Text: Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Date: Sunday, May 26, 2002
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
The opening words of Scripture set the great and mighty stage for the narrative that is about to unfold. Like a playwright designing a set for a play, God invests magnificent amounts of creative talent, planning and power into the design of the cosmic stage on which His redemptive activity is to be displayed. The playwright recognizes that the set is NOT the play, but that it is vital to its success. The playwright takes great care in the creation of the stage, ensuring that it will support the action to take place, and not distract from the main points of the story.
The focus of our text today is primarily to create the set for the great unfolding of God’s story throughout history. Only two relatively short chapters are devoted to describing the creation of the set. In this introduction to God’s great narrative, we will see the set be created before our own eyes. We will be introduced to the main characters, and we will learn something about the very nature of God, and of humanity.
Hear the Word of the Lord from Genesis chapter 1.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day.
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning-the second day.
9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning-the third day.
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning-the fourth day.
20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." 23 And there was evening, and there was morning-the fifth day.
24 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
The stage has been set. God created the light and darkness and the sun, moon and stars to rule them. He created the water and the sky and the fish and birds to live in them. He created land with vegetation and animals to dwell on it. And all of that was good.
And then, He begins His final work of creation. He creates man and woman in His image. And then He saw that it was VERY good. Up until now, the continuing refrain has been “and God saw that it was good.” After He created mankind in His image, the refrain changes… “and God saw that it was very good.” Surely, it wasn’t anything that Adam and Eve did on their own that changed creation from “good” to “very good.” Rather, it was because God created them “in His image” that made all of creation “very good.”
Today, we look at what it means to be made or created in the Image of God. What does it mean to be made in the Image of God? What difference does it make that you and I were created in the very Image of God? What characteristics do we possess because we have been created in the Image of God? For what purpose were we created in the His Image? How should our lives be different because we are aware that we have been created in the Image of God?
I brought something with me today. This is an eagle, right? Of course not…it’s only a statue of an eagle. But, it looks remarkably like an eagle. It has large, powerful wings, keen eyes, sharp talons, feathers, a white head, and a sharp beak. No, it doesn’t fly, catch mice, or anything else that an eagle would do, but in many ways, it was created in the image of an eagle. It was modeled or patterned after a real eagle, at least in its appearance.
You and I are made in the Image of God. Does that mean that we look like God? Does that mean that by looking at a person, you can determine what God looks like? Does God have hands, feet, fingers, eyes, and a nose? Certainly not. John 4:24 tells us that “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” What then does it mean that we have been made in the Image of God?
Let’s consider this boat. It’s a boat, right? It has sails, masts, rigging, lifeboats and a rudder. But, the rudder doesn’t move, there doesn’t appear to be a captain’s wheel, the sails are made of a fabric that wouldn’t catch any wind, and I don’t think the boat will float. It’s been patterned after a boat, but it’s not a boat. It looks like a boat, but I don’t think it will go anywhere.
The model of the eagle and the model of the boat look like real eagles and boats, but they don’t behave like a real eagle or boat. You and I don’t look like God, but on the other hand, we were created to behave like God. You and I have a spirit, and have been created in the Image of God. Being made in the Image of God does not mean that we ARE God, nor does it mean that we are exactly LIKE God. Being made in the Image of God means that the very essence of our being has been patterned after Him. What do we know about God that helps us to understand ourselves?
We learn in our text today that God is very creative. It was His creative nature that made the backdrop on which we live. The birds, stars, animals, trees, and fish all came about because of God’s creative nature. You and I, being made in the Image of God, are also creative. Maybe you’re musical, artistic, or poetic. Maybe you are creative in the area of cooking or landscaping, or maybe by making models like these. Our creativity is not something that we have on our own, but only because we have been made in the Image of God. Our talent is not something to boast about, as we recognize that it is a gift of God, flowing out of the very qualities and characteristics that He placed in humanity when He created us in His image.
God is sovereign. He has more power than you or I could imagine. His impressive power was put to work when He spoke creation into being. By making us in His image, He gave us power too. We have free will, self-sovereignty, and have been given dominion over creation. We are NOT God, but have been made in His image. He has complete sovereignty, and gives us self-sovereignty. We have the power to make choices in our lives. With this self-sovereignty, we have the power to choose good or evil. We can save lives, or we can destroy them. We can’t choose what another will do, but we can make choices that will drastically impact the life of another.
God is Love. Scripture continually refers to His “unfailing Love.” It is His love that caused Him to create, and it was His Love which caused Him to redeem mankind through the death of Jesus on the cross. We see God’s hand at work throughout history because of His love for His people. Being created in the Image of God means that we too are to be full of Love. We are to be motivated solely by our love for God and our love for others. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
God is Relational. Even the very Trinitarian nature of God; that is God revealed to us as three distinct persons, demonstrates His relational nature. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always been in relationship with each other since before time began. You and I are created in the Image of God, and are created as relational beings. We are created to be in relationship with God and with each other. Our faith is to be lived out in community, both within the church, and in the community at large. Our paths are to be directed by an ongoing relationship with the Father, through the Son, empowered by the Spirit. Being relational means that we are focused on the needs of others, allowing our lives to interact with theirs in redemptive, transformational ways.
God is Holy 11:44 ) we read God’s command to be holy because He is holy. God does not expect us to do something which we cannot. We can be holy, not of our own doing, but because we have been made in His Image. We have been patterned after the holiness of God. It is because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden that we struggle to fully display the Image of God at work in our lives, but we were created to be holy beings. Our holiness is not for our own sake, but for the sake of others. Holiness is not something for us to brag about or for us to celebrate our own personal piety, but for us to give glory to God, recognizing that holiness in our lives is the Image of God being restored within our lives.
God is creative, sovereign, loving, relational, and holy. Being made in the Image of God means that these qualities and characteristics are to be flowing through our lives as well. Indeed, we have been patterned after the Creator of the universe.
You might ask, “Why were we created in the Image of God? What purpose does it serve?” Let’s consider the purpose of our model boat. It’s not a boat, but it reminds us of a boat. It draws our attention to the real boat. The resin-cast eagle is not an eagle. It won’t fly, catch field mice, or soar high over the tree tops. But, it reminds us of a real eagle. The characteristics of an eagle are seen clearly in this sculpture, so that our attention is drawn to real eagles. The amazing wingspan of this model will make us look for the wingspan of an eagle the next time we see one.
And so, what is the purpose of being made in the Image of God? Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 that God’s intent is “that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are created in the Image of God in order that we might point others to Him, bringing Him glory. Our creative abilities are not for our own purposes, but for His. We are to be creative, not destructive. Our self-sovereignty should be used to make choices to follow God, not our own selfish desires. The Love which God models for us is a self-sacrificing Love, caring for the interests of others, not our own. Even as God is a relational God, we are to be in relationship with others and with Him. We are to empty ourselves, seeking the good of the other person whenever possible. As God continues to make us holy, it is not for the purpose of personal piety, but for the purpose of others viewing God’s redemptive work in our lives. Being made in the Image of God means that we are not focused inwardly upon ourselves, but our lives are focused on Him and on others. Ultimately, we have been made in the Image of God in order that we might bring Him glory.
We recognize today that we may not fully display the Image of God all of time. But we also recognize that God wants to continue to restore His Image in our lives. Paul writes in Colossians 3:10 that we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the Image of its Creator.” God’s redemptive work throughout history has been to restore His Image within us. He wants us to live our lives in such a way that people are reminded and pointed to Him. When others look at our lives, they should see the divine qualities and characteristics at work in our lives so that they cannot help but be directed to Him.
And so, the stage has been set, the characters introduced. We are prepared to see how Holy Almighty God has worked throughout history. Over the next few weeks and months, we will hear the stories of God moving His hand in powerful ways among His people. We will watch as some people display the Image of God in their lives, and we will watch as others try and fail. But throughout the stories in Scripture, the focus is never the people. The focus is always God. He’s the main character in this play. He wrote it, He created the set, and He orchestrated the score. Scripture calls us to “come and see” all that He has done, and will continue to do in the lives of His creation.
Won’t you live your life to His greater glory this week? Won’t you allow others to see the Image of God at work in your life? Won’t you display His divine power and manifold wisdom for His glory? Ask Him today to continue to restore His Image within your life.
Benediction: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ , the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Go in His peace, displaying the Image of God at work in your life to a watching world.