting aside a detailed explanation; the main point here is that it is being depicted as though [God] made a decision after holding a conference and a conversation. It is emphasizing that the creation of humankind was a deliberate decision.
3. Human existence did not come by chance nor did it come by any kind of error. It was based on a deliberate free will decision by God. Humans exist on this earth because of the sure fact that God willed them to be. Of course, as long as we're human beings, this detailed point has definitely got something to do with us. It involves our existence, both mine and yours. The Bible is saying directly to you and me that "You exist because of the sure fact that God willed you into being."
4. Going further, [the scripture] here says in particular, "making them look like us." In verse twenty-seven, it is the expression that "God created man modeling [man] after himself." Translated literally, it would be "[God] created [man] in the image of God." In saying image of God, it brings to mind the idolatry that was forbidden in the ten commandments. As a matter of fact, the word "image" (tselem) means graven images or sculptures and statues, many a time [the word image in] the images of the gods is used as a pointer to idols. God has forbidden humanity to express God with images like that that come from human hands. It is not possible to express God with graven images and statues. But yet on the other hand, here the scripture is stating that humankind is "the image of God." The Bible is stating to us that it was not an idol made by human hands [that created humankind] but that humankind was created as an image of God to express the rule of humanity over the gifts God gave them and to express the glory of God.
5. Well, how do you see it after reading these words? Can you accept them without any kind of resistance? Many deep thinking people will surely puzzle over the gap between this description and reality: "Take a look at what humankind has done and is doing in this world. No matter how you look at it, the way humans are in life is not very desirable or pleasant. It would be more pleasant both to God and the created universe instead if people didn't exist. How can it claim that [humans] are the image of God? When compared to humans, the statues of the images of a fox or a serpent or anything else would be much better [than using humankind]." Of course, it might be better when making that claim generically, "Oh the people [in this world]!" This passage must be even more difficult to accept when somebody thinks this even about themselves, that "Wouldn't it be better for the world and for God even if I didn't exist?"
6. But, I would like for us to remember one thing here. It's what you might expect to hear; this passage of scripture was written by humans in a human script. To be specific, it was written by the Hebrews in Hebrew. Though we are not told, it was written by people seriously familiar with the ugliness of humanity, the sinfulness of humanity, the wretchedness of the human world, and the numerous evil deeds which humanity has committed. They had gone through a history of sin and judgment of their own actually. They wrote this passage while knowing all too well of the gap between this description and reality, though they didn't tell us [of that].
7. In brief, these are not words that have come from real world observations or from normal thought processes. These words of theirs are not what you would have expected to come from the real world which they were seeing. Neither were they words that came from them internally, but were words that [came] from the external, from above, given from God. They didn't write "God created humankind in his image" because they were able to see that way. In spite of the fact that they couldn't see it that way, they accepted what God said to them. They accepted with faith the message spoken to them that "You are God's creation! You exist because God wanted you to exist! You were created in the image of God!," and they wrote it down. You could say this was like a confession of faith of theirs. Also, these words are calling out to us that we live by the same faith, too.
8. Next, let's turn our attention over to the seventh day. On the seventh day, God's creative work is no longer depicted. The Bible says this about that: "On the seventh day, God completed his work, and on the seventh day, God separated himself from work and rested," (2:2).
9. Taking a brief moment here, let's sketch this scene of the seventh day as a screen image in our imaginations. God is taking the day off. He isn't resting because he is worn out tired. His day off is different from either a family fatigued with caring over home matters taking a rest or from a mother nervous from infant care getting away from her child care some how and taking a rest from it. For God to take rest, he did not need for the world to go away for an hour. This part is important. God rested at ease in his mind with "just the way the world existed." Perhaps then, we might even put it like this, "God took a day off with the confidence in himself that he had completed his work of creation." This is the projected image which this passage of scripture is providing to us.
10. Let's try to imagine this kind of thing a bit more. On the one side with God at rest is a world in existence, but then in that world, humankind is also in existence. That's how it is. Because it is the seventh day. Humanity is already there too. But, the human beings are running around as though it was a rat race, but with God nearby resting. They are going this way and that all confused shouting, "Ooh, this world is no good the way it is. Unless we do something, this world's going to fall apart. The hour of destruction is squeezing in each moment. How can we stop to rest?"
11. Then at last we start complaining to God when he takes a rest. "God, please don't rest there. Don't you care about what may happen to us? Won't you help us a little in what we are doing to keep this world going?!" If we've ever said that, well, the disciples said the same thing when Jesus was asleep on the boat that was being tossed about by the winds. "Master, don't you care that we're afraid?" In the world [God] made, people are making that exact same complaint to God.
12. As we try to sketch it like that in our minds, isn't the figure of humanity so ridiculous? But, if we write modern people into the screen image of the seventh day, it will really be [ridiculous]. Humans didn't seem to exist until the last half of the sixth day, but they act as if they were the ones who did the creating of the world. Humans didn't exist till the sixth day, but they act like they are the ones who have been holding up and maintaining the created universe. Humans are so busy in the created world, they act like they are the ones supporting their day to day lives. Humans make such a fuss that everything will fall apart unless they are frantic in keeping it supported. And to top it all off they begin complaining to God: "Why don't you get right to it and work it out according to our human [specified] instructions? We are in a hurry. Isn't it annoying when [God] doesn't work according to our schedules?" The figure of God resting might just be the embossed figure of us bringing our own ridiculousness out into bold relief.
13. So, continuing into verse three, it looks like the same thing is given again, but an important word is added to it. "On this day, God separated himself from work and rested, and God blessed the seventh day and made it holy," (verse three). For those familiar with the scriptures, it might have reminded them that the phrase "God blessed and made it holy" is found in the Sabbath day regulations in the ten commandments. "Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. ... Because in six days the Lord created everything that is in the heavens, the earth, and the seas, and rested on the seventh day, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy," (Exodus 20:8-11). That the Sabbath day law was given to humanity means that God didn't just rest but he invites humans to his rest. The Sabbath day comes around once each seven days. We need to have in mind once every seven days the figure of God resting with confidence, as we sketched in our minds earlier.
14. The important thing there is the words that "in six days the Lord created everything that is in the heavens, the earth, and the seas." Even in Genesis it is written that before the detail of the seventh day, "the whole created universe was completed." God wasn't just resting. The rest of the God of the seventh day is based on the work of the God of the six days. And humanity does not know God's work first hand because they are creatures of the sixth day. Humankind just saw the results of God's work, and only enjoyed its fruit. As we are creations of the sixth day, we must know that God has magnificent plans and works that go beyond our mind. In humbling ourselves and admitting that, we start to become participants with God in his rest.
15. However, there may also be persons here too as well who are puzzled about the huge gap between God's word and reality. [You] say, "'The entire universe was completed and perfected.' Are you blind or something? Anywhere you look at it, this doesn't look like a perfect world, does it?" I suppose we've all heard that before. But, just like I mentioned before, the writers of these words wrote this well aware that there was this gap. They accepted with faith what God told them as it was given to them, not "because [the world] looks like" a perfected world, but "in spite of the fact that it doesn't look that way."
16. God's eyes see a world that is already perfected, and he sees human beings as in the image of God, who exist and show forth his divine grace and glory. It might not look that way to us now. But, we will soon see it too before too long. We will come to see the perfected world. There we will come to see humanity in existence as the image of God. Until that time, we are only permitted to believe God's magnificent plan and work, which goes beyond our minds. Therefore, the Bible invites us through this simplistic story, "Won't you believe it with us? Won't you have a part in God's rest with us?"