Christian psychologist James Michaelson once counseled a woman who felt lonely and abandoned. As she explained how she felt, he couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying, because a Scripture kept running through his mind: “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps 100:3). This verse had no apparent connection with her problem, but he couldn’t quit thinking about it. After she finished talking, she sat in silence waiting for a response. Dr. Michaelson didn’t know what to say other than quote the verse, although he realized it might sound foolish since it seemed unrelated to her dilemma. “I think God wants you to know something,” Dr. Michaelson said. “‘It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.’ Does that mean anything to you?” The woman immediately broke down and cried.
After composing herself, she explained what it meant. “I didn’t tell you this, but my mother got pregnant with me before she was married. All my life I believed that I was a mistake—an unplanned accident—and that God didn’t create me. When you quoted that verse, I pictured in my mind God forming me in my mother’s womb. Now I know that God created me and that I’m not a mistake. I’ll never be the same again! Thank you, Dr. Michaelson. I’ll never forget this day as long as I live!” God knew this woman needed to know she was His marvelous creation and not an accident. Her perspective changed dramatically once she understood that God had crafted her in the womb (see Ps 139:13-16).
Many of us haven’t fully grasped the significance of God’s creative work. We may understand certain truths at an intellectual level, but they have not been fully assimilated into our hearts and lives. That’s why, throughout the Bible, God deliberately answers the questions of life like, “Where did we come from?” “Where are we going?” “How will we get there?” God wants us to know who we are and who He wants us to become. If we heed the wisdom and example found in Genesis 1:26-2:3 we will be confronted with two challenges that will enable us to rediscover these truths.
1. Keep up the image (1:26-31). In 1:1, Moses recorded the creation of the universe. In 1:2-25, he made quick work of 5½ days of God’s preparation of the land. But now on the sixth day the narrative slows down and the story becomes unhurried and gives greater detail. In 1:26, Moses writes, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” After creating the universe and putting everything in its proper place, God deliberates with the Godhead. The plural pronouns “Us” and “Our” are a reference to a plurality of God, hence a hint of the Trinity. God’s deliberation shows that He has decided to create man differently from any of the other creatures—in His image and likeness. This phrase means several things; I will just share three.
First, to be created in God’s image means that a relationship of close fellowship can exist between God and man that is unlike the relationship of God with the rest of His creation. Our greatest claim to nobility is our created capacity to know God, to be in personal relationship with Him, to love Him, and to worship Him. Indeed, we are most truly human when we are in fellowship with our Creator. If you’re feeling empty and unfulfilled, it could be that your relationship with God is unhealthy. Wholeness comes when we are in a love relationship with God.
Second, to be created in God’s image means that we reflect God in our personality and communication. This is why we have value, dignity, and worth. I will venture to say that we who name the name of Christ are going to have to stand up and be counted in the days to come. Abortion, euthanasia, and bioethics, to name just a few, are going to demand ethical and moral standards. The bedrock principle upon which such decisions must be made is the fact that all men are created in God’s image. In this light, I can now see why our Lord could sum up the whole of the Old Testament in two commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-40).
The attitude of the future seems to be to love only those “neighbors” who are the contributors to society, only those who may be considered assets. How different is the value system of our Lord, who said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt 25:40). In my estimation, here is where we Christians are going to be put to the test. Some are strongly suggesting that those who our Lord called “the least” are precisely those who should be eliminated from society. May God help us to see that man’s dignity is that which is divinely determined.
Third, to be created in God’s image and likeness means we need to be in community with others. The Bible is all about community: from the Garden of Eden to the City at the end. One of the greatest fallacies of individualistic Western Christianity is that a person can be just as faithful to God by himself as he can in connection with a body of believers. Phooey! Jesus did not say, by this shall everyone know that you are My disciples, if you pray and read your Bible every day by yourself. While these are disciplines not to be neglected, He said, “By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Verse 26 further explains because human beings are created in God’s image they are His representatives on earth and should “rule” over all the earth” (cf. Ps 8:4-8). Rule implies lordship but not exploitation. Man, as God’s representative, must rule His subjects, as God does, for their own good. While legitimizing human use of the world’s resources, God gives no license for our abuse of His creation. As the divine image bearer, man is to subdue and rule over the remainder of God’s created order. This is not a license to rape and destroy everything in the environment. Even here he who would be lord of all must be servant of all.
As God prepares to make mankind, he declares he will make creatures like himself and give them rule over his creation (v. 26). He then executes his plan: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (v. 27). The text does not define the image of God in mankind, but it does offer several hints.
Adam and Eve are God’s image. God created them holy (Eph. 4:24) and with the ability to obey him in knowledge (Col. 3:9–10), to use language, and to be creative. Bearing God’s image means possessing personhood, which involves unique souls and relationships with God and others. Moses hints at this by showing that two genders were a part of God’s plan from the beginning (Gen. 1:27). God gives significance to both men and women by creating them in his image, and both image him in his world.
Image-bearing also includes fulfilling the roles God assigns. Adam and Eve are to represent God by exercising dominion over his creation (vv. 26, 28). In addition, because Adam and Eve are the first parents of all humans, only one race of image-bearers exists, as Paul underscores: God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Consequently, mankind’s various ethnic groups come from one family, ruling out any racism.
Theology for Life—May God help us to treat people of both genders and all races with the respect and dignity that accords with their creation in God’s image.
Verse 27 is the first poem in the Bible. The shift to poetry highlights God’s creation of humanity as God’s image bearers. Moses writes, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Lest we should miss the point, the word “created” is repeated three times over in reference to the man and woman. God wants us to understand He created us; we were not the result of random chance.
In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson marvels at what makes up human life: No one really knows, but there may be as many as a million types of protein in the human body, and each one is a little miracle. By all the laws of probability proteins shouldn’t exist. To make a protein you need to assemble amino acids…in a particular order, in much the same way that you assemble letters in a particular order to spell a word. [For example, to make collagen,] you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. The chances of a 1,055-sequence molecule like collagen spontaneously self-assembling are, frankly, nil. It just isn’t going to happen. To grasp what a long shot its existence is, visualize a standard Las Vegas slot machine but broadened greatly—to about ninety feet, to be precise—to accommodate 1,055 spinning wheels instead of the usual three or four, and with twenty symbols on each wheel (one for each common amino acid). How long would you have to pull the handle before all 1,055 symbols came up in the right order? Effectively forever. Even if you reduced the number of spinning wheels to two hundred, which is actually a more typical number of amino acids for a protein, the odds against all two hundred coming up in a prescribed sequence are 1 in 10260 (that is 1 followed by 260 zeros). That in itself is a larger number than all the atoms in the universe, yet we are talking about several hundred thousand types of protein, perhaps a million, each unique and each, as far as we know, vital to the maintenance of a sound and happy you. God has created you creatively and perfectly.
Have you ever noticed the pockmarks, or dimples, covering the surface of a golf ball? They make the ball look imperfect. So, what’s their purpose? An aeronautical engineer who designs golf balls says that a perfectly smooth ball would travel only 130 yards off the tee. But the same ball with the right kind of dimples will fly twice that far. These apparent “flaws” minimize the ball’s air resistance and allow it to travel much further.
Most of us can quickly name the physical characteristics we wish we had been born without. It’s difficult to imagine that these “imperfections” are there for a purpose and are part of God’s master design. Yet, when the psalmist wrote of God’s creative marvel in the womb, he said to the Lord, “You formed my inward parts (Ps 139:13) and “Your eyes saw my unformed substance” (139:16, ESV). Then he said, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:14, ESV). If we could accept our bodily “imperfections” as part of God’s master plan for us, what a difference it would make in our outlook on life. The “dimples” we dislike may enable us to bring the greatest glory to our wise and loving Creator, who knows how to get the best out of our lives.
Carre Otis was among the world’s top super models for 17 years, beginning her career at the age of 14. To prepare for each photo shoot, she routinely binged and purged, took laxatives and diet pills, and exercised intensely. Being extremely thin made possible a modeling career that earned her $20,000 a day. Cocaine helped her to diet, and she used heroine later on in her career. She married actor Mickey Rourke, but they soon divorced. This destructive lifestyle led to a mental and emotional breakdown.
After treatment at a mental institution, she emerged committed to changing her life. She began eating normally and abstaining from all drugs and alcohol. She gained 30 pounds, went from a size 2 to a size 12, and is now successful as a “plus size” model. Several years ago, on her 32ndbirthday, a friend invited her on a humanitarian mission to distribute clothes and toys to kids living in orphanages in Nepal. For the first time she saw what starvation really was. Looking back on her experience, she explained to reporter Cynthia McFadden: “It wasn’t about somebody being concerned that they were going to fit into a size, and that’s why they weren’t eating. It was because there wasn’t food to be had. There was no money to get food…I thought, you know what? This is how the rest of the world lives. If somebody asked me, ‘When did you feel the most beautiful?’ I would say when I was traveling through the Himalayas in dirty clothes, dirty hair, hadn’t had a shower in a week, and was giving kids clothes. That’s when I felt like the most beautiful woman, and the woman I’ve always aspired to be.”
God has a great love for us. He wants us to know and experience this. The primary reason we don’t is we are unsatisfied with who we are and as a result we attempt to earn other people’s approval for how we look, what we do, or what we will become. Yet, the Lord wants you and me to know that He loves us and He has created us special.
After creating man, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (1:28). The importance of this blessing cannot be overlooked. Throughout the remainder of the book of Genesis and the Pentateuch, the “blessing” remains a central theme. According to the creation account, the chief purpose of God in creating man is to bless him.
“Blessing” denotes all that fosters human fertility and assists in achieving dominion. Interpreters have generally recognized the commands to “be fruitful and multiply” as commands to Adam and Eve (and later to Noah, 9:1) as the heads of the human race, not simply as individuals. That is, God has not charged every human being with begetting children. This seems clear from the fact that God has made many men and women incapable of reproducing. Consequently, one should not appeal to this command as a support for the theory that God wants all people to bear as many children as they possibly can. This verse is a “cultural mandate,” not an individual mandate.
I would also add that the blessing here must be understood as a privilege rather than an obligation. This means that those countries that regulate the number of children a couple may have cannot be accused of countermanding biblical dictates. Likewise, those couples who choose not to have children are not in violation of this Scripture.
With that said, it is important for us to recognize that children are a blessing not a burden. The psalmist says it well, “Children are a gift of the Lord” (Ps 127:3). So, being parents of children (even many children) is a joy that one will not regret.
Moses states that Adam is supposed to subdue the earth. The word translated “subdue”(kabash) means “bring under bondage.” The word doesn’t mean “destroy” or “ruin.” It means “act as managers who have the authority to run everything as God planned.” The concepts of “subdue” and “rule” remind us that we are responsible to care for creation.
In 1:29-30, Moses records, “Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so.” God provided food for mankind in the form of seed-bearing plants and fruit trees (1:29). According to 1:29-30, both people and animals were apparently vegetarian before the flood. It was not until after the fall, and perhaps after the flood, that meat was given as food for man (cf. 9:3-4). Genesis, however, is not primarily interested in whether people were originally vegetarian but in the fact that God provided them with food.
Chapter 1 closes with these words: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (1:31). The definite article (“the”) is used only with the sixth and seventh day, perhaps to signify the climax of the narrative on these two important days. God evaluates only this day’s work as “very good.” These two facts indicate the climactic nature of the sixth day.
[We are responsible to God to keep up the image but we are also responsible to…]
2. Take a break (2:1-3). Moses writes, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” It is likely that the author intended the reader to understand the account of the seventh day in light of the “image of God” theme of the sixth day. If the purpose of pointing to the “likeness” between man and his Creator was to call on the reader to be more like God (e.g., Lev 11:45), then it is significant that the account of the seventh day stresses the very thing that the writer elsewhere so ardently calls on the reader to do: “rest” on the seventh day (cf. Exod 20:8-11).
The author sets the seventh day apart from the first six not only by stating specifically that God “sanctified” it. We’ve all heard the song “Oh Holy Night.” Well, this is “Oh holy, day”! On this day God did not “speak” nor did He “work,” as He had on the previous days. God “blessed” and “sanctified” the seventh day, but He did not “work” on that day. This theme is repeated three times in these three verses. The author is making the emphatic point that since we have been made in the “image of God,” we must also prioritize the rest of God. We are expected to copy our Creator. Indeed, the context implies that a weekly day of rest is as necessary for human survival as sex (1:27-28) or food (1:29). This is an emphasis that seems to have been forgotten today, even amongst Christians.
We function at peak performance when we take one day off a week to rest and replenish. If we violate this design, we are abusing our bodies and soul, and little by little we diminish our effectiveness. So important was this principle for living that God modeled it Himself by taking the seventh day for rest. Did God do this because He was tired? Does divinity perspire? I don’t think so. God did not come to nightfall on the sixth day and say, “Thank Me it’s Friday.”
God is reinforcing a pattern that is essential for healthy, productive living. He is suggesting that it’s an act of God to take a day off. We must not attempt to be more spiritual than God. If He chose to take a day off, so should we.
But if you’re like me, this will be very difficult for you. As I was wrestling with this concept this week, I began to think about my financial giving. Ever since I was a small boy, I’ve sought to honor the Lord with whatever money He has blessed me. I’ve never thought about holding back a portion of my income from the Lord. One of the reasons being, I am absolutely convinced that I can’t out give God. I believe that He will supply all of my needs as I honor Him in my giving. What quickly dawned on me is, I don’t really believe that if I take a day off a week that God will meet all of my needs (Phil 4:19). It seems to me that there is just too much to accomplish. If I take a day off for the purpose of rest and worship, I will never catch up. Things won’t get done. I won’t be as productive as I could be. This kind of thinking lacks faith and dishonors God. I must come to the place where I become convinced that God will multiply my time as He does my finances.
So when should we take our day of rest? For years folks have quibbled over what day we should take off. In America, we have a two-day weekend because we couldn’t agree on the Jewish or Christian Sabbath. Yet, the biblical model is to work six days a week and take one day off. What day should you take off? In Romans 14:5-6a, Paul makes it clear that your day off can be any day that works for you. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” So take whatever day you want to take off and do whatever is restful or worshipful for you. If you enjoy gardening, celebrate your Creator God. If you like to exercise, work out to the glory of God. Just ensure you take some time off during the hectic workweek. The truth is: You and I will remember the sacred moments over the productive. Activities like playing with your kids, reading as a family, watching a family movie, talking with your spouse, and taking a drive will stand the test of time.
I know this admonition is especially difficult for the self-employed or stay-at-home moms. You are always burning the candle at both ends. There are always things to do that are often out of your control. You may not always be able to carve out an entire day of rest. That is why you must recognize that rest is not just in a day; rest is in a Person. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:28-29).
A minister was concerned when two of his three sons began to stutter. He made an appointment for them to see a speech therapist (who was also a psychologist), and later had an appointment himself. “That psychologist literally cursed me,” the minister said. “He told me I was responsible for that speech defect, and that I was ruining my boys’ lives. ‘When did you last take your family on a vacation?’ he asked me. “Well, it had been a long, long time. I was too busy to take time with my family. I remember I used to say that the Devil never takes a vacation, so why should I? And I never stopped to think that the Devil wasn’t to be my example.”