Christian psychologist James Michaelson once counseled a woman who felt lonely and abandoned.1 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).2
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.3 In 1:26, Moses writes, “Then God said, ‘Let Us4 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.’”5 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,6 hence a hint of the Trinity.7 God’s deliberation shows that He has decided to create man differently from any of the other creatures—in His image and likeness.8 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.9 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.10
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.11 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).12
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.
Verse 27 is the first poem in the Bible.13 The shift to poetry highlights God’s creation of humanity as God’s image bearers.14 Moses writes, “God created15 man16 in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”17 Lest we should miss the point, the word “created” is repeated three times over in reference to the man and woman.18 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.19 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.20
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. Last year, on her 32nd birthday, 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.”21
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;22 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.23“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.24
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.25
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). I love what Bill Cosby said, “The greatest joy and reward I’ve ever experienced is raising my children.” He’s right, 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.”26 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 every thing 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.27 It was not until after the fall, and perhaps after the flood, that meat was given as food for man (cf. 9:3-4).28 Genesis, however, is not primarily interested in whether people were originally vegetarian but in the fact that God provided them with food.29
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.30 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.31 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.32 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.33
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?34 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.35 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.36 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.37 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).
Last May I went on a short-term mission to Siberia. On one of my flights, I sat next to a man from Spain that was currently living in Switzerland. In our conversation, he shared with me that Switzerland celebrates a legal day of rest every Sunday. Juan Carlos explained that the police will show up at your door if your TV is too loud, if you nail a picture into the wall. Noise is prohibited! As a result of this law, crime is nearly non-existent. People live in overall harmony. He described it as “a piece of heaven on earth.” This can be a result when people take a break.
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.”38
1 Copyright © 2005 Keith R. Krell. All rights reserved. All Scripture quotations, unless indicated, are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, and are used by permission.
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2 Kent Crockett, I Once Was Blind But Now I Squint (Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 2004), 84.
3 It is also worth noting the parallels with the words of day three (land).
4 Four possible explanations have been given to the plurals in 1:26: (1) the plural is a reference to the Trinity; (2) the plural is a reference to God and his heavenly court of angels; (3) the plural is an attempt to avoid the idea of an immediate resemblance of humans to God; (4) the plural is an expression of deliberation on God’s part as He sets out to create man.
5 Sailhamer writes, “The creation of man is set apart from the previous acts of creation by a series of subtle contrasts with the earlier accounts of God’s acts. For example, in v. 26 the beginning of the creation of man is marked by the usual ‘And God said.’ However, God’s command that follows is not an impersonal (third person) ‘Let there be ...’ but rather the more personal (first person) ‘Let us make.’ Second, whereas throughout the previous account the making of each creature is described as ‘according to its kind’ (leminehu), in the account of the creation of man it is specified that the man and the woman were made ‘in our [God’s] image’ (besalmenu), not merely ‘according to his own kind.’ Man’s image is not simply of himself; he also shares a likeness to his Creator. Third, the creation of man is specifically noted as a creation of man as ‘male and female’ (v. 27). The author has not considered gender to be an important feature to stress in his account of the creation of the other forms of life, but for humanity it is of some importance. Thus the narrative puts stress on the fact that God created man as ‘male and female.’ Fourth, only man has been given dominion in God’s creation. This dominion is expressly stated to be over all other living creatures: sky, sea, and land creatures. If we ask why the author has singled out the creation of man in this way, one obvious answer is that he intended to portray him as a special creature, marked off from the rest of God’s works. But the author’s purpose seems not merely to mark man as different from the rest of the creatures; the narrative seems just as intent on showing that man is like God as well. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that behind the portrayal of the creation of man in this narrative lies the purpose of the author of Genesis and the Pentateuch. The reader is given certain facts that are to serve as the starting point for the larger purposes of the author within the Pentateuch. Man is a creature. But man is a special creature. He is made in the image and likeness of God.” Sailhamer, Genesis: EBC, Electronic Ed.
6 Going back to 1:1, it is worth noting that the Hebrew word for “God” (Elohim) is a plural word. Even in the first sentence of the Bible, God lets us know that He is plural even as He is singular. Now in 1:26, He shows this in the creation of man. But then in the very next verse (1:27) says, “God created man in His own image” (emphasis added). The text moves freely from singular to plural because our God is made up of three Persons. Don’t try to figure this out; you may lose your mind.
7 Boa writes, “The Trinity is found only in the Bible. In the progress of revelation, the Old Testament lays the foundation for the fuller expression of the three-personed God of the New Testament. It has been said that ‘the Old is in the New revealed; the New is in the Old concealed.’” Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 416.
8 No distinctions should be made between “image” and “likeness,” which are in apposition in 1:26 and are synonyms in the OT (Gen 5:1; 9:6) and NT (1 Cor 11:7; Col 3:10; Jas 3:9). Ronald Youngblood, The Book of Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 30. “Image” and “likeness” are essentially synonymous terms. Both indicate personality, moral, and spiritual qualities that God and man share (i.e., self-consciousness, God-consciousness, freedom, responsibility, speech, moral discernment, etc.) These distinguish humans from the animals.
9 God and man share a likeness that is not shared by other creatures. Just as a coin is stamped with a ruler’s image and represents his presence and authority in his realm, so we are all stamped with God’s image and should therefore not only represent Him faithfully but also acknowledge His dominion over our lives. Youngblood, The Book of Genesis, 30.
11 Preaching Today Citation: George F. MacLeod, Leadership, Vol. 2, no. 4.
12 James R. Tony, “Keeping Up the Image.” Moody (Nov-Dec 1998), 34.
13 The OT is 40% poetry and 60% prose. Youngblood, The Book of Genesis, 30.
14 Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 67.
15 The word for “created” is only used six times in the Creation account (1:1, 21, 27; 2:3); elsewhere the word “to make” is used to describe God’s actions. Why is “create” used with reference to the “great creatures of the sea”? (1:21). The answer is: Here we have the beginning of a new stage in creation, namely, that of “living beings.”
16 “Man” refers to mankind, not Adam (1:27). “Them” indicates this generic significance. God created mankind male and female.
18 There is a progression from the body (matter, 1:1), to soul (personality, 1:21), to spirit (life with God-consciousness, 1:27). James Montgomery Boice, Genesis 1-11 Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982 ), 88.
19 Preaching Today Citation: Bill Bryson, “The Rise of Life: A Short History of Nearly Everything,” 288-289; submitted by Kevin Miller, Wheaton, Illinois.
20 Preaching Today Citation: Jimmy Karuniadi, Our Daily Bread (5-27-99).
21 Preaching Today Citation: Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec; source: “A Natural Woman,” Prime Time Thursday (9-06-01).
22 God’s blessing enables humanity to fulfill its twofold destiny: to procreate in spite of death and to rule in spite of enemies.
23 The impact of this point on the remainder of the Pentateuch and the author’s view of Sinai is clear: through Abraham, Israel and the covenant this blessing is to be restored to all mankind. John Sailhamer, “Exegetical Notes: Genesis 1:1-2:4a.” Trinity Journal 5, no. 1 (1984), 80.
24 The blessing itself in these verses is primarily “posterity”: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth.” Thus already the fulfillment of the blessing is tied to man’s “seed” and the notion of “life”—two themes that will later dominate the narratives of Genesis. The imperatives “Be fruitful,” “increase,” and “fill” are not to be understood as commands in this verse since the introductory statement identifies them as a “blessing.” The imperative, along with the jussive, is the common mood of the blessing (cf. Gen 27:19). Sailhamer, Genesis, Electronic Ed.
25 John H. Walton, Genesis: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 144.
26 God gave man authority and responsibility to regulate nature and to advance civilization. Nature was to serve man, not vice versa. This does not give man the right to abuse nature, however. Neither does it justify giving animals and plants the “rights” of human beings. Man is the climax of creation, and instead of man providing the gods with food, God provided the plants as food for man (1:29).
27 Everything God created thus far is called “good” or “very good.” The seventh day alone is called “holy” (2:1-3). Youngblood, The Book of Genesis, 31.
28 Shedding of blood would have significance only after the fall, as a picture of coming redemption through the blood of Christ.
29 “I have given” (1:29) is a reminder that God’s creatures are totally dependent upon His grace.
30 Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 67.
31 It is significant that the word “holy” is applied in Scripture first to the concept of time, not to space. Pagan mentality would place a premium on space-holy places; time and history are viewed as cyclical.
34 God’s rest is a rest of completion not exhaustion. The verb shabat means “stop” or “cease.”
35 Randy Frazee, Making Room for Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 64-65.
37 In the Scriptures, the “Sabbath” was indeed Saturday but it was mandated as such for the nation of Israel. As Christians under the New Covenant, we are no longer under the law.
38 Preaching Today Citation: Joe Bayly in Out of My Mind. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 7.