In God’s image: Who does God say I am – Part 1

In the post The Pronouns of God I showed that in Hebrew God is not described as male or female, only as God.This post takes the same passage and looks at what God says about us.

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo shows God actively reaching out to a passive, reclining Adam.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything 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 ESV UK

Man was created in God’s image to have dominion. I believe it is important to keep the two ideas of in God’s image together. But first I want to look at them separately.

In our own image

We are creative

The context if Genesis 1 is creation. God is creating the universe and says “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” — We are creative. There was a lot of human creativity going into the worship in the Old Testament. Musicians, singers and dancers using music and lyrics written as a response to God. There were embroiderers, joiners, and goldsmiths who bade the tabernacle and later masons and sculptors for the temple.In worship we bring our creativity back to God.

It goes further than that: Our creativity is not just for for worship, it is for other people, other creatures, the world. But that is the dominion bit.See below.

God’s representatives

In the context of the time Genesis was written or compiled, I am assuming that as it is in the law section of the Bible and one of the books of Moses that it was at the time of the Exodus, writings from other nations and tribes mentioned being in someones image as being a representative. It is both literal and figurative.

Literal in that images of the leader were put up in that leaders territory to show he, mostly he anyway, was in charge. You can see this in politics today: Authoritarian leaders love to put their images up all over the place, looking down on the people from any suitable wall.

Figurative because a leader cannot stay in the throne room all the time, so a representative was left in his place. The Old Testament law was very different: With God as the leader no images to represent God were allowed. That is because God’s image is inside his people and in all people waiting to burst out. We contain the image of God.

Have dominion

Not only what we are but also what we do

Have you ever heard someone say, or even preach, “We are human beings,not human doings?” Wall it is wrong. “Let us make man in our image, and let them have dominion,” said God, the two belong together, what we are, made in God’s image, and what we do, have dominion. There is no duality between what we are and what we do, between what is sacred and what is secular, between church time and work time: We are created for both.

Look after not ruin

Having dominion does not mean we can do what we want. We are made in the image of God and therefore are supposed to act as God’s representatives on Earth. When I was growing up comedy hit down,the targets were women and immigrants,and this attitude showed in the Irish stereotyping that was common at the time. Thankfully comedy these days hits up. It challenges the abuse of authority, and if the abuser of authority is the church them I am not going to run complaining that we are being persecuted,as the church, by its attitude has made itself a valid target of satire.

The tragedy of the commons is an idea that if things are held in common then the resources will be depleted. I mean to write a blog on this for this Wednesday, 25th August, unless something topical crops up. Because we have a situation where resources are being used up and no one wants to stop because someone else will use all the resources. We’d better start praying for COP26, the UN Climate Change conference this autumn (from October 31 to November 14) if we are not already doing it.

In his commentaries on the book of Genesis, 16th Century church reformer John Calvin said that we as Christians have a duty to care for the environment. I have been assured by an Orthodox friend that he was merely repeating what some of the Church Fathers has said previously. Christian environmentalism used to be the default position. We need to revive that tradition.

Very good

God looked at his finished creation after man was created and said it was very good. In a time of global warming I pray that it may be so again.

2 thoughts on “In God’s image: Who does God say I am – Part 1

  1. John

    I always learn something from your blog. The two juxtaposed ideas of ‘who I am’ will be in my thinking for a little while.
    Great sentiment about our stewardship and dominion.

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