When God spoke most of the universe into place, it took five days (See here and here for more details). It was an abundance of creation: light and darkness, the sun, moon, and stars, the boundaries of land and ocean, the flourishing of plant life, the birds winged in flight, the flashing of the fish in the sea…all of these remarkable, breathtaking beauties, bounded out of God’s spoken word from nothing…nothing but His perfect will. On the sixth day, He continued His creative work:
“And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds; livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
The air and the seas were already filled with life. Now the Lord was making creatures for the land. Ponder in wonder at the incredible, diverse creativity of His designs. Did the angels watch the polar bear come to life? Did they see the first elephant swing it’s trunk? Did they notice the monkeys in the trees? Did the lion roar when it was made? How the angels must have enjoyed their first look at the giraffe and hippo and camel (See Job 38-39).
It is interesting that right from the beginning, God not only made different kinds of animals, but He gave them different jobs. Some animals were meant to be wild. Others were made to be domesticated, like cattle, fit for humans to own and raise. They were an important part of God’s plan to provide for the people He was about to create, just as the plants were a part of how God provided for the animals.
The Lord was not finished with His creation when He was done with the animals. In fact, He was building up to something. God was about to present the very crown…the highest point…the great delight of what His creation was for. The universe was a magnificent Temple that displayed the brilliance of the King of Creation, and it was time to create its greatest treasure.
Here is what Scripture says:
“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, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.
So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.”
Wow. God was going to make us. When God began to make humans, everything changed. For almost everything else, the Lord said, “Let there be…” and whatever it was came bounding from His powerful Word. But now, the Bible tells about a mysterious conversation of God, discussing His plans ahead of time. For everything else God made, we learn about it in quick,bright glimpses. But when the Bible tells how God made humanity, the story slows down. It pauses. It shows how careful and deliberate the Lord was about creating this one, final creature. It stops to show that this was a serious, solemn moment, even for God.
There was something very special and unique about humanity that sets every one of us apart from the rest of creation. In fact, the whole point of the rest of God’s other creation work was to prepare a home for us where we could live in a special relationship with Him.
The reason humanity is so special is that God fashioned us in His own image. Humans were made to be a reflection of the Divine. Think about what happens when you look in the mirror. What you see is an image of yourself. You see what you look like. Yet the image of you in the mirror is not you. You are still standing outside the mirror looking at it. Anyone who looks at your reflection will learn a lot of things about you. They will see the color of your eyes and hair and how long or short your nose is. If they watch carefully, they will learn many things about your personality as well. They might see kindness or anger or pain. A reflection in a mirror can tell us many things about who we are.
Humans were made to act as a reflection of God. We have the capacity to love, to use our imaginations and create in response to God. We have minds that are rational, we can speak, write, and sing. We have souls. We can delight in the preciousness of a puppy, but unlike a puppy, we can stand in awe of the beauty of a sunset. We have abilities that set us apart from all of the other creatures God made, and we were given a very special relationship to them.
On the very first day of the creation of the race, humanity was given the authority to display to the universe what God is like through our faithful care over creation. It is humanity’s rightful job to take care of God’s world. We are meant to rule the earth for Him. It is the highest position and greatest honor. At the time of our making in the Garden, we had the ability to do exactly what God wanted us to do. We had the capacity to rule and reign in perfect obedience to God as His royal stewards. Every good and wonderful thing we did was meant reflect God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. We had total freedom to be perfectly good.
Imagine how nice that would be. Imagine never having to struggle against your weaknesses, sins, or addictions…imagine never having to know what it means to struggle. That is the way it was for us in the Garden.
When you look in the mirror, what happens when you walk away? Does your image stay there? Of course not. It disappears. In order for your reflection to stay in a mirror, you have to keep yourself in front of it. The same thing is true for humans to reflect the glory of God. We were made in God’s image, but we were built in a way that requires the nearness of God in order to reflect Him.
When the world was new, this wasn’t a problem. When the Lord made the first man and woman they were constantly and perfectly near to His amazing love. They had perfect freedom to walk in the tremendous goodness of God. There was no struggle against sin, no slavery to evil, no weakness to stop them from being perfect images of His radiant life. The holy Creator was near to shine His beautiful image through His empowered servants.
What a glorious world that must have been.
Yet we know this is not the way of the world now.
How was it all lost?
Seeing Jesus: Think about this-the same hands that crafted the first man from the dust would one day have permanent, eternal scars because He died for this man’s sin. God knows all things, past, present, and future. He made us knowing he would die for us. God the Father made us knowing all about the surpassing, aching beauty of the sacrifice of His own Son. God the Son made us knowing the magnificent victory of the resurrection and the splendor of His ascension as He rose to take His seat at the right hand of His Father. God would turn even the rebellion of man against Him into a work of beauty through the power of His mercy and grace. In all things, Christ would be exalted and glorified.