“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25 (NAS95)
As The Story begins in Genesis, Adam and Eve find themselves in the midst of paradise. The verse above just might describe the pinnacle of that paradise.
This captures the situation immediately after Eve is introduced into The Story. They were naked. And it seems to have been a good thing. Naked and unashamed.
Yet today, nakedness tends to make most of us uncomfortable. Did something change?
Recently, I was asked about the polygamy common in the Old Testament. Many of the “good guys”—Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon for example—had multiple wives. And God doesn’t say anything about it. David is even called “a man after God’s own heart.” Does that mean it’s ok to have more than one wife? If not, why didn’t God say something? Beyond that, why did He seem to bless them so much?
This is not the first time I have heard this question, and many others like it. In fact, I have wrestled with many of them myself. Over time, I have come to recognize them as a product of the way we view Scripture and the flow of history from God’s perspective.
For many years, I assumed God saw life and the flow of time like one big football game, with God as the coach, and us as the players. When it’s your time to play, God drops you into the game and you do the best you can. After a while, God decides your time is done and pulls you out. But you don’t know how long that will be, nor how much time is left in the game. At some point, God will decide the whole game is over, and time will become eternity.
But in the meantime, everyone seems to be part of the same game. Abraham, Moses, David, and me—we’re all playing the same game, with the same rules, the same responsibilities, and the same objectives.
So we conclude that if David or Abraham did something and didn’t get in trouble for it, it must be ok for us to do as well.
Problem is, that doesn’t fit the details of Scripture very well.
Nakedness is not good.
There is no longer a Holy of Holies.
We get to eat bacon–wrapped shrimp.
See things have happened to change the “game”. In fact careful examination will reveal that “game” is a horrible metaphor. It’s not a game at all. It’s a Story.
And stories develop and unfold. The reality at one point in the story may be far different than what it is later in the story. Nobody (except Baby Bear) is surprised when Baby Bear’s porridge bowl is empty at the end of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Goldilocks ate it earlier.
In the same way, The Story unfolds through Scripture. Something happened, and now nakedness is shameful. Something else happened, and the Holy of Holies is no longer necessary. Now, thankfully, there are no longer unclean animals, so we can eat shrimp wrapped in bacon.
But to make sense of the Story, we need to know what it’s about. If you’ve ever been scrolling through the channels and stopped in the middle of a movie you’ve never seen before, you get this. You’re trying to understand what’s going on, and you make your best guesses, but usually, you will discover you have misinterpreted something. To make sense of the story we have to start at the beginning.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Genesis 1:1–2 (NAS95)
To begin The Story we are told God created the heavens and the earth. Verse 1 simply presents a summary of the process that will be described in the following narrative.
Now, some theistic evolutionists find a gap between verses 1 and 2. In verse 1, they see a perfect creation that was cast into the chaos and darkness of verse 2 as a result of some catastrophic event — perhaps the rebellion of Satan and the angels who followed him. In this version of the events, what follows, beginning in verses 3, is more of a recovery than an original creation.
But that is imposing a different story on the text. A story that keeps us from seeing the real story.
So, let’s stop interrupting the author (probably Moses) and let him tell us The Story.
As the creation process begins, the earth is formless and void, enveloped in darkness. But the Spirit of God is moving.
“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Genesis 1:2–5 (NAS95)
First, God addresses the darkness issue, decreeing that there should be light. Then He separates the light from darkness. That’s Day 1.
“Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.” Genesis 1:6–8 (NAS95)
The expanse God creates on Day 2 is the earth’s atmosphere. With it, He separates the waters below (which will become the seas) from what appears to be, at this point in The Story, a canopy of water above our atmosphere. With this separation, we now have the air and the sea.
“Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.” Genesis 1:9–13 (NAS95)
On Day 3, He separates the sea from dry land, and then fills this land with all manner of vegetation.
Although we are only three days into The Story, much has changed since verse 2. Light has invaded the darkness, and God has spent three days separating things. Light from dark; water from air; land from sea. No longer can creation be described as “formless.” God has begun to order it.
Changes continue with Day 4:
“Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.” Genesis 1:14–19 (NAS95)
Many who reject a literal six-day creation point out that since the sun is not created until this fourth day, and since a day is determined by one revolution of the earth around the sun, we couldn’t possibly have a literal day before there was a sun.
Once again, this argument imposes assumptions on The Story. It assumes that the length of a day is determined by the time it takes the earth to travel around the sun.
It is not.
The length of a day was determined by God on Day 1. He decided how long a day would be. He didn’t need the sun to tell Him.
But we do. So, on Day 4, He creates it, and all the rest of the heavenly bodies. In addition to providing light, they are for signs and for seasons and for days and years. The sun doesn’t decide how long a day is, it simply marks the length of a day, as determined by God.
With the celestial bodies in place, The Story advances:
“Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.” Genesis 1:20–23 (NAS95)
Day 5 brings the aquatic creatures and the birds, who are commissioned to fill the seas and multiply on the earth.
With this day, God’s sequencing of creation becomes even more evident:
- On Day 1, He created light and separated it from darkness.
- On Day 2, He separated the atmosphere from the sea.
- On Day 3, He separated the land from the sea.
- On Day 4, He returns to the theme of light, filling the heavens with the bodies that will produced light for His creation.
- On Day 5, He returns to the atmosphere and the sea, filling that which He created on the second day.
Day 6 completes the cycle, as He returns to the land created on the third day, beginning to fill it with the terrestrial creatures:
“Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:24–25 (NAS95)
Whereas Days 1–3 dealt brought order to the formless, Days 4–6 address the void. That which was empty has begun to be filled.
Now, the earth that was formless and void, engulfed in darkness has been transformed. Light has come into the darkness. The formless has been ordered, the void has begun to be filled.
It would seem that the process is complete. All that is left is to place man and woman in the creation prepared for them.
And indeed, Day 6 continues:
“Then God said, “Let Us 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.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; 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.”
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 saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:26–31 (NAS95)
When God created man and woman, He created us in His image. But what does that mean?
Discussions of what it means to be “made in the image of God” can get pretty involved, and often include things like self-consciousness, dominion, exercise of will, ability to organize and speak, etc. Different theologians make their case for what is included or excluded in the definition.
While these discussions can be stimulating and profitable, we should not forget that we are dealing with narrative here. Over–thinking it will cause us to miss the obvious point of the story—if we bear the image of God, when you look at us, you should think of God. He created us as His representatives.
And as His representatives, He gave us two responsibilities—fill the earth and subdue it.
It may seem too simplistic to ask what it means to fill the earth, but humor me.
The obvious answer is “make babies.” As humans, we, like all the other animals, will reproduce after our kind, so we will fill the earth with human babies, who will mature and repeat the process.
But, wait. He didn’t just create humans. He created image–bearers. So, what are we to fill the earth with?
Image–bearers. Humans who represent God. This theme will develop as The Story unfolds, but for now, we should note that God this first responsibility is about more than popping out babies.
So what about subduing the earth?
Actually, when we talk about this responsibility, we usually speak in terms of ruling or exercising dominion. Often, Subdue only comes to mind after some prompting.
Why is this significant? What does subdue add to the responsibility?
Well, a king may rule over a kingdom regardless of the condition of that kingdom. It may be at peace, or it may be embroiled in turmoil. Either way, he can be said to rule. But subdue anticipates opposition and chaos. Rebellions that must be put down; battles to be fought; enemies to be conquered. Rule emphasizes dominion; subdue emphasizes the bringing of order.
As a man, I find this very encouraging. I wasn’t created to be nice, I was created to bring order, to conquer and tame. That explains a lot.
By the way, we can also observe that filling with life explains a lot about the design of women.
Each of these roles has a distinctively masculine or feminine flavor. Which is why The Story tells us, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” There is more we could say about this, but we’ll save that for a more detailed discussion later.
Now generally, when we talk about the dominion given to man, the unspoken assumption is that it is to be used as we see fit. In reality, that is true only so long as we remember that we were created to rule as God’s representatives. We were not put here to rule according to our agenda, but according to His.
Now let’s connect all this back to The Story—God placed man and woman here, not just to enjoy the earth, but to be His representatives. As such, we were given two responsibilities: (1) rule as His representatives and, (2) fill the earth with more image-bearers.
Do these activities look familiar?
The most obvious connection is between God’s activity of filling on Days 4-6 and our responsibility to fill the earth. He began to fill the earth, and then placed us here to carry on the process.
A little less obvious is our connection to God’s activity on Days 1-3. Remember, those days were primarily about bringing order to the formless. So, if we were put here to rule and subdue, we were to continue this process of bringing order.
So, The Story begins with our creation as God’s representatives. We were to join Him in the process of bringing order to His creation, and filling it with others who would do the same.
Consider the place this gives us in The Story—
For the last 14 months, I’ve been building a bed from oak timbers that I got out of some very heavy duty pallets. I have asked my wife, and a few very close friends, for input on the my design for this bed. But all of the milling of the timbers, the fitting of the joints, and the rest of the assembly, I am doing myself. With over a year invested in this creation, I would be more than reluctant to let anyone else work on it, much less entrust it to their care for the continuation of the process.
But that’s exactly what God did at the beginning of The Story. He began the magnificent work of creation, and then invited us to join Him in the process.
This provides a rich background for many of the themes that will appear as The Story unfolds. For example, the fellowship which God offers us takes on a new depth. He created us to share in this very personal process. We were to be His representatives, and join Him in what He was about. And, in this light, commands like be holy, for I am holy cease to seem random. Exhortations to godliness and Christ-likeness make perfect sense. As His representatives we should look like Him.
We should, but too often, we don’t. What happened?
We’ll look at that next.
©Copyright Garth Oliver