When we read Genesis 1–11, one important observation to make is the way Moses related Noah to Adam, and the covenant with Noah (i.e., his “second creation”) to God’s first creation. Helping us see the intentions of Moses, Peter Gentry outlines seven ways Genesis 8–9 recapitulate Genesis 1–2. Noticing these literary markers helps us read the Bible and understand the message of Genesis 1–11.
In The Christian Faith, Michael Horton suggests four aspects of the Imago Dei, what it means to be made in God’s image. He enumerates them as
- Sonship/Royal Dominion
- Prophetic Witness
For each there is solid biblical evidence. Genesis 1:26–31; Psalm 8; and Hebrews 2:5–9 all testify to humanity’s royal sonship. Likewise, the whole creation narrative (Genesis 1–2) invites us to see man and woman as God’s creatures representing him on the earth. First Corinthians 11:7 speaks of mankind as the “glory of God.” Horton rightly distinguishes, “The Son and the Spirit are the uncreated Glory of God . . . human beings are the created reflectors of divine majesty” (401). They are, in other words, God’s “created glory,” which in time will be inhabited by the “uncreated glory” of God in the person of Jesus Christ. And last, as creatures made by the Word of God, in covenant relation with him, every human is a prophetic witness. In the fall, this prophetic witness is distorted. Humans are now ensnared to an innumerable cadre of idols (see Rom 1:18–32), but the formal purpose remains—to be made in the image of God is to be a prophetic witness.
Horton’s articulation is compelling, biblical, and beautiful. But it seems, in my estimation, to stress royal and prophetic tasks without giving equal attention to the priestly nature of humanity. To be fair, Horton refers to humanity’s priestly vocation under the headings of “representation” and “glory.” But because these are supporting the vocational idea of representation and the abstract idea of glory, we miss a key idea—the imago dei is by definition a priestly office. Or better, the imago dei is a royal priest who bears witness to the God of creation. Let’s consider. Continue reading
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, 45–49; Eph. 1:21–22). (ESV Study Bible, p. 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
“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
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 Oath, have vehemently denied it; others like William Dumbrell, Creation and Covenant, have 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
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
Psalm 104 is an elongated meditation on God’s creative glory. It is a hymn of praise, that seems to be intentionally paired with Psalm 103. Both begin the same way: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul!” They are both hymns of praise: Psalm 103 is praise for God the Savior-King; Psalm 104 praise for God the Creator-King. And both make explicit use of God’s history with Israel, especially as it is recorded by Moses. Psalm 103 quotes Exodus 34:6-7 as it recounts the glory of God in redemption; and Psalm 104, as we will see, structures its entire praise chorus based on the creation account of Genesis 1. It is this creative glory that we will consider today and this week.
In Genesis 1, Moses recounts the creation of the world. Using a literary structure that highlights the creative wisdom and beauty of God, Moses gives a poetic description of creation, that is historical and accurate, even though it does not measure up to the scientific standards of our day. (For a discussion on the genre and the intention of Genesis 1, see G.K. Beale, The Erosion of Inerrancy).
Moses describes how God in six days created the world ex nihilo. While not giving us exact information about all that was happened in creation; the testimony of Scripture is clear. God alone is the maker of heaven and earth. In the New Testament, Hebrews 11:3 describes creation like this, “”By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Likewise, Colossians says of Jesus the Divine Word, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… all things were created through him and for him” (1:16).
Thus, in the first three days God forms the world—YHWH created light and darkness (Day 1), he separated the waters above from the waters below (Day 2), and he divided the land and the sea (Day 3). Then he fills it. On Day 4, the son and the moon as placed in the sky to govern, respectively, the day and the night. On Day 5, the sea and sky are filled with sea creatures and birds. And finally, on the pinnacle of creation, Day 6, land animals and men and women, made in God’s image, are created.
In Psalm 104, the same emphasis on God’s creativity can be found. But even more striking is the way that the Psalmist (David?) follows the six-days of creation to worship the king of glory. In opposition to those who see Genesis 1 as a myth borrowed from another ancient Near Eastern culture, this Psalm seems to affirm the veracity of the event. Or at least, it gives praise to God for his creation, without questioning in the slightest the truthfulness of Genesis 1.
But more than an apologetic confirmation, Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise, and it wonderfully recounts the six days of creation.
Day 1. Verses 1-2 describe the formation of light. Majestic is the description: Like the priest who robes himself with beauty and glory (Exod 28:2), God clothes himself with splendor and majesty. The language is figurative, but I believe it is meant to awaken us to the reality that the beauty of the heavens tells us something about God. His heavens declare his glory; the skies above proclaim his handiwork. He cannot be seen by men, but in the kaleidoscope of light that resides in the sky, we are introduced to the kind of glorious light in which he dwells.
Day 2. Verses 2-4 depict the separation of the upper chambers from the lower chambers. Just like a cosmic temple, God has created heaven and earth to dwell with his image bearers. The colors, patterns, shapes, and images in the tabernacle were meant to reproduce much of what is seen in nature. They are not incidental. The macrocosm of the universe is related to the microcosm of the tabernacle/temple/Christ/church. What takes place in the microcosm has effects for the macrocosm. For instance, when Christ (the tabernacle of God) was crucified, the heavens (the cosmic dwelling place of God) grew dark. Likewise, the promise of universal restoration will not happen apart from the revelation of the sons of God (Rom 8). There is much to ponder in this reality, that God dwells with us in his creation, but is not in anyway dependent on his creation. (Again, G.K. Beale is helpful, see his The Temple and the Church’s Mission).
Day 3. In Genesis, this day included both the division of land and sea, and the planting of vegetation. Psalm 104 develops both of these things in verses 5-18,; plus, it shows how their creation supports men and animals which come later in the Genesis narrative. Verses 5-9 tell of the way God commanded the waters to flee, how he made dry land. They recount the first act of the third day. Verses 10-13 are a bridge between the sections. They explain how God split the earth with rivers, but how these formations function to serve the animals that are coming. Verses 14-18 is the second act of Day 3. Here the land is sown with vegetation for man and beast. The world is a cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, spices, herbs.
Day 4. Verses 19-23 describes the way God put the sun and moon in place to give order to our seasons and the days. Just as man is positioned to govern the animals (cf Psalm 8), so the sun and moon govern the day and night, respectively. Like the horn blast from our local factory, which tells all the inhabits of Seymour that it is 7am; 930am; or noon… the sun and moon are messengers to us. When the sun arises: It is time to work. Verse 23, “Man goes out to his work… until evening.” Even more, in Psalm 89:37, Ethan speaks of the moon as a perpetual witness to God’s covenant with David. In other words, just like the moon which testifies to God’s unchanging reign over the universes; the throne of David will stand until the moon is no more (Ps 72:7).
Day 5. Embedded in verses 17, 24 are the description of the birds and sea creatures formed on Day 5. With freedom and beauty, God has designed birds to glide on the wind, and for humpback whales to “play” in the deep. Who says God is prudish! His world is filled with wonder, mystery, beauty, energy, and productivity. He waters to earth and satisfies its inhabitants. If a sparrow does not die apart from his will; than neither will one of his own image-bearers perish apart from his will and decree.
Day 6 is the capstone and it is described throughout verses 14-24. In verse 14, the land animals are supplied with food; man is likewise given ground to cultivate. Verse 15 anticipates the gladness that comes from God’s creation given to man—oil for his face, bread for his stomach, wine for his for his heart. Verse 23 gives us instruction for man’s relationship with the world—we are to work it, mine it, grow it, organize, develop it. Verse 24 is the culminating feature of all God’s creation! Why has God made anything? It is to display his manifold wisdom, power, benevolence, and perfection. The king of all the earth has filled his planet with boundless life. Each aspect tells us something about him.
Therefore, we ought to study the creation in order to better know and love our Maker and Savior, Jesus Christ. God has made the world good, and even under the curse of sin, its beneficence is evident. So good is it still, that people worship the creation instead of the Creator. Yet, we are better to follow the words of Psalm 104, to bless the Lord for all that he has given to us in creation. For indeed, “all things were created through him and for him.”
Soli Deo Gloria, dss
Today many in our church and all over the world began their yearly Bible reading plan. I did. And one of the features found in Genesis 1 is the fact that God made plants (v. 12) and animals (v. 21), “according to their own kinds.” While scientists, Bible scholars, and Christians apologists have argued for the origin of the species, the Bible is clear that God is the originator of all life. He spoke the world into existence (Gen 1; Psalm 33:6), and no matter how long that process took, it is clear that he is the Creative Genius behind it all. (Personally, I hold to a Young Earth position due to the disbelief that death existed before sin, which is clearly dated in Genesis 3, about 6,000 years ago).
Yet, in this brief post, my point is not to argue the age of the earth or the meaning of yom (‘day’) in Genesis 1, but rather to marvel at the endless fecundity of God’s creation. Today I came across Wikipedia’s entry on “Species.” In it is a list of all the plants and animals in the world. In a word, it is astonishing! Consider the sheer numbers of life-forms on the earth, all created by God.
The total number of species (estimated): 7–100 millions (identified and unidentified), including:
- 1.6 million, including:
- 297,326 plants, including:
- 28,849 fungi & other non-animals, including:
- 1,250,000 animals, including:
It has taken thousands of people over hundreds of years to amass this list, a list of all the creatures God created and their offspring.
In truth, Elihu declare in Job 34:14-15, “If he [that is God] should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to the dust.” Thus, according to the Bible all the species owe their existence to God, and it is worth meditating on the estimated numbers above. While these numbers are not exact due to the difficulties of subdividing species, they do represent this singular facet of God: He is unfathomably creative and prolific in the production of his creation. If it is true that no sparrow falls to the ground a part from his knowledge (Matt 10:29), then it coheres that no life is born apart from God’s germinating spirit and no life ends apart from his sovereign decree.
He is the Supreme Creator, the God of the Nations, and the one who has made man in his image to rule over creation. Moreover, when man failed to rule over the earth uprightly (cf. Ecc 7:29), God sent his Son to become a man, to perfectly rule over all the species that God created. I am doubtful that each of these ‘species’ was created in the Genesis account, it seems more likely that the ‘kinds’ in Genesis 1 were higher up in the taxonomic hierarchy (maybe genus or family), but it is certain that God created in the beginning an expanding myriad of plants and animals, represented in the list above. These life-forms had the capacity for incredible replication and speciation. While many fight over Genesis 1 for good reason, we shouldn’t miss the forest for the trees: God is the glorious creator of all the earth, who has fashioned a world that is filled with life, fecundity, beauty, symmetry, wisdom, and so much more. And even though this in a world overrun with sin, disease, and death, his incredible creation is evident. How much better will the New Creation be when sin will be eradicated and mankind will finally rule over a perfect creation with Christ on the throne.
As we begin the year, may we worship the Triune Creator and look at creation as a hymn book of praise for our infinitely wise Creator. As Revelation 4:11 sings, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by you will they existed and were created.” Upwards of 100 million of them!
Soli Deo Gloria, dss
which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world
it is bearing fruit and growing–
as it also does among you… (Col. 1:6)
This Sunday I am preaching at Kenwood Baptist Church in South Louisville. I am tremendously excited about the opportunity and about the chance to proclaim the message of the gospel which is “is bearing fruit and growing” all over the world. In a day when economic forecasts are anything but prosperous and increasing, the hope that is found in heaven (Col. 1:5) promises to bear fruit in the lives of all those who believe. Moreover, the proclamation of the gospel always accomplishes its fruit-producing task (cf. Mark 4), it never returns void (cf. Isa. 55:10-11).
Meditating on the truths of Colossians 1:1-8, I came across this succinct statement by New Testament scholar, Douglas Moo, in his recent commentary on Paul’s Christocentric epistle. Consider the redemptive historical unity of his comments on Colossians 1:6 and ask how the gospel is bearing fruit in your life and all over the world.
The language bearing fruit and growing is reminiscent of the Genesis creation story, where God commands human beings to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:28; see also 1:22). After the Flood the mandate is reiterated (Gen. 8:17; 9:1, 7), and the same language is later used in God’s promises to Abraham and the patriarchs that he would ‘increase’ their number and ‘multiply’ their seed (e.g., Gen. 17:20; 28:3; 35;11). The nation Israel attains this blessing in Egypt (Gen. 48:4; Exod. 1:7) but then, of course, suffers judgment and disperal. So the formula appears again in God’s promises to regather his people after the exile (Jer. 3:16; 23:3). Paul may , then, be deliberately echoing a biblical-theological motif according to which God’s orignal mandate to humans finds preliminary fulfillment in the nation Israel but ultimate fulfillment ini the worldwide transformation of people into the image of God by means of their incorporation into Christ, the “image of God.” Colossians 3:10 echoes the same idea, referring to the ‘new self’ (the new people of God in Christ) as ‘renewed in knowledge of the image of its Creator’ (see also v. 10 and cf. 1:15) (Douglas Moo, The Letter to the Colossians and to Philemon in the PNTC [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008], 88).
May the God of all life-giving grace bear fruit in our lives and may his glorious kingdom increase until it covers the earth!
Sola Deo Gloria, dss