A Happy Little Thing

It’s the middle of the morning, and I’m sitting at my desk with a cozy cup of tea writing. Do you know how often that happens—writing in the mid-morning? It is a rare thing in this house. But it’s summer break! I look forward to the summer more than the kids do. Well…maybe it’s a tie.

I’ll return to scribbling now. I hope you’re having one of those rare-and-lovely-happening-type days, too.

A Day of R & R: Rest and Remembrance (Genesis 2:1-3)

20130701aIs there anything as satisfying as completing a big project? When I begin writing a new story, there is this glowing sense of discovery and challenge, like a bright light on everything. But when it’s done—when the last line is penned and the story sits before me, whole—there’s a dreadful lull that undoes me. Something that smacks of dissatisfaction haunts me as I look at my finished tale. It may be complete, but it needs work. I edit and polish it, and others edit and polish it. I’m still not satisfied. That’s when I have to let it go. I could spend the rest of my life trying to improve my child of script.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

When God completed Project Heavens and Earth, He wasn’t worried about having left out a crucial element. He had no dread of being dissatisfied. Everything He made was perfect.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

The picture of an all-powerful Being resting after His work is odd, isn’t it? It’s not like He’s exhausted. The point is: He finished the project. It was done, and it was done right the first time. No need to touch-up or amend anything. He sits back and enjoys His completed masterpiece.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

This is the third time in seven days that God blesses something. Bless is a tough word to my Americanized eyes. Its first meaning is to kneel for a gift, and my society rarely kneels for anything. The second is to grant the gift. In later passages, the patriarchs bless their sons by placing their hands on them, signifying that it is a bestowal and not something the sons can just take. (For more, read about Israel blessing Joseph’s sons.) First, God blesses the animals of the sea and sky. Second, God blesses mankind. Now, God is blessing something I can’t see or set in an alcove of the study to match the curtains. He is blessing a day of the week! The pattern of blessing takes a definite shape: Each time God blesses something, He gives a task or purpose associated with that created thing.

When He blesses the sea creatures and air creatures, He says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters and seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.” He tells mankind the same thing in verse 28: to be fruitful and multiply. He adds another task or purpose for mankind, to “replenish (fill it full) the earth, and subdue it and have dominion over [all the animals on the earth].”

He gives the seventh day a task, too. Its purpose is to remind me that God finished His Creation in six days, and He stopped working on the seventh because it was done, complete, perfect. God later establishes the ceremonial observance of the seventh day, known as Sabbath, for the Israelite nation under the law of Moses. The word Sabbath is derived from the word for rest, shabath.

He also sanctifies the seventh day. This is the first time sanctify is used, and I’m curious about its meaning because this word gets tossed around in religious terminology all the time. God is teaching this concept to a nation of people in their own primitive language, so it can’t be too complex. Sanctify means “separated for a purpose.” That’s it. So, basically, I can sanctify my hairbrush—meaning, I can announce it is my hairbrush and only my hairbrush, and any man, woman, child, or dog who attempts to use my hairbrush for anything other than to comb my hair will be swiftly rapped on the knuckles with that hairbrush. Sanctified isn’t a mystical concept. Anybody can sanctify something. It’s the one doing the sanctifying that makes all the difference. When God sanctifies something, it will stay separated for the purpose He gives to it.

God established the purpose for the seventh day, and He has the power to uphold it, just like God has the power to uphold all the laws He established. I didn’t exist when He created all the laws that make the world go ’round. I can’t even look back and observe, “Oh, here it is: the beginning of the phenomenon called the Law of Gravity.” Or, “I’ve pinpointed where the Law of Biogenesis came into existence!” Not possible. But God was there, and He talks about how crucial it is for me to believe that He was there at the beginning and that He is the Cause that effected this habitable, beautiful world.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. – Hebrews 11:3

Keir-Collection-Moses-Red-Sea
Moses and the Red Sea, Public Domain Image from Keir Collection

The Greek word aion is translated ‘worlds’ in this passage, and it looks a lot like our word ‘eon.’ It can mean the material universe, and it can mean the eras, the on-going passage of time. It tells me that every period of history that God has had recorded and preserved is a faithful account. It is a true and unfabricated testimony presented by an Eternal, All-Knowing Witness. My faith will not be strong enough to comprehend the nonmaterial components of this world that God has made if I can’t believe He’s telling me the truth. The understanding of concepts like salvation, love, penitence, the heinousness of sin, or the hope of a heavenly reward is not going to resonate with me wholly. Genesis 1 is a simple, this-is-how-it-happened narrative. The rest of the Bible builds on this foundation, so that, when I’m faced with the why’s and how’s of Jesus Christ being both the Son of God and Son of Man centuries later, I will have a solid grip of the material to establish the nonmaterial. If I find the first chapter in the Book questionable, what prevents me from continuing to reword and revise everything God is trying to teach me in the rest of His book? I’m going to miss what He’s trying to tell me.

Here is the message He wants His creation to know about the world and the humans He created: He made it right the first time. He didn’t make any mistakes. So, all the problems and the scars and the wars and the destruction that I see today were not because He messed up. The wise King Solomon knew this and counseled, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV).

He made mankind beautiful in his time, in the fitting moment. I am the one who must choose to be or not to be what God meant me to be. I am born into a world of men and women who were given the opportunity and chose not to be the way God meant. I, too, chose the ugly route, putting the beautiful things God created to their worst use. That choice affected me; it continues to affect me and others. But God offered me—and everyone—that pristine beauty again through the perfect, sinless life of His Son. I can choose God’s good beauty, but I have to believe He’s telling me the truth and nothing but the truth. Because, one day, He’ll accept me as fully and completely as I accept Him and His truth, and I will enter into His rest, an everlasting shabath.

This is the final update of the “Touching Creation” series. You will find a complete list of posts in the series here.

Just Like Me (Genesis 1:27-31)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

‘Man’ meant the human race, and the human race was made in God’s image. This is stated twice in the same verse. I think that’s a hint it’s important. So, what does it mean to be created in God’s image?

100_1273The word for image is translated ‘image’ in all but one passage in the King James version of the Bible, where it is translated ‘vain shew’—meaning something that looks like the real thing, but it isn’t. The Hebrew word for image is derived from the concept of a shadow or change of shade. The same word is used later in Genesis, when Adam has his son Seth.

When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth (Genesis 5:3, NASB).

This verse is prefaced in Genesis 5 with the explanation, “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created” (Genesis 5:1b-2, NASB). Doesn’t that sound like Genesis 1:27 above? But ‘image’ isn’t used here. Instead, it’s likeness, and it’s not the same word. It means in the fashion or similitude of. God uses it in when He says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Why does God choose to use these two similar words, ‘image’ and ‘likeness,’ to compare mankind to God, and then repeat them to describe the relationship between Adam and Seth? I think God is telling me that He has a relationship with me that can be compared to the relationship I have with my children. The way I love and view my children is the way God loves and views me. I talked about the innate bond a mother shares with her newborn. My baby belongs to me in a way that doesn’t mean I possess or control her. I say to my father about my son, “He has your eyes.” Or I say my son acts so much like his father. I find delight in these similarities. He belongs, like I belong. It is in that same familial sense that I belong to God. He made me with similarities that endear me to Him and delight Him.

Seth was the father of a line of descendants of Adam who began to call on the name of the LORD. Adam had other sons before and after Seth, but God shows Seth to be the son Adam fathered “in his own likeness, according to his image.” Seth, who was like Adam, had sons who followed God. Cattle and beasts can’t call on the name of the LORD, and neither can fish or birds. No other creature but humankind has the capability of petitioning God for His instructions, approval, and love. When my children seek my instructions, approval, and love, I give to them willingly. God loves and gives so much more than I could ever love or give.THREE GENERATIONS OF COAL MINE WIVES AND A BABY, ALL RESIDENTS OF CUMBERLAND, KENTUCKY. FROM THE LEFT, THEY ARE MRS... - NARA - 556593

Other than my ability to create a being like myself, what other ways am I like God? Looking back through Genesis 1, I find…

God created; I can create. “In the beginning God created…”
I can create through many avenues. As a writer, this is an awesome thought for me. I have proof of reaches, materially and theoretically, that are humanly infinite. God provides the intellectually infinite for me, His offspring, to expand my knowledge and help me grow, while to Him it is finite.

God has a spirit; I have a spirit. “And the Spirit of God moved…”
God’s spirit as an active, doing entity (I touched on this in Light and Goodness). While my body works to thrive instinctively, there is a part of me that can go against my instincts. I can do, sometimes, the very opposite of what my natural needs and wants would have me do. That is spirit. Without it, I would be unable to think outside the here and now of my automated body.

I can see the light. “And God saw the light, that it was good.”
The idiom “see the light,” means to understand something clearly at last. My Creator shows me in this verse that He knows what is good. If I let Him teach me what is good, then I will see the light, too. He created me with this potential, to know and understand good versus what is bad. This is the very aspect that causes me to seek for a belief system; I yearn to understand things clearly and rightly.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

He tells man to replenish the earth. The word means to fill it full. It implies satisfying emptiness. I’m going to go out on a limb and suppose that God didn’t think humans were a nuisance to the ecosystem on day six. In fact, when He commands them to subdue the earth, it sounds like He’s all for taming the wilds and making the earth mankind’s dwelling.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

God is now handing over the food supply, saying, “These plants I made are for you.” Shouldn’t that give me a complex? I was taught in school that humans are using up the planet’s resources. I’m a problem to this planet, and I need to stop eating so much, living so much, breathing so much. My great big carbon footprint is all wrong! But God says He made the food, the earth, and the very atmosphere for me to…eat, live, and breathe! I’m here on purpose. He made me in His image. My life is not a nuisance to the planet; this planet was specially made for my human life to thrive.

And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

God created enough food for mankind and animals to share. Based on this verse and the one before it, it’s been theorized that the first animals and people were vegetarians. It may have been true before Noah’s time, but God told Noah in Genesis 9:3-4 that every moving thing was food, but not to eat the blood. So, something happened between the beginning of the world and when Noah stepped out of the ark. It looks like the abundance at the beginning was drastically diminished, numerically and/or nutritionally.

God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…

The human race gets the ultimate seal of approval from God: He calls His creation not just good, but very good.

Recapping,

God created man to be male and female, creating them in His image.
He established the laws of procreation and commanded man to fill the earth.
He commanded mankind to rule the creatures He made.
He gave man and animals green herbs for food.
He surveyed His creation and called it very good.

…And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

I have a beginning, and here it is. But where is God’s beginning? My brain can’t wrap around the concept of a Being Who has always existed. I wonder if God smiles on me like I smiled when my daughter remarked to her older brother, “When I grow up, I’m gonna be older than you!” She didn’t understand the laws of time, but I knew she would one day. As I move through time, I don’t fully grasp the concept of timelessness. The Creator knows I don’t get it yet. But I will. One day.