This week we began looking at the story of the Bible, jumping into the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2. As we looked at chapter 1, we looked at the way that the narrative is carefully and artfully laid out. Verse 2 describes the earth at the beginning of God’s creation process as “without form and void,” which I believe sets the framework for the six days of Creation. The first three days primarily show God giving form to the formless earth, and the last three days show God filling the empty earth in a corresponding order.
As we looked at this account, we pointed out a couple notable things. First, God is the all-powerful creator, and the King of the universe. He speaks, and everything we see comes to be. Not only does he create powerfully, but he creates with beautiful and artistic order.
Second, we see that humanity has a special place in Creation. When God creates people, the rhythm of the story breaks from the formula of “God said…, and it was so…, and it was good” to a poem about creating man and woman “in his own image” and commissioning them with dominion and responsibility over the rest of Creation. This day even ends with the blessing “very good” rather than simply “good.”
The idea of being created in the image of God has had much debate, often being limited to the characteristics of having a rational soul that is able to think and relate to God. This may be true, but I would argue that more central is the idea that to be created in the image of God is to carry the responsibility to image (verb) God. Just as a photograph represents a loved one, or a statue represents a king, so people represent the Creator God, King of the Universe. Humans, therefore, are given the responsibility of tending to and caring for creation, and making sure it is always known that the Lord is Creator and King.
As we move in to Genesis 2, we see the creation account told from a different angle, essentially zooming in on Day 6 when God created the first people, Adam and Eve. This account points us to the Garden of Eden, which is presented as a lush garden in the midst of an expansive creation. The Lord shows great care in creating Adam, with the image of sculpting him out of the dirt and then breathing his very own breath into Adam to give him life. We see that Adam is given the task of naming the animals, a process that shows him he does not yet have a partner and helper like the pairs of animals he encountered. The Lord then creates Eve from his rib, or side, highlighting the beautiful union that comes through the marriage between a man and a woman (Jesus even picks up on this “one-flesh” characteristic in the Gospels; cf. Matt 19:5-6; Mark 10:8). They are naked, and unashamed, for there is no sin or reason to hide from one another.
Together, man and woman—Adam and Eve—are given the task of caring for this Garden (and refusing the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). The idea seems to be that as they are “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28), they are to expand the Garden of Eden into every corner of the earth, making the whole earth a place that bears God’s image and is inhabited by people who walk and talk with God. This is their job, and I believe that as we continue through the story of Scripture, we’ll see that it is the job that each one of us today must choose to pick up.