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Jeremiah Was A Dragon Man: As Go God’s Children, So Goes Creation

December 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Because of the ground that is dismayed, since there is no rain on the land, the farmers are ashamed; they cover their heads. Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn because there is no grass. The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights; they pant for air like jackals, their eyes fail because there is no vegetation.

Jeremiah 14:4-6

The people of God in Judah are receiving judgment because “they loved to wander thus; they have no restrained their feet.” The Israelites not only sin against YHWH, but they love it! Although they make appeals for forgiveness, the people of Israel show no indication that they have any interest in restraining themselves from idolatry, injustice, and deceit. The judgment Israel has been warned about for years is imminent. But it is not only the people of Israel who will suffer.

The kingdom of Creation will suffer too. Because of the judgment coming on Jerusalem, the doe leaves her child, the majestic wild donkeys starve to death, even the ground is dismayed. When those who are supposed to be the redeemed people of YHWH are being less than who they should be, then the domain of Creation under their power suffers. This is not a new concept.

When Jeremiah talks about the way that Creation suffers when the people of God face judgment for not being the people of God, he is merely picking up on a Biblical theme that begins in Genesis and weaves its way throughout Scripture.

Genesis 1:26 says:

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.”

The first job of man was to rule over creation. Humanity was not to have dominion with an iron fist that destroys, but to rule as one made in God’s likeness. Certainly the God who made creation and called it good would want it well maintained. Ruling over creation as one made in God’s image requires preserving the goodness of the creation. When first Man sinned, Creation was also corrupted because its ruler failed to preserve the goodness of creation. As humanity goes, so goes Creation.

God’s promise to Abraham to bless his descendants and bless the other nations through them was God’s long-term plan to set things right with the corrupted humanity. It is also, because humans are the caretakers of Creation, God’s way of setting things right with Creation. And so we see that a thousand years down the road, the fate of Abraham’s descendants is still intimately connected with the fate of Creation. This is neither a new concept nor an archaic one.

For the people of God re-centered around Jesus Messiah, part of our bearing of the image of God also includes taking care of what God has created. We have been redeemed by Jesus, but will not experience this redemption in all its fullness until we acquire new and incorruptible bodies. And guess who can’t wait for us to be redeemed in full? Yeah, Creation groans with us for our redemption that Creation might be free with us and experience the glory of its original goodness.

Romans 8:19-23

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

As we grow to reflect the image of the Messiah, obtaining the freedom and glory of redemption, the Creation over which we rule should experience the firstfruits of redemption as well. If this is true, then I have a nagging question, what the hell does that look like?

A Few Stories About Water: Creation and New Creation

October 24, 2011 3 comments

In the beginning God brought the Universe into existence. One location in this massive expanse, the earth, was formless and void. There were waters above the earth and waters on the earth. The earth was completely covered with water. The earth was lifeless. The world was dark and barren and unlivable. Then God shapes it. He brought the waters together and dry land appeared where once there was only water. He made the earth livable. Plants and vegetation sprouted. Animals of all kinds were brought into existence on the land and in the seas. And then YHWH spirited into man and he was.

Fast forward a few generations. YHWH looked upon his image bearers, people who were containers of God’s very breath, and saw that they used the breath of God that brought them life to do evil. Indeed, all the thoughts of their hearts were only evil continually. In God’s good creation, men were forcefully taking multiple wives and existing in a violent selfishness that marred God’s creation. It was a gross distortion of His image and a violation of the image of others. Something needed to be done. And YHWH had not abandoned His creation. He was going to make things right. He was going to re-create.

The author of Genesis fills the Flood narrative with many textual indicators that make it very clear something very much like Creation is happening here. First though, there is a reversal of part of creation. In the creation story, God creates an expanse between the waters on the earth and the waters above the earth. It is between these two waters that humanity lives. In the flood narrative, the windows of the waters above open up and waters pour down. That expanse, Heaven (ESV), the one that humanity lived in, was closed. Waters rose up from beneath and waters came down from above. The expanse closed. And the earth was covered with water.

We have then the same image that we had at the beginning of Creation. The earth is lifeless. Everything is completely covered with water. There might be some sea creature and underwater vegetation, but there is no land for life to exist on. No visible life is present. Creation has been undone. But not completely. YHWH used water to get rid of the major corrupting forces that were ruining the earth. However, God hasn’t abandoned Creation; He hasn’t given up on humanity. Somewhere on a massive boat a man, his family, and a zoo still live, awaiting re-creation.

God begins the process. The waters on the earth recede and the mountaintops become visible. Land appears! The image of dividing the waters to reveal the land is a little bit different than the receding waters, but the effect is the same. Land is where once it was not. Re-creation. But, like Creation, the land isn’t livable for humanity until there is life on it. Noah sends out a dove and it comes back with a fresh olive leaf. With land available and vegetation grown, like creation, man can exist on Earth. Noah gets out of the boat. Creation has started over.

Out of both the Creation and the Flood (Re-Creation) narratives come the people who are to carry out God’s work. Noah is charged with many of the same tasks as Adam and Eve were after YHWH first created. Although Noah can now eat the animals, he is still in charge of them and taking care of them and the plant life. Indeed, the covenant God makes with Noah is not just with Noah, it is also with all of the animals God saved in the Ark. Just like the first man, Noah is to be fruitful and multiply upon the earth, filling it up with people. Why is it good for the earth to be full of people? They carry God’s image. Noah is to bear God’s image, live displaying  that image, and fill the earth with more of God’s image.*

These water stories are fantastic. The waters of the Creation and of the Flood are seminal moments in Scripture that set the stage for future H20 events. Many of the situations, descriptions, and images change, but the water stories connect to each other and the meaning of one story is expanded and clarified by the meaning of the previous one. These stories about water keep popping up at important points in the history of God’s covenant people. Believe it or not, these powerful stories, dating back to the beginning of time, culminate at one moment in my life.

*YHWH is such a narcissist. And He should be.

Creation: The WTF of It All

July 15, 2011 1 comment

I read through the first chapter of Genesis recently. What struck me about wasn’t i’s beautiful poetry. It wasn’t its consistent rhythm through repetition, flow of the writing, or the images it pictorializes. What struck me as I read through the chapter was a question: “Why the hell does this chapter even exist?”*

Seriously. Why did God even go about creating everything anyway? I think I’ve thought about that question before and I have some silly, insignificant, and inadequate intellectual answers to it. But I never really thought about how unsatisfactory my answers were. How unsatisfactory every answer seems to be. It doesn’t make sense to my soul.

From my highly limited human perspective (let’s remember I ultimately came from dust, whose predecessor was nothingness), I don’t see why God would have a reason for creating this universe, this world, these people. He doesn’t need it. It’s not like He’s bored. He’s infinite. It’s not like He’s lonely, He’s inherently communal and inherently adequate in and of Himself. There is not any sort of thing he is missing or lacking or needing or negative feeling that creating the Universe fixes. He’s perfect, complete, whole, and just peachy without this universe, this world, these people. But, out of nothing, He created it anyway.

It makes me feel really small. Not in a bad way, but in a true way. What a fleeting existence I live! Just a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. I live in a world where everything was created by a word and could disappear from existence for all of timelessness through another word. And I am just a microscopic part of this physicality. Whatever I do is quite irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter. I’m a small person in a small universe that exists because someone created it who has no need for it. Everything I do, everything I can change, and everything I can have a positive effect on are all things that don’t exist to fill any real need anyway.

But my logic is too twisted. I think that arising out of nothing with no need for our existence means our existence is meaningless. But I’m wrong. Because everything I do does have meaning. Meaning that transcends this small universe and yet is intimately related to it. It all has meaning because the God who created everything says it has meaning. He made life and He gave life real purpose. In Genesis we find that after creating everything, His special project was not the massive and beautiful universe, but humanity. Special life was given to humanity, God’s Spirit. Special meaning was given to humanity, doing God’s work on Earth.

Even though I think my existence is insignificant because we weren’t needed, God’s reason for creating is actually much more powerful because it comes from no need. He created because of desire. He wanted this universe, this world, these people. Only out of desire for us did He create us. That’s stronger than a need and more beautiful than an obligation or an accident. It’s so unnecessary for YHWH to do what He has done, and that is what makes it so incredible.

The most fascinating part about the Creation to me is what follows it. It is incredible that there is a God powerful enough to speak the world into being, but what is just as incredible is that a God that overwhelmingly awesome would also be so humble in his intimate closeness to humanity throughout the course of history. What follows creation is God relating with people. Frustrating people like me. Terribly naïve and shortsighted individuals and groups… like me. YHWH constantly interacts with messed up people who have a need for Him just to take their next breath, but they don’t desire Him. And a perfect God who has no need for the obstinate people He created, but He desires them anyway. I can’t communicate it, but the God I know is just unbelievable. But I believe and I’m alive.

*It doesn’t really exist for any reason related to hell.

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