We start by looking just at the theme of Covenant. The first echo of the theme of covenant is found in Genesis 1:26-27.
Two important words we find in the Hebrew are:
Tselem = image
Demoot = likeness
Scholars have asked for centuries, “What does it mean that we were made in image and likeness of God?”
We find this word Demoot for likeness in Genesis 5, where just as Adam was made in the likeness of God, that likeness was also passed from Adam to his son Seth. The word connotes physical resemblance. You can tell someone is from a certain family just by looking at them.
The more common word that we find is Tselem which means image. This refers to your characteristics and values.
Just as people here in Minnesota might teach their kids to be Twins fans or Vikings fans, the idea when the word is used this way is that we would have the values and characteristics of God so that we would become passionate about the things that God is passionate about. Over time, the idea is that we should be growing more and more into his image, and share his values.
In the ancient near east, the one who was the image of God was always the King. In fact, the name of the Egyptian king Tutankhamen literally means “living image of [the god] Amun”. So by God making all of humankind into his image, this was revolutionary because it democratized the idea of being made in image of God. It’s not just for royalty any more, it is for ALL.
It is this fact that gives everyone unsurpassable worth, because they are God’s image-bearers. It’s as if God said, “I’m going to stamp you with my image so when they look at you they see me.” This is true for all of us. None of the other stuff like race, gender, religion, status, etc, has any bearing on this. You are the image of God, no exceptions.
The second echo of covenant appears in Genesis 2:7-8.
Notice the creation process here and the words used to describe it.
Adam = man
Adamah = the ground or dirt
So humans are quite literally dirt-men. 🙂
Twice it says that God formed man. This word for “formed” is usually used in the context of pottery – Think of when you have molded clay, you smush it around in your hands, and your fingerprints are all over it. This shows the intimacy that God had in our creation. God did not create from a distance, he was intimately involved in the process such that he imprinted himself on all he created.
Next we look at the theme of Kingdom.
The first echo of kingdom is in Genesis 1:28. It comes immediately after all the stuff about image and likeness. This is important because it establishes our kingdom responsibility.
Think back on the story of Willy Wonka, aka Charlie and the Chocolate factory. This big shot chocolatier needs to figure out who will run his factory after he’s gone, so he is searching for an heir. To this end, he hands out five golden tickets, which gives the lucky bearer access to the factory for the day. During this process, he discovers the flaws in each candidate, like greed and gluttony, so he eliminates everyone else and is left with Charlie. This is like a mini version of what God does in Genesis 1:28. He looks at Adam, “dirt-man”, and mandates him to be in charge of his lovingly handcrafted world. He does not ask for Adam’s resume or do a background check. He just endows humanity with his image and then turns everything over to us.
It was incredibly revolutionary to give us responsibility like this, especially when you break it down and see the true meaning of the mandate.
The Hebrew word Abad means to till, cultivating the ground, serve or tend.
Shamar means to keep, or it can also mean to guard or protect. To care over or watch over. When someone gives you the blessing “may the lord bless you and keep you” this is the word Shamar.
Taken together these two words are literally just like what you see on police badges: To serve and protect!
When these two words are together in the Bible it describes a liturgical task: Abad and Shamar are what the priests do in the temple. In Genesis 2:15 God is assigning humanity as priests over his creation.
This lovingly handcrafted world is God’s temple. Moulded by his fingers, it is soaked in the very presence of God.
In this age of fracking, plastic and global warming, we must ask ourselves, what has become of our holy mandate? Tragically, our current political system has hijacked the entire conversation on the issue of serving and protecting creation. People assume you are a liberal treehugger if you speak of protecting animals and the natural world for anything other than human use. This is a mistake of the first order: Humanity’s creation mandate is not a peripheral task. It is not optional and not secondary to “more important” things, it is our first and primary job as God’s representatives in this world!
We must separate ourselves from the political stupidity that surrounds the issue of creation care. Do not let people pigeon-hole you for your views. Take the opportunity to educate hecklers about what the true role of the Christian is with respect to creation care.
To learn more about this important topic, David recommended the book “Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action” by Matthew Sleeth.
The final story we will look at today is Genesis 2:18-20.
The phrase “it is not good” is an intentional contrast to Genesis 1 where we see “it is good” no fewer than six times… It is not good that the man should be alone. So God created a partner for him.
The Hebrew word for Partner = Ezer Kenegdo
God initially creates animals as helpers, and let Adam name them. Far more than simple categorization or identification, naming is a big deal in the Bible — it ascribes worth and core identity to animals. But it turned out that the animals were not quite the partner that man really needed. So God took one of Adam’s ribs and created a woman to be his mate.
Genesis 2:21 – God puts Adam into a deep sleep. (In the Bible when someone is put into a deep sleep, it always means something interesting is about to happen).
The Hebrew word we see for woman is Ishah.
As soon as Ishah is created, now the man stops being called Adam. Now he is called Ish. He notices who he is in difference/contrast.
When Ish says, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” This is the first time we see the human talking. And his first words are Covenantal language. The man’s very bones are bonded with someone else’s. The two together are One. This oneness is what God means and wants with the covenantal body of Christ too. The lines between us should blur.
The fact that Adam was created first and that the woman was his helper has been used for centuries to demean women in the church. Somehow people have twisted the fact that man was created and needed a helper to mean that his helper is somehow subservient or secondary.
This fallen belief has produced a church that is missing half of its gifts! If women are not leading we are missing half of what we need.
The man needed a partner — if he could have done it all himself God would not have bothered creating a helper. The words Ezer Kenegdo mean helper and Kenegdo means “in accordance of” — elsewhere in the Bible we see this same word, Ezer, and that helper is none other than the Holy Spirit! So being a helper clearly can not mean inferior!
Now that the man and woman exist together, neither alone is the image of God; rather both man and woman together become the image of God.
This contains a critically important point: We cannot image God alone.
When we have relational covenant with others, this is when we start to image God. We need to be in covenant relationships with people who know us from the inside out. Only then can we be naked and unashamed, vulnerable and transparent. When we are not worried about what everybody is thinking, we can show up with the truest version of ourself. Only in covenant community can we be truest version of ourselves, show up with all our warts and still be accepted.
The core of who you are is infused with God’s DNA, his vision of covenant relationship with him, his creation, and one another. This is not just our purpose, but also our mandate, responsibility and our vocation.
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Wow! Thank you Lord for WHC! You guys just keep on putting out the most amazing content from so many voices. Love you all. I feast on teaching from my own church The Meeting House plus WHC and others like NT Wright and the combined kingdom teaching has revolutionized my understanding and message. This message was recently used by God to bring a co-worker of mine to faith. He shared later that he would never have heard me out if I had shared the more common evangelical teaching. The Jesus message is getting through! Let’s keep on!