The Goodness of Creation (Genesis 1:31)

Genesis 1:31And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

“Sin is a later intrusion into an originally good creation. It is not inherent in the world, and so it can be completely removed when God achieves his purposes in the consummation (Rev. 22:3–5)” (“History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ,” ESV Study Bible’s, p. 2635).

Genesis 1:31 stands at the end of God’s creative work and registers his evaluation of the world. It was not as though God was uncertain that would he made would be good. Rather, when the paint dried on his cosmological temple, he could with supreme satisfaction state: “It is very good.”

Already in Genesis, Elohim had said (six times), “It is good” (vv. 3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). Now, God’s seventh word confirms the perfection with which our Creator made the world.  This statement, which follows the creation of mankind, is heightened by the modifier “very,” and it indicates that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that with Adam and Eve, the capstone of creation has been put in place (see Psalm 8).  In context, this statement provides four foundational truths. Continue reading

Eschatology from the Start (Genesis 1:28)

Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God created a permanent order of creation. But he also intended a development in which man would play a central role. Because Adam failed and fell into sin, Christ came as the last Adam to achieve dominion (see 1 Cor. 15:22, 45–49Eph. 1:21–22). (ESV Study Biblep. 2635).

Where does eschatology begin? Or better, when does it begin?

Typically, when we think of eschatology, our minds race towards Revelation with a stop in Daniel, Zechariah, and Matthew 24-25 along the way. Often, eschatology, “the study of last things,” is understood narrowly, as those events which will transpire at the end of the age.  Hence, eschatology is about the second coming of Christ, the rapture, the millenium, and the order of these things—sometimes with prophecy charts included.

It is true, there is a kind of narrow eschatology that focuses on what will happen at the end, but there is another variety of eschatology—a more biblical kind (I would argue)—that begins in the beginning.  In fact, this eschatology can be seen in Genesis 1, even before the fall. Continue reading

The Image of God (Genesis 1:26)

Genesis 1:26 

“The divine Son is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Man was created in a way that reflects the imaging relation among the persons of the Trinity. The redemption of man from the fall and sin includes re-creation (2 Cor. 5:17), his being “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness,” in the image of Christ (Eph. 4:24).” (History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ” in ESV Study Bible’s,  p. 2635).

In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth, and on the earth he placed a man and a woman to reflect his glory and rule his creation (Gen 1:26-28). Genesis 1:26-27 recounts the words of the triune God, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

In his Theological Anthropology, Marc Cortez supplies a helpful survey of the ways Christians have understood the Imago Dei.  He summarizes the positions and asserts that some have argued that there is something material in man that makes him unique (i.e., his reason, mental capacity, etc.); others have suggested a functional view, that man made in God’s image is intended to rule over creation. This has strong exegetical support in Genesis 1:26-31 and Psalm 8. Still others make a case for a relational aspect of God’s image. Just as God exists as the three-in-one God, so mankind is male and female, and when man and woman unite in marriage, the two become one. The relationship is complementary, and in the mysterious union and diversity between the sexes is there a material glimpse of the one God who exists in three persons. Continue reading

Crossing the Creator-Creature Distinction

Whenever the line between Creator and creature is blurred, error and idolatry result. Harold Netland makes this reality plain in his book Encountering Religious Pluralism.  Consider his words,

Eve was tempted by the suggestion that she, a mere creature, could become like God (Gen 3:4-5).  The tendency to blur the distinction between God and humankind–either to bring God down to our level or to deify human beings–is a common feature of religion and can be found in the polytheistic religions of the ancient world as well as in many modern-day traditions (Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism336).

From the start, mankind was tempted to reduce the distance to the Creator. It is an utter impossibility, like squaring a circle or taking the weight of the infinite, invisible God. But yet, Adam and Eve tried to become like God, and the result was disastrous. Ethically (or better: covenantally), the problem was that they broke God’s law, but metaphysically, they failed to understand that God is sui generis (that is a fancy word meaning ‘one of a kind’). He is not by a matter of degrees; he is in a class by himself. In this way, Satan’s invitation to be like God was not even possible—in truth, they were already “like” God, as creatures made in his image. Continue reading

The Word of God (Genesis 1:3)

Genesis 1:3

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

“God speaks, and it is done. The centrality of the word of God in the acts of creation anticipates the deeper truth given in John 1:1, that the second person of the Trinity is the Word” (History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ,” in the ESV Study Bible, p. 2635).

Word and wisdom; Logos and logic. Imbedded in creation is the capacity for (in)finite communication. That God’s relationship with man comes through the medium of words reveals the necessity of speech and the essence of who God is.  He is the speaking God. Creation happened when God spoke, because as it is revealed later in Scripture, the God who created the world with his word, is “the Word” himself (John 1:1). Continue reading

Beholding the Christ of Creation (Genesis 1:1)

Genesis 1:1

“God’s act of creation is the foundation for the entire biblical history. A considerable number of passages refer back to creation (e.g., Pss 8; 104; 148John 1:1–31 Cor. 8:6Col. 1:15–17Heb. 1:2; 11:31 John 1:5–7). All the rest of the Bible depends indirectly on it” (History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ,” in the ESV Study Bible, p. 2635).

In his illuminating book, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutic MethodSidney Greidanus suggests seven ways of ‘finding’ Christ in the Old Testament.  These include (1) progress of redemption, (2) promise-fulfillment, (3) typology, (4) analogy, (5) longitudinal themes, (6) direct quotation, and (7) way of contrast.  Throughout our reading of the OT, we  see all of these at work.  Strikingly, in the opening verse of the Bible–“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” we see all of them at work. Let’s consider these in turn.

First, without creation, there would be no new creation.  There would be nothing–but God.  Everything in the Bible presupposes a creation, and even though the Bible speaks about a time before creation, it begins with the beginning.  The Fall, the history of redemption, and the hope of new creation are all predicated on the reality of creation. Therefore, progress of redemption begins with this grand fact—God created the world with his all-powerful Word (Ps 33:6; John 1:1-3).

Second, with creation comes the promise of God working in the world.  All the world is his, and from the (unfinished) beginning, there is the promise and the need for fulfillment.  In other words, there is as much eschatology in Genesis 1 as there is Revelation 21-22, only eschatology in Genesis 1 is all promise, whereas Revelation 21-22 is all fulfillment.

Third, in creation there is a wealth of typology.  God speaking the world into existence typifies the way in which God is going to speak light into the darkness of dead sinners (2 Cor 4:4). Most significantly, the creation of the imago dei is the preeminent type.  All other types (people, events, insitutions) depend on this original man—a man who is himself made in the image of God. This man serves as the father of humanity, but he also functions as a type of the last Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom 5:12-210. Therefore, the rest of human history and the salvation of mankind is patterned after the original man.

Fourth, the history of redemption hangs on an analogy between creation and new creation. Just as God made the world, he will recreate the heavens and the earth.  Matthew 19:28 reads in red letters, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world (lit., ‘in the regeneration,’ palingenesis), when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Truly, the hope of heaven and earth is the new creation of the heavens and the earth (Isa 65:17-25; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21-22).

Fifth, creation and its renewal (i.e., new creation) run as a theme throughout the Bible. When God delivers Israel from Egypt, the Bible uses creation language to speak of Israel’s exodus (Isa 43:1-7).  In the Psalms, exodus imagery is often conflated with creation imagery (Ps 74:12-17; 89:5-13).  In the Prophets, the judgment of God results in the degeneration of the created world (Jer 4:23-28; Hos 4:3; cf. Isa 24:1-23; Joel 1:10).  This is true in the New Testament as well (see Rom 8:18-22).  Moreover, in the New Testament, personal salvation is described as a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), as is the cosmic regeneration of all created things (Matt 19:28; Rev 21-22).  Therefore, creation, de-creation, and new creation run as themes throughout the Bible.

Sixth, the NT often quotes and/or alludes to Genesis 1:1.  John begins his gospel using similar words, “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”  In three verses, John repeats and expands the first verse in the Bible.  He is not alone, the whole Bible stands on the fact that God created the world and everything in it (cf. Pss 8, 104, 148; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2; 11:3; 1 John 1:5-7; etc.).

Seventh, Scripture frequently uses death, darkness, and the degeneration of creation as visible expressions of God’s judgment.  It was God’s goodness and love that prompted creation; in creation his glory is revealed (Ps 19:1; cf. Rom 1:18-20).  Therefore, when Scripture speaks of God’s curse upon sin, it frequently comes with effects that stand against creation–death is the cessation of life which God created; darkness is the effect of sin upon a persons mind (Eph 4:18) and the destiny of all those who reject God (2 Pet 2:12); and the destruction of heaven and earth is the necessary consequence of those who spurn the Creator and worship created things (Rom 1:21-32).

To deny the fact of creation in Genesis 1:1 as some Christians are doing today (and have done for years)—or to extract from it the existential reality of a creation from nothing—is to present to the world a different God and a different gospel.  History, Scripture, and salvation hang on the reality of God’s creation. Thus it is not surprising that we find in Genesis 1:1 all seven ways of uniting creation (in the OT) to the new creation (expressed most clearly in the NT). Indeed, since the universe came into existence through the Son and for the Son (Col 1:15-16), it is clear that all of creation depends on him (Col 1:17) and declares that something about him (cf. Ps. 19:1). With eyes trained by the Word, we can see Christ in history and creation, and thus we should (labor to) see how all things hold together in him (Eph 1:10).

May God give us such Christ-besotted vision.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

A Covenant with Creation: Isaiah’s Reading of Genesis 1 and 2

Yesterday, I cited Willem Van Gemeren’s reading of Jeremiah 31 and 33 to argue for a covenantal reading of Genesis 1-2.  Today, I will cite his observations on Isaiah.  Van Gemeren writes,

Isaiah’s language of God’s covenantal commitment is a most important commentary on Genesis 1 and 2.  he uses words for creation (‘form,’ ‘make,’ ‘create’) not only to refer to God’s creative activities in forming the world but also to signify God’s election, grace, love, and loyalty to Israel.  The words for creation are, therefore, also covenantal terms” (Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption63).

Van Gemeren seems to be picking up in the prophets (Jeremiah and Isaiah) the sense in which these biblical writers are understanding God’s role in creation as initiating a covenantal relationship.  In fact, in the same paragraph as the previous quotation, Van Gemeren observes, “An individual’s life in the presence of God is an expression of covenant (the technical term defining relationship between two or more parties)” (63).

For me, Jeremiah and Isaiah are two lines of evidence that I had not previously considered about reading a covenant in creation.  I think they are helpful, and show how Genesis 1-2 does include a covenant, something that the OT prophets (Hos 6:7) and NT apostles (cf. Rom 5:12ff) developed to help explain God’s relationship with the world.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

A Covenant with Creation: Jeremiah’s Reading of Genesis 1

There has been much discussion on whether or not Genesis 1 and 2 involve a covenant with Adam or with creation.  Scholars like Paul Williamson, Sealed with an Oathhave vehemently denied it; others like William Dumbrell, Creation and Covenanthave affirmed it. While the term “covenant” (berith) does not appear in Genesis 1-2, I am persuaded by a number of factors (e.g. the reference to a covenant with Adam in Hos 6:7; the implicit blessings and curses motif in Genesis 1-2, and the reference to ‘establishing’ a pre-existing covenant in Genesis 6-8) that there is a covenant with creation.

Another argument for such a covenant can be found in Jeremiah, where the post-exilic prophet grounds the new covenant in God’s covenantal relationship with creation.  Willem Van Gemeren’s explanation gets at the reasoning in Jeremiah.

“When Jeremiah refers to God’s covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth” (Jer 33:25), the term ‘covenant’ (berith) is parallel to ‘fixed laws’ (huqqot, Job 38:33; Jer 31:35; and huqqim, Jer 31:36).  For Jeremiah, God’s gracious and free relationship with heaven, earth, sun, moon, stars, and the sea is evident by the regularity of day and night, the seasons, and the ebb and flow of the sea.  It is a picture of his special covenant relationship with his people.  Jeremiah argues that, since God keeps covenant with creation, he will even more surely take care of his covenant children (vv. 35-36; 33:25-26) and the descendents of David, to whom he also covenanted his fidelity (v. 26; cf. 2 Sam 7:15) (Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 60).

What do you think?  Williamson and Dumbrell provide good reasons for and against the covenant in Genesis, but at the end of the day, I think the stronger case is made for a some sort of covenant in and/or with creation.  More on this on another day.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Glory of God In The Heavens

At Christmas time, God’s glory is seen in the babe born in the manger, but in truth, the glory of God reflects in all creation.  Psalm 104 describes this glory, and the first place to see God’s great glory is in the heavens.  Consider three ways that God’s glory is seen in the canopy that covers the earth. 

The light of the heavens.  In verses 1-2, the Psalmist describes the splendor of God which is reflected in the skies everyday.  Oh sure, entering December, we are about to embark on three or four gray months in Indiana.  But remember that while we suffer the effects of the Fall  and endure winter, there are others in the Southern Hemisphere who are enjoying spring showers and summer rainbows, orange sunsets and pink sunrises.  The earth below has various forms of artistic splendor; some places are more beautiful than others.  But above it all are the violet curtains of God’s cosmic temple, bespeckled with jewels in the night, and a blazing ball of fire in the day.

In the skies, God has put clouds, winds, and fires.  Verses 3b-4 describe this.  God has created a world that tells of his glory, power, and presence (cf. Ps 19:1; Rom 1:20).  In the original context, these atmospheric phenomenon function as messengers of this reality.  However, Hebrews 1 the author interprets “messengers” as angels and winds of fire, more than simply creation itself.  How can this be?

I think this is legitimate move because “messengers” and “angels” are the same word in Hebrew.  In the context of the Psalter, Psalm 104 should be seen in loose connection with Psalm 103, which concludes with three verses commanding the angels, messengers, to bless the Lord. Still, in its most immediate context, it is most appropriate to see the creation itself as a messenger of God.  As Psalm 19 Willem VanGemeren puts it,

The Lord is surrounded by his servants, whether they be created like the angels or be powers inherent in his created order (winds, lightning).  The Creator-King is, as it were, driving his chariot, symbolic of his governance of his creation.  All his created works reveal the splendor and wisdom of the Creator, because he remains constantly involved with his handiwork (“Psalms” in The Expositors Biblical Commentary, vol. 5, 659).

Now in response, someone might ask: What do the clouds, winds, and flames of fire (lightning) say to us?  Think about it: Have you ever been caught in a thunderstorm?  Or brave (or stupid) enoughto stand outside when the tornado sirens are going off?  God’s whirlwind teaches us of his awesome power and righteous judgment.  He “makes the clouds his chariot; he rides the wings of the wind!”    The power of the heavens remind us that the power of God is nearby, and more than that, interpreted by God’s word, we come to realize that all that takes place in creation is for God’s express purpose.  Just listen to Job 37:9-13

From its chamber [i.e. the heavens] comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud w/ moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance,  to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

 God’s creation is never random, arbitrary, or out of God’s control.

Sun and Moon.  Finally, verse 19 tells of the sun and moon which are placed in the heavens.  Developing Day 4 of Genesis 1, the Psalmist speaks of how God formed two satellites in our solar system to govern the day and the night. Together, these two great spheres power the world, move seas, mark time, and set the schedule of our daily lives.  Even more, God’s word tells us that the consistency with which we regard the sun and moon is a confirmatory sign that God’s redemptive promises will stand.  We close with Jeremiah 31:35-36, which forecasts the New Covenant, a covenant that has been established by the work of Christ, and a covenant whose certainty is as unfailing as the sun and the moon.

Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.”

May we look into the heavens today and remember the love and mercy of our Creator and the work he has done to reconcile us to himself!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Psalm 104 and Genesis 1 in Graphic Display

In his brief but illuminating commentary on the Psalms, Derek Kidner graphs the relationship between Genesis 1 and Psalm 104.  I have reproduced an expanded version of his exegetical chart below.  It shows well how the Psalmist wrote his hymn of praise in the light of Moses creation account.

Creation Day        Formed & Filled
Day 1 Gen 1:3-5 Light & Darkness Ps 104:1-2a Light
Day 2 Gen 1:6-8 Heaven & Earth Ps 104:2b-4 Divides the waters
Day 3 Gen 1:9-10 Land & Sea Ps 104:5-9 Land and water distinct
   “   “ Gen 1:11-13 Ps 104:14-18 Vegetation, trees, hills/rocks
Day 4 Gen 1:14-19 Vegetation Ps 104:19-23 Luminaries as timekeepers
Day 5 Gen 1:20-23 Sea & Sky Animals Ps 104:25-26 Creatures of sea and air
Day 6 Gen 1:24-28 Animals & People Ps 104:21-24 Animals and Man
   “    “ Gen 1:29-31 Ps 104:27-30 Food appointed for all

Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 368.

Of course, the relationship is not hard and fast, many aspects of the Psalm bleed into other sections, but like creation itself there is order and overlap.  Pericopes, like ecosystems, often do not have fixed boundaries, but rather discernible patterns and parameters.  God has called us to find order in his organic world/Word, but not to force our mold on either. For a lengthier description of Psalm 104, read my last post, “Seeing the Glory of God in Creation

Soli Deo Gloria, dss