We’ve already spent two weeks looking at Genesis 1. On the first week, we learned that Moses wrote the book of Genesis. And he wrote it, originally, for the people of Israel who were making their way from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the Promised Land. And so, Moses didn’t make any effort to prove the existence of God, because the people he was writing for already believed in God. And he didn’t write using scientific language, because he was writing for farmers and shepherds who — like most of us — know very little about science. But that’s good because it means he’s written it in a way that anyone can understand. And it was written to teach the Israelites that their God was far, far, far greater than the gods of the neighbouring nations. He was greater because he alone is eternal. Before there was anything else, there was God. And he was greater, because he made the heavens and the earth from nothing. And then, he was greater than the gods of the other nations, because he created the heavens and the earth so easily. He only needed to speak and it was done.
Those are some of the thing we learned on the first week. The second week we concentrated on verse 2 where it tells us that the heavens and the earth, when God first made them, were formless and empty and dark. It was a dark, watery wasteland. And, of course, who wants to live in a dark, watery wasteland where we can’t see anything because it’s so dark, and we can’t stand anywhere, because it’s all water, and there’s nothing to eat, because it’s a wasteland? The good news, though, is that God wasn’t finished with the world he had made. Even in verse 2, we read how the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. God was there — and he was about to transform this dark, watery wasteland into a world that would be a suitable home for us to live in.
And so, we saw how, in days 1 to 3, he began to give light to this dark world and to give order and shape to the earth. He separated daytime and night time so that we would have daytime for work and night time for rest. He separated the waters above from the waters below by creating the sky so that, eventually, rain would fall from the sky and water our crops. And he separated the dry land from the seas and rivers and lakes so that we would have a place to live and work. He also made the dry land produce plants and trees so that we’d have food to eat. And then, on days 4 to 6, he began to fill this empty world. He filled the heavens with the sun and the moon and the stars. He filled the sky with birds and the seas with fish. He filled the land with animals. And then, last of all, when everything was ready for us, he finally made us, men and women, to live on this earth.
And so, one of the things Moses was doing when he wrote this chapter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was to convince the Israelites — and us — that God will take care of us. Just as he provided us with a world which is just right for us, so he will continue to provide for us, day after day, giving us everything we need.
Well, I said we’d come back to verses 26 to 31 today in order to look more closely at the creation of humanity. And so, let’s think about verse 26 first of all. Let me read it again:
Then God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’
Well, there are a number of important things to notice here.
First of all, notice what God didn’t say. He didn’t say:
Let me make man….
No, he said:
Let us make man….
Did you notice that? Verse 26:
Then God said: ‘Let us make man….’
Why did he say ‘us’ and not ‘me’? Well, some Bible commentators say that he was addressing the heavenly host. He was talking to the angels. And God said to the angels:
Angels, let’s make man now!
But then other Bible commentators suggest he’s using what we call ‘the royal we’. You know, Queen Victoria is meant to have said:
We are not amused.
And so, God, the king of kings, said ‘Let us’ when he really meant ‘Let me’. But, of course, whenever Christians read ‘Let us make’, we can’t help but think of the Trinity, can we? We believe there’s only one God. And this one God made the heavens and the earth and all that they contain. But we also believe that this one God is also three: there’s God the Father; there’s God the Son; and there’s God the Holy Spirit. And in verse 26, it’s as if the three persons of the Godhead are talking together, discussing what they are about to do. And they reach a decision and say:
Okay. This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to make humanity now.
So, we can’t help but think of the Trinity when we read that God said ‘Let us make’.
Next, notice the difference between this verse and the previous verses when Moses describes God speaking. In this verse, Moses wrote:
Then God said: ‘Let us make….’
But look at verse 3, for instance. It says:
And God said: ‘Let there be light….’
And verse 6:
And God said: ‘Let there be an expanse….’
And, one more example, verse 9:
And God said: ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered….’
And then back to verse 26:
Then God said: ‘Let us make….’
Do you notice the difference? In the previous verses, God simply issues the command:
Let there be….
But in verse 26, it’s as if he pauses for a moment to consider what he’s going to do. Instead of:
Let there be…
Let us make….
He paused and deliberated with himself. What’s the significance of this? Well, think about a cook who is busy decorating some buns. Every bun is the same, and so, without much thought, she smears on some butter icing and plonks a smartie on the top. But then, perhaps there’s one bun that she takes her time over. She’s pauses before she attempts to put the icing on. And she puts it on carefully and with deliberation. You see, she wants this one to be just right. Well, God paused and deliberated with himself before creating humanity. There was something distinctive in the way he approached our creation. Something that marked out the creation of humanity as different from the creation of everything else.
And then notice, thirdly in verse 26, that he created us in his own image or likeness. Now, we’ve thought about this before (haven’t we?) when we were going through the Shorter Catechism. And at that time I referred to what happened in Iraq in April 2003 where Iraq was invaded and the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad was pulled down. Do you remember how it took so long to get it down? But the people kept at it, trying with all their might to pull it down, because the statue symbolised the man. It stood for Hussein. It represented him. And since they no longer wanted him to rule over them, they wanted to pull down his statue.
Well, in biblical times, kings would erect statues of themselves over their empire. And these statues represented the king. Think about Daniel’s three friends who refused to bow down to the statue the king had made. And the statue he made was probably an image of himself. This statue, made of gold, represented the king.
So, when Moses tells us in Genesis 1 that God created us in his image, it means that we were made to be images or pictures or representations of him. He made us to reflect him and to represent him here on earth. We were made to be little pictures or statues of God on the earth.
Well, these two things — the fact that God paused and deliberated with himself before making us and the fact that we are made in his image — these two things confer great honour on us. Isn’t that what Psalm 8 teaches us? The Psalmist compares some of the things God has made with us. And this is what he says:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
You know, when I look at the stars, way up in space, and how wonderful they are, and when I look at the sky, and how vast it is, I can’t help think to myself: What am I compared to this? What am I? Did you see the programme on TV the other night about the killer whales. And there’s the scientist in his little boat and the little boat is just dwarfed by this great whale, swimming beside it. What am I, compared to this? But then the Psalmist goes on to say:
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
What am I compared to everything else God made? Well, I’ll tell you:
He made us just a little lower than the angels and you crowned us with glory and honour because we, and we alone, are made in the image of God.
And, of course, though the image of God in us has been spoilt and defaced, nevertheless we’re still made in the image of God. We used to go to a park near where we once lived, and there was an old castle there. It was a ruin. But even though it was a ruin, it was still a castle. And even though our sin spoils and ruins us, we’re still made in the image of God. And so, what honour this confers on us.
And then the fourth thing we learn from verse 26 is that when God created us, he created us to rule. Look again what God said:
Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.
In the previous verses, we read how God made the fish of the sea. And he made the birds of the air. And he made all the livestock. He made all the creatures that move along the ground, all the creeping things. He made all of those things. And then, last of all, he made us. And he gave us dominion and authority over everything else. Do you know that scene in Titanic when Leonardo stood up at the bow of the ship and cried out:
I’m the king of the world.
Well, we can all say that about ourselves. God made us in his image, to represent him on the earth. And he gave us dominion, authority, over everything else.
But we have to be careful here, because this doesn’t mean we can do whatever we like with the world. This doesn’t mean we can pull down all the trees, and pollute all the rivers, and kill all the elephants for their tusks, and empty the sea of all its fish. We can’t do whatever we want with the world. Think about it. If you owned a business and put someone in charge of it, you’d want that person to manage your business well so that the business prospered and wasn’t ruined. And God has put us in charge of the earth so that we will look after it, not destroy it; and care for it, not ruin it.
So, there are four things we noticed from verse 26. First of all, by saying ‘Let us’, we can’t help but think of the Trinity. Secondly, God paused and deliberated with himself before making us. Thirdly, God made us in his image, to be little pictures or statues of him on the earth. Fourthly, he gave us authority over all the earth. When we move to verse 27 we’re taught that this dignity which God has conferred upon us, has been conferred on both men and women. Moses tells us in verse 27 that God created man or humanity in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.
In the playground, boys will boast:
Boys are better than girls.
And the girls will shout back:
No, girls are better than boys.
And the rivalry that begins in the playground continues into our adult lives. But the rivalry wasn’t there in the beginning. In the beginning, when God created us, the honour of being made in the image of God and the honour of ruling over the rest of creation was given not to men only. And it was not given to women only. It was given to both men and women, male and female. If only men were made in the image of God, then men could say that they were better than women. And if only women were made in the image of God, then women could say that they were better than men. But Moses teaches us that God created both men and women in his image. He has bestowed this honour on both. And so we should honour one another and have respect for one another.
Now, when we get to verse 28 we see something else that’s different about us when compared to the rest of creation. You see, everything about the way God made us indicates that we’re different from everything else. And so, look at verse 28. First of all, God blessed us. Now, he’s done that before. Back in verse 22 God blessed the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. Why he didn’t bless the livestock, we can’t say. But as well as blessing the birds and the fish, God blessed the humans as well. But then what does Moses write next? Listen to verse 28 again:
God blessed them and said to them: ‘Be fruitful….’
Now, do you see what’s different? Compare what we read in verse 28 with what we read in 22. In verse 22, it says:
God blessed them [the fish and the birds] and said: ‘Be fruitful….’
What’s different? Did you notice it? With the humans, God spoke to them, but he didn’t speak to the birds and the fish. He addressed us directly, but he didn’t address the birds and the fish. You see, he made us differently. He made us with a capacity for language. We can speak to one another, and we can understand one another. We can relate to one another.
But, of course, not only can we speak to one another, and relate to one another, we can speak to God and we can relate to him. Do you ever see dogs praying to God? Do you ever see cats reading his word? Do you ever see any of the animals singing praises to God? Of course not. But to us — to men and women and boys and girls — he gave the capacity for language and he made us in such a way that we can relate to him, and know him, and hear his word and speak to him.
And, of course, we see that in chapter 3, don’t we? The Lord God came into the garden and he was looking for Adam. Where is he? And so, what did God do? He called out to him:
Where are you?
And Adam heard and understood what he said. And Adam was able to answer him.
When God made the world, he didn’t address the birds or the fish or the animals. But he addressed us. That’s how he made us. And so, when we come to church on Sundays to hear God’s word, and to answer him in prayer and praise, we’re doing what we were made to do. He made us so that we could relate to him. And even though Adam sinned, and we’ve all become liable to God’s wrath and curse for our sin, nevertheless, through faith in Christ, we’re reconciled to God so that we can know him and praise him.
Well, when God spoke to us in the beginning, what did he say to us? Look at the rest of verse 28. Moses wrote:
And God blessed them and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
First of all, God commanded humanity to be fruitful and to increase in number and to fill the earth. Secondly, he commanded them to subdue the earth. What does this tell us? It tells us that when God made us, he ordained marriage and family life. It was God’s will for us to be married and to produce children.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with someone who is not married. I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with the person who does not produce children. I’m simply saying that marriage and having children is, if you like, approved by God. Marriage is not something we invented ourselves which he didn’t not want for us. And having children is not a burden to bear, but is part of God’s plan for humanity in the beginning.
What else? Well, this tells us that when God made us, he ordained work. Subduing the earth means cultivating and developing it. In chapter 2 we’ll read that God planted a garden for Adam. And God put Adam in the garden to work it and to take care of it. Adam was to tend the trees and the flowers and the plants. He was to be a gardener, or a farmer, and grow the plants. He was to work.
And, of course, since God commanded us to fill the earth, then it was his intention that Adam and Eve and their offspring would continue to develop the Garden of Eden and enlarge it, so that, eventually, the Garden of Eden would cover the earth. They were to cultivate the land outside of Eden and plant it and work it and care for it. And they — and their offspring — were to continue to do so until the earth was filled, in accordance with God’s command in verse 28.
So, God ordained work. Some of us may think of work as a burden. A pain. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to work? But no. When God made us, he made us to work. That’s why being unemployed is so hard and so painful. It’s not just that we don’t have enough money to pay our bills. It’s more than that. We want to work but we can’t. We were made to work but we can’t. Being unemployed can be soul-destroying, because God made us to work.
Verses 29 to 30
Let’s move on to verses 29 and 30. And one of the things that pagans believed was that God made men and women to be their slaves, their servants. It was our job to gather food for the gods and to bring it to them. The gods were lazy, and they made us to grow food for them and to serve it to them.
But what did Moses tell the Israelites? What was Moses’s message to those Israelites who were making their way through the wilderness and into the Promised Land? He told them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that God was going to feed us. Look at verses 29:
God said: ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
And in verse 30 he says the same about the animals: he’s giving them every green plant for food to eat.
Well, we were thinking about this last week. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God becomes our faithful Father, and we can look to him continually for all that we need. He didn’t make us so that we would be his slaves, working hard for his benefit. Instead, he feeds us.
And, of course, what did the Lord Jesus say when he was on the earth? He said that he didn’t come to be served by us. He didn’t come and expect us to run around, working for him, serving him. No, he came to serve us, by giving his life as a ransom to pay for our sins. And it was the same in the beginning. God didn’t make us to serve him. He’s the one who provides for us.
And then, the final verse of chapter 1. God saw all that he had made, he surveyed the whole of creation. The once formless, empty and dark world had been transformed into an orderly world, filled with good things, where the light shone brightly. The heavens were filled with the sun and moon and stars, the sky was filled the birds, the sea with fish, the land with plants and animals and humans. And God saw that it was all very good. Not just good, but very good.
And wasn’t it important to add that at the end? Given what happens in chapter 3, and the fall of humanity, it was important to say that, when God first made the world, everything was very good. His creation was faultless and so he can’t be blamed for what happened next.
Before I finish there’s one more thing to say. Let’s go back to verses 28 and 29. God made us in his image. And he commanded us to fill the earth. He commanded us to fill the earth with more and more and more images of himself. Adam and Eve were to multiply and produce offspring and fill the earth with children, all made in the image of God, so that wherever you went in the world, there would be these little, living statues, reflecting the glory of God on the earth.
But what happened in chapter 3? Well, instead of ruling over the serpent, Adam and Eve were deceived by it. And they disobeyed God. And sin entered the world. And so, the image of God in us was spoiled and ruined and defaced.
God made us to fill the world with his likeness, but because of sin, the image of God in us has been spoiled.
But here’s the thing. Turn to Matthew 28 and what do we find? We find the Lord Jesus speaking to the Apostles. And he tells them to go into all the world and make disciples. And whenever someone becomes a disciple of the Lord Jesus — whenever someone repents and believes the good news — that person is united to Jesus Christ, who fills us with his Spirit. And his Spirit works in us, day by day, for the remainder of our lives. And what is he doing in us? He’s renewing us in the image of God.
And so, when the Lord Jesus was commissioning his Apostles and sending them out to preach his word, he was sending them to make sure that the world would be filled with people who are being renewed in the image of God. They were to make disciples of all the nations so that in every place, throughout the world, there will be little images of God, all reflecting the glory of God. Do you see? The Lord Jesus sent his Apostles out to preach his word so that the world will be filled with men and women and boys and girls, made in the image of God, to praise him on the earth.