Many people today diminish human dignity by viewing humanity as essentially the evolutionary result of a fortunate accident. The Bible presents a picture of human beings as divinely and uniquely created with the capacity to know, worship, and serve God with purpose.
I read an interesting story about a computer security engineer in Australia who was in love with the girl of his dreams. He had spent three years and several thousand dollars planning his proposal to her.
He sent her on a scavenger hunt, using clues from a smart phone app he designed. It took her on a journey to all their favorite places. At each place another clue would be provided. Well, her adventure ended that night in a restaurant with a beautiful view. And there the final clue instructed her to unstitch a teddy bear she had kept over the years. Inside it she found a message that read, “Will you marry me?” She said yes! But get this: That hopeful young man had actually placed that message inside the teddy bear three years earlier when he began planning his proposal.
It’s amazing how creative people can be when they show their beloved how much they are loved and valued.
Well, the God of creation went to some amazing lengths to show our first parents how much He loved and valued them.
As we continue on our Wisdom Journey in Genesis, we’re going to focus on the creation of the first man, because both the overview in Genesis 1 and the details provided in chapter 2 of Genesis inform us that God created Adam first. Yes, and all you ladies can rightly assume that God saved the best for last.
In Genesis 1:26, the Bible tells us, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” The details are given over in chapter 2, where we read in verse 7, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Now there are two key words here to describe God’s creation of both the male and female. The first key word is image. Our triune God said, “Let us make man in our own image.”
The Hebrew word translated “image” refers to an object’s shadow. For instance, if you stand with your back to the sun and hold up a hammer, on the ground you will see the shadow of that hammer. The shadow is not the hammer, but when someone looks at the shadow, that person knows there’s a hammer somewhere close by. So God is intending Adam and Eve to provide the idea that God was somewhere close by.
The second key word is likeness. God says here in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” The Hebrew word for “likeness” here means resemblance or representation. God created man to represent Him—and even resemble Him to some degree.
When my mother made a dress, I would watch her unfold the pattern and cut the fabric according to that pattern. Now that pattern wasn’t a dress, but it resembled—it represented—the dress.
The words image and likeness emphasize that the attributes of human beings have been cut out, or crafted, to resemble the pattern of God’s character. Animals weren’t fashioned in the image or likeness of God. And that’s why mankind uniquely represents God with a spiritual nature, a sense of reason, objective personhood, mercy and compassion, and the ability to communicate in depth with each other and with God.
Listen, God wants everybody in our world to look at our lives, listen to our words, and see in us the shadow—the pattern—of a living, loving creator God who must be nearby.
Now, we’re told here that God not only gives Adam and Eve His image to bear; He also gives them some work to do.
In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth.” Genesis 2:15 clarifies that God put man “in the garden “to work and to keep it.”
Now several verbs grab our attention here.
To “have dominion” means to subdue or rule over. God created Adam and Eve to be the king and queen of earth, literally having dominion over their subjects: the fish, the birds—every created thing. Sin will take them off the throne and put them in the gutter, so to speak, but God’s original intention was magnificent. And by the way, the believer will one day be reinstated as royalty—kings and queens in the coming kingdom—co-reigning with Jesus Christ!
Another key verb here is “work,” which means to labor or serve; the Hebrew word is often used of serving God in worship. And finally, “keep” means to guard or to preserve.
God not only created Adam; He commissioned Adam to work. Work was ordained by God before sin ever entered the world. Work can be God-honoring even today as we work with excellence.
Martin Luther, the Reformer, called it vocatio, a Latin word that gives us our word vocation. He used it to mean sacred calling. You’ve been ordained by God to your sacred work, which, by the way, ought to change the way you think about teaching children, or washing dishes, or performing surgery. Whatever He’s assigned you to do in His creation is God’s sacred calling.
Adam’s sacred calling also included, observing, classifying, and naming the animals as we see in Genesis 2:19.
Now God also gives mankind the freedom to choose.
In Genesis 2:8-9, we’re told the Lord God not only planted trees for food in the garden but also two very unique trees: The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The Tree of Life symbolized God’s plan for Adam and Eve to never die. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolized their ability to choose between obeying their Creator or disobeying Him.
How do we know that? Look at verses 16-17:
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
By the way, it’s interesting to me that God describes Himself five times in this passage as “the Lord God.” That combines the name Elohim, for God, which emphasizes power; and the name “Lord,” which is Yahweh, or Jehovah, which emphasizes a personal relationship with mankind.
So, what choices did this all-powerful, personal God offer to Adam and Eve?
- The choice to believe that He knows what’s best for them
- The choice to obey His command
- The choice to enjoy fellowship with Him, or defy Him
Have you ever thought about the fact that you’ve been given the same choices today? You might not be living in a garden, but you’ve been given the same ability to choose to obey God and walk with God or to defy and disobey your creator God.
God happens to love you very much. He knows you’re going to make some wrong choices along the way, and He’s mapped out a plan of redemption for you and for all fallen sinners, as we will see in our Wisdom Journey.
For now, let’s take to heart the challenge of these verses in Genesis 1 and 2:
- Work at your job with excellence and integrity—it’s your sacred calling
- Trust that the Lord knows what’s best for you—after all, He is your personal Creator.